The first things you need to do with your new puppy
By Rory the Vet
Sometimes it’s years in the making. Sometimes all the pieces just fall into place and you find yourself sat there staring into the incredibly cute face of your new puppy.
However you end up getting a puppy, it is a MASSIVE moment and we couldn’t be happier for you!
As vets, we LOVE seeing new puppies, honestly, I always say that the day I stop cooing over new puppies is the day I’ve become too bitter and twisted to be in the wonderful profession I call my career. On the other hand though, as a new puppy owner, it can be really tough! There is so much to think about, making sure you’re doing everything right for your new family member. So, of course, we thought it was about time we wrote an easy bullet point list of the things you need to do to keep your puppy happy, healthy and safe.
The first things to consider your new puppy
Microchipping for dogs
Now, I thought we would start with an easy one. This should have been done for you as it has been a legal requirement for any puppy over the age of 8 weeks to have a chip. This needs to be registered to you with your address, phone number and email to make sure you have the best chance of being reunited if they go scarpering off! Don’t forget, there is also a legal requirement for all dogs to wear a collar with your details on there too!
Vaccinating your new puppy
Hopefully, these will also have been started before you get your pup. They should have at least been to the vets for a health check. Don’t worry if they don’t have any vaccinations yet, get yourself booked into your local vet for a visit and get these started as quickly as possible after 8 weeks of age.
We usually recommend vaccination against distemper, hepatitis, parvovirus and leptospirosis as the “core” vaccinations. These are all nasty, life-threatening diseases that we must protect young puppies from. Your vet might also discuss a kennel cough vaccination with you to protect from a very infectious upper respiratory tract disease.
Lastly, if you’re planning on taking your pooch abroad, you will need to talk about a rabies vaccination with your vet but don’t worry, we don’t have rabies in this country so you don’t need to get this as a routine.
Parasite prevention for new puppies
This can be a bit of a minefield. I would highly recommend you speak to a vet about what parasites are likely to be a threat to your dog and work out an appropriate product to use to prevent these. To give you an idea, in the UK we see lice, mites, ticks, fleas, roundworm, tapeworm, whipworm, hookworm, lungworm… and that’s not all of them! Some of these are more common in certain areas, such as ticks are mainly found in wooded areas or areas where there is a carrier species such as deer.
Being a vet in London, I particularly focus on lungworm as it is very common in the area and can be very serious if left untreated. Your vet will likely recommend using prescription prevention on a monthly basis to keep these nasties away!
Food for puppies
Where do I start… Don’t worry, we will be putting together a blog on the types of food and the pros and cons of these very soon but for now there are a few rules you need to follow with your pup. Firstly, DO NOT CHANGE YOUR PUP’S FOOD for the first week or so. Their life has just been flipped upside down so if you can, keep the food exactly the same as the breeder was doing for at least the first week or two.
Secondly, when you do actually change your pup’s food, do it nice and slowly over about a week. That stops their sensitive little gut from going awol and them getting runny poos.
Thirdly, you should be feeding an 8 week old puppy three or four times a day. I usually recommend getting down to three meals a day by the time they are 12 weeks and then dropping to two meals (you don’t have to but it may be easier) by the time they are six months.
And finally, I’m not going to talk about types of food here, but please please please feed puppy food to your puppy. It is there for a reason and has different levels of protein, carb and other nutrients than adult food to allow for and encourage good growth.
Puppy exercise and socialisation
This kind of depends on the breed of your dog but a good guide for the amount of exercise is around 5 minutes per month of age twice a day. If you have a large or giant breed dog, this is more important for you to try and limit as these guys grow really quickly and you need to make sure you aren’t over-exercising them.
Socialisation is key. I have always said, the pups that are taken to the pub and passed around from person to person and go and say hello to each and every dog in the park are the ones that will be the best adult dogs. And I stand by it. Remember your puppy will also feed off you, so if you’re anxious about them meeting other dogs, they will likely develop some sort of anxiety with other dogs too…
Insuring your new puppy
In a word… Yes.
As vets, we are the first to tell you that healthcare for your pet can get expensive. For example, if your dog develops elbow dysplasia or hip dysplasia, then you could be looking at surgeries in the region of £6-8000… Ouch.
My general advice is to have a look at insurance policies, ideally “life-long” and for at least £4000 per year, £7000 if you can afford it. If you prefer not to insure, all I ask is that you are aware of the possible costs and put some money aside for a rainy day.
Toxicities to watch out for
Puppies put the world in their mouth, it’s their equivalent of the grabby toddler! So, of course, it is ideal if you guys know what is a problem, and what isn’t. Chocolate is often the one that most people know. The darker it is, the worse it is. If your pup snaffles some of this, call a vet for advice.
Raisins and grapes are a bit lesser-known. It is currently not entirely understood why, but some dogs develop acute kidney failure from these tasty treats. A recent study has suggested that it may be due to a compound called tartaric acid but as of yet, it is unproven. Either way, if you see your pup eat even just one of these, it’s an urgent trip to the vet to make them sick!
Onions, leeks and garlic are less toxic than the previous two, but in high doses or with regular exposure, they can cause a breakdown of your dog’s red blood cells.
Xylitol is a sweetener used in sweets, chewing gum and some products such as peanut butter. Just make sure to check the ingredients of any human good you’re planning on giving your dog.
Macadamia nuts can cause vomiting, weakness and tremors in dogs.
Cooked bones and corn on the cob aren’t strictly toxic but cooked bones, particularly chicken, can splinter and cause trauma to the stomach and gut and corn on the cob was reported as one of the most common things that vets had to remove from dog’s stomachs.
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We’re on hand 24/7 to answer any questions, big or small over a video consult, or a VidiAsk.
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