Just as the needs of infants are different than those of teen-agers, puppies (and kittens) need different care than their older counterparts. Because of their size, they are much more susceptible to dehydration and other ailments. These conditions, which in older animals can cause discomfort, in young animals can actually cause death.
When should my puppy have his or her first checkup?
New puppies should receive their first checkup 4-5 days after entering a new household. This gives them several days to adjust to their surroundings, and the new owner can observe them for problems. Of course, if any problems are noted, they should be checked immediately. Any vaccine history or medical records should be brought along so that your veterinarian can review them and begin a medical health program for your pet. Bring along a stool specimen to be checked for intestinal parasites.
What are vaccines and what do they do?
Vaccines are given to young puppies to stimulate their immune systems to form antibodies to protect against disease. A young puppy will receive some protection through the mother’s milk, but this is only temporary. A series of vaccines is necessary to ensure that your puppy’s immunity is sufficient to protect your pet against disease.
When should my puppy begin a health program?
Ideally, puppies should begin a health program while still with the mother at 2-4 weeks of age. They should be checked for intestinal parasites and dewormed. Vaccinations and physical exams should generally begin at six weeks of age and should be repeated at 3-4 week intervals until about 16-18 weeks of age. Periodic checks for intestinal worms should be performed during this time.
What vaccinations will my puppy receive?
Your puppy’s recommendations for a vaccine program will be based on his age, previous vaccine history, and lifestyle. Vaccines which may be considered are as follows:
The main vaccine is known as “Distemper/Parvo” vaccine or DA2P P. This is actually a combination vaccine to protect against the following diseases:
- Distemper: A viral disease that is often fatal in puppies. It is characterized by respiratory distress, coughing and seizures and is highly contagious.
- Hepatitis (adenovirus): A viral disease spread through urine. It causes respiratory and liver problems.
- Parainfluenza: a respiratory infection that is often involved with kennel cough.
- Parvovirus: A severe intestinal viral disease characterized by vomiting and bloody diarrhea. It is often fatal and highly contagious.
- Rabies: Your puppy will also receive a rabies vaccine at 3-4 months of age. Rabies is always fatal and is a public health concern.
Other vaccines which may be recommended for your pet include:
- Bordetella: Known as kennel cough or tracheobronchitis. It is highly contagious and often difficult to treat. Recommended for puppies with high exposure to other animals, being boarded, or going to dog shows or obedience school.
- Lyme disease: A tick-borne disease more prevalent in the northeast states recommended for hunting dogs or dogs that spend time in the woods or other tick infested areas.
What types of pet parasites should I be concerned about?
Intestinal Parasites in Puppies
There are many types of intestinal parasites. These include roundworms, hookworms, tapeworms, whipworms and coccidia. Most puppies will have some type of parasite and these are treated routinely. Untreated intestinal worms can cause diarrhea, anemia, poor growth and even death. Some types of intestinal parasites are of public health concern, so if you have small children, please exercise care when cleaning up after your puppy. Good hygiene is important.
Heartworm Prevention & Treatment
Heartworms are also of major concern. They are transmitted by mosquitoes. Undetected or untreated they can lead to heart failure, lung and liver problems and death. Generally, puppies are placed on monthly medication by 9-12 weeks of age to prevent heartworms. A blood test should be performed annually for early detection and treatment as occasionally infestation may still occur. This annual test is required to keep your pet on heartworm medication year round.
What can I do to ensure good health for my puppy?
It is important to feed your puppy a high quality puppy food with increased protein levels. Avoid table food as it causes intestinal problems and picky eaters. Keep plenty of fresh water available at all times.
What about spaying or neutering my puppy?
If you are not going to be breeding your pet (which is the case for most animals), we recommend spaying or neutering at six months of age. Your pet will generally have a better temperament and have fewer health problems if this is done at an early age. Also as a responsible pet owner, you will not be contributing to the over-population of unwanted pets that are euthanized and destroyed each year.
You have already taken the first step towards the good health of your puppy by visiting your veterinarian. Routine veterinary health care, annual vaccinations and physical exams, as well as diligent administration of heartworm preventative can all help ensure a healthy pet. It is far less expensive and much easier to prevent disease than it is to treat it.
Enjoy your new puppy and friend. They don’t ask for much, and give so much in return. If at any time you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to call us.