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Puppy Care: Proper Puppy Care For a Clear Path to Good Health



Dr. Sudeep Wahla
Prestige Animal Hospital

How will proper puppy care impact the life of my dog?

By properly caring for your puppy, you're setting them up for success down the line. Getting them properly protected from diseases, implementing good training, good nutritional habits, behavioral habits from the beginning, and then throughout the life of your pet—these things will make for a much easier transition. They didn't get the saying, "It's not easy to train an old dog new tricks" from nowhere.

Why is it important to start good puppy care on day one?

Again, you're setting yourself up for success. Puppy care, preventing fleas, teaching them the saying, "Hey!" Messing with their ears, their face, their eyes, opening their mouth, touching their tongue, getting them used to giving pills, and other things like that … These all set the stage for a good puppy-to-dog transition.

I can't tell you how many people come in and can't give their dogs any medicine when they need it, because the dog will try to bite them, or do something else, because they never did that when they were a puppy.

It's very important to care for your puppy on so many different aspects from day one to get them used to these types of things. They are going to transition to good behavior, good habits, and good care when they're older.

How soon should I bring my puppy in to see a veterinarian for their first exam?

As soon as you have the puppy. Another thing that I'm seeing a lot nowadays is people are getting puppies from Craigslist or breeders, but they're meeting them at a location, not at one another's place where the puppy is raised.

If I were getting a puppy, I'd want to see where they were raised, their environment. Does it look clean? A good recommendation is, even before you get the puppy, tell whoever you're purchasing the puppy for, "I'll meet you at the veterinarian," and you'll pay for the visit.

Say, "I'll pay for the visit, and if I take the puppy, great, and if not and the veterinarian says there's something wrong, then we can address it there and then.”

This is a very good tip because a lot of people end up purchasing puppies that may be sick or something else. At least this way from the very first minute you have the dog, you've already had an examination, which you were going to get anyway.

What are the most common health problems in puppies?

Probably the most common one is, as gross as it’s going to sound, are worms or parasites in their stool. I can't tell you how many puppies we see that test positive for parasites, even though people think, "Well, I don't see any worms on the poop." You don't have to see worms on the poop and your pup doesn't even have to have diarrhea for your puppy to have parasites.

That goes for adult dogs too. Fleas and ticks are another common problem that we see in puppies, but probably those are the most three common things we've seen in puppies. Other things can include viruses that they pick up from not being properly vaccinated and respiratory tract illnesses—especially in smush-faced dogs.

I have a boxer, she's my little smush-face dog. They call them brachycephalic breeds. These are some of the common problems, but we also want to look for them when they're puppies for cleft palates, umbilical hernias that they can be born with.

In males, do both their testicles descend? In female puppies, there could be a vaginal infection, because some puppies do get that. These are some of the symptoms that we can look for in puppies.

What are signs and symptoms of illnesses in my puppy?

Diarrhea, vomiting, poor appetite, or not eating, and swollen face. Maybe they got stung by a bee or something. Excessive thirst, runny eyes, nose, trouble urinating, defecating. Lethargy is a big one. They don't want to play. Puppies should always want to play, and they should play hard and sleep hard. These are things that I tend to look out for if I feel like my puppy's not doing well.

What are signs of a healthy, thriving puppy?

Healthy, thriving puppies eat voraciously sometimes. They sleep hard. They poop and pee a lot. They eat, play hard, sleep hard, and they're pooping and peeing with regular intervals.

When should I start training my puppy?

I like training your puppy as soon as possible. There are a lot of good tips on our website at prestigeanimalhospital.com on how to start training your puppies. It's good to be very consistent.

A lot of people even get a trainer, but they won't work with them at home. I tell them, that's a waste of your money because if you don't enforce it at home, they'll listen to the trainer every time you go there, but they won't listen to you.

What will my vet be looking for when first examining my puppy?

We touched on this a little bit before, but we always look for any birth defects, such as a cleft palate, a hernia that didn't fully close at birth, where their umbilicus is. We'll look for parasites, which could be some worms on the base of the tail, some fleas, ticks.

We'll do a thorough examination of their eyes. We look in their ears for any signs of infection. We listen to their heart for any congenital heart issues that we may be able to hear like a heart murmur.

A bloated belly is another big one. A big, round belly on a puppy could indicate some worms.

FAQ - Puppy Care


Dr. Sudeep Wahla
Prestige Animal Hospital

What should I expect at my puppy's first veterinary visit?

So you should expect a lot of information. So when we first see puppies, we try to go over a lot. So we try to reinforce that at future visits because I know when you're in the office, it can feel almost overwhelming having that first puppy. You should expect the veterinarian to do a thorough examination from head to toe as they look for any ecto or internal parasites, such as fleas and ticks. Internal parasites could be worms. They might be stuck underneath the tail.

You should expect some discussion about behavior, puppy, training, nutrition, and preventative care that's going to happen throughout their life. So make sure you write these questions down and ask your veterinarian.

Is there anything specific I should ask my veterinarian at my puppy's first appointment?

The first thing I would say is to write any questions you have down. A lot of times that would vary when you bring the puppy in, but tell them about your lifestyle. “Hey, I plan to go hiking with my pet.” “I plan to go to the beach more often with my pet.” “I plan to be indoors more.” You’ll want to ask what kind of modifications to their preventative care would we needed to do these activities.

If you're considering breeding, you should ask what that entails. What are some complications that can occur later on in life if they're not fixed? How to find your dog if they're lost. Microchips are a great way. So a lot of these questions I would say are good questions. So sit down, take some time to think of things to ask your veterinarian, and go from there.

How often does my puppy need to go to the veterinarian?

That would depend on what age you bring your puppy in for the first visit. Generally, we recommend bringing your puppy in right away, and then we'll let you know how often you need to come. If you, for example, bring a four to a six-week-old puppy in, we'll probably be seeing you every three weeks until they're current on their vaccinations. If you bring a six-month-old puppy in, we might be seeing you two to three times after that to get them caught up and discuss lifestyles.

When should I get my puppy spayed or neutered?

It depends on the size of the dog now and what your goals are. A lot of times, if you bought or adopted a giant breed dog or purebred male dog, sometimes they want to develop their male characteristics. So in the case of a St. Bernard male, veterinarian might want to fix them at two years old. Generally, though, if we want to avoid some behavioral complications, six months is probably the earliest we'd do it. In females, we try to fix them between 6 to 12 months old, or just before that first heat. So on average, the age is about eight months, but you definitely want to consult your veterinarian by about four to six months to discuss that.

What are some things my vet will be looking for at my puppy's first appointment?

At your puppy's first appointment, we make sure they're a healthy weight. We also make sure they don't have any cleft palates or congenital issues, any underlying heart issues that we can hear with our stethoscope, any umbilical hernias. We check to make sure there are no fleas or ticks.

We’ll also be discussing a lot of things like how to get your puppy started on vaccines, heartworm, what that is, prevention, flea and tick prevention, and toys and behavior. We help you to set them up for an overall good life and help you get used to these conditions that your puppy will grow into.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (909) 329-2860, you can email us, or you can reach out on Facebook.

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