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Puppy Care

Congratulations on your New Puppy!

One of the greatest joys in life is having a cuddly, cute puppy to have and hold. Our staff knows what an exciting and special time this is for you, and we want to provide you with the best information and health care to get a great start for your new puppy's life. The time you commit to your puppy in the beginning of its life will have a great impact on your relationship for many years to come.

Make the Most of your First Visit to the Vet

During your first veterinary visit, we will perform a thorough physical exam and gather information from you to help get a complete picture of your puppy's health. This is also your opportunity to gather all of the important puppy care information you need to be an informed, responsible, and loving guardian to your puppy. Below are some of the topics we will want to address at the first visit:

Our veterinarians will take into account factors such as breed, age, your lifestyle, and any current health or behavioral issues to make recommendations that will be tailored to your puppy's needs.

Quality Puppy Food Makes a Big Difference

Understanding puppy food is a huge part of responsible puppy care. It is important that you choose a puppy food that has been specifically formulated for young and growing dogs. Always look for a statement from the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) that ensures the puppy food you choose meets or exceeds nutritional requirements for your growing pup.

Make sure your puppy has fresh and abundant water early in the day to help break down puppy food, as well as to keep them hydrated. Having a regular feeding and walking schedule will be a tremendous help with potty training. Puppies will begin to learn, understand, and enjoy a scheduled routine. Also, be sure to discuss a structured puppy feeding schedule with your vet, and ask for personalized advice to ensure you are feeding your puppy properly. 

The typical puppy feeding schedule would be:

  • Age 6-16 weeks: 3-4 meals per day (4 meals only for very small breeds)
  • Age 3-6 months: 2-3 meals per day
  • Age 6-12 months: 2 meals per day

It is strongly recommended that you do not share food from your plate with your puppy. Puppies will often beg for whatever you are eating, and it will be tempting to give them small amounts of your food. It is a really tough habit to break, as they will begin to think that they should always share in your food.

Start Puppy Potty Training with a Good Bathroom Routine

Puppy potty training should begin immediately upon bringing your new canine companion home. The easiest plan for very young puppies is to take them often (hourly for some) where you want them to go, and reward with immediate gentle praise after they go to the bathroom.

Please remember that your puppy is not going potty in the house on purpose, but because he or she doesn't know any better. Therefore, your best allies during puppy potty training are patience, planning, and plenty of positive reinforcement. Do not dwell on negative reinforcement when accidents happen (and they will happen!), because it is essential to maintain a bond of trust and security between puppy and owner during potty training that only compassion and calmness can facilitate. Different sizes and breeds will train differently. We recommend that you work with a knowledgable dog trainer from a very early age to begin the best habits for your puppy.

Crate training is a way to confine your puppy in a small area when they are not being watched, so that they do not soil the house or chew things up. The crate can be used humanely when the owners are aware of the proper exercise requirements, and have set up a schedule for eating and going outside to help with potty training. The crate can become a den for most dogs and greatly aid in the owner's ability to potty train.

Once your puppy completes its vaccinations, it is ready to begin puppy class with other vaccinated puppies.

Signs of Illness in Puppies

Young puppies are susceptible to illnesses and diseases that can be very serious, most of which are entirely preventable. This is why puppy vaccinations are so important. However, puppy vaccinations alone will not prevent all illnesses. The key to preventing illness is being diligent in monitoring your puppy's behavior for symptoms.

Contact your vet immediately if you notice any of the following symptoms:

  • Lack of appetite
  • Poor weight gain
  • Vomiting
  • Swollen or painful abdomen
  • Lethargy
  • Diarrhea
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Wheezing or coughing
  • Pale gums
  • Swollen, red eyes or eye discharge
  • Nasal discharge
  • Inability to pass urine or stool

These symptoms all indicate urgent or emergency situations and require immediate veterinary care.

Puppy Vaccinations

Puppy vaccinations should take place every 3-4 weeks until 16 weeks of age, during the first several months of life, and continue with booster immunizations throughout adulthood. There are core and non-core puppy vaccinations, and your veterinarian can help you decide which vaccinations are right for your canine companion.

A general puppy vaccination schedule looks something like this:

  • 6-10 weeks: DHPP, Bordetella (Kennel Cough)
  • 11-14 weeks: DHPP, Leptospirosis, Canine Influenza
  • 15-16: DHPP, Leptospirosis, Canine Influenza, Rabies

It is important to stay current with your puppy vaccinations, as they have been medically proven to combat many preventable diseases and illnesses.

How to Deal with Puppy Teething

Puppy teething is a normal part of having a puppy. It is important to understand that puppy teething is a natural part of the canine growth and maturity process, but that it also is a behavior that can get out of hand without providing proper outlets.

Almost without exception, puppies are born without teeth. Deciduous teeth begin to appear at about three weeks of age. By six to eight weeks of age, the puppy will have a full set of 28 baby teeth. This rapid, new growth leads to teething. During teething, your puppy may target all kinds of objects to gnaw and chew to relieve the discomfort associated with growing teeth.

Teething is an important part of canine development for the following reasons:

  • Biting and nipping is a social moor of the canine culture
  • Puppy teething is a way to attract attention
  • Puppy teething is a defense mechanism

It is important to provide age appropriate puppy teething devices and toys to your puppy during this time, and also to gently but assertively reinforce that nips and bites to people, property, and other animals is not okay.

When Should you Spay or Neuter your Dog?

We recommend spaying and neutering between 5-6 months of age. However, with some breeds, there is information that waiting even longer may be the most optimal to avoid certain health issues. Our veterinarians will review this information with you, and discuss which breeds may want to consider an alternate plan.

We absolutely love puppies and dogs of all kinds, but also believe that there are currently too many who end up in shelter situations and are euthanized because of failures to control the pet population.

For more information on spay or neuter services for your puppy, please visit our spay or neuter page.

Socializing your Puppy

Puppies will go through some very important developmental stages as early as 8-12 weeks. It is very important that your puppy experiences safe and varied socializing during this time involving people, dogs, and various situations. While many owners feel that they have the experience necessary to provide good socializing, there is no substitute for a puppy class with a good trainer.

During your puppy's visits to our hospital, we will help to identify problem behaviors and help you understand how to deter your puppy from developing bad habits. We will discuss any concerns you may have, and offer solutions.

For example, dogs lacking socialization skills are much more likely to react with fear or aggression to unfamiliar people, animals, and experiences. Well-socialized dogs also live much more relaxed, peaceful, and happy lives than dogs who are constantly stressed out by their environment.

From 8-12 weeks of age, puppies are most comfortable learning new behaviors, having new experiences, and meeting new people or animals. They still might become frightened, but you can help by regulating new situations and providing supportive positive feedback when fear occurs. After 12 weeks of age, puppies begin to become less tolerant of new situations, people, and animals, making socialization and obedience training more difficult as time goes on.

Schedule an Appointment for your Puppy today!

Call us directly or schedule an appointment online.


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