Now that you have decided to get a new four legged family member, determined the breed and where to get it, you need to know what the next step is.
The first thing you should do is take your new puppy along with a stool sample to your veterinarian and have it checked out. A physical exam will be performed and the doctor will discuss all aspects of puppy wellness with you including proper nutrition. Puppies require core vaccines at 8, 12 and 16 weeks of age. Some breeders or pet stores will vaccinate their puppies at an earlier age (and advertise that their puppies had their “first shots”) but those vaccines are generally not effective since the puppy’s immune system is not mature enough to mount an immune response. Clients are often concerned about over vaccinating their pets but it is imperative to have the three part series starting at 8 weeks of age. If not done properly the puppy will run the risk of not having enough immunity to fight off the parvo or distemper virus if encountered. We see many cases of parvovirus infection in young dogs in our hospitals. This disease is devastating, being very costly and having a 30% – 40% mortality rate despite the best treatment.
Proper vaccination eliminates this risk. All puppies will receive one Rabies vaccine around 4 months of age that is very effective. The veterinarian will determine together with you which vaccines are needed for your new puppy based on lifestyle and exposure. If, for example, you would like to go to dog parks, your dog requires regular grooming or needs to go boarding because you are travelling, you may want to consider the bordetella 4 to reduce the incidence of kennel cough . It comes in two forms - an injectable that needs to be boosted in four weeks or an intranasal form that is effective for a year if given once. There are a few other vaccines that may be necessary for your puppy.
Deworming is absolutely essential for all puppies. It needs to be done from 8 weeks of age every 2 weeks until 5 months old. The biggest public health risk poses roundworms that can be transmitted from the mother to the puppy while still in the uterus. This disease can be transmitted to people and can cause blindness, especially in children. The days of dogs only being outside are over and given the close contact we have with them, deworming should not be optional. People will often say that their dog does not have worms but you can’t always see them in the stool. That is why you need to take the sample to the veterinarian and have it checked under the microscope.
The first 6 months of a puppy’s life are expensive with vaccines, deworming, spays and neuters, but just like with babies, after the first year, that will change.
We strongly encourage clients to take out pet insurance since we see many problems, notably swallowing of foreign bodies, and accidents in young puppies that can get very costly.
We give out a comprehensive puppy information package at the first visit with many tips on training, feeding, wellness, etc.
I hope this will give an overview of puppy care. The doctor and staff at our animal hospitals are trained to help you with all aspects of puppy care. Don’t hesitate to call and ask questions. We love talking about puppies!