Congratulations! Your puppy has completed his or her vaccination series and well-puppy exams. We hope that your pet is well on its way to a long and happy life as a member of your family. To keep your puppy healthy for a lifetime will require on-going care. The following list should help you to understand what health care needs your pet will have in the years to come.
The vaccines your puppy has received will provide immunity against disease for about one year. Annual boosters are needed to keep his level of immunity high enough to protect him from illness. You will receive reminders in the mail next year when his annual vaccinations are due.
Your pet will also receive an annual physical examination with his yearly booster vaccinations. By the time we see your pet again next year he will have grown through the equivalent of his teenage years and will be a young adult. Because a pet’s lifespan is compressed into a shorter amount of time than that of a human, many changes can occur in your pet’s body in the course of a year. The annual physical exam is very important to detect physical problems before they become serious. Once your pet reaches the age of seven to nine years, annual blood and urine testing are also recommended to detect the onset of age-related illnesses such as kidney and liver disease.
At the time of this annual visit, a blood sample will be drawn for a heartworm blood test. For dogs with exposure to ticks we recommend a SNAP 4 test be run. This test also detects if your pet has been exposed to three serious tick-borne diseases that are common in our area: Lyme disease, Ehrlichia canis and Anaplasmosis. You will receive heartworm and flea and tick preventative medications as required for the upcoming year. Remember, heartworm is a deadly parasite, which is easily prevented with a monthly pill.
We will also be asking you to bring in a sample of your dog’s stool each spring, to test for intestinal parasites which may have been picked up over the course of the year. Heartworm preventative medication can mask some types of intestinal parasites, so it is best to check for these before starting on heartworm medication. We need about 1 teaspoon of feces. A fresh sample will keep about 24 hours if refrigerated.
Your puppy should be fed a puppy food until he or she is about 12 months old. Then switch gradually to an adult food by mixing the old and new foods together for about two weeks. This helps avoid intestinal upset from changing foods. Your pet will have a longer, healthier life on a good quality diet, such as Science Diet, Iams or Eukanuba. Dry food is better for the prevention of dental disease. Too many treats and snacks lead to fussy eating habits, obesity and digestive upsets. Give your pet praise and affection for rewards, not food! He’ll love you just as much.
Spay or neuter your pet at six months of age. Altered pets live longer, are healthier in their old age, have fewer behavior problems and don’t contribute to the pet overpopulation problem.
If you haven’t yet begun an obedience program with your pet, now is a good time to start. Pets that are well trained are much nicer to have around. You can train your pet yourself if you have some training experience but we highly recommend a professional trainer. Obedience classes are a lot of fun and you’ll learn a lot of helpful tips for making the most out of your relationship with your pet.
Your puppy will soon have a full set of adult teeth. Good dental care is essential to your pet’s well being. Regular brushing will slow plaque and tartar build-up as your dog gets older. By the time he is two to five years old, however, he will probably have enough tartar build-up to begin needing annual dental cleanings here at the veterinary clinic. A dog that gets good dental care throughout its life will live an average of 15-20% longer than one that doesn’t. He will also have fresher breath, less pain from periodontal disease and be healthier and more energetic.
Please call us with any questions or problems with your pet. Most medical problems are less costly to your pet’s well being and to your pocketbook if they are dealt with early.
The same is true of behavioral problems. The earlier you contact us or your trainer regarding a problem behavior, the sooner you can solve it. Behaviors such as barking, digging, running away, chewing, and over-aggression can almost always be changed but you have to ask for help.
Enjoy! Your puppy’s boundless joy, love and energy are a precious thing to have.