Puppy Recommendations for New Owners

We would like to congratulate you on the acquisition of your new puppy. Owning a dog can be an extremely rewarding experience, but it also carries with it quite a bit of responsibility. We hope this document will give you the information needed to make some good decisions regarding your puppy.

WHAT TYPE OF PLAYING SHOULD I EXPECT FROM A PUPPY?

Stimulating play is important during the first weeks. Stalking and pouncing are important play behaviors in puppies and are necessary for proper muscular development. If given a sufficient outlet for these behaviors with toys, your puppy will be less likely to use family members for these activities. The best toys are lightweight and movable. These include wads of paper and rubber balls. Any toy that is small enough to be swallowed should be avoided.

CAN I DISCIPLINE A PUPPY?

Disciplining a young puppy may be necessary if its behavior threatens people or property, but harsh punishment should be avoided. Hand clapping and using shaker cans or horns can be intimidating enough to inhibit undesirable behavior. However, remote punishment is preferred. Remote punishment consists of using something that appears unconnected to the punisher to stop the problem behavior. Examples include using spray bottles, throwing objects in the direction of the puppy to startle (but not hit) it, and making loud noises. Remote punishment is preferred because the puppy associates punishment with the undesirable act and not with you.

WHEN SHOULD MY PUPPY BE VACCINATED?

There are many diseases that are fatal to dogs. Fortunately, we have the ability to prevent many of these by the use of very effective vaccines. In order to be effective, these vaccines must be given as a series of injections. Ideally, they are given at about 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16 & 18 weeks of age, but this schedule may vary depending on several factors: age, veterinarian, puppy’s health and brand of vaccination.

The routine vaccination schedule will protect your puppy from seven diseases: distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, parainfluenza virus, parvovirus, corona virus and rabies. The first six are included in one injection that is given at 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16 &18 weeks old. Rabies vaccine is given at 12-16 weeks of age. There are two other optional vaccinations that are appropriate in certain situations. Your puppy should receive kennel cough vaccine (Intra Trac II) if a trip to a boarding kennel is likely or if it will be placed in a puppy training class. Lyme vaccine is given to dogs that are exposed to ticks because Lyme Disease is transmitted by ticks.

WHY DOES MY PUPPY NEED MORE THAN ONE VACCINATION?

When the puppy nurses its mother, it receives a temporary form of immunity through its mother’s milk. This immunity is in the form of proteins called antibodies. For about 24-48 hours after birth, the puppy’s intestine allows absorption of these antibodies directly into the blood stream. This immunity is of benefit during the first few weeks of the puppy’s life, but, at some point, this immunity fails and the puppy must be able to make its own long-lasting immunity. Vaccinations are used for this purpose. As long as the mother’s antibodies are present, vaccinations do not have a chance to stimulate the puppy’s immune system. The mother’s antibodies interfere by neutralizing the vaccine.

Many factors determine when the puppy will be able to respond to the vaccinations. These include the level of immunity in the mother dog, how much antibody has been absorbed, and the number of vaccines given to the puppy. Since we do not know when an individual puppy will lose the short-term immunity, we give a series of vaccinations. We hope that at least two of these will fall in the window of time when the puppy has lost immunity from its mother but has not yet been exposed to disease. A single vaccination, even if effective, is not likely to stimulate the long-term immunity which is so important. Rabies vaccine is an exception to this, since one injection given at the proper time is enough to produce long-term immunity.

DO ALL PUPPIES HAVE WORMS?

Intestinal parasites are common in puppies,. Puppies can become infected with parasites before they are born or later through their mother’s milk. The microscopic examination of a stool sample will usually help to determine the presence of intestinal parasites. We recommend this exam for all puppies, this requires a stool. sample and a visit to the vet. It is important that deworming be repeated in about 3 to 4 weeks, because the deworming medication only kills the adult worms. Within 3 to 4 weeks, the larval stages will have become adults and will need to be treated. Dogs remain susceptible to reinfection with hookworms and roundworms. Periodic deworming throughout the dog’s life may be recommended for dogs that go outdoors.

Tapeworms are the most common intestinal parasite of dogs. Puppies become infected with them when they swallow fleas; the eggs of the tapeworm live inside the flea. When the puppy chews or licks its skin as a flea bites, the flea may be swallowed. The flea is digested within the dog’s intestine; the tapeworm hatches and then anchors itself to the intestinal lining. Therefore, exposure to fleas may result in a new infection; this can occur in as little as two weeks.

Dogs infected with tapeworms will pass small segments of the worm in their stool. The segments are white in color and look like grains of rice. They are about 1/8 inch (3mm) long and may be seen crawling on the surface of the stool. They may also stick to the hair under the tail. If that occurs, they will dry out, shrink to about half their size, and become golden in color.

Tapeworm segments do not pass every day or in every stool sample; therefore, inspection of several consecutive bowel movements may be needed to find them. The Vet may then examine a stool sample in their office and not find them, then you may find them the next day. If you find them at any time, please notify the Vet so they may provide the appropriate drug for treatment.

HOW IMPORTANT ARE HEARTWORMS?

Heart worms are important parasites, especially in certain climates. They can live in your dog’s heart and cause major damage to the heart and lungs. Heartworms are transmitted by mosquitoes so your dog does not have to be in contact with another dog to be exposed. Fortunately, there are drugs that will protect your dog from heartworms. These drugs are very safe and very effective if given regularly. One product is a chewable tablet that your dog should eat like a treat; it is given daily. Two other products are tablets that are given only once monthly. We recommend the product which is most likely to be given on a regular basis, either daily or monthly. Be aware that having a long hair coat or staying primarily indoors does not protect a dog against heartworm infection.

Heartworm preventatives are dosed according to your dog’s weight. As the weight increases, the dosage should also increase. Please note the dosing instructions on the package. These products are very safe. You could overdose your dog by two or three times the recommended dose without causing harm. Therefore, it is always better to overdose rather than under dose.

THERE ARE LOTS OF CHOICES OF DOG FOODS. WHAT SHOULD I FEED MY PUPPY?

Diet is extremely important in the growing months of a dog’s life, and there are two important criteria that should be met in selecting food for your puppy. We recommend a NAME-BRAND FOOD made by a national dog food company (not a generic or local brand). We recommend that you only buy food which has the AAFCO certification. Usually, you can find this information very easily on the label. AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials, established in 1909) is an organization which oversees the entire pet food industry. It does not endorse any particular food, but it will verify that the food has met the minimum requirements for nutrition. Most of the commercial pet foods which are approved by the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA).

Feeding a dry, canned, or semi-moist form of dog food is acceptable. Each has advantages and disadvantages. Dry food is definitely the most inexpensive. It can be left in the dog’s bowl without drying. The good brands of dry food are just as nutritious as the other forms. As a rule, most veterinarians will recommend dry food for your puppy.

Semi-moist and canned food are also acceptable. However, both are considerably more expensive than dry food. They often are more appealing to the dog’s taste; however, they are not more nutritious. If you feed a very tasty food, you are running the risk of creating a dog with a finicky appetite. In addition, the semi-moist foods are high in sugar.

Table foods are not recommended. Because they are generally very tasty, dogs will often begin to hold out for these and not eat their well-balanced dog food. If you choose to give your puppy table food, be sure that at least 90% of its diet is good quality commercial puppy food.

We enjoy a variety of things to eat in our diet. However, most dogs actually prefer not to change from one food to another unless they are trained to do so by the way you feed them. Do not feel guilty if your dog is happy to just eat one food day after day, week after week.

Commercials for dog food can be very misleading. If you watch carefully you will notice that commercials promote dog food on one basis, TASTE. Nutrition is rarely mentioned. Most of the “gourmet” foods are marketed to appeal to owners who want the best for their dogs; however, they do not offer the dog any nutritional advantage over a good quality dry food, and they are far more expensive. If your dog eats a gourmet food very long, it will probably not be happy with other foods. Therefore, we do not encourage feeding gourmet dog foods.

HOW DO I INSURE THAT MY PUPPY IS WELL SOCIALIZED?

The socialization period for dogs is between 4 and 12 weeks of age. During that time, the puppy is very impressionable to social influences. If it has good experiences with men, women, children, cats, other dogs, etc., it is likely to accept them throughout life. If the experiences are absent or unpleasant, it may become apprehensive or adverse to any of them. Therefore, during the period of socialization, we encourage you to expose your dog to as many types of social events and influences as possible.

WHAT CAN BE DONE ABOUT FLEAS ON MY PUPPY?

Many of the flea control products that are safe on adult dogs are not safe for puppies less than 4 months of age. Fleas do not stay on your puppy all of their time. Occasionally, they will jump off and seek another host. Therefore, it is important to kill fleas on your new puppy before they can become established in your house. Be sure that any flea product you use is labeled safe for puppies. If you use a flea spray, your puppy should be sprayed lightly. For very young or small puppies, it is safest to spray a cotton ball and use that to wipe the flea spray on the puppy. Flea and tick dip is not recommended for puppies unless they are at least 4 months of age. Remember, not all insecticides that can be used on adult dogs are safe for puppies.

CAN I TRIM MY PUPPY’S SHARP TOE NAILS?

Puppies have very sharp toe nails. They can be trimmed with your regular finger nail clippers or with nail trimmers made for dogs and cats. If you take too much off the nail, you will get into the quick; bleeding and pain will occur. If this happens, neither you nor your dog will want to do this again. Therefore, a few points are helpful:

  • If your dog has clear or white nails, you can see the pink of the quick through the nail. Avoid the pink area, and you should be out of the quick.
  • If your dog has black nails, you will not be able to see the quick so only cut 1/32″ (1mm) of the nail at a time until the dog begins to get sensitive. The sensitivity will usually occur before you are into the blood vessel. With black nails, it is likely that you will get too close on at least one nail.
  • If your dog has some clear and some black nails, use the average clear nail as a guide for cutting the black ones.
  • When cutting nails, use sharp trimmers. Dull trimmers tend to crush the nail and cause pain even if you are not in the quick.
  • You should always have styptic powder available. This is sold in pet stores under several trade names, but will be labeled for use in trimming nails.

WHAT ARE EAR MITES?

Ear mites are tiny parasites that live in the ear canal of dogs (and cats). The most common sign of ear mite infection is scratching of the ears. Sometimes the ears will appear dirty because of a black material in the ear canal; this material is sometimes shaken out. The instrument used for examining the ear canals, an otoscope, has the necessary magnification to see the mites. Although they may leave the ear canals for short periods of time, they spend the vast majority of their lives within the protection of the ear canal. It is important that you have your puppy checked to be sure the black material is due to ear mites and not infection.

WHY SHOULD I HAVE MY FEMALE DOG SPAYED?

Spaying offers several advantages. The female’s heat periods result in about 2-3 weeks of vaginal bleeding. This can be quite annoying if your dog is kept indoors. Male dogs are attracted from blocks away. They will go over, around, and through doors or fences to get to your female. Your dog will have a heat period about every 6 months. Spaying is the removal of the uterus and the ovaries. Therefore, heat periods no longer occur. In many cases, despite your best effort, the female will become pregnant; spaying prevents unplanned litters of puppies.

It has been proven that as the female dog gets older, there is a significant incidence of breast cancer and uterine infections if she has not been spayed. Spaying before she has any heat periods will virtually eliminate the chance of either. If you do not plan to breed your dog, we strongly recommend that she be spayed before her first heat period. This can be done anytime after she is 6 months old.

WHY SHOULD I HAVE MY MALE DOG NEUTERED?

Neutering offers several advantages. Male dogs are attracted to a female dog in heat and will climb over or go through fences to find her. Male dogs are more aggressive and more likely to fight, especially with other male dogs. As dogs age, the prostate gland frequently enlarges and causes difficulty urinating and defecating. Neutering will solve, or greatly help, all of these problems that come with owning a male dog. The surgery can be performed any time after the dog is 6 months old.

IF I CHOOSE TO BREED MY FEMALE DOG, WHEN SHOULD THAT BE DONE?

If you plan to breed your dog, she should have at least one or two heat periods first. This will allow her to physically mature allowing her to be a better mother without such a physical drain on her. We do not recommend breeding after 5 years of age unless she has been prior to that. Having her first letter after 5 years of age increases the risk of problems during the pregnancy and/or delivery. Once your dog has had her last litter, she should be spayed to prevent the reproductive problems older dogs have.