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All you need to know about bringing a new puppy home

So, you’ve adopted a puppy You will be forever rewarded with cuteness, cuddles and unconditional love. We’re sure you’re adamant about which treats and accessories you want to buy them, you may not be so sure on where to start with their healthcare. Luckily, we’ve compiled a guide with all you need to know about vaccinations, flea and worm treatments, nutrition, microchipping and toilet training.

Vaccinations

At eight weeks old, your puppy is due for their first vaccination. The core vaccine they receive guards against parvovirus, canine distemper and canine hepatitis. The next round of vaccinations will be due at around 12 weeks (which may also include a vaccination against leptospirosis if you choose), with the final vaccines given at 16 weeks (which may also include a vaccination against kennel cough if you choose). A booster is required 12 months after completion of the primary course, and then yearly or three yearly vaccines are required thereafter.  Our vet will advise you of the recommended protocol for your particular dog. 

So, when do I vaccinate?

8 weeks of age – first vaccination

12 weeks of age – second vaccination

16 weeks of age – third vaccination

Then vaccinated throughout life depending on risk factors will be annually or three yearly on your vet’s recommendation.

What are we vaccinating against?

Parvovirus causes severe gastroenteritis (vomiting and bloody diarrhoea) and has a high mortality rate in puppies.   

  • It is a very “hardy” virus and can survive in the environment for a number of years.
  • The virus particles are spread by infected dogs’ faeces and are transmitted by the ingestion or inhalation of these particles.
  • Older dogs and puppies are most susceptible to disease (those with a lowered immune system).
  • Clinical signs can include (but are not limited to) the following:
  • Vomiting and/or bloody diarrhoea
  • Depression and lethargy
  • A loss of appetite
  • There is no specific treatment for the virus, only supportive treatment.

Tracheobronchitis is often referred to as “Canine Contagious Cough” or “Kennel Cough” although this affects many dogs that have never been near a kennels.  This vaccination helps prevent infections with parainfluenza virus and Bordetella bacteria.  It can be carried out at the same time as the other injections and may be given as an injection or involves drops inserted into the nose.  Kennel Cough is highly infectious, although not fatal, and is spread by aerosol effect. 

Leptospirosis is a bacterium which is often carried by rats and can be transmitted to dogs via rat urine.  It is recommended to vaccinate against Leptospirosis in situations where the dog may be near a dairy farm or visit the river regularly, however new research shows that even dogs living in an urban area are equally at risk.  Leptospirosis can also be fatal, and treatment relies heavily on supportive care.  This vaccination is also given by a series of primary injections followed by annual boosters. 

Why do we vaccinate?

While puppies are suckling from their mother, they receive a temporary form of immunity from disease primarily through the mother’s colostrum.  This immunity is in the form of proteins called antibodies and for the first 12 to 24 hours after birth, the puppy’s intestine allows the absorption of these antibodies directly into the blood stream.   

This maternal immunity is only of benefit during the first few weeks of life and, at some point, the level of immunity falls and the puppy must begin to produce its own long-lasting protection against disease – vaccines are used for this purpose.  As long as the mother’s antibodies are present, vaccinations do not have such a good chance to stimulate the puppy’s immune system, which is why we wait until at least six weeks of age to begin the vaccination course. 

Worming guidelines

Puppies and dogs should be treated for worms from two weeks of age; every two weeks until three months-old, then monthly until six months-old, then three-monthly thereafter, for life.

There are four different types of worms that affect dogs, which is why it is important to ensure you treat with a broad-spectrum product. The different worms are:

  • Roundworm
  • Hookworm
  • Whipworm
  • Tapeworm (praziquantel is the only active ingredient that is able to eradicate tapeworm)

How do I know if my pet has worms?

Internal parasites are not always easy to detect, but some common clinical signs include:

  • Pale gums (instead of the normal rosy pink)
  • Diarrhoea
  • A pot-bellied appearance (especially in kittens)
  • Weight loss
  • White segments resembling grains of rice in the faeces (these are tapeworm segments)
  • An irritated bottom (licking a lot)
  • Coughing

The importance of prevention in the control of intestinal parasites should not be underestimated. Some worms that affect dogs and cats can also pose a significant risk to human health. Children who are often closest to family pets are most at risk. Infections in humans can originate from the ingestion of eggs by not washing hands after playing with pets, the ingestion of eggs by small children ingesting soil contaminated with pet faeces or by the penetration of larvae through human skin.

Ensure maximum protection:

  • Treat your pets for worms regularly and treat all pets in the household at the same time.
  • Always wash your hands after playing with your dog or cat and try to prevent your dog from licking your face.
  • Ensure that your pet’s bedding and sleeping areas are cleaned regularly and that they are free from fleas, old food scraps and faeces.
  • Avoid placing your pets bedding or kennel/run on bare earth.
  • Never feed your dog offal unless it has been boiled for 30 minutes prior to feeding.
  • Prevent your dog from scavenging dead carcasses.

Flea control

Many flea control preparations for adult dogs are not always suitable for use on puppies – so be sure to read the product guidelines before purchasing a product, especially from the supermarket.

Three key points for successful flea control:

  • Use an integrated approach with the combination of an adulticide to kill adult fleas and an insect growth regulator to control the environmental stages of the flea lifecycle.
  • Treat every pet in the household (cats AND dogs) at the same time, year-round.
  • Always use a product as directed on the package labeling, being sure to follow the treatment interval guidelines.

Environmental factors to consider

  • Immature flea life-stages in the environment make up a whopping 95% of the flea population, and these are almost invisible to the human eye. Adult fleas are just the tip of the iceberg!
  • Try to avoid giving your pet access to under the house, as this dark, damp, moist environment is PERFECT for flea breeding.
  • Wash and/or clean your pets sleeping area and bedding regularly, and vacuum regularly if you have an inside pet – pets can carry flea eggs inside the house and drop them onto the carpet.

Did you know?

  • One adult flea can lay up to 50 eggs per day!
  • By the time you see fleas on your pet, an environmental infestation has already begun.
  • In winter the flea lifecycle may slow down, but it never stops – which is why year-round treatment is important.
  • Once a flea infestation is present in the home, it can take up to 3 months to resolve.
  • Cats and dogs share the same fleas although you may not notice adult flea on your cat as often, due to their efficient grooming.
  • Pets pick up fleas from the environment more often than by from contact with a flea infested animal.

There is a large variety of flea control products on the market; both topical and oral. Be sure to talk to us about the best control program for your situation.

The what’s what of puppy nutrition

A puppy’s nutritional requirements are much more demanding than those of an adult dog. Did you know that in the first four months of life a puppy does approximately 50% of its growing?

Puppies exert tremendous amounts of energy in growth and play yet their stomachs are still relatively small, therefore it is essential to give them the best nutrition available (the better the quality of ingredients used in the food, the less you will feed as the body is able to absorb it).

Selecting a puppy food

It’s important to provide your puppy with a highly digestible, nutrient dense, 100% complete and balanced formula designed for growth. As growth rates differ among breed sizes, it is vital to choose a puppy formula tailored to suit your puppy’s breed size.

Choosing the right puppy food

  • Small breed puppies (under 10 kg at adulthood)
    Due to their small mouths and stomachs, and their rapid growth rate, it’s important to pack lots of energy and nutrition into a small amount of food to ensure healthy growth and development.
  • Medium breed puppies (between 10-25 kg at adulthood)
    Medium breed puppies require a complete and balanced puppy formula with moderately high levels of energy and nutrients.
  • Large breed puppies (between 25-40 kg at adulthood) and giant breed puppies (greater than 40 kg at adulthood)
    Because of their size, large and giant breeds have unique nutritional needs. Studies have shown that overfeeding, excessive weight gain and feeding too high an amount of calcium can contribute to developmental bone problems. These puppies require a complete and balanced formula that helps control their rate growth while still allowing them to reach their potential adult size.

When to feed

Although puppy’s feeding schedule will be dictated by your own personal schedule, ideally feed your puppy four meals a day up until the age of four months, and then reduce puppy’s feeding to three meals a day until it reaches six months old. At that stage you can change to two meals a day and keep it on this regime for the rest of its life.

Always make sure that plenty of fresh water is always available to your puppy.

How much to feed

The amount of food given at each meal is generally dictated on the back of the food bag or label. This is a guide, taking into consideration the puppy’s age and weight. If your puppy is very enthusiastic for food after eating a meal or doesn’t seem to have the body condition that he/she should, contact our clinic for advice. Your puppy may need a little more food than what is recommended for good body condition.

When to make the change to adult food

The transition to adult formula should begin approximately a couple of months after your dog stops growing in height and weight. The breed of dog you have will determine the time to make the change. Small breed dogs, for example, tend to mature physically much sooner than large breed dogs.

Small breed: less than 10kg at adult weight.
Your dog should be transitioned onto adult food at approximately 12 months of age.

Medium breed: between 10-25kg at adult weight.
Your dog should be transitioned onto adult food approximately 12 months of age.

Large breed: between 25-40kg at adult weight.
Your dog should be transitioned onto adult food approximately 18 months of age.

Giant breed: over 40kg at adult weight.
Your dog should be transitioned onto adult food at 18 to 24 months of age.

Toilet training

The success of toilet training your puppy is dependent on a number of important factors – whether your puppy is indoors, whether you are at home to monitor them and whether you are being consistent with the training.

Housetraining a puppy requires time, vigilance, patience and commitment. You can minimise house soiling incidents, but virtually every puppy will have an accident in the house at some stage and should be expected. The more consistent you are in following the basic housetraining procedures, the faster your puppy will learn acceptable behaviour. It may take several weeks to fully housetrain your puppy and with some of the smaller breeds it might take longer. A puppy can usually be considered reliably housetrained when it has not had any accidents for two to three months.

Establish a routine

Your puppy will do best if they are taken outside on a consistent and frequent schedule. They should have the opportunity to go to the toilet at these set times:

  • First thing in the morning (THEIR first thing, not your first thing, i.e. 5am)
  • Last thing at night, before bed
  • After waking up from a nap during the day
  • After playing
  • After eating

Choose a location not too far from the door to be the “toilet” spot. Initially use a lead and then off lead. Stay outside with your puppy and wait for them to toilet, choose a phrase such as “go toilet” that they can associate with toilet time and praise them/reward with treats instantly after they go. If you clean up an accident in the house, take the dirty rags or paper towels and leave them in the toilet spot outside to help your puppy recognise the area as the place they are supposed to go to the toilet.

Supervise, supervise, supervise!

Don’t give your puppy an opportunity to toilet in the house. Watch them at all times when they are indoors and look for signs that they need to go to the toilet, like sniffing around, circling or disappearing behind the couch! When you see these signs, immediately take them outside, on a lead, to the toilet spot. If you cannot supervise them 100% then they should either be outside or in a small confined space like a crate.

Confinement

When you’re unable to watch your puppy closely, they should be confined to an area small enough that they won’t want to go to the toilet there – it should be just big enough for them to comfortably stand up, lie down and turn around. This area could be a portion of a room, blocked off with boxes or baby gates, or you may want to crate train your puppy and use the crate to confine them (see ‘Crate Training’ in our next article). If your puppy has spent several hours in confinement, make sure to take them directly to their toilet spot before doing anything else.

Oops!

Expect your puppy to have accidents in the house – it’s a normal part of housetraining. Puppies don’t often gain full bladder control until around six months of age, so there WILL be accidents.

When you catch your puppy in the act of toileting in the house, do something to interrupt them, like making a startling noise (be careful not to really scare them) or clapping your hands. Say “no” and then immediately pick them up and take them to their toilet spot, praise and give them a treat if they finish toileting there.

Don’t punish your puppy for going to the toilet in the house – they don’t instinctively know that they’re not supposed to. Rubbing your puppy’s nose in it, taking him to the spot and scolding him (or any other punishment or discipline) will only make him afraid of you or afraid to go to the toilet in your presence. Animals don’t understand punishment after the fact, even if it’s only seconds later. Punishment will do more harm than good.

Cleaning the dirty area is very important because puppies are highly motivated to continue going to the toilet in areas that smell like urine or faeces. Don’t use ammonia based disinfectants as this is a similar smell to urine – you should use detergents, a pet odour eliminator or something acidic like a little bit of vinegar and warm water.

Toilet-training can be tiring and often frustrating, but committing to establishing a routine early on in your puppy’s life means you will reap the rewards later on (think of the sleep-ins and reduced loads of laundry!) 

Microchipping

Microchips are a method of identifying lost, stolen or injured animals that are not wearing their registration tag.  They also allow the council to identify the owners of dogs that have attacked people, animals or other dogs. The microchip is a small transponder that, when scanned, emits a unique identification code. The microchip we use at the clinic is about the size of a grain of rice and is injected over the shoulder blades. The needle is much smaller than it used to be and generally tolerated very well by our furry friends. We try distracting your pet as the needle goes in and often they don’t even notice. 

Microchips are mandatory for dogs that are:

  • Born after 1 July 2006
  • Dogs classified as dangerous or menacing i.e. ‘pose a threat to any person, stock, poultry, domestic animal or protected wildlife or dogs with aggressive behaviour’.
  • Unregistered dogs that are impounded
  • Registered dogs that are impounded twice

Every Territorial Authority keeps a register of all dogs registered within its area. This data is also recorded on the National Dog Database. For all New Zealand councils, microchipping must be done within two months of registration (i.e. by five months of age). If there is a medical reason to delay it longer than this then you will need to ask your vet for a certificate stating the reason, which the council will accept. 

For an additional fee, there is also the option of adding your dog’s microchip details to the New Zealand Companion Animal Register.  This is a company that is independent of the regional councils and hold microchip information for companion animals nation-wide.  It is ideal as an “extra back-up” for the storage of microchip details. 

Conclusion

We hope this guide has given you confidence in providing the healthiest and happiest of homes for your new puppy. And if you’re still not fully set up to welcome them home, we have a range of products available at the clinic including treats, food, toys, bowls, grooming tools, crates and more. We can’t wait to see your puppy in the clinic when they come in for their vaccinations!

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