Your Puppy's First Visit

The way your puppy perceives his or her first visit to the veterinary hospital will greatly influence the way the puppy will respond here for the rest of its life. Puppies are sensitive to emotional cues from their owners. How you react to new situations tells the puppy how to react as well.

Therefore, you can interpret for the puppy the way it should respond in new or traumatic situations such as this first veterinary visit! To do this, behave in the way you want the puppy to behave when he or she is an adult dog.

For example, if you want a dog that tolerates veterinary visits, or even enjoys them, acts cheerful and upbeat before, during, and especially immediately after the treatment try these tips. If the pup yips or yowls during a procedure, talk to it in a jolly tone of voice until it wags its tail.

DO NOT coddle, coo, make sympathetic noises or soothingly pet the pup, or you will teach him to be worried and concerned, instead of cheerful and matter-of-fact.

This tactic also works in other new situations, such as trips to the park for socializing with children and adults, puppy kindergarten classes or when other dogs or strangers approach.

A dog that is relaxed and confident in any situation is an ideal pet, and an ideal veterinary patient as well. We hope this handout will start us off on the right foot!

Basic Puppy Care

First and Foremost: Vaccinations

Many common diseases, including Distemper, are deadly to your dog. During the initial day of nursing, puppies receive antibodies, proteins, against certain diseases from their mother’s milk. These protecting antibodies are gradually lost between 6 and 16 weeks of age. This passive immunity protects the puppy during its first few weeks of life, while its immune system is maturing. At some point, this immunity fails and the puppy must produce its own, longer-lasting “active” immunity. Vaccinations are used for this purpose. A series of vaccinations are given during this period to stimulate your puppy’s immune system to produce its own antibodies. As long as the mother’s antibodies are present, they will cause interference and prevent the immune system from responding completely to the vaccines. Vaccination of your new puppy should begin at about 6-8 weeks of age and continue every 3-4 weeks until your puppy reaches 16 weeks of age.

Vaccinations Video Transcription

Dr. Wittenburg: I’m here to talk a little bit about proper vaccination of your puppy or why we vaccinate so often in such young animals, and what we really want to talk about here is maternal antibodies. Maternal antibodies are transferred from the mother through the milk or the colostrum when the puppy is nursing, and what that does is those antibodies are in the system, and those are preventing proper vaccination or developing an immunity to the vaccines that we’re giving.

Dr. Wittenburg: In every situation when we’re vaccinating, the most common thing we’re starting with is about six to eight weeks of age getting their first vaccine for the distemper vaccine. Now, distemper covers for distemper, parvo, parainfluenza, and adenovirus, so it’s not just one vaccine, it’s actually multiple diseases that we’re protecting against.

Dr. Wittenburg: Around 14 to 16 weeks of age, those maternal antibodies wax and wane and they go away, which then allows the body to mount a proper immune response, so we’re going to want to vaccinate your puppy every two to four weeks until about 16 weeks of age, depending on the level of exposure. In high levels of exposure like shelter situations, we might want to vaccinate every two weeks, on other routine areas, probably just once every four weeks until about 16 weeks of age when we’ve basically passed those maternal antibodies and we can have a good immune response.

The CORE vaccines that all puppies need to receive are DHPP, Lepto, Lyme, and Rabies.

The DHPP vaccine protects your puppy against a number of viral infections that cause serious threats to your puppy’s health, including, Distemper, Hepatitis, Parainfluenza, and Parvovirus. In general, your puppy will receive 3 of these vaccines his/her first year of life. Recent studies have shown that for maximum protection, particularly from the Parvovirus, the last puppy vaccination should not be before your puppy is 16 weeks of age. Your puppy will receive a booster vaccination in 1 year and then the vaccine is given every 3 years thereafter.

Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection that not only causes serious disease in your pet but can also infect humans as well. Your pet is at risk of one of these organisms when it comes in contact with the urine of wild animals. Every animal that goes outdoors is at risk!! There are many strains of Leptospira. We currently vaccinate against all 4 strains for which a vaccine is available. This is included in the second and third DHPP vaccine, your puppy receives his/her first year of life. It is given annually thereafter.

Lyme vaccination is no longer considered an optional vaccine in our area. Over the past few years, there have been dramatic increases in cases of Lyme disease seen in pets (and people) in the Midwest. Lyme disease is a serious bacterial infection that they can get from ticks. Your puppy must be 9 weeks of age or older and will receive 2 vaccines the first year, about 2-4 weeks apart. It is given annually thereafter.

The final core vaccine that your puppy needs to receive is Rabies. A rabies vaccine will be given to your puppy, generally, at the time it receives its last set of vaccinations at 16 weeks of age. A booster vaccine is given in 1 year and then every 3 years thereafter.

OPTIONAL vaccinations that you may wish your puppy to receive are Bordatella (Kennel Cough) and Flu.

Bordetella vaccination protects your puppy against a respiratory disease commonly called Kennel Cough. This is an infection of the large airways in the lungs resulting in a dry gag-like cough. Your puppy is at risk of this disease when it is around other dogs in close confinement. If your puppy goes to a boarding facility, Doggie-Day-Care, training classes or grooming facilities your puppy should be protected with Bordetella vaccination. This can be given as a nasal spray every 6-12 months or as a series of 2 subcutaneous injections given 2-4 weeks apart, initially and then annually thereafter. If this vaccine is deemed necessary for your pet, the decision as to which vaccine will be used on your puppy will be discussed with you by a veterinarian or team member administering it.

Lastly, Canine Flu vaccination is available to protect your puppy from the highly contagious influenza virus. Virtually all dogs exposed to canine influenza virus become infected, with approximately 80% developing clinical signs of disease. Approximately 20% of infected dogs that do not exhibit clinical signs of disease can still shed the virus and spread the infection. Puppies 7 weeks and older can receive a series of 2 injections 2 to 4 weeks apart. It is recommended that dogs should get booster annually thereafter.

What's The Best Food For My Puppy?

Diet is extremely important for growth. 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 brand), and a form of food MADE FOR PUPPIES. We recommend that you only buy food that has been certified by an independent organization as complete and balanced. In the United States, you should look for food that has been certified by AAFCO, an independent 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. In Canada, look for foods approved by the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA).

Dog foods are available in dry, canned, and semi-moist formulations. Any of these formulations is acceptable, as long as the label states that the food is intended for growth (or is a puppy food), and is “complete and balanced”. This means that the food is nutritionally complete to meet the needs of growth and development. Foods stating they are they may be fed for all stages of life are not appropriate for growth. For dogs that will be 50lb or more at their adult weight, you will need to choose a ‘large breed’ puppy or growth formula food. These diets are formulated to optimize nutrition for large breed dogs but minimize the deleterious effects rapid growth on musculoskeletal growth. Growth formula or puppy food should be fed until your puppy is about twelve months of age; (eighteen months of age if large breed). Each of the types of food has advantages and disadvantages.

Dry food is definitely the most inexpensive and convenient option. The good brands of dry food are just as nutritious as the other forms. It can be left in the dog’s bowl at all times. However, it is recommended to meal feed your puppy. Offer two to three meals per day. Place a measured amount of dry food in a bowl at the same time each day. Allow the puppy access to the food for up to 20 minutes, and then pick up the bowl. Puppies instinctively desire to eliminate after eating. Meal feeding is very helpful for housebreaking.

Semi-moist foods may be acceptable, depending on their quality. The texture may be more appealing to some dogs, and they often have a stronger odor and flavor. However, semi-moist foods are usually high in sugar, and if they are fed exclusively, can cause the dog to develop a very finicky appetite.

Canned foods are a good choice to feed your puppy, but are considerably more expensive than either of the other forms of food. Canned foods contain a high percentage of water, and their texture, odor and taste are very appealing to most puppies. However, canned food will dry out or spoil if left out for prolonged periods of time; it is more suitable for meal feeding rather than free choice feeding.

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.
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.

What About Treats?

Most dog owners feed treats to their dogs, as well as their regular food. Treats are rarely “complete and balanced”, and are often loaded with salt, fat, artificial colorings and preservatives, all of which comprise “junk food” for animals. Some biscuits every day will not harm your pet unless it has a diet related disease, but it’s best to give these items in moderation. Stick with a crunchy biscuit type of treat for your dog. Some of them are better than others. Read labels before you buy. Some biscuits help slow the buildup of dental tartar, but they cannot remove tartar once it is present. Your pet will still need dental care even if you feed him this type of snack. Check rawhide treat labels, and stay away from brands not made in the USA. Foreign manufacturers are allowed to use formalin as a preservative in these chews, which is harmful to pets.

Supplements & Calories & Frequency

Do not give any vitamin or mineral supplements to your dog without your veterinarian’s advice. These types of supplements can easily cause harmful nutrient excesses.

Puppies need lots of calories to grow on, and plenty of fresh water. Until they are about 3 months old, feed three meals a day, giving as much as the animal will consume in a ten to fifteen minute feeding. It is much easier to housebreak a puppy if you feed him or her at set times every day. Puppies will then have regular, predictable potty times as well.

Once your young dog is 3 months old, you can cut back to two meals per day. Continue to feed a diet made for puppies until your dog is 1 year old.
The most important daily contribution you will make to your pet’s health is his or her diet. So choose wisely, and feel free to consult with us about any nutritional questions you may have.

When Should You Spay Or Neuter Your Puppy?

Here at Brook-Falls, we recommend spaying (surgical removal of the ovaries and uterus) of female dogs and castration (surgical removal of the testicles) of males, for all dogs that will not be used for purebred breeding. This should be done when your pet reaches 6-12 months of age. You will need to discuss the timing of the surgery with your veterinarian as to what is most appropriate.

While your pet is anesthetized for surgery, we can also remove any retained baby teeth, apply a dental sealant called SANOS and/or implant a microchip ID.

Socialization And Fear Prevention In Puppies

What is socialization?

Socialization is the process during which the puppy develops relationships with other living beings in its environment. While socialization takes place throughout the first year of life, the first 12-16 weeks seem to be the most important time for young puppies to learn about their environment. Two other important terms in a pup’s development are “habituation” and “localization”.

What is habituation?

As all animals develop there are numerous stimuli (sounds, smells, sights, and events) that when unfamiliar can lead to fear and anxiety. Habituation is the process whereby dogs get used to repeated stimuli and stop reacting to them provided that there are no untoward consequences.

What is localization?

Localization is the process by which the puppy develops an attachment to particular places.

Why are these terms important?

To reduce the possibility of fearful responses as a puppy grows and matures, it is essential to expose young puppies to many stimuli (people, places and things) when they can most effectively socialize, localize, and habituate to these stimuli. Early handling and events that occur during the first 2 to 4 months of life, are critical factors in the social development of the dog. Dogs that receive insufficient exposure to people, other animals, and new environments during this time may develop irreversible fears, leading to timidity and/or aggression.