Caring for a puppy

One of the first outings your new puppy needs to make is to your chosen veterinary practice. This will give you the opportunity to discuss his ongoing healthcare needs and get him checked over. You’ll also be given the opportunity to discuss vaccinations, parasite protection, microchipping, and neutering.

You should take your new pup to the vet for a health check within 24 to 48 hours of bringing him home. If your first visit isn’t for injections or another unpleasant experience, it will allow your puppy to become acquainted with the vet in a positive way. After your pup has been examined, you can make a further appointment to begin or complete his course of vaccinations or to receive any other necessary treatments.

What vaccinations will my puppy need?

Puppies need a primary course of two vaccinations, which will give cover against distemper, parvovirus, hepatitis, and leptospirosis. These are known as core vaccines due to the highly infectious nature of the diseases which they protect against, and their potential to prove fatal should a dog contract them.

Your puppy may have already received his first vaccination while with the breeder; ask about this when you pick him up and make sure you receive his vaccination certificate if this is the case. Even after his first vaccination, your puppy will still be vulnerable to disease and shouldn't meet dogs whose vaccination status is unknown or visit places where unvaccinated dogs may have been.

Puppies will receive their second vaccination at around 10 to 12 weeks. Your pup will not be fully protected until around two weeks after this second jab.

Worming your puppy

Your puppy should have been wormed by the breeder to kill any parasites passed to him in his mother’s milk. Worming him once a month until he reaches the age of six months, and thereafter every three months, will protect him when he comes into contact with other dogs.

The most common parasitic worms in dogs are roundworms and tapeworms. Puppies infected with roundworm look sickly and have a pot belly. The roundworms are sometimes vomited and resemble pale, curled elastic bands. The eggs of tapeworms resemble grains of rice; if your puppy is infected they may be visible around the anus. The tapeworm attaches itself to the wall of the puppy’s intestine and the eggs are excreted in faeces. Ask your vet for more information on the treatment and prevention of worms and products suitable for puppy use.

Fleas and tick prevention

Safeguarding your puppy and home against fleas and ticks will help to protect against disease. As well as causing your puppy to scratch, possibly triggering an allergic skin reaction, fleas are integral to the lifecycle of tapeworms, so flea treatment should form part of your regular worming plan. There are many flea and tick treatments available and some can be used as a preventative method too. The most effective preparations are usually available from your vet who will also be able to advise on suitability for puppies.

Microchipping your puppy

From 2016, microchipping will become mandatory for all dogs in England. It’s a simple procedure that is carried out by a vet or trained nurse. A tiny chip, the size of a single grain of rice, is inserted into the loose skin between your dog’s shoulder blades. The insertion of the chip is akin to having an injection, although the needle is slightly larger than that used for vaccinations. Each microchip contains a unique number that can be read by a special scanner and the information about the dog’s ownership is stored on a database. Keep contact details up to date and ask your vet to check the microchip is still in place at your dog’s annual check-up.

Feeding your puppy

Any sudden dietary changes could give a puppy an upset stomach. To avoid this, make sure you feed him the same food the breeder was using for the first week or two. If you later decide to try another food, introduce it very gradually. Age-specific dog foods are readily available so choose a puppy food that has been designed to meet your pup’s nutritional needs. These are available as either wet or dry formulations. Puppies generally remain on puppy food for 10 months to a year before moving on to adult dog food.

Puppies can be very greedy and some will eat just about anything. Ask family members not to feed them titbits — not only does this encourage begging, it also adds extra calories and may cause an upset stomach.