These are brief guidelines on the care of your puppy. We hope that this will assist you for the first few months. Specific questions or different approaches may exist. Please feel free to discuss these with us.
Most puppies will need to be fed 2-3 times a day. This will vary based on the age, size breed and appetite of your puppy. The amount of food at each feeding will also vary with each puppy. The best indicator of a satisfactory amount of food is normal, healthy growth. We recommend leaving the food down for 15-20 minutes and then taking the food away until the next meal. This way you are training your dog how to eat and he is not training you how to feed him. After several days with this approach, your puppy will catch on. There are many controversies regarding the variety of dog foods available. In general, we recommend feeding a major national brand food. Avoid off-brand or regional foods. You will want to see the small print on the label that the food meets the nutritional requirements of a puppy, and that this was verified by feeding trials conducted by the AAFCO. We recommend starting off with puppy food and gradually changing over to adult food at about 1 year if age. An exception to this is with large breeds that are prone to hip dysphasia and other orthopedic problems. It is believed that certain musculoskeletal problems in these dogs are in part caused by “over nutrition”. Please ask us for specific recommendations in these breeds. For these dogs we recommend feeding a food labeled “large breed growth” or “large breed puppy”.
There are many ways to housebreak a puppy. We highly recommend crate or cage training. Almost every owner who feels apprehensive of create training will be quite please after a few weeks. Cage training will train your puppy faster, with less destruction of your house, and with a happier puppy than with any other method. After a short while your puppy will see the cage as its den or room. Your puppy will go there on its own when he is tired and wants to be left alone. We do not recommend training them to paper. Instead take them outside to a spot in your yard where you would like them to go to the bathroom.
Everyone likes to give puppies a bath. We suggest against it. Remember that they are immature, and we do not need to stress them anymore than necessary. When they get themselves dirty, a sponge bath is the best thing. There are bath wipes available that can be used for spot clean ups. Puppies have an odor in part due to “puppy breath”. You cannot bathe this away (they will outgrow it). You can give your dog a regular bath at about 5-6 months of age.
We are currently recommending once a month topical flea protection for your pet. This is safe for puppies older than 8 weeks and greater than 2 pounds body weight. It can be used as both preventative and treatment for fleas. If your dog has fleas, we may also utilize a pill called Capstar. Capstar will kill any live fleas on your pet for up to 24 hours. We often use this pill in conjunction with the topical/spot on flea products. You may also treat your house and yard as well as all dogs and cats if you have a flea problem. Please ask for our advice on this.
Unless you have a specific interest in breeding your dog, then we highly recommend “fixing” them. This should be done when they reach 6 months of age. It is an “old wives tale” to let females have one heat or a litter first. It is done as both a means of curtailing the pet over-population and for specific individual health needs.
Female dogs that are not spayed are prone to diseases of the reproductive tract. Most notable of these is pyometra (an infected uterus). This is a common serious condition for us to see in an older intact female. It usually requires emergency surgery to be corrected. Another consideration is breast cancer (mammary gland tumors). This is the most common cancer seen in an intact female dog. If we spay them before they have their first heat, we can virtually eliminate any chances of them developing malignant mammary gland tumors. Waiting until after the first heat decreases the protective benefit, and waiting until after a few heats basically eliminates any protective benefits with regard to breast cancer.
In male dogs we currently recommend neutering between 6 months and 18 months. The larger breed male dogs (predisposed to certain orthopedic issues) we recommend neutering at 12 to 18 months of age. In male dogs, neutering has both behavioral as well as physical benefits. It will decrease their willingness to fight, as well as decrease roaming tendencies. Many male dogs that wander off to find romance wind up getting hurt instead (hit by cars, fights, etc…).There are several tumors that intact males get (testicular or perianal) that we can avoided by neutering. We can also markedly reduce the probability of them developing most prostate problems as they get older.
We use a once-a-month heartworm preventative in our dogs. This medication is given year round, and it is efficacious against certain intestinal parasites as well. Puppies less than 6 months of age can be started without being heartworm tested. All dogs over 6 months of age are tested yearly. We usually dose the puppies one month at a time until they reach their adult weight.
Ticks can transmit diseases (Lyme, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Ehrlichiosis, etc…). We can show you how to safely remove ticks.We have several preventative products for ticks. Please ask us which would be the most appropriate for you.
We assume that all puppies are born with roundworms. They get these from their mother before they are born, and again later during nursing. For this reason we like to treat all puppies several times for roundworms. There are numerous other gastrointestinal parasites that puppies can get. Treatments for these are varied. Therefore, we will recommend checking several fecal samples during puppyhood. Some of these parasites (roundworms and others) can affect people. Good personal hygiene (washing your hands before eating) is the best preventative. We would be happy to discuss this further with you.
There are many vaccines available for your dogs. The following are appropriate for most pet dogs. Some of these vaccines are considered “non-core” vaccines. There will be exceptions that we will discuss with you.
Bordetella (kennel Cough) – This is a non-core vaccine given once, and then once a year.
Lyme – This is a non-core vaccine given twice at 2-3 week intervals, and then once a year.
Rabies – This first vaccine is given at or just after 12 weeks of age. There is a booster given one year later. Thereafter, vaccines are given every 3 years. These recommendations may change based on current public health suggestions, legal requirements, and types of vaccine available.
Distemper/Parvo – (combination vaccine, 4 in 1, 5 in 1, 6 in 1) These are the common “puppy shots”. Puppies may start these vaccines as early as 6 weeks of age. They will receive boosters every 3-4 weeks. They require a minimum of three vaccines after they are 8 weeks old. We like to see the last booster given between 16 and 20 weeks of age in order to get the maximum protection against Parvovirus. Because of this schedule, many puppies will receive more than 3 shots after they are 8 weeks old. After they are finished with this “puppy series”, a booster is given at 1 year. Thereafter, vaccines are given every 3 years.
Leptospirosis – This is considered a non-core vaccine and is given based on exposure to animals such as rabbits, raccoons and possums. Leptospirosis is passed through infected urine from these animals. This is given as a series of 2 vaccines the first year and then it is given as a yearly vaccine.
We do not suggest exposing your puppy to unfamiliar dogs or areas that unfamiliar dogs have defecated until they have finished their puppy vaccines. Remember, their immune system is not yet strong enough.
All puppies bite as they play. This is a natural thing for them to do. If you watch two puppies play together you will understand this. We jokingly ask all puppy owners to show us their “battle scars” because they all have them. You must, however, distinguish between play biting and aggressive biting. The former is natural and your puppy will outgrow it, while the latter needs to be addressed immediately. Puppies have very sharp little teeth that do hurt if they bite you. As their adult teeth come in (4-7 months of age) it will be less painful. Your puppy will go through a teething period at this time. Puppy toys to distract him from your furniture and shoes are helpful.