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Wellness Care for Your Puppy
Exams / consultations
At your first visit, your puppy will receive a comprehensive exam by the veterinarian and a nurse and veterinarian will be available to give you information on your puppy's behavior, health, and training. We will send you home with information on puppy classes, pet health insurance, and breed related health problems as well as samples of high quality puppy food and a special treat or toy for your puppy.
At each follow-up pediatric visit for booster vaccines your puppy will receive a brief exam by the veterinarian and the veterinarian and nurse will again be available to answer any questions or address any concerns you have.
The first two months that your puppy is with you are among the most important of his or her life and we do everything we can to make this a positive and healthy time for your whole family.
Puppies need to receive vaccinations to protect them from Distemper, Parvovirus, and Hepatitis (DHPP) every 3-4 weeks from the time they are 6-8 weeks old to when they are at least 16 weeks old. For most puppies, this is 3 doses of the DHPP vaccine. If your puppy starts his or her vaccines at an older age, at least 2 doses must be given 3-4 weeks apart.
A Rabies vaccine (required by law) is given to all puppies at about 16 weeks of age.
Bordetella and Parainfluenza vaccination (to help prevent "kennel cough") is recommended for all puppies at their first visit, before they begin puppy socialization and obedience classes. Bordetella can cause illness in people also, so if someone in your family is immunocompromised, preventing Bordetella infection in your dog is especially important.
Leptospirosis vaccines that help protect your puppy against 4 strains of Leptospirosis are recommended for puppies who will be outdoors frequently. If your puppy will be outside for more than an hour a day, especially if you live in a recently developed or rural area where there are significant numbers of wildlife passing through your yard or if you will go hiking or swimming with your dog, we recommend Leptospirosis vaccines for your dog. This disease can cause illness in people also, so if someone in your family is immunocompromised, Leptospirosis may be of greater concern to your family. Leptospirosis vaccines are started at 12 weeks of age or older and two doses 3-4 weeks apart are needed.
A new vaccine to help dogs fight periodontal disease is available. Periodontal disease is an especially severe health problem in small dogs. If your dog will be less than 20lbs as an adult or if he or she is of another breed prone to severe periodontal disease, we recommend you consider this vaccine. We will typically begin this vaccine, if you chooses it for your puppy, at the time your puppy is spayed or neutered, typically at 5-6 months of age.
If your puppy is very small, we may recommend spreading out his or her vaccines, so that no more than one or two injectable vaccines is given at a single visit. This is because very small dogs are at higher risk for side effects of vaccines and this risk increases with the number of vaccines given at one time.
If your puppy ever feels ill or experiences any side effects after a vaccine is given, please be sure to let us know. We may modify his or her vaccine program or pre-treat him or her with medications in the future to decrease the risk of reactions.
Most puppies are born with intestinal parasites and the habits of puppies (eating things off the ground, licking their bottoms and the bottoms of other dogs, sometimes eating stool) makes them very prone to acquiring additional intestinal parasites. Most of these parasites can also infect people and can have serious health consequences, especially for children. Stool/fecal tests are recommended every 3-4 weeks for your puppy until we have seen two "negative" samples in a row. A safe dewormer that covers at least roundworms and hookworms is given to your puppy every 2-3 weeks. This dewormer does not cover coccidian, giardia, or some of the other parasites your puppy may have, so do not forget to bring in the fecal samples for us to test. Be sure that everyone in your family practices especially good hygiene when you have a puppy. Hands should be washed after handling puppies, as worm eggs can stick to their fur, and stools should be picked up and disposed of immediately to prevent yards from becoming contaminated with worm eggs.
Fleas are a year round problem in Washington. We recommend a safe, effective once a month flea control product for your puppy.
Heartworm, a parasite spread by mosquitos, is rare in Washington, but is becoming more widespread throughout the country and is more common in Oregon than Washington. We recommend a monthly heartworm preventative if your puppy will travel outside of Washington or will be in areas with lots of mosquitos. If your puppy came from outside of the state (most puppies from pet stores are born in the Midwest and shipped here) we recommend a heartworm test at 6-8 months of age to ensure your puppy was not infected when very young.
Nutrition and Weight Control
We recommend feeding your puppy separate meals, rather than leaving food out. This helps with housetraining and with weight control.
We recommend a high quality dry food for most puppies. Science Diet, Purina, and Iams/Eukanuba are three companies that produce high quality puppy foods, incorporating all the most recent research on natural supplements that enhance learning capabilities and health in puppies. We recommend avoiding multi-colored dry foods, the least expensive foods from grocery stores, feed stores, or "big box" stores, diets that are not guaranteed as complete for puppies, semi-moist diets, or all canned diets. If you are making your own food, it is essential that the diet be balanced for growth and development and we can guide you to resources that can help you make a balanced diet.
Over feeding is extremely common in puppies. Puppies should be kept lean, not chubby! Over feeding of puppies is associated with a wide variety of painful bone and joint problems, including hip dysplasia, osteochondrosis, and panosteitis, as well as an increased risk of breast cancer in female dogs. With the possible exception of some of the giant breeds, such as Great Danes or Newfoundlands, no puppy should gain more than 2 lbs of body weight per week. A maximum growth rate of 1 lb a week is appropriate for most medium sized dogs. If your puppy is growing faster than this, he or she should be fed less, even if he or she does not appear overweight. A healthy puppy should be hungry at meals and eagerly eat everything he or she is offered. Feel free to bring your puppy in anytime for a weight check.
Supplementation with vitamins and minerals is not recommended if your puppy is on a balanced commercial diet, as this can create nutritional imbalances.
Behavior and Training
Puppies have a lot to learn in a very short time in order to become well mannered family members. Training should be started as soon as you bring your puppy home. We recommend puppy classes for socialization and training starting at 8-12 weeks of age and continuing for several months. We are happy to help you with any of the common challenges that puppies bring and can offer advice on housetraining, crate training, bite inhibition, chewing, jumping up, stool eating, car sickness, etc. We have written information on every different type of behavior problem you may encounter that we can send home with you as well. We can refer you to dog trainers, dog schools, and doggy day care for additional behavioral help.
All puppies and dogs need toe nail care and many need regular brushing, ear cleaning, trimming of facial hair, ear plucking, skin fold care, etc. in order to be comfortable and healthy. We can help you learn how to care for your pup's nails and how to provide any other needed skin, ear, and coat care.
All puppies and dogs need regular home dental care. The earlier you start the better. It is not unusual for us to see calculus build-up and gingivitis in puppies as early as 6 months, only weeks after their adult teeth have emerged. Daily tooth brushing is ideal and can be an enjoyable routine for you and your dog if started early with yummy dog toothpaste (CET poultry, beef, vanilla, or seafood flavor). The earlier you start handling your puppy's mouth and teeth, the easier it will be to brush teeth or apply a weekly anti-plaque product (Oravet). Oral hygiene chews with special enzymes and antiseptics (CET Hextra chews) can be given as enjoyable daily treats. A tartar control diet, Hill's t/d, can be given in small amounts as treats for puppies and is an excellent diet for adult dogs. An antiseptic water additive (Aquadent) is also available to decrease the bacteria in your pup's mouth and decrease plaque and bad breath. A healthy dog's breath should never smell bad!
Sharp little baby teeth are normally lost at 4-6 months of age, as the adult teeth emerge. If a baby tooth does not fall out when the adult tooth erupts, the adult tooth can be quickly damaged by the crowding from the baby tooth. When this occurs, the retained baby tooth should be promptly extracted. This condition is very common in small dogs. Because of this, we recommend waiting to spay and neuter small dogs until all their adult teeth have erupted (typically at close to 6 months), so that we know if there are any baby teeth that need to be extracted and can do this at the time of spay or neuter.
Some puppies have orthodontic problems which can lead to chronic oral pain, damage to the soft tissues or teeth, and/or difficulty eating. We will monitor your puppy for problems at his or her visits and recommend treatment if needed.
Baby teeth can be easily broken if puppies chew on hard objects such as bones or hooves or play vigorous tug games. Broken baby teeth should be extracted promptly so as to prevent damage to the developing adult tooth or serious infections.
Puppies need to be confined in safe areas or closely supervised to ensure they do not eat things they shouldn't or become injured.
All puppies should have a collar with identification. Microchipping is also recommended and can be done at any visit.
Many houseplants, flowers, and plants in our yards are toxic to puppies. Puppies should be closely supervised around plants.
Never give your puppy medications unless they have been prescribed by a veterinarian for your puppy. Many human medications are toxic to dogs.
Chocolate, onion, garlic, alcohol, sugar free products containing xylitol, grapes, and raisins are all potentially toxic to dogs. Be sure to keep these food items away from your puppy.
Spaying and Neutering
Spaying and neutering is recommended for all dogs who will not be shown in the conformation ring or bred. It is helpful in preventing some behavior and health problems and preventing messy heat cycles and accidental pregnancies. Females who are spayed before their first heat cycle are almost completely protected from breast cancer, a common problem in female dogs who are spayed as adults or not at all. Female dogs who are spayed are also protected from pyometra, a potentially life threatening infection of the uterus that becomes very common as dogs get older. Neutering males dogs before puberty can prevent some behavior problems such as urine marking, roaming, aggression, and excessive mounting. Neutering males also prevents testicular tumors, which are common in older intact males, as well as decreasing their risk of tumors and hernias in the anal area. We generally recommend spaying and neutering at 5-6 months of age.
Prior to surgery, we recommend a pre-anesthetic blood panel to check your puppy's liver, kidneys, blood proteins, blood sugar, and blood count. This may be done at your puppy's last visit for puppy vaccines or immediately before the spay or neuter.
When your puppy is here for his or her spay or neuter, we do everything we can to ensure that he or she will be safe and comfortable throughout the visit. Our surgical patients are given a brief exam the morning of the procedure, are settled into a cage with cozy blankets, and are given a pre-anesthetic sedative and pain control injection. Before they are anesthetized, an intravenous catheter is placed through which we give the anesthetic induction drug and intravenous fluids. Intravenous fluids are sometimes necessary to maintain a safe blood pressure during anesthesia and help keep your pet well hydrated so that he or she can best metabolize the anesthetic drugs and recover quickly. During anesthesia, a breathing tube is placed in your puppy's trachea so that oxygen and anesthetic gas can be delivered directly to his or her lungs. The level of anesthetic gas can be increased or decreased as needed throughout the procedure. A nurse monitors your puppy the entire time he or she is under anesthesia and is assisted by machines which give readings on your puppy's heart rate, respiratory rate, oxygenation, blood pressure, and temperature throughout the procedure. Surgery is performed is a separate sterile surgery suite by the veterinarian using sterile drapes, instruments, suture, etc.
In a spay, the abdomen is opened, the uterus and ovaries are located and their blood supply tied off, the uterus and ovaries are removed, and the abdominal wall, subcutaneous tissues, and skin are closed with sutures. In a neuter, an incision is made in the skin in front of the scrotum, the testicles are pulled up through the incision one at a time, the blood supply to the testicles is tied off, the testicles are removed, and the subcutaneous tissues and skin are closed with sutures. As your puppy wakes up from anesthesia, additional pain control medications are given and your puppy is monitored closely and given lots of TLC and comfort during recovery. Oral pain control is started that evening and continued for about 5 days. Your puppy can either stay in the hospital the night after his or her surgery or go home with you. It is essential that your puppy be kept calm and quiet and that he or she not be allowed to lick or chew at the incision. Many puppies need an Elizabethan collar to prevent licking and chewing. The morning after surgery, your puppy is re-evaluated to make sure he or she is comfortable, that his or her temperature is normal, and that the incision is looking good. Sutures are typically removed 10-14 days after surgery.
Once your puppy has completed all of his or her puppy vaccines and been spayed or neutered, his or her next visit is usually at about 16 months, one year after completing his or her vaccines. To learn what to expect at that visit, see "Wellness Care for Your Adult Dog".