Dogs and Puppies!
Please note: These are general recommendations; they are not meant to be construed as veterinary advice, and may not be appropriate for your pet. Be sure to schedule a visit with your local veterinarian to discuss the best care for your animal!
Dogs are wonderful friends, fantastic companions, and all around great animals. Having a dog brings joy into a home, along with a good amount of fur and drool!
Here are some common tips and recommendations for pet dogs in the US.
Vaccinations are a very important part of keeping our animals healthy. Vaccines allow our animals to develop immunity to common diseases without putting them at risk for contracting the disease. Thanks to the widespread use of vaccines, many deadly diseases which used to be common in our dog populations have become rare, and our puppies are kept healthier and happier as a result. Because puppies do not have a fully developed immune system, and because their maternal antibodies can interfere with developing immunity, they require a series of vaccinations and boosters to keep them protected.
In rare cases, dogs can have allergic reactions to vaccines. These reactions can present in a variety of ways, but may include swelling of the face or limbs, lethargy, diarrhea, or vomiting. Be sure to call your veterinarian right away if you think your dog is having an allergic reaction.
Rabies is a deadly disease which can affect both dogs and humans. Most states require all dogs to be vaccinated for Rabies.
This combination vaccination includes a variety of highly contagious diseases, including Parvovirus, Parainfluenza, Distemper, and Hepatitis (adenovirus). Puppies require a series of Distemper vaccinations until they are old enough to mount a proper immune response to the vaccination.
This is the ‘Kennel Cough’ vaccination. Dogs with exposure to other dogs are at risk of this common disease, which is similar to Whooping Cough in humans. Vaccination reduces the risk of contracting the disease, and can reduce the severity and duration of the disease if it is contracted.
This is a bacterial organism found in mammal urine. Infection can lead to liver and kidney failure, resulting in death. Leptospirosis can be spread to humans from dogs, so be sure to discuss the possible risk in your area with your veterinarian.
This tick-borne disease is extremely prevalent in the Upper Midwest and New England. Infection can lead to polyarthropathy (swollen, painful joints) and in severe cases kidney failure and death.
Influenza outbreaks have occurred in a number of different areas in the USA. Like the human flu, different strains may be seen year to year. Be sure to talk to your veterinarian to see if influenza is a risk in your area.
Puppies (and dogs) love to explore the world with their mouths, and are frequently eating things off the ground that they shouldn’t! This is one reason why intestinal parasites are very common in pet dogs, and why it’s very important to test dogs regularly for worms. Two common worms, hookworms and roundworms, can even infect people! Be sure to always pick up your dog’s poop right away to help reduce the spread of parasites, and wash your hands well!
There are many different external parasites that can infect our pet dogs. Fleas, ticks, mites; the list goes on and on! Depending on where you live, your veterinarian will recommend preventatives (usually given monthly) to help kill external parasites that your dog runs into. Fleas not only irritate our dogs and cause itching and scratching, they also can spread tapeworms! Gross! Ticks can spread a number of diseases, include Lyme disease, Anaplasma, Ehrlichia, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever! For areas with lots of tick exposure, veterinarians may recommend a Lyme vaccination along with preventatives, and yearly tick-borne disease testing to make sure any infections are found quickly.
Heartworms are...well, worms that grow around the heart! These worms are carried by mosquitoes and actually grow inside the major blood vessels in dogs. In endemic areas, veterinarians recommend monthly heartworm preventative along with yearly testing. Treatment of this disease can be very expensive and potentially dangerous, so prevention is key! In very severe cases, surgical removal of the worms from the heart is required! Eek! Be sure to talk to your vet to see if heartworm is a risk in your area!
One of the most important things for a puppy to learn is how to go to the bathroom outside! As a rule of thumb, we expect a puppy can hold their bladder for 1 hour for every month of age (though many can do better than this!). This means young puppies will need to go out frequently, even at night, and even with very good attention may have accidents in the house. Young puppies often don’t know they need to use the bathroom until they are already going, so it’s important to take them outside every few hours whether they ask to or not! Positive reinforcement is key here; use praise and treats to reward a puppy who is peeing or pooping outside; this will help reinforce their good behavior, and help them associate going to the bathroom and the outdoors. It is NOT helpful to scold a puppy after they poop or pee in the house; it IS helpful to reward and praise a puppy who poops or pees outside!
There are a LOT of different dog foods available right now, and there isn’t just one that can work for your dog. It IS important that puppies be fed puppy food, and large-breed puppies should use a large-breed puppy diet. Diets should always be AAFCO approved to ensure proper nutrition for your growing pup, and this should be printed somewhere on the bag of food. If you would like to make a homemade diet for your dog, be sure to consult a veterinary nutritionist to ensure the diet is appropriately balanced!
Socialization and puppy classes
Good socialization is the best way to ensure your puppy will be a happy adult and not afraid of meeting new people or new dogs in the future. The main socialization window for puppies is very young, just 2-3 months of age, so it’s important to start early! Puppy classes are a great way for your puppy to meet lots of people and lots of other dogs in a positive way, not to mention bond with you and learn good behavior! Along with other people and dogs, puppies should learn about other animals (like cats!) and objects, such as vacuum cleaners and backpacks and dishwashers (to name a few). Be sure your puppy is having a positive experience (with praise and treats!) whenever they encounter something new, and let them approach and explore new items on their own terms!
Playing with your puppy’s ears, paws, and mouth will also help them accept future ear cleaning, nail trimming, and teeth brushing. Most dogs do not naturally enjoy having their paws or ears touched, so we have to give them positive experiences (and treats!) to help them adjust. Make sure you keep these teaching sessions short and fun, so that your puppy makes only positive associations!
Spaying and Neutering
Any dog not intended for breeding should be spayed (females) or neutered (males). The timing of these procedures can vary depending on the breed and size of the dog. Currently, most veterinarians recommend spaying female dogs prior to their first heat cycle (around 6 months of age). For male dogs, neutering is often performed between 6-18 months of age, depending on the size of the breed. There are pros and cons to spaying and neutering at different ages, so be sure to talk to your veterinarian about when your animal should be fixed.
A microchip is an implantable, permanent identification tag for your dog. If your dog escapes and is brought to a shelter or veterinary clinic, the microchip can be scanned for its unique number. This number is then given to the microchip company, who can then contact you and reunite you with your pup! Microchips are placed under the skin with a large needle, so it is generally easiest to perform during a spay or neuter, when your animal is already under anesthesia. Please be aware, a microchip is NOT a GPS; you cannot track your dog with a microchip.
Dr. Chuck recommends all dogs go to the veterinarian at least once per year to make sure they are healthy and happy!