Your Puppy’s First Year
by Dr. Melissa Joseph Miller
Puppies are without a doubt some of the most adorable things on the planet. Parenting a new puppy, however, is no walk in the park. Here’s a guide to help you care for the new addition to the family.
When the time comes to finally bring your new puppy home for the first time, you can count on three things: unbridled joy, cleaning up your puppy’s accidents, and a major lifestyle adjustment. As you’ll soon learn, a growing puppy needs much more than a food bowl and a doghouse to thrive. And while it may be a lot of work initially, it’s well worth the effort. Establishing good and healthy habits in those first few sleep-deprived weeks will lay the foundation for many dog-years of happiness for you and your puppy.
Vaccinations- 6 weeks, 9 weeks, 12 weeks, and 15-week Puppy Visits
DA2PP: (Distemper, Hepatitis or Adeno2 virus, Parainfluenza, and Parvo-virus). This vaccine is given in a series and is one of the most important things you will ever do to protect your dog’s health. The first DA2PP is given at 6 weeks of age and is then repeated every 3-4 weeks until the puppy is 15 weeks old.
Leptospirosis: Leptospirosis is a bacteria spread by wildlife and ingested by dogs drinking out of puddles. It can be contracted by people so it is a human health concern. It is given in a series of two injections 2-4 weeks apart followed by a yearly booster.
Rabies: This vaccination is first given at or after 12 weeks of age. The next booster is given in one year.
Bordetella: This vaccination is given to prevent contagious tracheobronchitis or “kennel cough.” It is given every 6 months.
Remember to keep your puppy out of public parks, boarding kennels, dog daycares and places with large numbers of dogs until this initial series of vaccines is completed.
Your puppy’s body is growing in critical ways which is why you’ll need to select a food that’s formulated especially for puppies as opposed to adult dogs. Look for a statement from the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) on the packaging to ensure that the food you choose will meet your pup’s nutritional requirements.
Small and medium-sized breeds can make the leap to adult dog food between 9 and 12 months of age. Large breed dogs should stick with puppy kibbles until they reach 2-years-old. Make sure your puppy has fresh and abundant water available at all times.
Feed multiple times a day:
• Age 6-12 weeks – 4 meals per day
• Age 3-6 months – 3 meals per day
• Age 6-12 months – 2 meals per day
Examples of premium pet foods we would recommend are Royal Canin®, Science Diet®, and Purina Pro Plan®.
Puppies should always be meal-fed rather than allowed ad libitum (“free fed”) consumption.
Avoid chew toys that are very hard or that are less than 3 inches in diameter. The rule of thumb is that a chew toy should be soft enough to bend or be able to indent with your thumbnail. Rubber chew toys are ideal. We do not recommend real bones as they have the potential to fracture teeth. Avoid fabric toys that can be chewed up and swallowed.
Puppies like to chew on almost anything! Be very careful of what your puppy is allowed to chew and swallow as intestinal foreign bodies requiring surgical removal are most common in dogs under one year of age.
Housetraining: The basic concept is to not allow your puppy the opportunity to make mistakes. Your puppy needs to be taken outdoors to the designated area frequently and shortly after each meal. Praise your puppy lavishly after performing. Punishment for making mistakes is not usually helpful. If you catch your puppy in the act of voiding in the wrong place say “NO!” or “YUK!” then take the puppy outdoors.
Obedience training: Puppy classes are best begun as early as 8-10 weeks of age. To learn more about available training classes visit the Love Them Train Them website. By teaching your puppy good manners, you’ll set your puppy up for a life of positive social interaction. In addition, obedience training will help forge a stronger bond between you and your puppy.
Tip: Keep it positive. Positive reinforcement, such as small treats, has been proven to be vastly more effective than punishment.
Socialization: Just like obedience training, proper socialization during puppyhood helps avoid behavioral problems down the road. At approximately 2 to 4 months of age, most puppies begin to accept other animals, people, places, and experiences. Socialization classes are an excellent way to rack up positive social experiences with your puppy. Just be sure to ask your vet about what kind of interaction is OK at this stage.
• A crate keeps your puppy safe while you are away from home.
• It is a powerful tool to aid in bathroom training your pup.
• It provides your puppy with a place, much like a den in nature, that he can call his own and where he can feel safe.
• It safeguards your home from puppy destruction.
• The use of a crate provides your pup with structure in his day-to-day life.
• It provides you with the ability to control your dog.
• It is a place where your pup can go to have a nap and sleep off the exercise from socializing, playing games, and training.
• It is a place where you know your dog is not getting into trouble when you are otherwise occupied.
• Most dogs will have to be in a crate at some point in their lives; at the vet, at the groomers, when boarding, etc. If your dog is already accustomed to being in a crate, this can reduce stress.
Ovariohysterectomy & Castration (spay & neuter)
We recommend that female dogs not intended for breeding be spayed at approximately 6 months of age (prior to their first heat cycle). Small breed dogs are prone to retention of primary teeth, so we recommend spaying at six months of age which allows us to identify and extract retained primary teeth without scheduling a second anesthesia. Female dogs spayed prior to their first heat cycle enjoy a 99% reduction in the incidence of mammary (breast) cancer.
Male dogs not intended for breeding should be neutered to prevent prostate disease and minimize certain behavioral problems. Again six months of age is a good time to perform this procedure, so we can check for retained primary teeth at that time and remove them if indicated. Castration of large/giant breed male dogs may be delayed to 1-2 years of age to ensure proper skeletal growth and help prevent future joint issues.
If you have a large/giant or deep-chested breed such as a Doberman, Golden Retriever, Rottweiler, Great Dane, Mastiff, etc. at the time of their spay or neuter, you might also consider a prophylactic procedure called a Gastropexy (aka stomach tacking), to reduce the risk of “bloat” or Gastric Dilation and Volvulus (GDV) which is a potentially fatal condition.
We routinely administer worming medication at each puppy visit because puppies are frequently born with intestinal worms and several treatments may be necessary to eliminate them. It is a good idea to have a fecal exam done routinely at the first or second visit, and yearly thereafter.
External Parasites (flea control)
We recommend year-round flea and tick coverage. Our favorite product is a tasty oral chewable tablet called Nexgard® which protects against fleas and ticks for 1 month. After your puppy reaches 6 months of age, an alternative product is Bravecto®, an oral flea and tick prevention that lasts 12 weeks.
Bathe your puppy every 2-3 weeks with a shampoo made for dogs. If you bathe more frequently than this or use human shampoo, your puppy’s skin may become dry and flakey.
Appropriate dental care may be the most important thing that you can do to improve the quality and longevity of your dog’s life. Our first area of concern is that your puppy’s permanent teeth erupt in a proper fashion. All of your puppy’s permanent teeth should be present by six months of age. If primary (baby) teeth are still present (retained), they will need to be extracted or they will cause bite and periodontal disease problems.
For long term dental health a combination of home care (brushing) and periodic professional cleanings is recommended. Now is the time to gradually train your puppy to allow you to handle his/her mouth. Since your puppy is still teething, simple handling of the mouth is all that is recommended until six months of age. Brushing the teeth should begin after six months of age and should be done daily. Remember that only pet toothpaste (Virbac brand products) should be used. Soft-bristled brushes, finger-brushes, gauze or a dedicated wet washcloth around one’s finger are all acceptable. Try to make it a fun and positive experience with plenty of praise and treats. Dental treats are also available. Please feel free to ask about these options.
We recommend year-round monthly heartworm prevention (either oral or topical). These products include Heartgard® (oral), Sentinel® (oral), or Advantage Multi® (topical).
We recommend some kind of identification for all pets. We offer HomeAgain® microchip permanent identification available here. This is given by a simple injection during an office visit or can be done at the time of your puppy’s spay or neuter. Visit their website at www.homeagain.com to find out more.
For after-hours emergencies contact either VSB (205) 967-9107 or Steel City Vets - (205) 413-8989. These are all 24-hour emergency/critical care/referral centers and provide excellent care.
It is our goal to provide you with the highest quality services and information so you can have the best possible relationship with your dog. Please call us if we can help you in any way!
Altadena Valley Animal Clinic