Puppy Care Recommendations


That cute little puppy stole your heart and now he’s part of your family. You love him, but remember: He’s your responsibility and you need to take care of him. Of course, taking care of your dog is a year round responsibility. You should keep a detailed medical file on each pet to remind you when vaccines are due, when the last fecal sample was checked and when he is due for grooming. To keep him healthy and happy, there are several things you should know as part of his care.

Parasites are a common problem in all puppies. Many of these parasites are transmissible to people, so keeping your puppy parasite free is critical for the safety of him as well as your family. Your veterinarian has medications available to eliminate and prevent these parasites from infesting your puppy.

Dogs are victims of several internal parasites including roundworms, coccidia, giardia, hookworms and whipworms and can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and anemia. The most common are roundworms (ascarids) that infest nearly every puppy at some time in his life. Usually they are born with them because the parasites are passed from mother to young. Tapeworms can be a big problem when flea infestation is high. Adult dogs typically acquire worms when they swallow a flea or lick up microscopic eggs that are present in contaminated soil or grass. Mature dogs usually develop a resistance to most intestinal parasites, but the whipworm (Trichuris vulpis) can still cause problems, leading to colitis and weight loss. Evidence of roundworms and tapeworms can be seen without the aid of a microscope, but other worms are not so easily diagnosed. Early diagnosis is important because all worms do not respond to the same treatment.

Puppies are regularly dewormed for roundworms and hookworms at the time of their “puppy shots.” If your puppy has not been dewormed yet, talk to your veterinarian as soon as possible. A stool sample should be collected prior to each puppy vaccination visit, and a follow-up sample examined at the appropriate interval after the last deworming medication has been given.

Worms can affect mature dogs as well. A yearly fecal exam is recommended for most adult dogs unless the dog is taking a heartworm preventative that also controls intestinal parasites. With primarily outdoor dogs, it may be beneficial to evaluate stool samples two or three times a year if the risk of infection is high. You may also decide to administer a heartworm preventative that controls intestinal parasites. Some of the newer heartworm combinations fight all three threats: heartworms, intestinal parasites and fleas.


Watching a flea-bitten pet scratch herself desperately is a heart-rending sight. Fleas are a common problem for dogs, cats and people. When a flea bites your dog, it injects a small amount of saliva into the skin to prevent blood coagulation. Some animals may have fleas without showing discomfort, but an unfortunate number of dogs become sensitized to this saliva. In highly allergic animals, the bite of a single flea can cause severe itching and scratching. Fleas cause the most common skin disease of dogs, which is called Flea Allergy Dermatitis.

Though the itching component to flea-allergy can be treated with antihistamines or even corticosteriods (prescribed by your veterinarian), the best approach is to eliminate and prevent flea infestation. There are many products available to treat flea infestations. Some of the over-the-counter powders, sprays and collars (such as those from Hartz® or Sergeants®) contain permethrin, which is moderately effective. However, the best flea products are prescription – see your veterinarian for these. If your dog already has fleas, then you need to kill them first with a product like Capstar® brand of nitenpyram, Frontline® brand of fipronil, Advantage® brand of imidacloprid, Vectra3D® brand of Dinotefuran and permethrin, Comfortis® brand of spinosad. Some of these have residual effects that can also control ticks. Two new products – the topical Revolution® and oral Trifexxis® – help to prevent external parasites, heartworm and intestinal parasites.

In tough cases, you may have to wage all-out war to conquer fleas. This means a comprehensive flea control program, requiring treatment of the pet, the pet’s bed, the yard and the house. A variety of sprays, dips, powders, foams and oral products may be recommended.

When ticks are in need of a blood meal, they seek out prey by heat sensors. When a warm object passes by them, they attach themselves by clinging to clothing or fur or falling from trees onto the object and insert pincher-like mouthparts into the skin and begin feeding. These mouthparts are locked in place and will only dislodge when the tick has completed the meal. Once the meal is complete, the adult female falls from the prey and seeks shelter. Eggs are born and the adult female dies.

Dogs are a common target for ticks. If you live in an area populated with ticks you should keep a sharp eye on these parasites. They can transmit serious diseases (such as rickettsial diseases like Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Lyme disease) to dogs and humans. There are topical and oral medications available to prevent and treat tick infestations. If a tick is found, careful manual removal with a tweezers or tick removal instrument is recommended.

Heartworms have the potential to cause serious illness. Heartworm is transmitted when a mosquito bites a host. The heartworm larvae develop in the blood stream and ultimately live in the arteries of the lungs as an adult. Without treatment, dogs will become lethargic, inappetant, have difficulty breathing, and potentially develop heart failure. Preventing heartworm disease is easier and much preferred to treating an active heartworm infection. Treatment is easy – just one tablet once a month. Discuss heartworm prevention with your veterinarian.


In addition to parasite control, preventing contagious disease is also critical for your new puppy. There are vaccines available to help reduce your puppy’s risk of acquiring diseases such as distemper, parvovirus, hepatitis, kennel cough, rabies, etc. In general, vaccines are started at 6-8 weeks of age and given every 3-4 weeks until the pup reaches 16-20 weeks of age. After that, boosters are given the following year.

Proper nutrition is essential in maintaining health and providing adequate nutrition for growing puppies. Supplements are not recommended. Giant breed puppies require some extra nutrition due to their rapid growth. Special diets are now available for these pups. By feeding high quality puppy food, you will be helping your puppy down the path of good health.

Grooming is an important part of caring for your puppy. By grooming your puppy early in life, you can get him used to being brushed, combed and bathed. Longhaired dogs should be brushed daily. Short haired puppies benefit from weekly grooming. Without proper grooming, accumulation of hair and mats and tangles can occur. Start bathing and brushing your puppy as soon as you bring your new pup home.

Puppies need plenty of opportunities for your puppy to exercise, but avoid over-exertion when it is hot and humid outside. Exercise and play are very important not only to keep your pet fit but to provide socialization and teach your puppy what is acceptable play and what is not. Any misbehavior or aggressive play should be stopped immediately. Even though dog parks are popular and fun, they are not good ideas for puppies under 6 months of age. Puppies are very susceptible to contagious disease and dog parks can result in the spread of disease. Wait until your pup has received all his puppy shots before going to the park.

Obdience training is very important in puppies. It teaches them their place in the family and gives them an opportunity to show you how smart they are. Following your commands can keep your pet safe, especially when around other pets. Puppies learn very quickly and training while young is recommended. Remember, an obedient puppy makes a happy healthy dog.

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