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How to Get Ready for Your Puppy’s First Veterinary Appointment

Did you get a new puppy recently? If so, your puppy’s first veterinary appointment is a great opportunity to ask questions and address concerns you may have about raising your new pet. Now is the best time to ask for professional advice on how to provide quality care for your little pup now and in the future.

Expect some paperwork, a thorough physical examination of your puppy, a discussion about vaccinations plus a schedule, and advice about your puppy’s diet, exercise, dental care, and emergency situations. Before you leave, ask any questions that haven’t already been answered.

There will be Standard Paperwork to Complete

When you and puppy arrive at the veterinarian’s office, you will have to complete some paperwork. The information required will be:

  1. About You, the Owner – You will need to give basic information including your name, address, phone number, and employment. This record will make it easier for your veterinarian to contact you regarding future appointments and/or test results.
  2. About Your Pup – You will be asked your puppy’s name, sex, where and when you purchased or were given your pup, what — if any—medical care was given in the past, and if there are housebreaking concerns or behaviour problems you are aware of.

Expect a Nose-to-Toes Examination of Your Pup

Your veterinarian will carefully examine your puppy. They’re very accustomed to reassuring nervous pups—and their nervous owners!

  1. Weight – A weight check is needed to ensure your puppy is at a healthy weight. A pup’s weight is used to determine the amount of medication needed (only if any is required now or in the near future).
  2. Temperature – Your vet will take your puppy’s temperature, which indicates whether or not they’re currently fighting off an infection.
  3. Body Examination – Your veterinarian will check over your puppy’s body for lumps, swelling, and any indication of pain. The stomach and abdomen will be palpated afterwards to check them more carefully.
  4. Point Check – The veterinarian will make sure puppy’s ears look and smell fine; teeth are free of tartar and plaque; tongue and gums are clear and of good colour; eyes are bright and there is no cloudiness or discharge; anal glands are normal; the coat is healthy and shiny; and the skin is free of parasites, such as fleas and flea eggs.
  5. Lungs and Heart – Using a stethoscope, the vet will check the puppy’s lungs and heart to make sure their lungs are working properly, and their heart rate is normal with no abnormalities.
  6. Tail, Paws, and Back – This final stage of the examination ensures everything from top to bottom is normal.

Is It Time for a Vaccination?

Vaccinations are an important factor in providing essential care for dogs. Depending on how old your puppy is and whether or not some vaccinations have already been received, your puppy may need a vaccination at their first veterinary appointment.

The first vaccinations are usually given when puppies are between eight to twelve weeks old, which is also the appropriate age to live independently from their mothers and their littermates. There are core vaccinations that all dogs should receive and there are non-core vaccinations that are optional and dependent on your dog’s risk factors.

  1. Core Vaccinations – Puppies are very susceptible to illnesses so it is best to keep your pup away from most dogs and public places until they’ve received vaccine protection. Some of the most dangerous diseases to puppies are usually spread through feces, urine, and saliva.
  • Canine distemper, or CDV – very dangerous and difficult to treat and often fatal
  • Parvovirus, or CPV2 – attacks a dog’s gastrointestinal organs and is fatal if untreated
  • Canine hepatitis, or adenovirus, or CAV2 – can cause eye and/or liver damage and breathing problems
  • Parainfluenza – this respiratory disease is easily spread from dog to dog
  • Rabies – this is the final vaccination needed because puppies must be 16 weeks of age to receive it. Rabies is fatal and can be transmitted to humans.
  1. Non-Core Vaccinations – Depending on where you live and your pup’s lifestyle, your dog may need some of these non-core vaccinations for such problems as bordetella, or kennel cough—a vaccination required at doggie daycare and kennels—or possibly leptospirosis, or Lyme disease.

Your veterinarian will give you a vaccination schedule that will include all of the necessary vaccinations needed as a puppy and booster shots when necessary to keep your dog protected throughout their adult years.

Protection Against Other Common Problems Begins Now

It is typical for treatment against parasites to begin at this stage. Your veterinarian will provide de-worming and medication or treatment for protection against ticks, fleas, and heartworms.

Your pup’s breed may be at risk for various medical problems. Your veterinarian can provide advice on prevention, screening, and testing for health problems that may occur in the future, and you can ask about the usual treatments for any of them.

Voice Any Concerns That Haven’t Been Covered

Your veterinarian cares about your new pet as much as you do! They’ll be happy to answer any questions you have that went unanswered. Don’t worry if you don’t think they are important or if they may sound silly; there’s no such thing as a silly question. If you brought a list of questions or thought of some during the examination, now is the time to ask.

  • If you worry about how you will be able to cut your pet’s nails, ask when it must be done and how to do it.
  • If you are nervous about brushing your dog’s teeth, ask for a demonstration.
  • You can ask for suggestions about your puppy’s diet and for recommendations on age-appropriate dog food and treats.
  • Raise any concerns you have about behavioural issues, such as barking, whining, or chewing on items they shouldn’t be.
  • Ask about having an ID microchip inserted, when it can be done, and the cost.
  • Ask what is considered to be an emergency and when and where to call after hours for help. Make sure you know where to take your hurt pet to a dog hospital or a dog clinic if you can’t wait.

Your veterinarian can help you prevent your best friend from becoming ill. They can also detect possible problems even before an onset of signs and symptoms that can be observed. Early treatment means a good chance of complete recovery.

Bring your questions and concerns and be prepared to discuss your worries about care and costs. Your puppy will be a little nervous about this visit and may be worn out and sleepy afterwards—and you might be, too! However, the vet visit is worth it for both of you. Your puppy’s first veterinary appointment will start your new pet on the road to good health and a long and happy future. It’s a road you can enjoy traveling along together!

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Hastings Veterinary Clinic and a clickable link back to this page.

Puppy Care 101, Part 2: Ages 8-12 Weeks

Welcome to part 2 of our 2-part puppy care series! This is the age where your puppies are really growing up from babies to toddlers.

A pup is able to leave its mother and their littermates when he or she is about eight weeks old. We’re positive they will be excited and nervous when he or she first comes to their new home. We’re certain you have been waiting just as eagerly to welcome them into your home and want to help them adjust as soon as possible!

You will need to have the necessary food, bed, water and food dishes, collar, ID tag, and leash purchased in advance. Organize your home, too, and make sure it is a safe and loving environment.

You will see many changes taking place in your little friend over the next few weeks and you should prepare yourself for the kind of behavior they are most likely to exhibit while settling in with the new family. You should also know how to train your new puppy accordingly as they grow and learn so that he or she develops good behaviour. 

Expect These Normal Characteristics of Young Puppies

  • Your pup will be only a fraction of their adult size at eight weeks, and will usually grow rapidly for the first six months.
  • He or she will sleep or need sleep about 18 to 19 hours a day.
  • He or she will have all their baby teeth and develop their first adult teeth at this stage, which explains why they love to chew on everything in plain sight—they will be teething! Supply lots of chew toys.
  • Your puppy will be adjusting to being separated from their mother and littermates for a few days, and they may exhibit concerns in a few ways. He or she may pace and pant much more than normal, or vomit, develop diarrhea, or relieve themselves inside the house. Assume he or she will have a few mishaps, stay calm, and don’t scold or shout at them.
  • Take your puppy outside frequently to the same spot each time and praise them when he or she relieves properly. Try to establish a regular routine, such as before breakfast, after breakfast, at noon, mid-afternoon, etc., so that they will learn how long they need to control themselves. Most puppies at eight weeks old can hold their urine for about three hours. He or she will be able to wait longer as they get older.
  • Between 8 to 12 weeks, he will be alarmed easily by loud noises, unexpected events, and new people and animals, but he will grow out of this stage more quickly if you remain calm and speak to him reassuringly.
  • He or she may need to eat three times a day when they’re a small pup, but you can cut back to twice a day when they reach about 16 weeks old.

How to Puppy-Proof Their New Home

You can puppy-proof a home in the same way you would baby-proof it. Puppies, like little children, are curious and love to move around fast. Make sure your puppy will be protected from encounters with dangerous objects that are perfectly safe for older children and adults.

Take a tour through the premises and try to think like a puppy or a child—what will interest and attract them the most? Before your puppy arrives, remove any small, sharp, poisonous, and dangerous objects they may find intriguing.

  • Remember that dogs have a great sense of smell that helps them discover new and interesting items. You must put temptation out of reach, up high, behind latched doors, and into bins that can’t be knocked over. You may need childproof latches for low cupboards, especially if you keep toxic substances like cleaning products in them, or if you don’t want the contents strewn all over the floor.
  • Puppies like to chew and may decide to munch on exposed electrical cords. Put these out of their reach! Also, tie up cords from curtains and window blinds as pets can get tangled in them.
  • Small objects can cause a puppy to choke. Coins, jewelry, sewing equipment, yarn, dental floss, paper clips, fishing line and hooks, and small toys should all be hidden from their sight and kept off of the floor.
  • Use screens to shield your pet from fireplaces, heaters, and wood stoves, and remove toxic plants and decorations.
  • Take a tour through your yard as well, and look for dangerous objects, such as sharp nails, small pebbles, or any areas that you must restrict your pup from entering. Make sure paint, fertilizers, tools, and all toxic materials are safely stored away.

Protect Your Puppy’s Health

Any puppy that reaches 8 weeks of age should be checked up on by a veterinarian and given their first vaccinations. If your puppy was not checked over before you brought them home, make an appointment right away. Your new little friend will be given the necessary vaccinations and a nose-to-toes checkup. You will have an opportunity to ask any questions you have about their care, food, and training, and you can set them up with a regular vaccination schedule.

Your dog vet will be your lifesaver during this stage in their lives! They can guide you on the vaccinations your puppy will need and when it needs them. They will be immunized by its mother’s milk in the first few weeks, but this protection gradually disappears between 6 to 20 weeks of age.

Essential puppy shots are:

  • 8 weeks, 12 weeks, and repeated at 16 weeks – distemper, canine hepatitis, parainfluenza, and parvovirus.
  • 12 weeks – Bordetella or kennel cough and leptospirosis.
  • 16 weeks – rabies, Lyme disease, and boosters for Bordetella and leptospirosis.

The need for other vaccinations will depend on your puppy’s risk factors, their new lifestyle, their breed, where you live, etc.

Puppies must also be protected against flea bites and it’s recommended they be de-wormed with each puppy booster, with regular checkups afterwards. Plan on taking your puppy to your vet for a checkup each year, at which time they can receive their annual vaccinations (again, what they will need will depend on their new lifestyle), nipping any problems in the bud.

Start Puppy’s Training Right Away

Establishing boundaries for your puppy should be full of positive experiences. Be careful not to be angry, impatient, or fearful while training or letting your puppy see you are upset with them or with anything that happens. Do your best to establish a routine, including playtime.

If you have the time and money, consider enrolling them in formal obedience training. Otherwise, you should teach them to obey simple commands such as sit, stay, come when their name is called, refraining from jumping on people, not biting people, and learning the meaning of “no”. It’s okay to give them a treat when he or she does what you ask!

When dealing with chewing problems at this stage, remember they are teething and needs something to safely chew on. Don’t remove whatever they have chosen unless you have something in your hand to make the switch to something more acceptable. Also, don’t give your puppy an old shoe to chew on or he or she will think any shoe is fine—including your most expensive footwear.

Make sure he or she sleeps in the place you have chosen so they don’t think there are options. Be consistent. Sleeping with a blanket that has been rubbed against their mother for the first few nights would be a great way to comfort them.

Most puppies have light coats that don’t shed; however, it’s a good idea to groom them regularly and to keep an eye out for any skin problems. Carefully brush their coat at regular intervals and inspect their feet, nails, mouth, and ears so they get used to being touched at an age when they’ll enjoy the attention.

Introduce your puppy slowly to visitors, other animals, and noises. Keep visitors to a minimum and carefully supervise their time spent with other animals so that the new social experiences are happy ones.

Let your puppy play in and out of their travelling crate so that trips to the vet are positive experiences too. Leave the door open, put a treat inside, and let them come and go until he or she is used to it and doesn’t fear it or mind being inside.

Congratulations on becoming a new puppy parent! Be sure to combine their health and safety care with providing lots of love and attention.

Did you miss out on part 1? Check out Puppy Care 101, Part 1: The First 0-8 Weeks.

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Hastings Veterinary Clinic and a clickable link back to this page.