The excitement of adding a cuddly new puppy to your family is special and memorable, and puppyhood goes by in the blink of an eye. Puppies are fast learners and energetic fur balls who, like human children, require a lot of care and attention. Their first year is a critical time to learn manners and to develop a strong immune system, to ensure they are with you until their grey muzzle years. Our Burlington Veterinary Clinic team wants to ensure your new puppy is set up for success through all life stages, and offers these four tips.

#1: Purchase pet insurance

Bringing home a puppy is a big responsibility and a lifetime commitment, and regular veterinary care is vital to ensure your furry pal stays healthy. Fortunately, advances in veterinary medicine have helped extend our pets’ lives but, unfortunately, that also may mean treatments that could  cause financial strain, especially for unexpected illnesses or emergencies. Pet insurance alleviates some veterinary expenses, and allows pet owners to financially prepare for unexpected costs. Many plans also cover wellness and preventive care visits. Some plans don’t cover pre-existing conditions, so purchasing a plan when your pet is young, to ensure they are covered, is wise. Ensure the plan you choose includes the following:

  • Physical exams
  • Vaccinations and parasite control
  • Laboratory tests (i.e., blood work, urine, cultures)
  • Imaging (i.e., X-rays, ultrasound, MRI)
  • Surgery
  • Hospitalization
  • Dental procedures
  • Holistic care
  • Behavior consultations

#2: Schedule puppy preventive care visits

The first six months of your puppy’s life will include several veterinary visits to ensure they develop a strong immune system. As soon as possible after bringing your new puppy home, schedule a veterinary exam with your Burlington veterinarian to perform a nose-to-tail baseline physical exam, and provide you with a vaccination schedule that will be based on their health and lifestyle needs. Starting at 6 weeks of age, your puppy will receive a series of core vaccinations to protect against common dog diseases, which include:

  • Canine distemper virus
  • Parvovirus 
  • Infectious hepatitis
  • Parainfluenza 
  • Rabies 

Additionally, our veterinarian may also recommend non-core vaccinations including Bordetella, Lyme disease, canine influenza, or leptospirosis.

Parasite control is another vital component of your puppy’s preventive care. Puppies commonly come with intestinal parasite infections they contracted from their mother or original environment. Parasite infections can lead to gastrointestinal (GI) problems, nutritional deficiencies, and anemia in your puppy, so our veterinarian may recommend several deworming treatments, a fecal test to ensure all parasites are cleared from their GI system, and lifelong monthly parasite control. 

#3: Start a home oral health care routine for your puppy

Starting a home oral health care routine may seem unnecessary because your puppy’s sharp teeth are likely clean, and puppy teeth fall out around 6 months of age. But, it’s never too early to acclimate your puppy to an oral health routine. Puppies are eager to please their owners, especially between the ages of 3 and 14 weeks, so teaching them to accept a regular toothbrushing routine will decrease the stress of learning a new habit when they are older. Dental disease is a common problem in pets, with more than 80% of dogs having dental problems by the time they are 3 years old. Twice-daily toothbrushing is the gold standard to prevent dental disease progression between professional dental cleanings. Follow these steps for implementing a toothbrushing routine for your puppy:

  • Choose a pet-safe toothpaste approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC). Never give your puppy human toothpaste, because most include ingredients toxic to pets.
  • Start by offering your puppy toothpaste on your finger as a treat or reward. 
  • Once your puppy is comfortable and accepts the toothpaste, put the paste on your finger and gently rub it over their gums and teeth in a brushing motion.
  • Choose a pet-specific or children’s toothbrush that fits comfortably in your puppy’s mouth. Allow them to investigate the brush first.
  • Provide verbal praise and belly rubs during and after each toothbrushing session.

#4: Schedule your puppy for a spay or neuter surgery

Once your puppy has completed their vaccination series, consider scheduling them for a spay or neuter surgery. Your veterinarian will recommend the best time, which is usually between 6 and 12 months of age, based on your puppy’s health, behavior, and lifestyle needs. Spaying or neutering will provide your dog with numerous health and behavior benefits including:

  • Decreased desire to roam and mark their territory
  • Reduced risk of breast and testicular cancer
  • Less likelihood of becoming aggressive 

Spaying or neutering your puppy also eliminates unwanted puppies who likely will end up in a shelter.

Our Burlington Veterinary Clinic team looks forward to meeting your new puppy. Call our office with any questions about your puppy’s care, and to schedule them for their first puppy preventive care examination.