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General Recommendations for Puppies

We would like to congratulate you on the acquisition on 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.

First, let us say that we are grateful that you have chosen us to help you with your puppy's health care. If you have questions concerning any subject related to your puppy's health, please feel free to call our hospital. Our entire professional staff is willing and happy to help you.

Three Curious Things about Puppies

  • Puppies may be observed to make unusual sounds or movements during their sleep. This is called “activated sleep.” It probably occurs because your puppy is dreaming and trying to participate in the dream. This behavior lasts a few months but rarely continues into adulthood.
  • Puppies also have “puppy breath.” There is a characteristic smell about a puppy’s breath. It is not particularly offensive or desirable. It is much like the smell of a new car. It is present a few weeks then disappears.
  • Puppies also frequently have episodes of hiccups. They may occur for 10-20 minutes at a time then spontaneously disappear. They are probably related to swallowing of air when eating and do not produce any significant distress to your dog. They will stop, as your puppy gets a little older.

Puppy Playing

Stimulating play is important during the first week. 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.

Intestinal Worms

We recommend and follow the Companion Animal Parasite Council guidelines of strategic deworming of puppies from 6 to 12 weeks of age.

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 can help us to determine the presence of common and uncommon intestinal parasites. We recommend this exam for all puppies. It is important that it be repeated because the deworming medication only kills the adult worms. Within 3-4 weeks, the larval stages will have become adults and will need to be treated. Dogs remain susceptible to reinfection with hookworms and roundworms. Periodic intestinal parasite examination throughout the dog's life is recommended.

Tapeworms are the most common intestinal parasite of dogs. The most common source of infection is ingestion of fleas, however dogs may also become infected following ingestion of small rodents & rabbits. The best means of preventing tapeworm infection is good flea control.

Dogs infected with tapeworms will pass small segments of the worms in their stool. The segments are white in color and look like grains of rice. They are about 1/8 inch (3 mm) 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. We may examine a stool sample in our office and not find them, then you may find them the next day. If you find them at any time, please notify us so we may provide the appropriate drug for treatment.

Heartworms

Heartworms are important parasites, especially in our climate. 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, we have drugs that will protect your dog from heartworms. These drugs are very safe and very effective if given regularly. 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. Under dosing any of these products will render them ineffective for the prevention of heartworms. We recommend the product that is most likely to be given on a regular basis. Be aware that having a long hair coat or staying primarily indoors does not protect a dog against heartworm infection.

Flea Control

Fleas do not stay on your puppy all of the time; occasionally, they will jump off and transfer to another nearby host. They also reproduce very quickly. A single female flea can produce up to 50 eggs per day and those will become new adult fleas in as little as two to three weeks. Therefore, it is important to kill fleas on your new puppy before they can become established in your house. Many of the flea control products that are safe on adult dogs are not safe for puppies less than 4 months of age. Be sure that any flea product you use is labeled safe for puppies.

Shampoos, powders, and sprays tend to kill only the fleas present on the pet at the time of application and are not nearly as effective and are more toxic than the newer monthly products. Our staff will be happy to discuss the flea control options that we recommend.

Tick Control

Thick infestation is most common in the spring & fall. And ticks are most prevalent in wooded areas or areas with dense vegetation. Ticks can carry diseases, such as Lyme or Ehrlichia and can cause tick paralysis. The best means of preventing these diseases is good tick control. Our staff will be happy to discuss tick control options that we recommend

If you find a tick, we recommend that you bring your dog in to have the tick removed as improper removal may result in infection of the skin.

Food for Puppies

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), and a form of food made for the appropriate breed/size of your puppy. This should be fed until your puppy is about 12-18 months of age, depending on its size. We recommend that you only buy food that has the AAFCO certification. Usually, you can find this information very easily on the label. AAFCO is an organization that oversees the entire pet food industry. It does not endorse any particular food, but it will certify that the food has met the minimum requirements for nutrition. Most of the commercial pet foods will have the AAFCO label. Generic brands often do not have it.

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, we will recommend dry food for your puppy.

Semi-moist and canned foods 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. Also there are table foods that are toxic or otherwise harmful to your pet.

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 many 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. If it needs a special diet due to a health problem later in life, it is very unlikely to accept it. Therefore, we do not encourage feeding gourmet dog foods.

In addition to table foods, it is also important that you not give certain other things to dogs. Bones of birds (chicken, turkey, etc.) are hollow and splinter easily producing very sharp pointed pieces of bones. These can easily pierce the esophagus, stomach, and intestines resulting in peritonitis and death. In addition, chewing on hard bones, such as ham or steak bones may result in broken teeth.

Feeding Schedules

There are several “right” ways to feed puppies. The most popular method is commonly called “meal feeding.” This means that the puppy is fed at specific times of the day. A measured amount of food should be offered four times per day for 5-12 week old puppies. What is not eaten within 30 minutes is taken up. If the food is eaten within 3-4 minutes, the quantity is probably not sufficient. Puppies fed in this manner generally begin to cut themselves out of one of those meals by 3-4 months of age and perhaps another one later. If a meal is ignored for several days, it should be discontinued.

“Free choice feeding” means that food is available at all times. This works well with dry foods and for some dogs. However, other dogs tend to overeat and become obese. If there are signs of weight gain after the optimal weight is reached, this method of feeding should be discontinued.

Chewing

One of the characteristics of puppies is chewing. Puppies are trying their new teeth so chewing is a normal behavior. The puppy’s baby teeth are present by about 4 weeks of age. They begin to fall out at 4 months of age and are replaced by the adult (permanent) teeth by about 6-8 months of age. Therefore, chewing is a puppy characteristic that you can expect until about 6-8 months of age. It is important that you do what you can to direct your puppy’s chewing toward acceptable objects. You should provide safe, as well as effective, commercial chew toys, so other objects are spared. Our staff is happy to provide suggestions.

Breeding

If you plan to breed your dog, she should have at least two heat cycles first. This will allow her to physically mature allowing her to be a better mother without such a physical drain on her. This will also allow you time to research breeding, care of the pregnant dog, and any special needs or precautions that relate to the specific breed of your dog. Once your dog has had her last litter, she should be spayed to prevent the reproductive problems older dogs have.

Pet Identification

The latest advance in pet retrieval is microchipping. This tiny device is implanted with a needle, so the process is much like getting an injection. Most veterinary clinics, humane societies, and animal shelters in the United States and Canada have scanners that detect these chips. A national registry permits the return of microchipped pets throughout the United States and Canada. We strongly recommend microchipping to improve the chance of recovering your pet if lost or stolen.

Human Medications

Last but not least, NEVER give your pet any human medication without prior approval from a veterinarian! Many medications that we take routinely can be toxic for our four-legged companions.

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