At Cara Vet Group, we feel that one of the most important thing we do is promote preventative care, beginning during your puppy's very first visit.
In fact, in an ideal situation we would like to talk to you before you get your puppy to help you choose a breed which fits your lifestyle. Since this rarely happens in "real life", we feel our guidance can be a crucial part of your puppy's first few months, while he or she is rapidly becoming a cherished part of your family. In most cases, you will be visiting us several times during your puppy's first few months so we would like you to feel comfortable asking questions - just remember, that's why we're here! You'll soon learn there is a lot for us to talk about during your puppy visits.
Your home will seem very strange to your new puppy, so give him time to get to know his new surroundings. Remember that although puppies love to play, they need a quiet place to retreat and sleep. Here are some things that you should stock up on so that your puppy feels as comfortable as possible:
- Water and food bowls
- A bed
- A puppy playpen
- Collar and lead
- A brush and comb
A well socialised puppy will be able to cope with all of the situations he’s likely to encounter in later life, rather than growing up shy or fearful. During the early weeks and months, introduce your puppy to a variety of sights, sounds, people and experiences. Let him meet adults and children, the postman, the milkman and any visitors, approaching them in his own time. Never force the issue if he’s not confident.
If you have friends with dogs which have been vaccinated and are good with puppies, let him/her meet them to help build up his/her canine social skills. Don’t take your dog out on to pavements, parks or gardens, which may have been soiled by other animals, until he/she has completed their initial course of vaccinations.
Feeding your puppy
Wait until your puppy has settled in before making any changes to his diet, to reduce the risk of stomach upsets. After a few days you can introduce a new food, gradually mixing an increasing proportion of it into the puppy’s food over about a week. Initially he’ll need 3 or 4 small meals per day of a good quality complete puppy food. Follow the guidelines on the packaging or ask us for advice if you’re uncertain. This can then be reduced to fewer meals a day as he gets older. By the time he is about 10–12 months old – unless he’s a giant breed, which have special requirements – he should be able to move on to an adult diet. Dog foods are broadly divided into two kinds – dry and moist such as cans and pouches. Provided that you get the correct food for his age, the choice of the food for your puppy is down to you and your pet.
You should begin your puppy’s training as soon as you bring him home. When he is older, enrol in a puppy training class to learn how to teach him simple commands. When training your puppy at home make sure that everyone in the family uses the same commands. Keep training sessions for young puppies short and fun.
When toilet-training your puppy, remember to bring him outside to relieve himself immediately after eating, sleeping or playing. Never punish a puppy for soiling in the wrong place: he thinks he is being punished for what he did, not for where he did it.
Exercise and play
Young puppies generally get all the exercise they need by racing around the garden and playing, but once your puppy is fully vaccinated you can take him for short walks away from home. This will help to familiarise him with different environments. The age at which ‘real’ exercise should begin varies from breed to breed, as does the amount. We will be able to advise you. Make exercise fun by taking along a ball or a Frisbee, so that you can play games. Avoid small balls which he could swallow, or sticks which could lodge in his throat and injure him.
Your puppy doesn’t need expensive toys but make sure that anything you do give him to play with is safe. If any toys become worn or damaged, replace them. Don’t give him an old slipper to play with or he’ll think that all shoes and slippers are fair game. Puppies’ minds need exercise as well as their bodies, so play games that make him think. He’ll enjoy Hide and Seek, and “retrieve” games.
Establish a grooming routine as soon as you bring your puppy home. Not only will it give you the opportunity to remove dead hairs from his coat, grooming also reinforces the bond between you. Grooming sessions also give you the chance to check for fleas and ticks, and to examine your puppy’s coat, paws, eyes, ears and mouth for anything that might require a trip to us. Make grooming sessions short at first as puppies will soon become bored. The amount of time you will need to spend on grooming depends on his type of coat and how dirty he gets while he is being exercised.
Your puppy needs your help to keep his teeth in good condition. Puppies’ baby teeth (deciduous teeth) appear at around 4–6 weeks of age, and are replaced by the adult teeth by 6–7 months. If any deciduous teeth don’t fall out naturally, we will need to extract them to prevent the adult teeth from coming through crooked.
If your dog needs a dental procedure he will need a general anaesthetic. His teeth will be scaled and polished, and any bad teeth will be removed. Don’t be concerned that he won’t be able to eat if teeth are extracted – dogs’ gums are very hard and he will still be able to munch dry food without problems. If your dog is having difficulty eating, appears to be chewing on one side of his mouth, or paws at his mouth, he could have a dental problem, so make an appointment to see one of our Vets as soon as possible.
Vaccination protects your puppy from a number of serious and highly infectious diseases. It works by priming his immune system so that if he comes into contact with the disease later, his body is better able to ‘fight back’. All puppies and dogs should be vaccinated against:
- Canine Parvovirus
- Canine Distemper virus
- Infectious Canine Hepatitis (ICH)
- Canine Leptospirosis
- Parainfluenza virus is often also included in vaccine programmes.
These vaccinations are given at approximately 8 weeks with a follow-up dose around 4 weeks later. After this he’ll need annual booster vaccinations, to maintain his protection. Annual vaccinations also provide an opportunity for Cara Vets to give your pet a thorough health check to spot any possible problems early on.
Fleas and other external parasites
Most puppies pick up fleas at some time. We can advise you on products to treat your pet and your home (to kill eggs and larvae in the puppy’s bedding, the carpets, and soft furnishings). Fleas cause discomfort, and may also spread disease and cause allergies. Severe infestation can also cause anaemia, particularly in very young puppies.
Many people choose to apply regular anti-flea treatment to their dogs to prevent fleas rather than waiting until there is an unpleasant flea problem to fix in their homes.
Worms and worming
Any dog can pick up worms, and puppies may even be born with them or pick them up from their mother’s milk. Puppies should be regularly wormed and our vets and nurses will be able to discuss a programme for treatment and prevention.
A heavy infestation of worms can cause vomiting, diarrhoea, loss of appetite, weight loss, constipation and a dull coat. Some worms can be passed to humans, especially young children.
The main types of worms are:
- Roundworms – they look like tiny strands of fine spaghetti and are the commonest type of worm. They may be seen in the faeces of infected animals.
- Tapeworms – these are made up of segments which form long chains up to half a metre long. The segments look like grains of rice. Tapeworm segments may be spotted around the dog’s bottom.
- Lungworms – can be picked if your dog catches and eats small prey such as slugs, snails or amphibians. Some dogs are symptomless; others may have a dry cough
If you don’t plan to breed from your dog, having him or her neutered is the responsible thing to do. As well as preventing unwanted litters, neutering reduces the risk of a number of health problems, removes the dog’s sexual urges and can also resolve or prevent some problem behaviours.
Puppies are generally neutered between 6 and 9 months old. The procedure in male puppies is called castration and involves removing the testicles, which produce sperm and the male hormone, testosterone. It is a straightforward operation performed under general anaesthetic.
The operation for female dogs is called spaying or “ovariohysterectomy”. During the operation, the vet makes an incision in the dog’s abdomen and removes the ovaries and the uterus (womb). Spaying is a longer operation than castration and the puppy or dog will need a couple of days’ rest. She may need to wear an ‘Elizabethan collar’ to prevent her from licking her wound excessively.
Your puppy needs to have a means of identification in case he becomes lost – it’s the law.
Get him used to wearing a collar with an engraved identification tag on it and also think about having him microchipped. Microchipping is an efficient and irreversible means of identification and your vet will be able to carry this out for you. A tiny microchip the size of a grain of rice is injected under the skin at the back of the neck by the vet in a simple procedure. Each chip has a unique number which is stored on a central computer database. If your dog is found, his chip can be quickly read with a hand held scanner and the number checked against the database.
It’s a good idea to take out pet insurance so that you won’t need to worry about vet’s bills if your puppy has an accident or becomes ill. In return for small monthly or annual payments the insurance company will pay for most of your veterinary fees – including the cost of operations, medicines, laboratory tests and x-rays.
Routine procedures like vaccination, teeth cleaning and neutering are not covered by insurance, nor are preventive measures such as worming or flea treatments. Shop around when you buy a policy, as policies vary and different levels of cover are available. More expensive policies generally provide increased cover and some cover a wider variety of treatments such as homoeopathy and acupuncture.
Check on the exclusion clauses before buying an insurance policy. You will probably find that conditions (and possibly related conditions) which existed before taking out the policy will not be covered. You may also find that some companies will cover a condition for only 12 months, while others continue paying year after year up to a maximum amount in any year. Most insurance policies include third party insurance in case your dog injures someone or causes an accident.