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Puppy Health Guide


"Buy a pup and your money will buy love unflinching." --Rudyard Kipling

A new puppy means changes in your life and puppy care can seem overwhelming. As a responsible owner, you are, of course, concerned about your puppy's health care. A healthy puppy means a healthier, better-adjusted dog. Here are some considerations to ensure your puppy's health:

Preparing A Healthy And Safe Home

When you go through your house prior to bringing your new puppy home, look at everything from his level. All dangers should be put away such as cleaning products, all medicines, any food (including gum and candy), anything like mouse traps - basically, there should be nothing at floor or chair level that he can get into. Puppies get into everything and will easily chew on a razor if they find it. See Preparing Your Home for a Puppy.

Then, prepare your pup's space. Puppies often do best in a crate. It helps with housebreaking and gives them a safe place to go. Check any toys you've gotten - puppies can choke on things like the eyes of stuffed animals. Best to avoid squeaker toys as well. For bedding, dog beds that they can't chew through work best.

Choosing a Healthy Puppy

Puppy health should be a priority to the breeders. They should not offer you a puppy that is less than eight weeks old, and is ideally 12 weeks old. If removed from his mother and littermates sooner, they often don't develop the necessary social skills such as the inhibited bite (what is acceptable mouth pressure).

A healthy puppy is alert, active and playful. He should have clear, wide-open eyes, a wet nose, strong teeth, and shiny fur. He should be nice and plump. He should also be eager for attention and react well to affection.

Once he's home, here are some guidelines for your new puppy:

Four Weeks To Three Months

Nutrition
Puppies are weaned around five to seven weeks old. A two-month-old puppy should be eating puppy food four times a day. See Puppy Feeding Schedule and Guide.

Some Common Problems
Sleeping: Puppies may have a tough time making it through the night. You should set specific times to take him out. Also, try putting a ticking clock or white noise machine near his bed.

Biting: Now is the time to start training him about basics such as this. A good deterrent is sticking your fist gently into his mouth whenever he starts.

Some Common Diseases
Distemper: This is one of the deadliest puppy diseases. Watch for uncoordinated walking, loss of appetite, lethargy, fever and seizures.

Para-influenza: This causes respiratory disease. Watch for dry cough, or difficulty breathing.

Heartworm: Prevention should be started before six months.

Vaccinations: The first set of shots usually include a vaccine combination that protects against canine hepatitis, distemper, parainfluenza, and parvovirus (abbreviated as DHPP). Vets may also recommend the leptospirosis vaccination and coronavirus. A Lyme Disease vaccine is also sometimes administered. See A Guide to Your Puppy's First Round of Vaccines.

Three Months To Six Months

Nutrition
Puppies should be eating puppy food, twice a day. Weigh your puppy each week. See Puppy Feeding Schedule and Guide.

Some Common Problems
Aggressiveness: Puppies will start to challenge those around them. Beginning basic obedience training is recommended.

Marking: Puppies may start to mark around the house which means more diligent housebreaking.

Some Common Diseases
Lyme Disease: This is caused by a tick bite. Watch for swollen or painful joints, fever, walking stiffly.

Allergies: Your puppy may start to show allergy symptoms, either to his food, grass, or airborne irritants.

Vaccinations: Initial Rabies vaccine. Puppies should receive a booster of this prior vaccine combo at 16 weeks. See Dog Vaccinations and Vet Care.

Spaying and Neutering
This is the time to neuter or spay. Neutering reduces testicular cancer and prostrate problems. Spaying reduces ovarian and breast cancers. Both will usually make a dog less aggressive and more trainable.

Six Months To One Year

Nutrition
At one year, you can switch over to dog food but do it slowly. Most dogs do best with feedings twice a day.

Some Common Problems
Adolescence: This is where training comes in. It is imperative that you establish yourself as the pack leader.

If not spayed and neutered, they will start exhibiting sexual behavior such as humping.

Some Common Diseases
Bordatella: This is kennel cough and is highly contagious. Watch for sneezing, coughing, nasal discharge.

Genetic diseases: These may start to emerge. Every breed has different health concerns. A good resource is here.

Vaccinations: Puppies should receive a booster at one year.

Dog and puppy health doesn't have to be a complicated subject. By giving your pup good nutrition, regular vet visits, training, grooming, and affection, you're helping to ensure good puppy health and, later, good dog health.

Photo: Basykes

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