Taking Care of Your Puppy’s Health

One of the most challenging aspects of taking care of your puppy is trying to determine if his behavior is normal (scratching, whimpering, whining) or if you should see the veterinarian. Unfortunately, this is something you’ll need to learn about your new dog. However, you should still make sure you have a good vet picked out so you’ll know what to expect when you visit the office for a checkup.

Finding a Veterinarian for Your Puppy

Shopping for a health-care provider for your puppy is no different than searching for any other family doctor. You'll want to do plenty of research and consider the following when choosing a vet to deal with your puppy’s health:

  • Does the veterinarian have a good reputation? Ask friends and family about their experiences. Also, call the local humane society to see who they recommend. After all, those who provide care to so many animals will have a sense of which professionals are most compassionate and have good track records.
  • Do a background check on each professional's education and experience. Find out how long the provider has been practicing and whether she graduated from a prestigious veterinary program.
  • Investigate whether the doctor has an area of specialty. Some might work only with dogs, for example, or have an in-depth knowledge of Golden Retrievers and the ailments common to that breed.
  • Look into the clinic's location. A drive across town during a medical emergency could mean the difference between life and death.
  • After you find a provider you are comfortable with, visit the office for a one-on-one interview. You'll want to learn her philosophy on puppy rearing and discuss other matters unique to your circumstance.

Your Puppy’s First Visit

We recommend taking your pet to the veterinarian within the first three days he's home to ensure he's fit. The visit will likely include:

  • An external check including the examination of the puppy's coat, muscles, bones, eyes, ears, and mouth
  • A fecal exam to check for internal parasites
  • A question-and-answer period
  • The scheduling of immunizations

The Decision to Spay/Neuter

Make sure there are no surprises by having your little one neutered or spayed as soon as possible—provided you don't want to become a breeder. The surgeries can be done by the time puppies are 6 months old and involve a fairly quick recovery time. Benefits to such surgeries include:

  • Decreased aggression in males
  • Decreased interest in roaming
  • Decreased urge to mark territory
  • Decreased chance of mammary tumors or uterine disease in females who are spayed before their first heat cycles
  • Less menstrual mess (Female dogs have 21-day-long cycles that occur every six months and start sometime after 6 months of age.)

Coping with Fleas

Fleas are nearly invisible parasites that will cause your puppy to itch. They can transmit disease, pass on a tapeworm, or even cause anemia, especially in vulnerable youngsters. Furthermore, they can infiltrate your home and bite people. Fleas are hard to spot with the naked eye, but your puppy will exhibit symptoms such as scratching, biting, and gnawing of the skin. By the time you actually see the fleas, you likely will have a full-blown infestation. If you suspect your puppy is harboring unwanted guests, wash him in a bathtub and rub your hands up and down his coat to look for flea "dirt," dark dots that are actually flea excrement. Drop tap water on the dots. If the color red develops, you've got a problem.

Flea-Control Myths

Some believe that you can rid your puppy of fleas by feeding him onion or garlic. And though he might eat these foods, they might actually produce a toxic reaction. Furthermore, feeding puppies brewer's yeast or applying it to the skin will have no effect on fleas.

Prescription Flea-Prevention Products

Scientists have developed both topical and oral prescription medications that prevent fleas from biting and reproducing. They are administered once per month. Here are the facts about these types of treatments:

  • Oral treatments come in a pill but are not effective until 60 days after the initial dosage. At that point, chemicals present in the medication interrupt the flea's life cycle and they die.
  • Topical products provide immediate relief and prevent future outbreaks.

As with humans, preventative care is the best way to ensure your puppy lives a healthy, happy life. Schedule visits with your vet as he or she deems necessary, and your puppy will be all set to be your best friend for a lifetime.