This article will give new puppy owners a short introduction to all important relevant information when starting a new puppy-owner relationship. It will also help puppy owners to ensure a happy, healthy pet.
8 things all new puppy owners should know
1) Puppy-proof your house
The first thing after obtaining a new puppy is to make your home puppy-proof. Make the environment safe for your puppy. Go around your house and remove all possible things that puppies can put in their mouth! This includes clothes, shoes, electrical cables, etc. Also fix any potential escape routes like the hole in or under the fence and remove/cover all dangerous objects like protruding pieces of wire, sticks, holes, small openings, etc. In future, also be vigilant when it comes to driving into your driveway, the safety of your swimming pool area, and roaming wild animals such as monkeys, snakes, porcupines, etc.
2) Wean your new puppy
The correct age to wean a puppy is at six weeks of age, but often one is confronted by the adoption of a stray or an unweaned puppy. Upon the first veterinary consultation, you will be given the best health and nutritional advice. Not all puppies need puppy milk. In fact, as soon as puppies are taken away from their mothers and are able to walk, they can be weaned onto solids. In these cases, a softened high-quality puppy food is indicated. As soon as a puppy is able to eat solids, all artificial milk feedings should be stopped. In the case where a puppy needs to be fostered from a very young age, or birth, make sure to speak to your family veterinarian about the correct nutrition (milk replacers vs. solid foods) and deworming (see below).
Adult dogs and puppies can stay inside or outside depending on the type of dog, behaviour and the owner’s personal preference. When a puppy or adult dog is to stay or sleep outside, shelter from the sun, rain, cold weather and wind should permanently be available.
3) Get you new puppy vaccinated
A very important aspect of keeping your new puppy healthy is vaccinations. When given correctly, vaccinations (also referred to as inoculations) will prevent puppies and older dogs from contracting the vaccinated diseases. Puppies need initial vaccinations at six weeks, nine weeks and then again at 12 weeks of age. If a puppy is not vaccinated at these exact ages, veterinarians will recommend a series of three vaccinations are given three to four weeks apart. It is important to note that a puppy is not considered fully vaccinated until two weeks after all the booster vaccinations are given. It takes two weeks for a vaccine to complete a full response.
Many puppies are re-homed after they receive their first puppy vaccination. If this is the case, a puppy will have an official vaccination card from a veterinary practice. If this is not the case, it must be assumed that the puppy was NOT vaccinated and a vaccination appointment with your family veterinarian should be made as soon as possible.
The routine vaccinations are Canine Parvovirus (the incorrectly so-called “cat-flu” virus), Canine Distemper Virus (“Hondesiekte”), Parainfluenza Virus and Adenovirus. This vaccination course also includes the all-important Rabies virus vaccination. All the abovementioned vaccinations are then boosted annually.
We at Vet Hospital Port Shepstone also offer the Kennel cough vaccine for “at-risk doggies”. This includes young dogs, dogs over 7 years of age, working dogs and dogs that are exposed to other unknown dogs, for example during dog shows, travelling, kennelling. We recommend the first Kennel cough vaccination at 16 weeks of age and then every six months thereafter.
4) Feed your new puppy premium food
Another very important aspect for a healthy growing puppy is good quality food. There are many options out there, but your family veterinarian will offer the highest quality, proven, stage-specific puppy and adult dog nutrition. Not all dogs grow the same, so why should they be fed the same? The veterinary range of dog foods not only caters for breed-specific needs, but also for age-specific needs. Most good veterinarians will likely include a free food voucher or puppy starter pack with some extra goodies during your first vaccination visit. Most veterinary staff are trained to give good nutritional advice to pet owners.
Having said this, it is also important to train puppies the right way. In my opinion any dog should eat dry dog chunks and only that – so start early. Puppies and adult dogs should always have fresh, easily accessible water available.
5) Get your new puppy microchipped
Then we come to pet identification. If your puppy does not already have a microchip, get one asap. On the south coast, and probably all around South Africa, we see hundreds of dogs and cats getting lost and ending up at the SPCA.
A microchip is a very small device planted under the skin of your pet. Each chip contains a unique number which is stored on a database to permanently identify your pet. All veterinarians and SPCAs have chip readers and can inform the owner when a lost animal is found.
6) Treat your new puppy for parasites
In the future months and years, three of the biggest problems you’ll come across are worms, ticks and especially fleas. Dogs and cats should be routinely dewormed with a broad spectrum dewormer. We recommend this every four months. Supermarkets are not legally allowed to stock certain scheduled medication, hence the dewormer products available there are not broad spectrum! All the animals in the household should be dewormed at the same time to control re-infestation between pets.
Depending on the product you’re using, tick and flea treatment and prevention will also be an ongoing concern. Veterinary practices offer long-lasting, safe and easily applied products for puppies and adult dogs. Preventative tick, flea and worm remedies are available over the counter from almost all veterinary practices.
Frontline Spray, Frontline Plus top spot, Advantix top spot, Seresto collars and NexGard and Bravecto tablets are the products of choice when it comes to both tick and flea control. Frontline Spray can be used in puppies of all ages and Frontline Plus, Advantix, NexGard, Bravecto and Seresto can be safely used for puppies older than eight weeks of age. Reapplication according to the recommended frequency will solve tick and flea problems in all households.
7) Get your new puppy sterilised
Dog sterilisation refers to the surgical removal or the internal hormone-producing reproductive organs, i.e. the male testicles and female ovaries. Male dogs get “neutered” and female dogs get “spayed”. If your new pup is not for breeding purposes, get him/her sterilised – simple! The risk of having anaesthetic complications is much lower than the risk of mate seeking, mating and pregnancy-related problems. When done at the correct time in males, sterilisation prevents, among other things, unnecessary territorial marking, roaming, aggressiveness and prostate problems. In females, sterilisation prevents heat cycles, roaming, unwanted puppies, mammary tumours, pyometras etc. Early sterilisation is recommended and is done at five to six months of age.
[blockhighlightlarge]It is a good idea to start a small savings programme by putting away about R300 per month to make the sterilisation operation a little more affordable.
8) Get pet medical insurance
The last thing, probably more important than we want to admit, is pet medical insurance. It is said that about 66% of pet dogs and cats will need veterinary attention at least once a year. In South Africa, there are many pet medical insurance companies, starting off at a very low monthly fee. Don’t wait until it is too late; phone now for a quote.
Other things to remember when raising or having a puppy (which will not be discussed here, but are still very important):
- Enroll in a puppy school – early puppy training is important, so act fast!
- Do not feed puppies (or adult dogs) bones!
- Cut down on cow’s milk
- Get into the routine of brushing your puppy’s coat
- Don’t give calcium supplementation to any puppy without speaking with your family veterinarian first
- Brush your puppy’s teeth three times a week (see our dental health article for more information)
- Wash your puppy regularly
- Always keep your puppy’s ears clean and dry
- Give your puppy ample exercise