So you’ve decided to take the plunge and bring a new canine “baby” into your home! To keep your little one healthy for many, many years, it is important to take some preventive health measures. Of course, you will need to have the puppy examined as soon as possible by your vet. As a veterinarian, I want to offer advice to help make trips to the vet as enjoyable as possible. You may to want bring along some tiny (but very tasty) treats for you and the vet staff to give your pup at the vet’s office to reward his good behavior. In between visits to the vet you can actually help out by do mini-exams on your pup at home. Look in your puppy’s mouth (gently open the mouth wide), look in the ears and eyes, touch your puppy’s paws and nails, and examine the fur. Do these steps a little at a time and always remember to praise (+/- tiny tasty treat) when the puppy allows the exam. This will help the puppy get accustomed to being examined in the vet’s office and will help you in the future if you need to put medication in the mouth, eyes, or ears, or brush his teeth (or apply the new plaque prevention gel) or if you need to clip your dog’s nails at some point.
Puppies need to receive a series of health checks (just like human babies) and they typically receive a series of vaccinations to protect them from deadly viruses like canine distemper virus, canine parvo-virus and rabies. Until puppies have completed their series of boosters, they really should only have limited contact with adult dogs (especially dogs you don’t know!) because the puppy may still be susceptible to infectious agents that adult dogs may be carrying.
Speaking of parasites, intestinal worms such as roundworms and hookworms are quite common in puppies. Your vet will probably want to check a stool sample at each visit so you may want to bring along a little specimen with you for your visits (usually a small amount in a Ziploc bag). Some intestinal parasites are zoonotic (can be transmitted to people) so puppies are generally de-wormed multiple times, even if the specimen is negative. External parasites such as fleas and ticks may also cause problems in puppies. Talk to your vet about choosing an appropriate product. The Companion Animal Parasite Council has created guidelines for controlling parasites in puppies and dogs (as well as cats) in the U.S. (www.capcvet.org). The guidelines recommend parasite control measures for the life of your dog.
Housebreaking your new puppy is a top priority and our “10 Tips that will make the transition easier” article will be very useful to you. It is vital to give immediate praise (and perhaps a treat) when the deed is done properly. Just make sure you let him finish before you make a fuss or you may distract him. And do not play with the puppy until AFTER he does his business. This play session will be a nice reward and will help prevent the pup from “pretending” he has to go outside just to play. If you witness your puppy having any difficulty or straining to defecate or urinate, make sure to notify your vet at once.
When it comes to toys and treats, it is very important to use caution as these may present choking hazards in puppies. Purchase toys that are appropriate for the size of your pup. It is best to choose toys that are durable and cannot be torn apart and ingested. The same goes for treats – avoid treats that may be chewed apart and ingested in large pieces (especially rawhide). These are not only dangerous for risk of choking but may also get stuck in the intestines and cause an obstruction (which may necessitate surgery). I performed surgery on my own dog, Tess, several years ago when she was a youngster and ate a part of a towel and some plastic packing material, causing an obstruction. Luckily she and I both survived her surgery. Some treats have age and weight restrictions. Always monitor your pup after giving a treat to ensure that it is chewed adequately. Also regarding treats, remember that these contain CALORIES – that is why I refer to TINY tasty treats. Obesity is a serious health problem for American dogs.
Puppies grow up so fast so I highly recommend taking photos frequently!! You may want to snap pictures of early milestones such as first visit to the vet, first day at “doggie day care”, graduation day at basic obedience class, monthly birthdays, etc! Good luck and I hope you enjoy many happy years together!