Let’s talk health!
We all want healthy dogs, right? Well, then let’s start when they’re puppies!
Your puppy comes to you having received his or her first vaccination/s (depending on age). So first off, you need to talk to your vet about continuing those shots. Puppies need to go through a set or series of vaccinations before they are fully protected from these harmful diseases. When the pup reaches around four to five months of age, it’s time for a rabies vaccination. The parvo/distemper will be boostered at a year, and from the newest information, can be given every three years after that. In my opinion we are over vaccinating, so I was glad to hear this. The same for the rabies, the first is good for a year, the next one should be good for three years. (This may differ in your area or state). If your puppy will be going to the groomer or boarding facility on a regular basis, talk to your vet about a bordetella (kennel cough) vaccine also.
You can also talk to your vet about spaying and neutering at the appropriate age. There are pros and cons for both early and late altering. I think for most pets and pet owners, neutering or spaying between 6-9 moths is best.
You puppy has gone through our de-worming program (as has his/her parents) and had a stool sample checked before he goes home. We use a couple different kinds of worm medication to try and cover our bases. On vet will check a stool sample to make sure it’s clear. If it’s not we will use appropriate medication and check again before puppy goes home. Because of the life cycles of parasites, we cannot guarantee that puppy is parasite free, but we sure try! If you’d like, when puppy goes in for one of his vet checks and vaccinations, take a fresh, small sample and have it rechecked. Once our puppies go through this process as pups and don’t have any obvious issues, we just routinely worm our dogs once a year with the broad spectrum wormer, Safeguard (Fenbendazole). Check with your vet also on their recommended de-worming protocol for adults. It will vary depending on the part of the country you live in and what your dog is exposed too. If there is a flea problem in your area, you may also have to routinely worm for tapeworms. If you notice small, rice-like pieces around your dog’s anus, that is a sign they need to be treated for tapeworms.
Depending on the part of the country you live in, your vet may also recommend a monthly flea and/or heartworm medication. We do not treat our dogs for this as we are not in a heavy flea or heartworm area. But it’s important if you do live in a flea/heartworm area that you start puppy on a preventative early.
Ok, we’ve covered vaccinations and de-worming. What next? Let’s talk grooming!
As soon as puppy is home and settled in start using a soft slicker brush to groom him. If you do this daily (to start with) puppy will get used to it. Pay particular attention to behind the ears, elbows, between and behind the back legs. These are areas that will quickly tangle and become a mess. If you plan on having your puppy groomed professionally, get referrals from friends to find a reputable groomer. Check with the groomer on what age they recommend you start. (I would suggest you at least wait until after the second vaccination). But don’t wait until the puppy is half grown, it will only make it harder for the groomer. Even if the puppy only goes in for a brush out and bath and no haircut, at least he is getting used to the routine, bath, dryer and grooming table.
At home you can make it a weekly habit of brushing out your puppy and trimming toenails. Bathing can be done as needed. That is just going to depend on your home/yard environment and puppies habits. Use puppy/dog shampoo, but don’t overdue it by bathing too often. When you bathe puppy, put cotton balls (I just tear off a piece depending on the size of the pup) in puppy’s ears before bathing and a little strip of petroleum jelly along the eye rim. That will keep water out of puppies ears and soap from stinging his eyes.
Trimming toenails is not hard once you get the hang of it. Your puppy has had his toenails trimmed several times before he got to you so he should be getting pretty good at letting them be trimmr. Get a good pair of trimmers and just take off the tip once a week. If your dog’s toenails are light colored you can see the quick on the back side of the nail. Just clip right below that. Dark toenails are the same, just a little trickier to see the quick. Most pet stores carry something called Quik-Stop in case you happen to go a bit too far and puppy bleeds. Don’t panic, apply pressure with a rag/tissue and apply some Quik-Stop. He’ll be fine. And you’ll get the hang of it!
When you do your weekly grooming, it’s also a good idea to take a peek at puppy’s ears. Unfortunately breeds with floppy ears seem to be more prone to ear infections because those ear flap keeps air from circulating and keeping things fresh. So take and peek (and a sniff) at the ears. If you notice any dark debris, strange odor, puppy shaking his head or scratching his ears, it’s time to have the vet take a peek. Besides ear infections, puppies can also pick up small bits of grass and weeks that can work their way into the ear canal. So have them checked out if you feel something is off.
Another thing to do is get puppy used to having his mouth checked. There are numerous toothbrushes and paste/powders that are specifically made for canines. It’s okay to use a human baby, soft toothbrush, but please stick with the doggie toothpaste. Human toothpaste can make a puppy sick. You can start as soon as puppy is settled into your family. Use your weekly grooming session and take an old, thin washcloth or even just your finger and rub it along puppy’s gumline. Once he gets use to that, start using the toothbrush and paste. Ideally this should be done daily. Believe me if you muddle through this little training time while the puppy is young and get in the habit of proper oral care, it will save you a lot of money and potential health problems in the long run. Using appropriate chew toys is helpful also. (Check the “Getting Ready For Puppy” page to see some toys I recommend). Built up dental tartar and gingivitis can affect other internal organs and cause serious problems. And don’t think it’s just old dogs that that happens to. I’ve seen dogs not even a year old with tartar build-up already. Start young with a healthy mouth!
Lastly, lets talk nutrition. Please don’t skimp and buy “grocery store” dog food. You many think you are saving money, but trust me, in the long run you will pay for it. When you feed a quality puppy/dog food, you will feed less and have a healthier dog. Your puppy is started on Costco/Kirkland puppy food. It is a quality food at an affordable price. I suggest you stick with that until your pup is close to a year, then gradually switch him to the adult food. If you prefer a different food, please make your transition gradually (over a week’s time, slowly adding a little new to the old as you decrease the old food and increase the new, until he is completely on the new food.
One other nutritional supplement I’d highly recommend, at least for puppy’s first year of development, is Nu-Vet. It is a human grade nutritional supplement. Your puppy has already received some of Nu-Vet’s benefits (in utero) as his mother was taking it. Too find out more and learn how to order, please see the “Nu-Vet” page.
Even if your dog gets on the three year vaccination program, I still recommend you take him in for a yearly check-up with your vet. It’s better to live preventative-ly, then having to spend lots of money (and pain and discomfort for your dog) having to treat a problem down the road!