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Starting The New Puppy Out Right

Starting The New Puppy Out Right

A well-planned immunization, feeding and training regimen is critical.The arrival of a new puppy is a time of great anticipation, excitement, happiness€¦and anxiety.

It's almost like buying a boat. But unlike a boat the puppy will stay for its whole life, not something we will readily part with if things don't go quite as planned, nor will we remarket it as we might with a boat.

Puppies become dogs that tend to stay with us for the rest of their lives. That's why we are so attracted to them. With that in mind there are several things we should think about to increase the satisfaction we will derive from this dog over the next 12 to 15 years. A partial list of those things would include preparation of the premises for the dog's arrival, nutritional needs now and in the future, health care issues, behavioral issues and living quarters for the dog.

I feel that when a new puppy arrives in a household it should have a defined place that it can call its own. By this I mean that the pup should have an appropriately sized kennel that is within a controlled perimeter the pup cannot get out of. This becomes in effect an early training tool in that the pup soon learns that this is its area and that it is safe and comfortable there away from the turmoil of the rest of the household.

I do not mean that the pup should be isolated or segregated from the rest of the family; it just needs its own space. This area serves as a place for water, feeding, chew toys and can be an early learning place for teaching "kennel," walking on leash, "sit" and other commands in a non-structural way.

Obviously health care is a big concern of mine. I have developed over many years of clinical practice what I think is a sound program, meeting the puppy's needs but not overloading its system. New puppy health care starts with the origin of the pup. Be aware of the puppy's environment and obtain a dog only from clean, sanitary premises.

Also look at and obtain copies of all health records for the dam and liter. Bring these records with you as part of your first veterinary visit. Most breeders give you the option of returning the pup if, at its veterinary visit within three days of purchase, the puppy is found to have some serious health problem or congenital defect.

Most new puppies come in for their first veterinary visit at six to eight weeks. At this visit I like to review the health history that the new owner provides. After a complete physical exam I then develop a vaccination schedule that is appropriate to immunize this individual against the core diseases I feel are serious threats to dogs in this area.

Here in central Iowa I feel the core diseases are canine distemper, canine parvovirus, canine hepatitis (adenovirus II) and rabies. These diseases are not only prevalent in unvaccinated animals in this area; they are also life threatening to the dog. Over the next eight to 12 weeks I will have the pup return every 3-4 weeks for a series of booster vaccinations.

I feel it is also important to minimize the number of disease antigens given at any one visit. Multiple vaccinations at any one visit can increase the problems associated with over challenging the immune system of the young dog and can lead to a weak or ineffective immune system in the adult animal. The rabies vaccination must be given as required by the laws governing the area the dog resides in.

Non-Core antigens
After the core vaccination program has been discussed and established one must consider which of the many non-core antigens should be included as beneficial to this pup in its future activity.

Some of the many antigens to consider are corona virus, parainfluenza virus, Lyme disease, various strains of leptospira, giardia, West Nile virus, canine influenza virus, bordetella bacterin, and others. Of these the only ones that I really give much consideration to are parainfluenza, bordetella, and Lyme disease for dogs going into endemic Lyme areas.

Following this initial vaccination series the next question will be when to booster these various antigens. The first booster time is fairly easy. I think most veterinarians will agree that one year following completion of the initial series is a good time to booster these antigens to produce optimum immunity for longer periods in the dog's adult life.

Year two is when the frequency of vaccination boosters becomes debatable. In the past recommendation was that vaccines be administered on an annual basis to maintain necessary circulating antibodies to confer immunity for the dog. Current thinking is that good immunizing vaccines such as the core vaccines can be no oftener than every three years and still maintain good immunity. Several vaccines in the non-core group are considered poor immunizers and should be given annually or even semiannually in some situations.

I prefer to take the position of titering dogs at the two-year point and using the information derived from that test to determine what my recommendation will be for core vaccination boosters. In following titers on my own dogs I have been amazed at how long the titers will remain high. Ultimately the decision as to what to vaccinate for and how often to do it is something that must be resolved between client and veterinarian and hopefully based on what is best for the dog.

Another important health consideration for the new pup is parasite treatment and control.

Worming should be started when the puppy is two weeks of age and continue until the pup is started on heartworm preventative that also includes medication for roundworms and hookworms. As a routine wormer in the young pup I like products with pyrantel pamoate or fenbendazole.

At 8-10 weeks of age I like to start pups on one of the combination products that get heartworm microfilaria and hookworms, roundworms and whipworms. The most common drugs are milbemycin oxime and ivermectin in combination with pyrantel. After this initial dose medication is given on a monthly schedule. For ticks and fleas I like fipronil products on an as- needed basis.

Proper nutrition
To ensure that all these health care measures are able to do their jobs and produce a pup that is adequately immunized and parasite free, good nutrition is a must. Over the past many years canine nutrition has improved greatly, making it very simple to supply the needs of a growing dog.

Pick a product especially formulated for the growing puppy by one of the well known manufacturers and feed it dry. The only caution I would give is not to let the pup get fat. I like meal feeding best, as opposed to self-feeding in which the dog always has access to food. Meal feeding gives one the opportunity to observe the puppy daily and note its well being.

As the puppy passes through this early health care program it is also important to address its behavioral or social

needs. I like to do dominance exercises with puppies on their first and second visits. This helps me establish a dominance position with the dog and it also trains the owner in how to perform the exercises at home. I use the method described by Peter Vollmer in his book, Super Puppy.

I also like to use a small treat to get the puppy to sit in response to an anticipated reward.

Again, this not only teaches the puppy something but it also teaches the owner the importance of early learning. I feel that if you can teach these young puppies how to learn and that learning is an enjoyable experience, then later in life you can teach them anything you want them to learn.

Questions may be sent to me at

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