Getting starting on the right track for the healthcare of your new puppy
If you recently adopted a new puppy into your family, you should have a healthcare plan in place to keep your puppy healthy and happy for the many years to come. Puppies are very adaptable, but can be susceptible to problems, and getting started on the right path is important.
The first few days:
The first few days are a big change for everyone. The puppy is experiencing new sights, sounds, and people, and often a new diet. There is an adjustment period where you may see diarrhea or soft stool from all the changes. It is important to schedule your new puppy’s first veterinary visit for a checkup during this time, and bring a stool sample just in case! Intestinal parasites can also cause diarrhea in puppies and the stool will be screened for any parasite segments or eggs.
Vaccines are given to create a good immune response in your puppy against common diseases, including distemper, parvovirus, and hepatitis. Puppies need a series of boosters in order to receive the best immunity. Generally vaccinations are started at 6-8 weeks of age and continued every 3-4 weeks until the puppy is 16 weeks old. The Rabies vaccine is given around 16 weeks of age and is boostered in a year. Other vaccines to consider include the Bordetella vaccine and the Rattlesnake vaccine. Talk with your veterinarian to make the best vaccination schedule for your puppy.
Dogs and puppies are susceptible to internal and external parasites and should be on monthly prevention to avoid the parasites and the diseases that they can cause.Depending on the product, puppies can be started as early as 4 weeks.
Your puppy will be learning and soaking up everything as it grows and should be meeting new people and other animals in order to help them become non-fearful, well-socialized adults. Care should be taken, however, if the puppy has not received all of his or hers first vaccines. It takes the immune system about two weeks to mount a good response, so they are not considered fully protected until two weeks after their last vaccine. Puppy classes are a good way to meet new people and other puppies in a safe environment. Make sure the class checks that everybody is up-to-date on their vaccines before entering. Dog parks and walking where other animals frequent should be avoided until your puppy is a bit older and fully protected.
Along with potty-training and obedience training, you should teach your puppy to be comfortable with their regular grooming and healthcare exams. Introduce your puppy to getting its mouth opened, its feet touched, and nails clipped. Teeth brushing can start early and can be a fun experience if everyone is comfortable with it. Especially if you have a puppy with long hair, brushing your puppy early will keep him or her comfortable with regular grooming. It’s always stressful to your pet, to you, and to your pet’s healthcare team if they were never introduced to things commonly done during a physical exam.
While your puppy is growing, you should consider if you want to get him or her microchipped. A microchip is about the size of a grain of rice and is inserted under your pet’s skin. A veterinarian or animal shelter can scan your pet for a microchip if it is ever lost. Collars and tags don’t always stay on an animal, but a microchip will be present for life. The scanner will pick up a series of numbers from your pet’s chip that can be traced back to you. It is important to register your information with your pet’s microchip so that it is easily found, and make sure to change the information if you move!
Spaying or neutering puppies is done to prevent unwanted pregnancies, behavior problems, and reproductive disease later in life. We generally recommend dogs be spayed or neutered at around 4-6 months of age. A great article about spaying and neutering can be found an AAHA’s “Pets Matter” blog.
Another important thing to consider when you get a new puppy is about the cost of the care of your puppy through its lifetime. You should be prepared if the worst happens and your pet gets sick or has an emergency. Elderly dogs have more potential for disease, but puppies can run into problems also. Dogs that like to eat strange things, for example, can require surgery if they get something stuck in their intestines. Pet insurance is a good option for financing the healthcare costs of your new best friend.