Many diseases and medical conditions are preventable, and it is much better to prevent diseases from developing than to try to treat a disease after your puppy is sick. Preventive medical care for the puppy consists of an initial check-up by your veterinarian, vaccinations, deworming, a fecal exam for parasites, a proper diet, spaying or neutering, home dental care, and training.
INITIAL CHECK-UP: An initial examination by your veterinarian is an important first step in a comprehensive preventive medical care program for your new puppy. Although your puppy may seem healthy to you, your veterinarian can detect many birth defects and health problems of which you may not be aware.
VACCINATIONS: Your puppy should receive vaccinations to help fight off or prevent certain infectious diseases. Based on the most current scientific information available, we recommend the following vaccines and vaccination schedules:
DA2PP (Distemper/Adenovirus Type 2/Parainfluenza/Parvovirus): This vaccine is recommended for all puppies. The vaccine should be administered at 8, 12, and 16 weeks of age, one year of age, and then every three years.
Rabies: This vaccine is recommended for all dogs and, in fact, is required by law in California and many other states. The vaccine is administered as early as 12 weeks of age, then one year later, and then every three years.
Bordetella (“kennel cough”): This vaccine is usually only needed by dogs that will be in a situation where exposure to other dogs infected with kennel cough is possible, such as boarding kennels, grooming facilities, public parks, and dog shows. This vaccine can be administered as early as two weeks of age and should be repeated every 6 to 12 months in dogs that need this vaccine.
Lyme Disease, Leptospirosis, Coronavirus, Giardia and Canine Flu (H3N8): For various reasons, we do not recommend these vaccines for general use, but only for certain special situations.
DEWORMING: Research has shown that nearly all puppies are either born already infected with intestinal roundworms (Toxocara canis) or acquire an infection soon after birth. Not only can these worms (and other worms) cause illness in puppies, but they can be passed on to people, too. Therefore, we recommend that all puppies be given deworming medication at 2, 4, 6, and 8 weeks of age. If you acquire your puppy after the age of 8 weeks, then two deworming treatments two weeks apart is usually sufficient.
FECAL EXAM FOR PARASITES: Besides intestinal roundworms, puppies are also susceptible to several other types of intestinal parasites. A microscopic examination of the feces will often reveal these parasites and permit treatment before your puppy develops symptoms. If this fecal exam is done after the deworming mentioned previously, it can also help determine if the deworming treatment was successful.
PROPER DIET: The best diet for a puppy is a good, high-quality commercial puppy food until one year of age, then an adult food after that. Table scraps and homemade diets are not recommended. Vitamin and mineral supplements are not needed and, if given in excess, can lead to problems. In general, two to three feedings a day should suffice. The amount to feed depends upon your puppy’s individual needs and the calorie content of the brand of food, so check the label for the manufacturer’s feeding guide recommendations and use this as a starting point. We only recommend foods whose label contains the AAFCO statement of nutritional adequacy.
SPAYING OR NEUTERING: Every year, millions of dogs and cats are destroyed in California alone simply because no homes can be found for them. Spaying or neutering your dog not only helps to curb the pet overpopulation problem, but has added health benefits as well. If spayed before the first heat cycle (which usually occurs at 6 to 9 months of age), female dogs have a greatly reduced risk of developing mammary gland cancer when they are older. Spaying also eliminates the possibility of developing other life-threatening diseases such as uterine infections and ovarian cancer. Male dogs are also usually neutered at about 6 months of age. In addition to birth control, neutering your male dog can prevent some common diseases that he may otherwise develop when he is older, such as tumors of the anal area, prostate gland enlargement, prostate gland infections, testicular tumors, and perineal (“rear end”) hernias. Contrary to popular belief, spaying and neutering dogs does not cause obesity or change a dog’s personality, except for a reduction in the tendency for a male dog to fight with other male dogs, escape to go in search of females in heat, and engage in urine marking behavior.
HOME DENTAL CARE: Dogs have dental care needs very similar to those of people. Plaque and dental tartar build-up occurs commonly and can lead to gum disease and tooth loss. A professional dental cleaning will be needed in most dogs about every one to three years, depending on the individual. The time interval between dental cleanings can be extended and dental health maintained by brushing your dog’s teeth once a day. Special brushes designed for a dog’s mouth and special animal toothpaste (human toothpaste can make your dog sick if swallowed) are available. Although your puppy’s teeth are temporary baby teeth that will be replaced with permanent teeth by six months of age, we recommend brushing your puppy’s teeth as soon as you acquire him or her so that your puppy will learn early in life to accept it.
TRAINING: It is never too early to begin training your puppy, and the sooner you begin, the better the results will be. Not only is basic obedience and housetraining important, but so is the prevention of behavior problems. Your veterinarian can refer you to a qualified trainer or animal behaviorist in your area who can help you get started.
IDENTIFICATION MICROCHIP IMPLANT: Collars with identification tags can come off or be lost. As a back up to a collar and tag, we recommend a permanent means of identification via a microchip implant. This tiny device is injected under the skin of the neck and contains a number registered to you and your puppy. The number is read by a hand-held scanner and is maintained by the microchip manufacturer in a registration database. If your lost pet should be turned in to an animal shelter, the shelter personnel will use the scanner to retrieve the registration number and will then be able to contact you.
up to 6 months of age