Puppy through Adult Dog Care
Whether you have a new puppy or adult dog, we want to partner with you to ensure all of their needs are meet including health, behavior, travel, exercise, etc. We offer pet selection guidance (please visit our Puppy Selection page), initial and follow-up puppy visits, and biannual exams and consultations to promote wellness in family-member pets. We strive to provide personalized, high quality, and compassionate care for each of our patients. Review our page about Veterinary Visits for more information. We also have many resources to help you with any questions or concerns that may arise. Life cycle needs for dogs can vary as they age, so please visit our Life Cycle Needs page to ensure that your pet is receiving the best care.
Stimulating play is important during the first week. Stalking and pouncing are important play behaviors in puppies and are necessary for proper muscular development. If given a sufficient outlet for these behaviors with toys, your puppy will be less likely to use family members for these activities. The best toys are light weight and movable. These include wads of paper, kongs, rope toys and rubber balls. Any toy that is small enough to be swallowed should be avoided.
There are many diseases that are fatal to dogs. Fortunately, we have the ability to prevent many of these by the use of very effective vaccines. In order to be effective, these vaccines must be given as a series of injections. Ideally, they are given at about 6-8, 12, and 16 weeks of age, but this schedule may vary somewhat depending on several factors. The vaccination against distemper, parvovirus and adenovirus is given at 6-8, 12, and 16 weeks old. Rabies vaccine is usually given at 16-24 weeks of age. There are many different vaccines available to protect pets, and not all are effective or necessary. At each visit, we will carefully consider your puppy’s individual risk factors to determine the type of vaccinations that will be best. Read more about this topic on our Vaccinations page.
Why the Series of Vaccinations
When the puppy nurses from its mother, it receives a temporary form of immunity through its mother’s milk. This immunity is in the form of proteins called antibodies. For about 24-48 hours after birth, the puppy’s intestine allows absorption of these antibodies directly into the blood stream. This immunity is of benefit during the first few weeks of the puppy’s life, but, at some point, this immunity fails and the puppy must be able to make its own long-lasting immunity. Vaccinations produce this long-lasting immunity. As long as the mother’s antibodies are present, vaccinations cannot stimulate the puppy’s immune system. The mother’s antibodies interfere by neutralizing the vaccine.
Many factors determine when the puppy will be able to respond to the vaccinations. These include the level of immunity in the mother dog, how much antibody has been absorbed, and the number of vaccines given to the puppy. Since we do not know when an individual puppy will lose the short-term immunity, we give a series of vaccinations. The goal is that at least two of these will fall in the window of time when the puppy has lost immunity from its mother but has not yet been exposed to disease. A single vaccination, even if effective, is not likely to stimulate the long-term immunity that is so important. Please keep your puppy away from areas frequented by other dogs until 5-7 days after she/he has had the 2nd booster vaccine. Rabies vaccine is an exception to this, since one injection given at the proper time is enough to produce long-term immunity.
Intestinal parasites are common in puppies. Puppies can become infected with parasites before they are born or later through their mother’s milk. The microscopic examination of a stool sample will usually help us to determine the presence of intestinal parasites. We recommend this exam for all puppies. We recommend a deworming product that is safe and effective against several of the common worms of the dog. It is given at the initial visit and repeated in 2 and 4 weeks. Dogs remain susceptible to reinfection with hookworms and roundworms. For this reason we highly recommend the monthly medication that kills intestinal parasites as well as prevents heartworm infection.
Tapeworms are the most common intestinal parasite of dogs. Puppies become infected with them when they swallow fleas; the eggs of the tapeworm live inside the flea. When the dog chews or licks its skin as a flea bites, the flea may be swallowed. The flea is digested within the dog’s intestine; the tapeworm hatches and then anchors itself to the intestinal lining. Tapeworms are also present in small rodents. Therefore, exposure to fleas or rodents may result in a new infection; this can occur in as little as two weeks. Dogs infected with tapeworms will pass small segments of the worms in their stool. The segments are white in color and look like grains of rice. They are about 1/8 inch (3 mm) long and may be seen crawling on the surface of the stool. They may also stick to the hair under the tail. If that occurs, they will dry out, shrink to about half their size, and become golden in color. Tapeworm segments do not pass every day or in every stool sample; therefore, inspection of several consecutive bowel movements may be needed to find them. We may examine a stool sample in our office and not find them, and then you may find them the next day. If you find them at any time, please notify us so we may provide the appropriate treatment. Heartworm preventative medication does not kill tapeworms; therefore, an alternate medication will be administered for removal of the tapeworms. Please see our Internal and External Parasite page for more information and recommendations.
Heartworms are important parasites, especially in certain climates. They can live in your dog’s heart and cause major damage to the heart and lungs. Heartworms are transmitted by mosquitoes so your dog does not have to be in contact with another dog to be exposed. Fortunately, we have preventatives that will protect your dog from heartworms. These medications are very safe and very effective if given regularly. Be aware that having a long hair coat or staying primarily indoors does not protect a dog against heartworm infection. Heartworms occur infrequently in Benton County, but are becoming more of a concern. Heartworm preventatives are dosed according to your dog’s weight. As the weight increases, the dosage should also increase. Please note the dosing instructions on the package. More information about heartworms is available at Internal and External Parasite.
Fleas and Ticks
These external parasites are common in our area. They can transmit diseases and case infections and other reactions. Prevention is safe and simple with once monthly application of Frontline Plus. Read more at Internal and External Parasite.
Proper nutrition in the growing puppy is critical for proper development. We have used Science Diet for over two decades and recommend and feed it to our own pets. If not feeding Science Diet or Hills Prescription Diets, we recommend you feed a premium high quality food made for puppies. Be sure the food is AAFCO certified (read the label). AAFCO is an organization that certifies foods meet certain minimum requirements for nutrition. Raw food diets/homemade diets are becoming much more popular; some of them are excellent and some are deficient in necessary minerals and vitamins. Please ask us for advice if these are your preferred diets. Table foods are not recommended. Because they are generally very tasty, dogs will often begin to hold out for these and not eat their well-balanced dog food. We enjoy a variety of things to eat in our diet. However, most dogs actually prefer not to change from one food to another unless they are trained to do so by the way you feed them. Do not feel guilty if your dog is happy to just eat one food day after day, week after week. If you need to change foods, please do so gradually over a week. Rapid diet changes can cause diarrhea.
In addition to table foods, it is also important that you not give certain other food items to dogs. Bones of birds (chicken, turkey, etc.) are hollow and splinter easily producing very sharp pointed pieces of bones. These can easily pierce the esophagus, stomach, and intestines resulting in peritonitis and death. In fact, any kind of bone can cause gastrointestinal upset, may break teeth or cause diarrhea if the bone is contaminated with harmful bacteria. We recommend not feeding any bones, especially raw ones. Chocolate is toxic to dogs and should never be fed to your puppy. Please avoid feeding fatty, greasy foods, as they may cause a painful condition called pancreatitis. Salmon and trout must be cooked thoroughly to kill the parasite that causes salmon poisoning.
The most popular feeding method is commonly called “meal feeding.” This means that the puppy is fed at specific times of the day. A measured amount of food should be offered three times per day for puppies up to six months of age. What is not eaten within approximately 20 minutes is taken up. As puppies become older, they may show a preference of certain meal times. Most adult dogs are fed 1-2 times each day. We consider each mealtime a teachable moment. Your puppy should obey a command of your choice prior to receiving a meal (no “free lunch”).
Housetraining should begin as soon as your puppy enters his new home. How long the training must continue depends on both the puppy and you. Some pups learn sooner than others. A puppy’s memory is short. A home with a badly trained puppy is not a happy home for you or the puppy. Ask us for our brochure describing house training your puppy or visit our Housetraining page.
Socialization of Puppies
The socialization period for dogs is between 4 and 12 weeks of age. During that time, the puppy is very impressionable to social influences. If it has good experiences with men, women, children, cats, other dogs, car rides, noises, etc., it is likely to accept them throughout life. If the experiences are absent or unpleasant, it may become apprehensive or adverse to any of them. Therefore, during the period of socialization, we encourage you to expose your dog to as many types of social events and influences as possible. Consulting a trainer and attending puppy classes are great ways to learn more about socialization.
One of the characteristics of puppies is chewing. Puppies are trying their new teeth so chewing is a normal behavior. The puppy’s baby teeth are present by about 4 weeks of age. They begin to fall out at 4 months of age and are replaced by the adult (permanent) teeth by about 6 months of age. Therefore, chewing is a puppy trait that you can expect until about 6-7 months of age. It is important that you do what you can to direct your puppy’s chewing toward acceptable objects. You should provide items such as rawhide chew bones, nylon chew bones, kong toys and rope toys so other objects are spared. We encourage you to rotate the toys so that your puppy does not get bored with them. Keep most of the toys out of reach and give your puppy a few “new” toys every few days.
Puppies have very sharp toenails. They can be trimmed with your regular finger nail clippers or with nail trimmers made for dogs and cats. If you take too much off the nail, you will get into the quick; bleeding and pain will occur. If this happens, neither you nor your dog will want to do this again. Therefore, a few points are helpful:
- If your dog has clear or white nails, you can see the pink of the quick through the nail. Avoid the pink area and you should be out of the quick.
- If your dog has black nails, you will not be able to see the quick so only cut 1/32″ (1 mm) of the nail at a time until a soft spot can be seen at the nail tip or the nail shape begins to change. You are nearing the quick.
- If your dog has some clear and some black nails, use the average clear nail as a guide for cutting the black ones.
- When cutting nails, use sharp trimmers. Dull trimmers tend to crush the nail and cause pain even if you are not in the quick.
- If bleeding does occur during a nail trim, apply direct pressure to the tip of the nail and styptic powder or corn starch if available.
Spaying or ovariohysterectomy is the removal of the uterus and the ovaries. Therefore, heat periods no longer occur. It has been proven that as the female dog gets older, there is a significant incidence of breast cancer and uterine infections if she has not been spayed. Spaying before the first heat period will virtually eliminate the chance of either. We strongly recommend that she be spayed before her first heat period, unless directed otherwise. This can be done anytime between 4 and 6 months of age.
Neutering offers several advantages. Unneutered male dogs are often attracted to a female dog in heat and may escape and become lost seeking a female. Intact male dogs can be more aggressive and have an increased risk of fighting especially with other male dogs. Neutering also can prevent prostate enlargement and testicular cancer. Neutering can be performed in dogs as young as 4-6 months of age. Ask us about the proper timing of neutering for your puppy.
Each year 1 million pets are lost or stolen. Statistics show that 1 out of 3 pets will get lost in their lifetime. Without identification, 9 out of 10 pets will never find their way back home to their families. Microchipping has been used for many years and has been found to be very safe and effective in reuniting families with their companion pets. This tiny devise (roughly the size of a grain of rice) is implanted with a needle, so the process is comparable to your pet receiving a vaccine. The best time to microchip your pet is shortly after you acquire your puppy, but anytime is the right time as you never know when they might go missing. Another helpful suggestion is to have your veterinarian’s information listed as a second contact. Remember to keep your pet’s information updated with the correct microchip company.