Puppy's First Year

A schedule of routine visits to the vet will keep your puppy in tip-top shape.

Bringing a new puppy home is similar to bringing home a new human baby, so expect frequent visits to your veterinarian during the first year. If you don't already have a regular veterinarian, it's wise to establish a relationship with one before you bring puppy home. Ask for referrals from the breeder or from your dog-owning friends. When choosing a veterinarian, there are several things to consider.

Most importantly, do you feel comfortable with the veterinarian? You must be able to ask questions and feel that they are taken seriously and will be answered thoughtfully - in language you can understand. Your veterinarian should be knowledgeable in all areas of dog health as well as basic dog behavior and training. He should be able to provide referrals to local trainers and kennels as needed.

Another important consideration is convenience and availability. Are you able to make appointments to have your puppy seen at times that are convenient to you? This minimizes the tendency to postpone having health concerns attended to as needed. Does the veterinary hospital provide emergency services, or refer to a nearby emergency clinic? Either of these options is fine, but you don't want to find yourself with an emergency on a weekend with the nearest emergency care an hour away. Many veterinarians will schedule a pre-puppy introductory visit with you as a get-acquainted time.

Your first visit with your new puppy is an important one. Most veterinarians will schedule a long appointment in order to discuss their preventive health care plan with you. An important component of any preventive health program is the vaccination schedule. We usually give initial vaccines at eight weeks of age. Then vaccinations are typically repeated at 12 and 16 weeks to protect against distemper, hepatitis, parainfluenza and parvovirus. A rabies vaccine is also given at 16 weeks. Other vaccines (we do not typically recommend these) may be given against bordatella, leptospirosis, Lyme disease and coronavirus - whether or not these vaccines are administered depends upon the area in which you live and the puppy's potential risk of exposure. Occasionally a forth parvovirus vaccine is given at 18 to 24 weeks of age. After the initial series of vaccines, your dog will receive annual boosters to continue his protection against these potentially deadly diseases.

During this first series of visits, your veterinarian will also discuss other important health concerns with you. One of these is the presence and prevention of parasites. Most common are worms that can infest the intestinal tract. Your veterinarian will recommend one or more fecal samples be brought in for analysis during your visits to check for the presence of these parasites. Don't try to self-treat parasites without veterinary advice and supervision - different types of worms require different types of treatments.

Heartworm, another internal parasite, is currently present in most parts of the country, and the best treatment is prevention. During the first six months, no heartworm test is required to start your puppy on any heartworm medication; however, it is usually necessary thereafter. Because heartworm is spread by mosquito bites, no dog can remain completely unexposed to this deadly disease. Prevention is very simple with a once-a-month pill that provides virtually 100-per-cent protection. Your veterinarian will tell you during which months you must give the preventive for your region.

Another major concern is external parasites - primarily fleas and ticks - which not only cause significant irritation to your puppy but may also have the potential for spreading disease. Your veterinarian will discuss the seasons in which these parasites are major problems, as well as an appropriate means of control for your specific area. These parasites are easily controllable when the correct products are used on an appropriate schedule of prevention. It is much more difficult to deal with an established infestation than to prevent one from occurring in the first place.

Your veterinarian will educate you in the care of your puppy to maintain his good health. Most owners are aware of the need to trim their puppy's nails but do not do it frequently enough. Nails should be trimmed at least once a month, and even more often for some dogs. Many owners do not do their dog's nails this frequently because of an understandable fear of “making them bleed”; This happens to everyone, even veterinarians, and is not a disaster. Most veterinarians are more than happy to teach you how to trim your puppy's nails - just ask.

Another important area that should receive daily attention is your puppy's teeth. In the last 20 years, veterinarians have become aware of how important good dental hygiene is in relation to the overall health of the dog. Currently, veterinary dental specialists recommend daily brushing for dogs, as well as other types of preventive and therapeutic dental care. It is easier to teach a puppy to accept brushing and minimize dental problems than to try to train an adult with dental problems to allow treatment. For teeth brushing to have any beneficial effect, it must be performed at least weekly; however, more frequently is certainly better.

Your dog's eyes should be checked daily, and his ears, weekly. Any discharge from the eyes should be removed on a daily basis. This can be done gently by your fingers. A small plastic comb (you can also use a plastic flea comb) can help remove dry matter from hair at the inside corner of the eye. Use moistened (1/2 vinegar, 1/2 water) cotton balls to clean the inner surface of the ear that is easily visible. Do not put anything into your dog's eyes or ears without veterinary supervision. Ears and eyes can become easily irritated by even 'routine' ear-cleaning solutions - resulting in infections that require therapy. If the eyes or ears seem to be sensitive, have an increased discharge or are more reddened in appearance than usual, see your veterinarian. This weekly routine should also include a thorough coat brushing - every second day, which allows you to check for any sores, lumps or painful areas on your dog's skin that may require your veterinarian's attention.

Establishing a routine of regular visits to the veterinarian should minimize the need for future visits to address serious problems, allowing you and your dog to live a long, healthy and happy life together. During the first visit, your vet will assess the overall health of your new puppy

Every veterinarian has encountered the dog that has to be forcibly pulled through the front door of the clinic. We also all know the dog that cheerfully trots through the front door and wags his tail in greeting. Owners, veterinarians and, I suspect, dogs would all prefer the latter scenario. In order for this to occur, owners and veterinarians must work together to make the puppy's initial visits positive ones. At home, use treats and praise to get the puppy used to allowing examination and handling of his mouth, head, ears and feet. Getting the puppy accustomed to car travel early - while being safely contained in a crate - will help make the trips pleasant. Come early to the first appointments to allow some play time (with you, not other dogs) in the reception area - this allows the puppy to associate the hospital with something more than just 'needles.' In the examining room, greet the veterinarian cheerfully and hand the puppy over to make friends, acting as if the veterinarian is an old chum. Most veterinarians can quickly make the average puppy comfortable if you will allow them this opportunity. Remember that how you feel about the visits will rub off on your puppy, so expect good behavior and a pleasant experience.

You might want to book mark the following sites;

Did you know that MedlinePlus,
http://www.medlineplus.gov the premiere place to get accurate medical information for humans, also has a pet health page?

Pets and Pet Health
They also have an alternative medicine drug index that all of us might find of interest.

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