If you've decided that it is the right time to get a new puppy, and are wondering where to start, have a read of our page below and get some tips and helpful advice on keeping your new puppy happy and safe, how to look after your adult dog, and having a happy and healthy canine companion.
New puppies are great, they are fun and frisky and are sure to give you lots of pleasure. However, they can also be hard work, and teething, toilet training and socialising your puppy can all be a challenge!
Once you have brought your puppy home, you should make an appointment to see your vet for his first check over. If your puppy is healthy and you have no concerns, then let him settle in for a couple of days before you take him to the vet. Let your pup have some quiet time to adjust to the unfamiliar sights and sounds of your home, and to eat and drink and go to the toilet. Small children will need to be taught that a puppy is not a toy and needs to be treated gently. It is never too young to start training your puppy, so start with some simple commands as soon as he has settled in.
Your vet will give your pup a thorough physical check over, including ears, eyes, skin (to check for fleas or other parasites) and will also discuss vaccination and worming with you.
Puppies will usually have their first vaccination at 7-8 weeks and a second vaccination between 2 and 3 weeks later. It is important that you keep your puppy away from areas where unvaccinated dogs could frequent, for a week following the second vaccination.
You can begin to socialise your puppy as soon as you bring him home. The first few weeks of life are crucial and your pup needs as many new experiences as possible in these first few weeks to prevent him developing fears. You can do this even before he has had his vaccinations by inviting people into your home, asking them to dress up in hats, scarves, jackets etc. You can show him bikes and wheelie bins, and carry him out near traffic. Car journeys are improtant too to get him used to travelling. Once he is fully vaccinated, you can then get out and about and meet lots of other people and dogs, and have as many new experiences as possible in the early weeks. The nurses at Mintlaw Vets run a puppy socialisation class where your pup can meet other dogs and people, and also monthly puppy clinics. At these clinics, the nurse will discuss with you any issues you may have including toilet training, teething, neutering, feeding and any other concerns you have, and these continue until he is a year old.
There are some excellent books about puppy training, including "The Perfect Puppy" by Gwen Bailey, and "Puppy Training Off Pat" by Pat Morrey, the latter is available from us here at Mintlaw Vets.
Neutering has many benefits for your dog, as well as helping to solve the serious problem of unwanted pets. Female dogs who have been spayed are more relaxed, while neutered males are less likely to 'roam', spray or urine mark their territory, or fight with other males. One of the main benefits of spaying your female dog is that it eliminates the risk of a serious womb infection common in older dogs called 'pyometra' and also reduces the risk of mammary tumours. In male dogs it reduces the incidence of prostate and testicular cancers.
Spaying involves the removal of uterus and ovaries of a female dog, and is usually performed around the age of 6 months to a year, 3 months after her season. It is performed under general anaesthetic and is done as a 'day case' with full recovery usually within 2 weeks.
Castration of male dogs is also done under general anaesthetic and involves the removal of the testicles through an incision in the base of the scrotum. Again, this is usually performed at about six months old, and is done as a 'day case'. Recovery is usually within 7-10 days. The nurse will advise you on the right time to neuter your male dog, as some males should be left until they are a year old before neutering.
Vaccination is an important part of caring for your dog, and should be carried out yearly for life. Your puppy has immunity from his mother for the first few weeks of life, but after that, immunity needs to be boosted by means of an initial course of two injections followed by yearly boosters. Vaccines stimulate your dog's immune system to produce antibodies which protect against disease.
Dogs are usually vaccinated against the most common serious infectious diseases including Parvovirus, Distemper, Infectious Hepatitis, Leptospirosis, Parainfluenza and Infectious Tracheobronchitis (commonly known as Kennel Cough). If your dog is travelling abroad, you may also need a rabies vaccine (see our Links section for a link to the Pet Travel Scheme which has more details).
Parvovirus is a very contagious, debilitating and widespread disease. It is spread through infected faeces and his highly resistant, remaining in the environment for many months. Symptoms include high fever, listlessness, vomiting and bloody diarrhoea. This disease can be fatal, especially in young puppies and elderly dogs.
Vaccination is essential against this often fatal, hard to treat disease. Thanks to vaccination, this disease is now rare in the UK, but is still widespread in some parts of the world. Highly contagious, it is spread by discharge from the nose and eyes of infected dogs. Symptoms include listlessness, fever, coughing, diarrhoea and vomiting. Convulsions and paralysis may occur in the final stages of the disease. This disease is sometimes called 'hardpad' because the footpads become thickened and fissured as the infection progesses. The virus attacks many organs including the nervous system, which may be permanently damaged even if the dog survives.
This disease is caused by the adenovirus and is transmitted by contact with saliva, urine or faeces. This virus commonly attacks the liver, and also potentially causes eye damage. This disease can range from mild to severe and vaccination remains the best protection.
This bacteria is widespread in rats and is spread through contact with their urine. This bacteria can survive in damp conditions and can get into watercourses, ponds and lakes. The course of the disease can be so sudden that there is little chance of effective antibiotic therapy. Dogs affected with this disease can suffer liver and kidney damage that will need a long period of treatment if they are to fully recover. Lower grade disease can go undetected, and as this disease is transmittable to humans and can prove fatal, annual vaccination against this disease is highly advisable.
INFECTIOUS BRONCHITIS (KENNEL COUGH)
This infection is easily transmitted between dogs in a similar fashion to human respiratory disease, so dogs are at risk whenever they come into contact with other dogs. The name Kennel Cough is misleading because dogs can become infected through obedience training, the groomers, or even just playing in the park. The disease is caused by various airborne bacteria and causes a dry, hacking cough which sounds as though your dog has something caught in his throat. Vaccination for infectious bronchitis is via a separate, intranasal spray.
ADOLESCENCE AND BEYOND
Adolescence at about six months of age often brings with it a time of disobedience and 'selective hearing'. It is usually fairly short-lived and is really just a 'hiccup' in your training. If you have been committed to your training then there is nothing to do but be patient and continue with the routine you have established. However, if discipline is lacking, this stage can prove a challenge, and may entail a back to basics training regime and hard work for you both.
Maturity can be between one and two years, depending on the breed, and can also bring problems. Male dogs are more prone to behavioural changes at this age than bitches, although both may exhibit hormone related behaviours. Some dogs can become more aggressive towards dogs or people or they may start to guard possessions or food. There may also be a reluctance to obey certain commands. Again consistent training and discipline is the key to getting your dog through this potentially tricky stage.
Living with your dog should give you mutual pleasure and enjoyment and can be achieved by hard work and commitment during his early years. If you do encounter any behavioural problems, please ask for help from a nurse or vet as these problems can sometimes be overcome quite easily with the right advice.
We also offer nurse clinics which help to keep your dog healthy. These include weight clinics, including advice on diet and food, dental clinics, and behaviour advice. Yearly booster vaccinations are still important, as is regular flea and worming treatment.
You should check your adult dog regularly, and if you see any signs which are unusual or worry you, please seek advice from your vet.
YOUR OLDER DOG
You may notice as your dog gets older that he seems to be slowing down a bit. If you are aware of the natural changes in your dog, you can ensure that your dog stays as healthy and active as possible into his later years.
Old age in dogs can occur at different ages depending on the breed of your dog. Giant breeds like Great Danes can show signs as young as 8 years, while smaller breeds can remain young at 12 years or more. A healthy dog will generally age later , however as with humans this process can very between individual dogs.
Regular checkups are important for your senior dog, as adult dogs can age as much as 3 human years for every calendar year. Your vet should be kept informed of any noticeable changes in physical condition or behaviour as these can often be the first signs of a treatable medical condition. For example, reluctance to exercise may not only be due to old age, but arthritis or heart problems, both of which can be managed with proper care.
Your dog's nutritional needs may change as he gets older, and you may find that he puts on weight despite eating less. This could be as a result of slower metabolism or less activity. Excess weight can aggravate joint conditions as well as heart, respiratory and skin problems so it is essential that you keep a check on your dog's weight. Alternatively, losing weight can be the first sign of a medical condition such as gum or tooth problems, or even diabetes. If you spot any of these signs, please discuss them with your vet.
Regular vaccination is still important to your older dog, as is flea and tick control. Checking your dog over regularly, including ears, eyes, teeth and feet will help spot any problems early.
Your dog will still need regular exercise, although this should now be tailored to his age and ability. Give your dog lots of love and attention and make sure that he is happy, interested, active and comfortable in his later years.
Kennel cough is easily transmitted through
contact with other dogs
Regular check-ups are important
all through your dog's life
Neutering removes the problem of unwanted puppies, and reduces risk of serious health problems in later life
Vaccination should be carried out as a puppy and yearly thereafter to prevent serious health problems
With love and care, your dog can live a
healthy life into his older years