Congratulations on your puppy! This is a very exciting time for the family and can bring with it both joy and sometimes challenges. This information is to try to answer some of the questions that you may have. Many of these things will be reviewed with you but you may also have other questions that you would like to ask. Feel free to ask us at Cape Coral Pet Vet any questions that you may have.
Whether this is your first puppy or you are an expert there are a few things to remember about potty training.
Some puppies can take longer to train than others.
Frequent potty breaks are needed. It is recommended to bring puppies out at least once an hour while they are learning. Puppies should be rewarded when they do the right thing either verbally or with a treat. This reward needs to be instantaneous to be effective.
Puppies will need to go outside right after every meal.
Crating the dog when you are away from the home or when they are not able to fully supervise the dog may speed up the training process.
Some owners choose to paper train the dogs and some puppies are used to this. Some use newspaper for this while others use specially made pads.
A good, balanced puppy food should be fed for the first year of a dog’s life. This can be either in the form of dry or wet (canned) food. It is recommended to stay with one of the name brand foods on the market and to avoid any store brands.
If you choose to switch brands or when it is time to switch to adult food it is best to do so slowly over about 5-7 days to avoid GI upset.
Puppies should be fed at least 3 meals a day. Once they reach about 4 months of age they can be switched to twice a day. Some owners choose to “free feed” by leaving the food down. Although some dogs can maintain a good weight by being fed this way many will become overweight.
A new puppy needs to be trained and taught what is expected to be a happy member of the family. Chewing is a normal puppy behavior but puppies need to learn what is ok to chew on- such as toys- and what is not ok- such as shoes.
There are many puppy and dog classes available to help with everything from potty training and socialization to obedience. It is not necessary for every dog to go to classes but it is important that dogs know how to sit, stay and come. This will keep them out of trouble if they were to get loose. Behaviors such as aggression or biting should be taken seriously and not be allowed to continue.
Getting dogs used to having their paws touched, their mouths opened and just being handled in general should be done on a daily basis.
Spaying (female) or Neutering (male)?
You may not be ready to decide at this early stage whether you want to spay or neuter. Or maybe you have already decided. There are both pro’s and con’s to spaying or neutering.
Pet overpopulation is a huge problem in the United States. According to the Humane Society of the United States approximately 4 million dogs and cats are euthanized every year in the US because there aren’t enough homes for them. This includes mixed breed, designer breed and pure breed dogs and cats. This is about one every 8 seconds. It is the leading cause of death for dogs and cat in this country. Spaying and neutering is a proven way to reduce pet overpopulation. Even one litter of puppies and kittens takes away from the homes available for the shelter animals.
- Prevents unwanted litters of puppies.
- Reduces behavioral problems such as marking, and roaming behaviors.
- Eliminates the risk of testicular cancer
- Reduces non-cancerous prostate disorders (such as BPH)
- Reduces the risk of perianal fistulas
- Prevents unwanted litters and having to deal with a dog in heat.
- Greatly reduces the risk of mammary tumors- the most common malignant tumor in the female dog.
- Nearly eliminates the risk of pyometra (infected uterus), which otherwise would affect 23% of intact female dogs- it is fatal in 1% of intact females.
- Reduces the risk of perianal fistulas.
It is also important to remember that for population control all dogs that are adopted from rescues or shelters are usually neutered to prevent pet overpopulation. It is important that these choices are discussed with your veterinarian. Adopting a dog or cat from the shelter also helps decrease the pet overpopulation. Consider adopting from a rescue group or shelter when it is time to add a new addition to your family.
A dog’s teeth are important to the overall health of the pet. They are not only involved in eating but if they become diseased can lead to systemic problems such as problems with the liver or the heart.
A puppy’s deciduous (baby) teeth first erupt around 3 weeks of age and the permanent (adult) teeth start erupting around 12 weeks of age. Dogs have 28 deciduous teeth and 42 permanent teeth.
Daily brushing of your dog’s teeth is the best way to prevent dental disease. Dog toothpaste should be used along with a regular or finger toothbrush. Brushing should be started at a young age to get the puppy used to it.
Since daily brushing is often hard for owners to accomplish CET chews and Breathalyser water additives are available as an alternative. Ora-Vet take home kits are also available as a barrier that can be applied to the teeth weekly to prevent build up.
Once gingivitis is noticed on the teeth it is time for a dental cleaning. This will involves removing the plaque below and above the gum line, full mouth dental radiographs to evaluate the roots and probing of all the teeth. Sometimes dental disease has progressed to where extractions or root canals are necessary. Good dental health will also make the pet more comfortable and avoid dental pain.
There are several “core” vaccines that should be given to all dogs. These include
- DHPP- This is a combination vaccine consisting of Distemper, Canine Infectious Hepatitis, Parainfluenza and Parvovirus.
- Rabies- This is a neurological disease that is fatal to both humans and animals. All dogs are required to have this vaccine.
- There are also several non-core vaccine. These are given based on the dogs and owners life style.
- Bordetella- Canine Kennel Cough. This is for dogs that require boarding, grooming or for travel.
- Leptospirosis- This is to prevent bacterial infection from the leptospirosis family. Animals that are most susceptible are those that spend a lot of time outdoors in moist environments/standing water, are exposed to wildlife or livestock.
Puppy vaccines are started at 6-8 weeks of age and consist of a series of vaccines every 3-4 weeks until the dog reaches at least 16 weeks of age. This series is customized to each animal. Your puppy will not be fully protected against these diseases until they have finished the series of vaccines. It is therefore important to not expose them to animals that have unknown vaccine history such as those in pet stores, pet beach, dog park etc. until 1 week after the last vaccines are given.
The vaccines are then repeated every 1-3 years depending on the vaccine and the lifestyle of the dog.
A stool sample is an important part of any puppies’ full examination. It is very common for puppies to have internal parasites (worms). These are often spread from mom to puppies. These are often not visible by the naked eye so a microscopic examination is necessary. A stool sample should be checked with every puppy examination to make sure they have not acquired any new parasites. Stool samples should then be checked every 6 months once the puppy reaches adulthood.
Intestinal parasites are spread a number of different ways including from the ground, other animals feces, fleas and even through the pads. It is also important to note that some of these parasites are zoonotic. This means that they can spread to people (especially children). There are 2 in particular that we are concerned about.
- Roundworms – if the egg is ingested by a person they can cause visceral larva migrans. The larvae can migrate to the eye and cause damage including blindness.
- Hookworms – the larvae can penetrate (go through) the skin and cause inflammation. Some can even go deeper and cause serious damage to the intestines or other organs.
It is not always possible to see the parasites in the stool sample even if they have them since some parasites shed worms only intermittently. It is therefore recommended to deworm dogs every six months. This is a guideline given by the CDC (center for disease control and prevention) and recommended by our veterinarians.
Fleas are a very common parasite seen in the dog. They can complete their whole lifecycle on a dog and live off the dog’s blood. They can cause anemia (low red blood cell count), allergies and can spread tapeworm (a type of intestinal parasite). The climate in southwest Florida is ideal for the flea and they survive year round. Monthly flea prevention is recommended year round and can be started as early as 6 weeks.
Heartworm disease is a parasite spread by the mosquito. Due to the climate in this area dogs are susceptible year round. A mosquito bites a dog that is infected with heartworms, the microfilariae mature in the mosquito that then bites another dog that becomes infected. The microfilaria develops and eventually goes to the heart where they finish their life cycle. The worms cause damage to the heart and even when treated there will be permanent damage to the heart. The worms can survive in the heart for several years and left untreated will be fatal to the dog. Monthly heartworm prevention, either topically or by mouth, is given to prevent this disease.