Dr. Abigail Brady
A new puppy is so much fun, and truly such an adventure. Even if you have raised a puppy before, each one comes with its own personality and new challenges each day. Some are cuddly, some never stop running, some chew anything and everything while others are picky and will only eat one particular food. But there are some things are the same across the board and should be kept in mind whether this is your very first puppy or one more being added to your crew.
1. Puppies are a financial investment:
Whether we like to admit it or not, a new pet is a huge financial (and time) commitment. Before bringing a new pet into your home, please consider if it the right time for you to add on this expense. Puppies need multiple veterinary visits, they will need to be spayed or neutered, they will need preventative medications and unfortunately emergencies happen when we least expect them. Here at AMH, we offer preventative healthcare plans to help budget the cost of routine veterinary visits which can be helpful. There are also many different companies that offer pet insurance plans. Unlike human health insurance, most pet insurance plans require you to pay up front at the veterinary visit and they will reimburse you for the portion covered by your plan. This can be very helpful for those unexpected vet bills as well as the routine ones.
2. Vaccines in puppies are crucial to prevent them from common diseases:
Puppies require vaccines every 3-4 weeks from the time they are around 8 weeks old until they are 4 months old. Puppies have protection from their moms from viruses when they are born but unfortunately, sometimes that fights off vaccines as well. To ensure that they are appropriately protected, frequent vaccines are required when they are young. The distemper vaccine is a combination vaccine that protects dogs from 4 different viruses, some of which can be fatal. The rabies vaccine is required by law and rabies is always fatal if a pet is infected. Rabies can be transmitted to humans as well, so all pets should be vaccinated. Another vaccine that is recommended for all dogs is the leptospirosis vaccine. Leptospirosis is a bacteria that can cause kidney and liver disease in dogs and it is contagious to humans as well. Many of these viruses can be contracted from the environment and from other dogs. Please do not bring your puppy to public places like pet stores or dog parks until they are fully vaccinated at 4 months or older. Please talk to your veterinarian to set up an appropriate vaccine schedule for your growing puppy!
3. Flea and heartworm prevention are recommended every month for the life of your dog:
Flea prevention can be purchased as an oral tablet or a topical liquid. Fleas can lead to severe skin disease and can transmit some other unwanted diseases to your pets. Some flea products protect from ticks as well. There are over the counter flea preventatives available but many of them have frequent side effects including trembling and even seizures. Please talk to your veterinarian about the prescription preventatives available that are regulated and are safe for your new puppy. Heartworm disease is transmitted by mosquitos. Only one mosquito bite is needed to pass the disease to your puppy. If a dog gets heartworm disease, it can be thousands of dollars to treat. There are oral and topical heartworm preventions available and most of them prevent your dog from intestinal parasites as well.
4. Intestinal parasites can cause severe problems in pets, and some are contagious to people:
There are many different types of intestinal parasites that puppies can have. Unfortunately, they are pretty common in young puppies. Intestinal parasites are easily contracted in kennels, breeding facilities, or even from their mother. Puppies are routinely treated for parasites when they first go to the veterinarian and many vets will check a sample of feces for any parasite eggs. You can help facilitate this by bringing a sample of your puppy’s stool with you to his or her first vet visit. Many parasite eggs can be picked up on your hands and some can even go through your bare feet. Please make sure you clean up dog poop regularly from the yard where you or any children walk, and wash your hands after every time you clean up.
5. Having your puppy spayed or neutered reduces the risk of many health problems:
A puppy can be spayed (for a girl) or neutered (for a boy) at about 6 months of age. They may be done younger sometimes when they are in a shelter or your veterinarian may recommend that you wait until they are slightly older (about 1 year) if he/she is a large breed dog or if here are any health concerns related to reproduction. Having a female dog spayed before her first heat cycle (which is usually around 6-8 months) reduces the risk of mammary tumors by 99.5%. This will also prevent any unwanted pregnancies and eliminates the risk of uterine infections, which can sometimes be fatal. Having a male dog neutered eliminates the risk of testicular cancer and decreases the risk of prostate disease. Neutering also decreases the risk of wandering and decreases behavioral problems and aggression.
6. At home dental care can begin right away and helps to prevent dental disease and dental cleanings in the future:
The only way to clean a dogs teeth once they already have tartar buildup and gingivitis is to put them under anesthesia since we can’t just ask them to “say ahh”. You can introduce your puppy to a toothbrush as soon as you get him/her. This will get them used to it and make daily teeth brushing much easier. You can even make it fun with flavored toothpaste for dogs and give a treat to follow. Please ask your veterinarian to show you how to brush your new puppy’s teeth or watch our video!
7. Nail trims and ear cleaning does not always have to turn into a wrestling match:
Some dogs hate to have their nails trimmed and ears cleaned. You can help to prevent this and make these events much less stressful (for you and your dog) by exposing them to it at a young age. When your puppy is sitting with you or resting, you can play with his/her feet and run your fingers between all of the toes. This will get them used to having their feet handled and will let them know that it is not as bad as some dogs think. You can do the same thing with the ears. You can look in the ears and rub the inside with a tissue or cotton ball to get them used to their ears bring touched. These practices hugely reduce stress and make any nail trims or ear medications in the future much more manageable.
Please develop a relationship with your veterinarian and don’t hesitate to go to them with any questions or concerns. No question is too small, the more you ask the more you can learn. Also, find out where the closest 24-hour emergency clinic is located, in case you ever need their services. Enjoy your new puppy, take lots of pictures and have fun!