Congratulations on your new arrival! But just as having a baby can be a steep learning curve, so is taking on a new, four-legged family member. You may be aware of the need to vaccinate and worm the puppy, but what of the other healthcare essentials he needs in that important first year?
If your knowledge of preventative healthcare is a little hazy, we can distil down the essential elements into bite-sized pieces:
• Puppy shots start at about 8 weeks of age
• Then given monthly to 16 weeks old
• Then boosters required one year later
• Worming: Hopefully ongoing from the breeder, and continue monthly at home
• Puppy class: Attend after the first vaccination then up to 18 weeks of age
• ID chip: Any time but ideally not at the first visit to the vet
• Fleas and ticks: Treatments given monthly from 8 weeks of age
• Training Classes: Take up where puppy class left off at 18 weeks
• Girls from 5 – 6 months
• Boys – less time sensitive
Vaccinations protect your puppy from serious diseases such as Distemper, Parvovirus, and Adenovirus. Not only are these conditions life-threatening, but as is the case with distemper even if the puppy survives he may be brain damaged and prone seizures in later life.
Most puppies receive their first vaccinations at 8 weeks of age (6 weeks is the youngest a vaccination can be given) and then every four weeks until the puppy is four months old. A typical vaccine schedule is shots at 8, 12, and 16 weeks of age
You may have heard of ‘core’ and ‘non-core’ vaccinations. This is a judgement call about which vaccines to give, made by your veterinarian, based on the disease risks in your area. Protection against Distemper, Parvovirus, and adenovirus are considered ‘core’ and given regardless of which state you live in (along with the Rabies vaccine, given according to guidelines laid down by National or State law).
Non-core vaccinations include leptospirosis, herpes virus, and Lyme’s disease. The vet will decide if these are necessary depending on your puppy’s lifestyle and the region.
Deworming is important not just for the puppy’s good health, but for yours and that of your children. The common dog roundworm, Toxocara, can be passed to people and in rare cases cause blindness, while other worms such as heartworms, pose a serious health risk to your puppy.
Hopefully, the breeder got your puppy off to a great start with regular worming, which you need to continue. A convenient way to do this is with a monthly application of a spot-on product effective against the common internal and external parasites.
Alternatively, if you are giving an oral wormer, a good schedule is:
• Worm at 2,4,6 and 8 weeks
• Then move to 8, 12, and 16 weeks,
• And then deworm twice a year
Itchy and Scratchy
There’s a saying in the veterinary world that common things are common, and this is very true for fleas and other external parasites. There are a wide variety of effective products available that work well against external parasites, but always check your choice with a veterinarian to make sure the product does do what it claims on the label. Most products are suitable from 8 weeks of age, but always check the packaging to be sure it is safe for your puppy.
Every bit as important as his physical health is puppy’s emotional well-being. Make it a priority to enrol at a good puppy class, so your youngster can learn good manners and confidence with other puppies. Most classes accept puppies a week after their first vaccination–but be considerate to other owners and never take a puppy to class if he is unwell.
You are not required by law to microchip your puppy, but it is beneficial to get your puppy chipped. Each ID chip contains a small microchip that, when scanned, transmits a unique number. If the puppy gets lost or stolen, then scanning the ID chip reveals the number that links back to your details on a database.
Puppy can be chipped at any age. However, many vets prefer not to inject the chip on puppy’s first visit so that his experience is pleasant. A great time to implant the chip is when puppy is under anesthetic for the spay operation.
In addition to the convenience reasons for desexing dogs, especially with regard to females there is a strong additional health benefit.
A high percentage (25%) of adult bitches with a womb will go on to develop mammary cancer. This is because the female hormones stimulate receptor cells in the mammary tissue, which may eventually trigger a cancerous change. However, desexing a bitch before her first season removes this risk (in fact, she stands just a 1 in 25,000 risk of getting breast cancer). Thus, if your female is to be a pet rather than a breeding bitch – get her neutered between 5 – 6 months of age, and save yourself from potential heartache later in her life.
There are not the same strong health arguments for neutering males, so the timing of their surgery is less time sensitive and a largely matter of personal preference.
Don’t forget, your puppy (soon to be dog) needs to keep his vaccines current with ‘booster’ shots. The first booster is given a year after the initial course, at around 14 – 15 months of age, with most veterinarian’s sending out reminders to jog your memory.