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Puppy Care


Owning a new puppy can be a very exciting experience. All of us here at Pleasanton Veterinary Hospital want your puppy to grow to be a happy, healthy, well-behaved dog. We hope the following information will be helpful.

Your puppy's fastest growth period is right now and will continue until he is about twelve months old. There are many brands of food to choose from in the grocery store, pet store and veterinary hospital. In general, always stick to well known brands. Check the label to make sure the food meets AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) standards. Puppies should be fed puppy food because it provides the proper ratio of nutrients for growing and gives the puppy's body a solid nutritional base for healthy adulthood. Puppies do not need vitamin supplements if they eat a high quality food. If you are not sure about the food please feel free to ask us questions. Avoid table scraps, as these alter the nutrient ratio of the diet and promote begging. Always have plenty of fresh water available, unless you are having difficulty housebreaking and need to restrict water consumption at night. Never give milk, as it can often cause diarrhea. Select one brand of food and stick with it. Many puppies have sensitive digestive tracts and will develop diarrhea if you switch foods. We recommend feeding puppies 3 to 4 times daily for the first 4 months of age, then twice daily thereafter. Allow the puppy to eat as much as he wants for 10-15 minutes each feeding, then pick up the bowl. If no one is home during the day, we recommend leaving dry food out during the day. Canned food is not necessary unless your puppy is having dry, hard stools (constipation). However if you choose to feed canned food, a small amount can be offered as a "treat." As your puppy ages, the number of the feedings per day decrease. Puppies are very mouth oriented so be sure to puppy proof your house. Anything that is small enough to be chewed and swallowed is a potential hazard. We have surgically removed small balls, coins, rocks, walnuts, towels, blankets and baby bottle nipples from puppies and dogs' intestines.

The crate training method seems to be the most effective. The crate is used to mimic the "den" dogs use in the wild to sleep. It represents shelter and security. Most puppies will not urinate or defecate in their den (crate). It is important that the crate only be large enough for the puppy to stretch out full length. The puppy is placed in the crate at night. During the day the puppy should be left in the crate for short periods of time if needed. It is important that the crate does not become a prison. Introduce the puppy to the crate gradually. Make it a warm, comfortable place. Allow the puppy to explore the crate initially. Put a few pieces of kibble inside the crate to encourage the puppy to go inside, and then call the puppy and praise him when he comes to you. Repeat this several times. You can gently place the puppy inside the create if needed but do not shut the door. Once you have successfully had the puppy in and out of the crate several times and he appears comfortable with the training, put the puppy in the crate and shut the door for one minute. Conclude the session by opening the door and praising the puppy. The next time you feed your puppy, feed him inside the crate. Lure him into the crate with his food bowl and then shut the door. When he is finished eating, the pup may start to whine or bark to get out. Gently reprimand the puppy or ignore the noises. Once the puppy is quiet for one minute, take him outside to a designated area to eliminate. As the puppy becomes used to the crate, you can increase the time spent in it. When the puppy is allowed to be free in the house, keep a very close eye on him. Do not allow the puppy to wander out of your sight - this is usually when he will urinate or often try to hide behind a piece of furniture or escape to another room. Puppies will usually start circling around and will sniff the floor. This is when you pick the puppy up and take him outdoors. Select one spot in the yard for your puppy to use. This way the puppy will know what to do because he will smell urine and feces in that area. During training the dog is not allowed to play outdoors by himself. It is important that the puppy associate going outdoors with urinating/defecating. The puppy should be taken out first thing in the morning and right before going to bed. He should be taken out after every meal and play time. Every time your puppy makes a mistake in the house, the harder it is to housebreak him. The average puppy takes 2-3 months to train. Make this a high priority now and you will reap the benefits for years. Never scold your puppy when he has had an accident in the house unless you literally catch him in the act. Rubbing his nose in it means nothing to the puppy if he has already walked away. Just clean up the mess (Veterinary Strength Outright and Nature's Miracle seem to work well) and pay closer attention next time. When the puppy eliminates in the appropriate place, be sure to give lots of praise. In the beginning you may even want to give treats. Remember, very young puppies may not be able to hold it all night. If you hear whining in the middle of the night it may indicate the puppy needs to go. Remember, dogs do well if you stick to the same schedule (this includes weekends). Get in the habit of feeding at the same time every day. Your housetraining will go much smoother.

Puppies need to receive their Distemper/Parvo (DHLPP) vaccine every 3 weeks once weaned until they are 14 weeks of age. They receive their rabies shot at 4 months of age or older. The Bordatella vaccine (kennel cough) is required if your dog will be boarded in a kennel, frequents dog shows, or frequents the groomer. The Lyme vaccine is recommended only if your dog has exposure to ticks. Until your puppy is fully vaccinated (14 weeks) it should not have exposure to other dogs (except your own) or places where other dogs go, i.e. the park, school yard, etc. Puppy training classes are an exception to this rule. Many diseases, especially Parvo, are spread in feces. Therefore, until your puppy is 14 weeks old we recommend the puppy stay in your house and backyard.

Even though you can't take your puppy to public places until after 14 weeks of age, it is important to start socialization right away. Have all your friends, young and old, come visit your puppy. Have them talk to the puppy, pet him and hold him. This way your puppy will like all people, not just your family. If the puppy is really shy, have people offer him treats and sit down at the puppy's level to try to reassure him. We commend treats for socialization and training.

It is important to start obedience training immediately. Like children, puppies need limits to be set. Remember, puppies have short attention spans and are very forgetful. Puppy training classes usually start around 12 weeks of age. Do not put off training your puppy. The older the puppy, the harder it is to train and break bad habits. Thousands of dogs are euthanized each year because of behavioral problems. Please don't let your puppy be one of them. An excellent resource guide on many aspects of puppy ownership is The Art of Raising a Puppy and How To Be Your Dog's Best Friend by the Monks of New Skete. Other fine references available are How To Teach An Old Dog New Tricks and After You Get Your Puppy by Dr. Ian Dunbar.

Heartworm Disease
Heartworm disease is a condition dogs get from mosquitoes. Mosquitoes carry the heartworm larvae in their nose piece. When they bite the dog, the larvae is deposited in the skin. It then burrows into the skin and ends up circulating in the bloodstream. Eventually it lodges in the heart and begins to reproduce. It leads to heart failure and death over an extended period of time. There is a treatment for heartworm disease but the cure is as potentially harmful to the dog as the actual disease. Therefore, we strongly recommend heartworm preventative. If your dog is older than 6 months, it will need to have a blood test before starting the preventative.

Spay and Neuter
Your puppy will be healthier later in life if spayed (female) or neutered (male). Your puppy can be spayed or neutered when it is 4-6 months of age. Female dogs are very prone to breast cancer if they have not been spayed. Studies have proven if she is spayed before her first heat, her chance of breast cancer is less than 10%. If spayed after the first heat, the risk increases as she ages. Unspayed female dogs are also prone to a uterine infection called pyometra. If she has been spayed, this is no longer a problem. Male dogs may be less aggressive and less likely to roam if neutered. Dogs in general make much better family pets and are happier if spayed or neutered.

In the U.S. approximately 18 million animals are euthanized every year because people don't spay and neuter their pets. Twenty-five percent of these animals are purebreds. Please consider these facts when thinking about breeding. If you do decide to breed, please arrange homes for the puppies before breeding your dog. Also, please make sure your dog is a healthy, well mannered representative of the breed. Please ask us about which diagnostics should be done prior to breeding to evaluate your dog for genetically carried diseases.

Healthy Smile
Now is the time to get your puppy used to having his teeth brushed. Puppies have deciduous (baby) teeth just like humans. These teeth will gradually be replaced by adult teeth until the puppy is 7-8 months of age. Therefore, the purpose of brushing the teeth now is to get your puppy used to having its mouth handled and his teeth brushed. It will be much easier now than if you wait until the adult teeth are in. Dogs are very prone to dental tartar, gingivitus, peridontis and tooth root abscesses. These conditions make your dog's mouth painful and lead to bad breath. If ignored, eventually your dog may lose teeth or develop secondary problems due to chronic bacterial infections in the mouth. These secondary problems include bacterial bronchitis, liver disease, kidney disease and heart disease. Therefore, it is important to keep your dog's teeth as clean as possible. We have free samples of doggy toothpaste and toothbrushes. Please have one of our technicians show you how to brush properly. We recommend you brush on a daily to every other day basis (after all, we brush our teeth multiple times a day). Doggy toothpaste is different than human toothpaste because it doesn't contain detergent so it is not harmful if swallowed and doesn't foam.

Doggy Dangers
Dangerous Foods include, but are not limited to chocolate, fatty foods, garbage, bones (chicken, steak, pork, etc.) raisins, grapes and onions.

Dangerous Drugs include, but are not limited to Tylenol (acetominophen), Motrin (ibuprophen) and Aleve (naproxen). Do not give over-the-counter drugs to your dog without consulting your veterinarian.

Dangerous Plants include, but are not limited to oleander, pyracanthas, poinsettia and diffenbachia. Nurseries can also help you decide which plants may be harmful to your pets.

Dangerous commonly used and potentially attractive house and garden items include snail bait, rat and mouse bait, antifreeze, lawn mushrooms, moldy walnuts and fertilizers.

If your dog has eaten any of the above listed items or in case of emergency call Pleasanton Veterinary Hospital at (925) 462-7750 during our office hours or call VetCare Emergency at (925) 556-1234 after our regular business hours. The Animal Poison Control Center can also be contacted at 1-800-548-2423