Bringing home a new puppy is an exciting time, filled with funny antics and happy kisses. Your puppy’s first year can shape their personality and ensure their place as your trusted sidekick. Here are some tips to enjoy the puppy phase, and help them grow into a healthy, happy dog.
Puppy-proof your home
Puppies are natural explorers looking for new adventures. Like human toddlers, puppies try to put everything in their mouth and can get themselves into trouble. To puppy-proof your home, be aware of the following:
- Small items — Keep small items that your pup can swallow out of reach to avoid a life-threatening intestinal obstruction.
- Electrical cords — Tuck cords safely away to prevent your pup chewing them, which could result in a serious burn or electrocution.
- Breakables — Move breakable items away from a wagging tail, enthusiastic paw, or curious nose.
- Trash cans — Ensure your trash is inaccessible, or covered with a lid to prevent your exploring pup from trash tipping or dumpster diving and ingesting something toxic.
- Toxic foods — Check out these dangerous human foods, and ensure you do not share them with your puppy.
- Toxic plants — Consult the ASPCA Animal Poison Control plant list to learn which indoor and outdoor plants are toxic to your pup.
Puppy veterinary care
We love to see puppies at Belmont Animal Hospital, and recommend an appointment in the first week after you bring them home. We will perform a thorough physical exam to ensure your puppy is healthy and free from early developmental problems, answer your puppy-care questions, and discuss flea, tick, and heartworm prevention to keep your pup safe. We will ask that you bring a fresh stool sample to the appointment so we can check for intestinal parasites, which are common in puppies.
Your first puppy visit also will include recommendations on their best vaccination protocol, taking into account their lifestyle and prevalent Nashville-area diseases. Ideally, your puppy should receive their first vaccines at 6 to 8 weeks old, with multiple vaccines to follow as their immune system matures. Booster vaccines are given every three to four weeks until your pup is older than 16 weeks.
Pet insurance for your puppy
Now is the time to look into pet insurance, because premiums will be lower for a puppy with no pre-existing conditions. Various pet insurance companies offer policies with different coverages, such as sickness and injury only, or all veterinary visits. Owning a dog has many costs, and insurance can be a lifesaver if your pup suffers a catastrophic illness or injury.
Nutrition and your puppy
Your puppy needs a food specifically designed for growth and development, with high quality protein, minerals, and DHA (an Omega-3 supplement). Dog breeds have different nutritional considerations based on their size and growth rate. Feed your puppy three times a day for the first six months, and then transition them to twice daily. Small-breed puppies may need to be free fed, or fed more frequently to ensure adequate nutrition.
Your puppy will feel more comfortable in a designated place in a smaller area, and a crate can provide a cozy refuge. The crate should be large enough for your puppy’s bed, toys, food, and water—but not so large that they can urinate in a corner. A crate can keep them safe when unsupervised, and is an invaluable housetraining tool. In the beginning, take your puppy outside every two hours, and have a “potty party” with treats and affection when they eliminate. They are still bound to have occasional accidents in your home, but never scold your puppy—patience and positive reinforcement are the most effective.
A puppy’s critical socialization period occurs between 3 and 14 weeks, when they form long-lasting impressions, so keep an eye out for situations they may find scary. You can help your puppy adjust to new people, noises, places, and other animals by pairing each new experience with a treat and praise. Because your puppy’s critical socialization period coincides with their vaccination schedule, ensuring your puppy socializes with healthy, fully vaccinated animals is vital.
Spaying and neutering your puppy
Spaying or neutering your puppy will prevent future health problems, such as mammary cancer or uterine infections in females, and testicular cancer or inappropriate behavior in males, as well as prevent unwanted puppies. Most small and medium-sized breeds can be spayed or neutered at around 6 months of age, but larger breeds may need to wait until they are fully grown for optimum bone development. Our Belmont Animal Hospital team can advise you on the best time for us to perform the procedure on your pup. We also recommend that your puppy be microchipped during their spay or neuter procedure, if they are not already.
The Belmont Animal Hospital team can’t wait to meet your new family member! Contact us to schedule your pup’s first appointment and get them started off right for a lifetime of health and happiness.