Whether you plan to adopt a new pet for the holidays, or recently added a new puppy to your family, your pup’s first year is their most important. Your new furry family member needs your support to develop a strong immune system, fight off life-threatening parasites and diseases, and grow up into a healthy adult dog. As you and your new pet navigate their first months, ensure they stay happy and healthy by following these six tips.
#1: Protect your puppy with vaccines
Puppies are born with immunity from their mother, but that quickly wears off, leaving them vulnerable to infectious diseases. Bacteria and viruses thrive in our local environment, and puppies can easily contract a serious disease and become sick, or die. Your puppy’s first veterinary appointment at Guam Pet Hospital should be scheduled when they are 5 weeks old, when we will perform a thorough examination and fecal screening to ensure they are free from internal parasites. They should be seen again when they are ready for their first vaccines, at 7 weeks of age. For the best protection, your puppy must receive at least three sets of vaccines, given three weeks apart. Unfortunately, administering only one or two vaccines does not adequately protect your pup, and leaves them open to contracting dangerous diseases, such as parvo and distemper.
#2: Keep your puppy inside
Your puppy should remain inside your home until they are fully protected against diseases they can pick up from the external environment. This means that your puppy should not go outside and touch the ground until they have received all their vaccines, which help them develop immunity to life-threatening diseases. Parvovirus is ubiquitous in the environment, where it lives for up to a year, and is particularly contagious. Since you cannot see the virus to avoid it, it is best to keep your puppy away from all potentially contaminated areas. For potty training, it is safest to use puppy pads in your home until your puppy is fully vaccinated, then move them to an outside environment. Cement patios are not protected from parvo unless they are bleached before each use, as Boonies spread the disease, and heavy rains wash it into areas that are normally safe. Well-meaning friends that bring their puppies over to visit can also pose a danger, especially if their puppies are not fully vaccinated and they do not observe safety precautions. If you have previously lost a puppy to parvo, it is imperative to thoroughly disinfect your home and belongings, including your shoe bottoms.
#3: Fight off pet parasites with regular preventives
During your puppy’s vaccine appointments, we will administer a deworming medication to kill intestinal worms that were passed from their mother before birth. We will also check your puppy’s feces for other intestinal parasites they may have picked up from the environment, and treat those as well.
Guam’s warm climate provides the perfect breeding ground for parasites, and your puppy will be constantly exposed to intestinal worms, heartworms, fleas, and ticks. To fight off these parasites, and the diseases they cause, your pup needs regular parasite prevention from an early age. Our team will prescribe safe, effective preventives that will keep your puppy parasite-free and healthy through their first year, and into adulthood.
#4: Provide adequate nutrition to help your puppy grow
A growing puppy builds bones, muscles, and organs from the nutrients in their diet, so your pet will require a steady supply of high-quality puppy food. Many food varieties are available—choose one made specifically for puppies, which contains a higher fat, calorie, and nutrient content appropriate for growth.
Feed your puppy several times a day to ensure they receive enough nutrients. Inadequate nutrition will interfere with your puppy’s normal development, hinder their immune system, and make them more likely to become sick. You should not be able to see your puppy’s ribs or backbone—if you can, they are likely not eating enough. During your puppy’s routine veterinary visits, our team will evaluate their body condition, and help determine whether they are receiving enough nutrition.
#5: Build your puppy’s confidence with socialization
Puppies learn the most about their environment during their critical socialization period, from 3 weeks to 3 months of age. During this time, you must expose your puppy to as many different people, animals, noises, and ground surfaces as possible so they are not fearful of new people and situations as an adult. However, you will need to provide your puppy with as much socialization as possible in your home until they are fully vaccinated, and can be safely exposed to the outdoors and other animals. If possible, invite a variety of people to interact with your puppy, including people of various ages and ethnicities who wear different clothing, including hats and head coverings. Also, expose your puppy to loud appliances, such as the vacuum cleaner or washing machine. Each time they encounter a new experience, reward them with praise and treats, so they associate new situations with a positive outcome.
#6: Spay or neuter your puppy to prevent reproductive problems
Spaying your female puppy, or neutering your male, will remove their reproductive organs and prevent reproduction. This not only helps reduce the homeless pet population, as you likely don’t want a houseful of rambunctious pups, but also prevents your dog from developing reproductive health problems. Intact dogs can develop a number of health problems, including:
- Pyometra (i.e., uterine infection)
- Mammary cancer
- Dystocia (i.e., difficulty giving birth)
- Testicular cancer
- Prostatic enlargement
- Urine marking, and other unwanted behaviors
Most puppies should be spayed or neutered around 6 months of age, but ask our team about the best time to perform your puppy’s procedure.
Start your puppy off on the right paw by scheduling a visit with Guam Pet Hospital. Don’t delay, as dangerous diseases and parasites are everywhere, and we don’t want your new best friend to become sick. Contact us for an appointment, or if you have questions about your puppy’s health and health care.