Most Common New Dog Owner Questions
Congratulations on the new addition to your family. Bringing home a new puppy is an exciting time as well as a big responsibility. During the first year of your puppies life you will be faced with many changes and challenges as your puppy grows. We want to provide you with the information and support you need during this critical year to develop a long and rewarding relationship with your new companion.
- Why are vaccinations necessary?
Vaccinations help protect your pet from a number of potentially serious and even fatal diseases. Every pet should be vaccinated - viruses like parvo and distemper are extremely contagious and even indoor dogs can accidentally contact a rabid bat. Your veterinarian is the best resource for more information on these diseases.
- How do vaccinations work?
Vaccines contain viruses or bacteria that have been modified so that they will not cause disease. When an animal is vaccinated, it stimulates the animal's immune system to mount a response against the bacteria or virus in question. If the dog or cat is later exposed to that disease, immune system will react quickly to destroy the disease-causing agent.
- Are vaccines safe?
Although your veterinarian cannot guarantee that a vaccine will fully protect an animal against a given disease, vaccinations have proven to be the simplest, safest and most effective means of preventing a number of diseases in pets. Despite your veterinarian's efforts to design a safe vaccination protocol for every pet, vaccine reactions can and do occur. Thankfully, they are not common. Like a drug, a vaccine is capable of causing an adverse reaction. Some of these reactions are mild (some discomfort at the injection site, lethargy or loss of appetite for a day or so). Some of these reactions are more severe (allergic reaction, immunologic reactions). If your pet has reacted to a vaccine in the past, inform your veterinarian.
- Why does my pet need regular booster vaccinations for the same disease?
Just like human babies, your puppy needs a series of vaccines to develop proper immunity to these diseases. Your veterinarian will give your pet a series of vaccines spread over a period of 6 to 16 weeks of age, to provide your pet with the best possible protection.
It is very important that you follow the vaccination schedule provided by your veterinarian. Missing a vaccine booster or being more than a few days late could put your pet at risk of contracting disease.
Puppies and kittens should not be exposed to unvaccinated dogs and cats, sick dogs and cats, or places where dogs and cats roam (public parks etc.) until they have completed their puppy or kitten series of vaccinations.
- Why does my puppy need an examination on each visit?
During the first year of your puppies life they go from being a baby to a young adult in only 12 months. This occurs over 18 years in a human! On each visit the veterinarian will do a full physical exam to look for congenital problems as well as assessing your pets dental development, growth and discussing any concerns you may have.
- After the first year, how often should my dog see the vet?
Unfortunately, since your pet can’t talk, you don’t always know when it’s not feeling well. Check ups are important because they provide an opportunity to prevent diseases, detect them early or avoid them altogether. Unfortunately many pet owners underestimate their importance because their pet appears healthy. In fact, it is an animals natural instinct to hide health problems. By performing a yearly physical exam, your vet can detect early problems and help your pet live a longer, healthier life. Your vet is also happy to discuss your pets nutritional needs and help with behavioral problems at these visits.
Diet and Nutrition
- What should I feed my new puppy?
Good nutrition is extremely important for pets. With so many different options available, choosing the right food can be confusing. Be aware of marketing and trends so prevalent in the pet food industry. Puppies should receive a high quality commercial “growth” food. These foods contain higher levels of protein, calories and minerals than adult diets. Large and giant breed puppies should be fed a diet designed for their unique needs. These are generally labelled “for Large Breed Dogs”. Your veterinarian is your best source of information about pet nutrition.
- How do I read a dog food label?
Pet food labels are confusing and there is a lot of misleading information about pet food ingredients. The
guaranteed analysis on a pet food label is an analysis performed in a laboratory. Unfortunately, it tells us nothing about ingredient quality or digestability.
Choosing a pet food company that has veterinary nutritionalists involved in the development of their diets and performs feeding trials on their foods is your best assurance of quality. Don’t get caught up in hype, testimonials and marketing terms like “natural” and “holistic”. While these words sound good to pet owners, they are simply descriptive words that do not always translate into better quality food.
- What about raw food?
Raw foods (particularly meat and eggs) are not recommended. Food poisoning, parasitic infection and nutritional deficiencies are all potential outcomes of feeding raw food. Additionally, many of the microorganisms present in raw meat can be passed on to people. Bones can damage teeth and cause obstruction of the mouth, throat or gastrointestinal tract. In growing puppies raw food can cause nutritional imbalances resulting in improper bone development.
- How often should I feed my new puppy?
Puppies should be fed two to three times a day until they are at least 6 months of age. Adult dogs should be fed once to twice a day. Fresh water should be available at all times.
- How much should I feed my puppy?
How much you feed your dog depends on a variety of factors such as the quality of the food, your pups breed, age and level of activity. Use the recommended daily amount listed on the pet food bag as a guideline. Your veterinarian can help assess your dogs body condition during check ups. Ideally, if you run your hands along your puppy’s sides, the ribs should not be visible but they should be easily felt.
- Can I feed my puppy people food
Feeding people food can lead to obesity, bowel upset, finicky eating habits and poor dental health. Rather than feeding people food as treats ask your veterinarian about a healthier alternative designed for dogs.
House training is an immediate priority for all puppy owners. Develop a daily routine of feeding, exercise and rest times. Take your puppy outdoors first thing in the morning, frequently throughout the day and right before bedtime. Praise your dog for going to the bathroom outdoors. If using a food reward be sure to give it immediately after going to the bathroom, not upon returning inside the house. Paper training is not recommended unless you have to work long shifts and no one is available to take your puppy
outdoors during the day or you intend to have your dog go to the bathroom indoors throughout its life.
House Training DO’s and DON’T’s:
DO accompany your puppy outside.
DO lavish your puppy with praise and/or rewards when it "gets it right."
DO anticipate when your puppy will need to relieve itself and take it to an appropriate place.
DO show your puppy where it should have gone whenever you catch it in the act of having an accident.
DO clean all accidents thoroughly to remove stains and odors.
DON'T scold your puppy for accidents unless you catch it "in the act."
DON'T push your puppy's face into the soiled area.
If your puppy is home alone each day for long periods, confine it to a small room or exercise pen. Place newspaper in the area where it is likely to go to the bathroom. The puppy's crate may be placed in theconfinement area during the day, with the door open, to be used as a sleeping area.
It is important to associate good things with the confinement area. Spend some time in the area playing with your puppy, and feed your puppy in the confinement area. If possible, try not to leave the puppy in the confinement area for more than four hours at a time. This will speed the house training process.
Socialization and Behavior
Puppies don't instinctively know anything about the world in which they live. They learn about the world by experiencing it. Gradually expose your puppy to all of the things it will meet during its life. This will ensure that your dog is not afraid or anxious when confronted with people, cars, other animals, etc.
Begin socializing your new puppy as soon as possible. Start with one-person interactions. Gradually introduce the dog to situations with more people. Make sure that the puppy has plenty of opportunities to interact with children. Doing so will ensure your puppy becomes comfortable around children at an early age.
As soon as your dog has received the appropriate vaccinations, introduce it to other dogs in the neighborhood. Take the dog for short rides in the car to reduce the anxiety associated with traveling. Gradually introduce your dog to traffic, water, and any other situations it is likely to encounter.
An excellent way to socialize your puppy is to take it to training classes. These classes get puppies off to a great start in their training, and offer an excellent opportunity to socialize. See our handout on obedience classes and trainers in our community.
Don’t be alarmed but pets and parasites often go together. In fact most puppies are born with intestinal worms or can be infected shortly after birth. If the thought of parasites makes you queasy, don’t worry.
While these pests are quite common in pets they are also easy to treat and control.
- How do I know if my pet has parasites?
Pets can get internal parasites such as worms, giardia and heartworm as well as external parasites such as fleas, lice and ticks. The symptoms you will see depend on the type of parasite.
External parasites such as fleas and lice can cause your pet to scratch, lick or chew at various parts of their body. You may notice hair loss, red, irritated skin or even small “bugs” in your pet’s fur. Ticks often don’t cause any discomfort to your pet but can be found as a small lump or bump attached to the skin often around the pets ears, armpits or groin. On close inspection you will notice this lump has legs! If you suspect external parasites talk to us about the best way to treat your pet.
Signs that your pet has internal parasites can vary from no symptoms at all to weight loss, poor growth, dry, dull coat and even worms visible in the stool. Using a microscope and examining a stool sample, your veterinarian can evaluate your pet for parasites that may not be otherwise visible. It is recommended to evaluate a stool sample once a year on all dogs.
Heartworm, are not common in all parts of the county. Dogs infected with heartworm may not display symptoms until the disease is quite advanced. If your puppy came from an area known to have heartworm problems, we will recommend blood testing to be sure they are not infected.
- How do I treat and prevent parasites in my new puppy?
All puppies should be dewormed every 2 weeks for at least 3 treatments for roundworms. This is usually done at the puppies vaccination visits and the doctor may have you administer additional deworming treatments at home.
Newer products such as Revolution are available to use on a monthly basis to prevent both internal parasites, heartworm and external parasites like fleas and ticks. Talk to your veterinarian about a monthly preventative for your pet.
- Can I get parasites from my puppy?
Fortunately most parasites only live on or in a specific host, however there are a few parasites that can travel between people and pets. Roundworms and hookworms can infect people. People usually acquire infection through ingestion of soil, plants or other objects contaminated with pet feces. Children are at higher risk than adults because of their play, eating habits and less attention to hygiene. Hookworm infections can also occur from direct penetration through the skin in infected areas such as beaches, sandboxes and moist soil. This is uncommon in Canada and more of a risk in tropical or third world countries. Good hygiene, having your puppy dewormed on schedule and regular stool evaluations of your dog are effective means of protecting your family from infection.
Thank you to the West Kootenay Animal Hospital for this helpful article.