That cute little puppy stole your heart and now he’s part of your family. You love him to death, but remember: He’s your responsibility and you need to take care of him.
Of course, taking care of your dog is a year round responsibility. You should keep a detailed medical file on each pet to remind you when vaccines are due, when the last fecal sample was checked and what special seasonal events are required, such as a trip to the groomer.
To keep him healthy and happy, there are several things you should do as part of his care.
Parasites are a common problem as your puppy ages. Ticks, fleas, heartworms and intestinal worms are the primary culprits. However, with a little planning and some medical help, your puppy can be kept parasite free. Your veterinarian has medications available to prevent these parasites from infesting your puppy and to eliminate the parasites if already present.
For more information, see the article Parasite Control.
There are topical and oral medications available to prevent and treat tick infestations. If a tick is found, careful manual removal with a tweezers or tick removal instrument is recommended.
For more information, see the article How to Remove and Prevent Ticks.
Preventing fleas is much easier than treating an already established flea infestation. Topical and oral medications are quite effective in keeping your puppy’s flea problem to a minimum and are safe in puppies. Monthly products now make flea treatment much easier than ever before. If fleas are allowed to proliferate, your pet and your entire environment – home and yard – must be treated.
For more information, see Flea Control and Prevention.
Heartworms are a preventable parasite in your dog. For dogs at risk of infection, monthly oral preventative is strongly recommended, based on geographical location and lifestyle. This medication is typically started around 4-6 months of age. Since mosquitoes transmit heartworms, the risk of heartworm infection is increased in the warmer months.
For more information, see the article Heartworm Prevention in Dogs.
Roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, coccidia and giardia are common intestinal parasites. Most veterinarians recommend deworming all puppies since many can be born with roundworms. Even so, a fecal sample should be evaluated. After an initial deworming, your pup may need additional deworming. After reaching adulthood, an annual fecal exam is recommended. If parasites are found, early treatment can reduce the chance of serious illness. Currently, there are monthly medications available that help prevent some of these parasites from developing. Even if your dog is on medication to prevent parasites, annual fecal evaluation is still recommended.
In addition to parasite control, preventing contagious disease is also recommended. There are vaccines available to help reduce your puppy’s risk of acquiring diseases such as distemper, parvovirus, hepatitis, kennel cough and rabies, just to name a few. Vaccines are started in puppies at 6-8 weeks of age and given every 3-4 weeks until the pup reaches 16-20 weeks of age. After that, boosters are given the following year.
For more information, see Vaccine Recommendations for Dogs.
Proper nutrition is essential in maintaining health and providing adequate nutrition for growing puppies. Supplements are not recommended. Giant breed puppies require some extra nutrition due to their rapid growth. Special diets are now available for these pups. By feeding high quality puppy food, you will be helping your puppy down the path of good health.
For more information, see Picking the Right Food for Your Puppy.
Grooming is an important part of caring for your puppy. By grooming your puppy early in life, you can get him used to being brushed, combed and bathed. Longhaired dogs should be brushed daily. Short haired puppies benefit from weekly grooming. Without proper grooming, accumulation of hair and mats and tangles can occur. Start bathing and brushing your puppy as soon as you bring your new pup home.
For more information, see the article Grooming Your Dog.
Exercise and Training
Puppies are quite clumsy but very active. Provide plenty of opportunity for your pup to run off that pent up energy. If it is hot and humid outside, try to limit the amount of time outdoors and don’t allow your pup to over exert himself. Exercise and play are very important not only to keep your pet fit but to provide socialization and teach your puppy what is acceptable play and what is not. Any misbehavior or aggressive play should be stopped immediately. Even though dog parks are popular and fun, they are not good ideas for puppies under 6 months of age. Puppies are very susceptible to contagious disease and dog parks can result in the spread of disease. Wait until your pup has received all his puppy shots before going to the park.
Obdience training is very important in puppies. It teaches them their place in the family and gives them an opportunity to show you how smart they are. Following your commands can keep your pet safe, especially when around other pets. Puppies learn very quickly and training while young is recommended. Remember, an obedient puppy makes a happy healthy dog.