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Puppy Care


Puppy Care

Not much compares to bringing home a sweet, cuddly puppy! So many memories are made during this time, but it’s also important to remember that it’s your responsibility to keep him healthy. At Lone Star Animal Hospital, we know what an exciting and special time this is, and we want to provide you with the best information and advice for a great start. From good nutrition to behavior challenges, get all the tips you need for ensuring he’ll have a long and happy life.



 

Featured Quote:

We're going to answer some questions about preventative care for puppies.

Video Transcript:

Hi, I'm Dr. Moore at Lone Star Animal Hospital, and we're going to answer some questions about preventative care for puppies. So we've put together a list of very common questions and hopefully, this helps you guys. I've got somebody who's going to read some of those questions to me now. What's our first question?

What kind of preventive care does my puppy need?

Depending on what age your puppy is, we're certainly going to go over an appropriate vaccination schedule, puppy boosters moving forward, deworming protocols, looking for internal parasites, and heartworm prevention.

There's a lot that we talk about at these puppy visits. But for the vaccines in general, we're going to do puppy vaccine boosters about every 3 to 4 weeks. We're going to make sure they're dewormed, we're going to screen them for internal parasites, and make sure they don't have any internal parasites that need to be dealt with in a different way. And absolutely, we want to make sure that they are on heartworm prevention.

How can I prevent my puppy from parasites like fleas, ticks, and heartworms?

So there are a lot of preventative options out there now. My favorite prevention for heartworm disease is Sentinel, and it actually does more than just heartworm prevention. It's a once-monthly flavored tablet. Also, it is prevention for the internal parasites that are preventable. There are some internal parasites for which no prevention exists. And that's one of the reasons that we like to do a fecal test - to screen for internal parasites at least yearly moving forward.

It's also not going to let flea eggs hatch. And so that's a very important part, a big part of the flea life cycle. We also like to prevent fleas and ticks. Those are the other two ectoparasites, or bugs that you might find on your puppy that you definitely want to prevent. They can carry diseases to both your pet as well as some of your human family members. So there's a couple of options for that - Credelio or Bravecto. Those two are oral tablets that work to prevent those parasites from becoming an issue.

When should my puppy start vaccines and what will the booster schedule be?

So we like to start puppy vaccines somewhere between 6 and 8 weeks of age on the first one. And that's typically a distemper and parvo. And then from there, every 3 to 4 weeks we're going to boost that. At three months of age, we're going to be eligible to start leptospirosis and rabies. Leptospirosis is bacteria that can end up causing liver and/or kidney failure. Certainly have a discussion with your vet if that is something that's in your area and something you need to be concerned about.

Rabies is something required by law, so you definitely want to get that on board. And then the last vaccine is bordetella. We typically do 1 during that puppy series and then after that, it's every 6 months. So that's the vaccine schedule for puppies.

Can my puppy go outside or be around other dogs before vaccines are completed?

I would say no. There is one exception to that. I'm a big, big fan of socialization puppy classes. And so if you are in a very small, controlled environment and other puppies are in this small, controlled class, they're also in the process of getting their vaccines.

I think that's an important place for puppies to be, but otherwise, I would absolutely avoid places like the dog park, common areas in a neighborhood, or an apartment complex where a lot of other dogs are going to the bathroom or just hanging out. Certainly, that's how some of these infectious diseases get exposed. And these puppies have such a young growing immune system. It's just not quite safe for them until they're all the way through their puppy series, which is usually around four months of age when they're completely finished.

What if my puppy misses a vaccination?

Depending on how long or how far behind we get, we may end up starting that series over. But if it's just behind, usually at the 3 to 4-week window is when we're wanting to boost vaccines. Let's say it's been 2 or 3 months, we may want to restart that series and then boost it again in an appropriate timeframe. So that's a maybe a question to have a discussion with your vet about and find out how far behind you are and decide if restarting that series is appropriate or not.

Why should my puppy be spayed or neutered and when should that happen?

So that is going to be a variable question also based on what breed your dog is, large breed versus small breed, and female versus male. I will say that, with females, it's actually really important to get them spayed before their first heat. They are much less likely to have problems with mammary cancer later in life. We are going to prevent infection of the uterus, which is a life-threatening condition called pyometra. It's just super important to get these female dogs spayed before their first heat cycle. They can go into heat as early as six months of age. So I'm going to say we're spaying dogs usually between 4 and 6 months of age pretty routinely.

Male dogs - as long as we don't have any behavior issues - then we might end up waiting on them, especially for a larger breed dog ... maybe closer to 9, 10, or even 12 months of age. So again this is a specific breed-related question, so you might have a discussion with your vet about your specific situation.

Does my puppy need a microchip?

Microchips are lifesaving. I think microchips are very, very important. We oftentimes are doing that at the time of a spay or neuter because usually, we are seeing these dogs at a 4 to 6-month range. However, you can do a microchip at any point. So if you've got a dog or a cat that you feel might be a "flight risk" - maybe likes to jet out the front door ... If you're afraid that that might happen without you knowing about it, then microchipping even becomes more important for those folks. But yes, I'm a big, big fan...

What to expect at your puppy’s first visit

During your first visit, we will perform a thorough physical exam and offer our best recommendations on a wide variety of puppy topics, taking into account breed and lifestyle. We will pass along tailored puppy care information and answer any questions you may have. Plan to spend 45 minutes to an hour with us on the first visit. We will cover topics such as:

  • Vaccination schedule
  • Diagnosis and prevention of internal and external parasites
  • Spaying or neutering
  • Behavioral concerns and basic obedience training
  • Potty training
  • Diet recommendations
  • Signs of illness

Vaccinations

Puppies should be vaccinated every 3-4 weeks, starting at 6-8 weeks of age. While every puppy will have a tailored plan that their owner is comfortable with, a typical vaccination plan will look something like this:

  • 6-8 weeks: DHPP
  • 9-11 weeks: DHPP, Bordetella
  • 12-14 weeks: DHPP, Leptospirosis, Rabies
  • 15-17 weeks: DHPP, Leptospirosis, Canine Influenza
  • 18-20 weeks: Canine Influenza

It is important to stay current with your puppy’s vaccinations to guard them against these preventable diseases- one of our responsibilities as pet owners is keeping them as happy and healthy as possible.

Diagnosis and prevention of internal and external parasites:

We will recommend a fecal examination, so please bring a sample with you to this visit if possible. It is fairly common for puppies to start out with an internal parasite (for example, roundworms, coccidia, hookworms, or Giardia) just based on their level of exposure. There is no prevention for Giardia or coccidia, so even if your puppy has a history of a deworming, we still will recommend checking a sample. Some internal parasites can be a concern for humans as well, so it’s really important information to know and treat if present.

We will also have recommendations for prevention of heartworms, fleas and ticks at this visit. All of these are a year-round concern for dogs in Texas, so this is an important discussion. With several products on the market, we will discuss what seems best for you and your pet.

Spaying or Neutering

According to the ASPCA (www.aspca.org), approximately 6.5 million companion animals enter U.S. animal shelters nationwide every year, and each year, approximately 1.5 million shelter animals are euthanized. Spaying and neutering reduces the number of unwanted litters. There are also specific health benefits associated with spaying and neutering, and may reduce behavior issues. Spaying a female dog helps prevent serious health problems including mammary cancer and pyometra (a potentially life-threatening uterine infection). Neutering male dogs helps keep them from contracting benign prostatic hyperplasia (an enlarged prostate gland), as well as testicular cancer.

The typical age for spaying or neutering a dog is around 6 months of age. Several factors can influence the timing of spaying and neutering, such as breed and an animal’s living situation. Recently, there is evidence that male dogs of certain large breeds may benefit from waiting to neuter until the dog has reached 10-11 months of age. There has been some evidence that this can reduce the risk of some type(s) of cancer in certain large breed dogs. While these updated guidelines have given us cause to extend the acceptable age for neutering some large breeds of dogs, the recommendation to eventually neuter the dog remains.

There are a number of misconceptions about spaying and neutering dogs. One is that once a dog is spayed or neutered, it will become overweight. This is not true, as long as dog owners provide the proper amount of exercise and food. Keeping you dog fit is an achievable goal. Another misconception is that spaying or neutering a dog will change it’s personality. This is also simply not true. We are of course happy to discuss any questions or concerns you may have about spaying or neutering so that you have a full understanding of the procedure and what you need to know for recovery from surgery.

Behavioral concerns and potty training

A great time to discuss any problem behaviors is during your puppy's visits to our hospital. We will discuss any concerns you may have and offer solutions, as well as covering general tips to set your puppy up for success. We will offer information you can take home so that everyone in your family can do their part in helping to encourage positive puppy behaviors.

Early socialization is one of the most important things you can can do for your puppy. We recommend getting your puppy started at 8-10 weeks of age in a puppy class with a veterinary-recommended trainer; this time frame is a puppy’s peak socialization window from a developmental standpoint. Your puppy will benefit from socializing with people and other dogs in a safe and controlled environment. The well-socialized dog will live a more relaxed and peaceful life, being able to relax around stressors such as crowds, other dogs or cats, cyclists, loud noises, and even veterinary exams. These classes are so important, but should also will be FUN for both the puppy and the owner! It’s an activity in which the whole family can be involved.

Diet recommendations

It can be overwhelming to walk into a pet store and try to choose the best diet for your puppy, there are so many options. Puppies need more calories than adult dogs, and large breed dogs have different nutritional requirements compared to small breed dogs. At your puppy’s visits with us, we will consider breed and lifestyle to make the best recommendation for a well-balanced puppy diet.

Generally speaking, your puppy should be fed 2-3 times daily, depending on size and age. Measuring the amount you feed, and feeding on a set schedule (meal-feeding) helps with potty training as well. Protein levels and calcium/phosphorus ratios are some very important factors we consider when making diet recommendations for your puppy. We are happy to answer any questions you have about diet at these first puppy visits—it’s an important discussion!

Signs of Illness

Puppies have an immature, growing immune system, and are susceptible to diseases that can be very serious. Most are preventable with vaccinations, but vaccinations alone will not prevent all illnesses of course. An owner should be observant for changes in behavior and symptoms of illness. If you observe any of the following symptoms in your puppy, it may be an urgent or emergency situation and you should contact your vet immediately:

  • Vomiting or Diarrhea
  • Lack of appetite
  • Lethargy (tiredness or listlessness)
  • Poor weight gain
  • Labored (difficulty) breathing
  • Pain
  • Coughing
  • Pale gums
  • Red eyes or eye discharge
  • Sneezing or nasal discharge
  • Straining or inability to pass urine or stool

So what kind of preventive care does my puppy need?

Okay, so depending on what age your puppy is, we're certainly going to go over an appropriate vaccination schedule, puppy boosters moving forward, deworming protocols, looking for internal parasites, so heartworm prevention. There's a lot that we talked about at these puppy visits. But really for the vaccines in general, we're going to do a puppy vaccine boosters about every three to four weeks. We're going to make sure they're dewormed, we're going to screen them for internal parasites and make sure they don't have any internal parasites that needs to be dealt with in a different way. And absolutely, we want to make sure that they are on heartworm prevention.

How can I prevent my puppy from parasites like fleas, ticks and heartworms?

Great. So there's a lot of preventative options out there now. My favorite prevention for heartworm disease is Sentinel and it actually does more than just heartworm prevention. It's a once monthly flavored tablet. Also, it is prevention for the internal parasites that have something that is preventable. There are some internal parasites that no prevention exists. And that's one of the reasons that we like to do a fecal test, screen for internal parasites at least yearly moving forward.

Last thing, it's not going to let flea eggs hatch. And so that's a very important part, big part of the flea life cycle. We also like to prevent fleas and ticks. Those are the other two ectoparasites, or bugs that you're going to find with your puppy that you definitely want to prevent. They can carry a disease to both your pet as well as some of your human family members. So there's a couple of options for that. Credelio or Bravecto. Those two are oral tablets that work to prevent those parasites from becoming an issue.

When should my puppy start vaccines and what will the booster schedule be?

So we like to start puppy vaccines somewhere between six and eight weeks of age on the first one. And that's typically a distemper and parvo. And then from there every three to four weeks we're going to boost that. At three months of age we're going to be eligible to start leptospirosis and rabies. Leptospirosis is bacteria that can end up causing liver and/or kidney failure. Certainly have a discussion with your vet if that is something that's in your area and something you need to be concerned about.

Rabies is something required by law, so you definitely want to get that on board. And then the last vaccine is bordetella. We typically do one during that puppy series and then after that it's every six months. So that's the vaccine schedule for puppies.

Can my puppy go outside or be around other dogs before vaccines are completed?

No, you should not. There is one exception to that. Big, big fan of socialization puppy classes. And so if you are in a very small, controlled environment, other puppies are in this small, controlled class, they're in the process of getting their vaccines. I think that's an important place for puppies to be, but otherwise I would absolutely avoid places like dog park, common areas in a neighborhood, or apartment complex where a lot of other dogs are going to the bathroom, or just hanging out. Certainly that's how some of these infectious diseases get exposed. And these puppies have such a young growing immune system. It's just not quite safe for them until they're all the way through their puppy series, which is usually around four months of age when they're completely finished.

What if my puppy misses a vaccination?

So, depending on how long, how far behind, we may end up starting that series over. But if it's just behind, usually at three to four week window is when we're wanting to boost vaccines. Let's say it's been two or three months, we may want to restart that series and then boost it again in an appropriate timeframe. So that's a maybe a question to have a discussion with your vet about it and find out how far behind you are, and decide if restarting that series is appropriate or not.

Why should my puppy be spayed or neutered and when should that happen?

So that is going to be a variable question also maybe based on what breed your dog is, large breed versus small breed, female versus male. I will say females, it's actually really important to get them spayed before their first heat. They are much less likely to have problems with mammary cancer later in life. We absolutely are going to prevent infection of the uterus, which is a life-threatening condition called pyometra. Just super important to get these female dogs spayed before their first heat cycle. They can go into heat as early as six months of age. So I'm going to say we're spaying dogs usually between four and six months of age, pretty routinely.

Male dogs, as long as we don't have any behavior issues then we might end up waiting on them, especially for a larger breed dog, maybe closer to nine, 10 even 12 months of age. So again the specific breed related question, you might have a discussion with your vet about your specific situation.

Does my puppy need a microchip?

Microchips are lifesaving. Absolutely, I think microchips are very, very important. We oftentimes are doing that at the time of a spay, or neuter because usually we are staying in new during dogs at a four to six month range. However, you can do a microchip at any point. So if you've got, especially a dog or a cat that you feel like is a "flight risk", maybe likes to jet out the front door, you're afraid that that might happen and you not know about it then microchipping even becomes more important for those folks. But yes, I’m a big, big fan of microchipping your pet.

Schedule Your Puppy’s First Visit

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