How will proper puppy care impact the life of my dog?

When you get a puppy, it's so essential that you come in right away because we want to make sure, one, that your puppy starts in your family in good health and that there's not something congenital that they've come along with that you'd want to know about in the beginning. Also, how we set you up with vaccines and preventative care changes and affects the quality of the puppy's life long-term.

Dr. Michele Drake
The Drake Center

Why is it so important to start good puppy care on day one?

Because there are many diseases, parasites, and viral diseases that your puppy can get, heartworm disease even, and we want to prevent all of these things or treat them if necessary, if they have parasites. And some of these diseases are zoonotic, which means it could be transmitted to humans, and we never want that to happen. Veterinarians are also concerned with the family's health too. And that's our job—to make sure that we don't miss anything that would be in your pet that could transmit to you or your kids.

How soon should I bring my puppy in to see a veterinarian for their first exam?

We recommend that you make your exam appointment before you even leave to get your puppy. And that's because we want to get them in here right away. We want to get started on deworming and to diagnose congenital issues if present. We also want to set you up with proper behavior and training plans so we can set up a great plan moving forward.

What are the most common health problems in puppies?

We see a lot of parasites—intestinal parasites and sometimes external. Some puppies come with fleas and ticks. It depends on where they come from. We'll see ear mites on occasion or scabies, which are skin mites. Demodex is another type of skin mite. These are things we're going to look for. We're going to look at your puppy's coat and do a fecal sample to make sure that, if there are intestinal parasites, we're going to treat those appropriately. We'll also get them set up on the right vaccines so that we don't wind up with parvo. Unfortunately, some of these people get puppies from places that are not super reputable or people that don't know that they've handed you a puppy that has parvo. And those symptoms are going to show up in 24 to 48 hours after you get the puppy, so we'd like to be on top of that.

What are some signs and symptoms of illness in your puppy?

You should be getting a puppy between seven and eight weeks or older. Seven to eight weeks is when it should be weaned. Puppies do sleep a lot, but they're also very active once they wake up. First of all, if you come in here and I have a puppy that's like a wet noodle, I'm concerned right off the bat. They should be eating and drinking normally and having normal stools, and have a certain amount of engagement with people. We would be able to tell you if they're off if you bring them in here. It's not a laid back puppy. Unfortunately, a puppy like that is probably sick. Anything that just doesn't look right to you probably is not right, but it's best to just bring them in here right away so we can help you determine if that's not normal.

What are the signs of a healthy, thriving puppy?

Again, eating and drinking normal amounts, engaging with the family, and wanting to play and cuddle are signs of a healthy, thriving puppy. And then, they do sleep a lot, especially eight-week-old puppies. So that is normal, but sleeping all the time or just being very depressed is not normal. So that's the things you want to look for.

When should I start training my puppy?

There's a lot of miscommunication around this. Training and socialization are things I'm passionate about, especially the notion that you have to wait until your puppy gets all their vaccines before you can train. And that's so not true and such a missed opportunity of a critical time. Between eight weeks and 12 and 16 weeks, a puppy goes through many things, and we want some positive and safe training and socialization to occur during that time. Your puppy is being vaccinated every three weeks until they're four months. They are vaccinated, so it's very safe to bring them to classes where all the other dogs are vaccinated. They are very safe to start the training right then. We highly recommend that your puppy start a training program, but that it's adapted to their personality. If you have a really small, shy dog breed, we don't want them in with a bunch of German Shepherd puppies. So there is something to that, and we'd be happy to talk to you about that and your breed type and what's best for them when you come in for a visit.

What will my vet be looking for when first examining my puppy?

There are many things we look for—normal behaviors, personality types, and then, physically, we're going to check the fecal and send it off to the lab. We're also going to look in the ears and the eyes and the mouth to make sure that the teeth are in the mouth properly. We're going to listen to the heart and lungs. The heart should sound normal for a puppy. We do pick up congenital heart defects. We're going to feel the intestines and make sure that things feel good there. And we're going to ask you some questions that will help us determine what's going on at home to determine that this is a normal, healthy puppy.

There are many things to talk about when you guys come in here. We reserve about 30 minutes for the first puppy visit because there's much to talk about. We want to make sure you have all the information you need. We also have a ton of online info for you too.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (760) 456-9556, you can email us, or you can reach out on Facebook. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.

Dog Puppy Care - FAQs

Dr. Michele Drake
The Drake Center

What should I expect at my puppy's first veterinarian visit?

At the first visit, we're going to ask you many questions. We're going to check on what the vaccine schedule has been so far. We'll have you bring a fecal sample, and we're going to do a thorough physical and spend a lot of time talking to you about important things like preventative care, when the next visit is due, and what sort of training you should get started at that time.

What should I ask my veterinarian at my puppy's first appointment?

I think it's important for you not to have to ask questions for your veterinarian, as it's on us to provide you with a lot of information. Then, we're going to ask specific questions about how your puppy is doing. It's our responsibility to make sure that you're well-educated and have all the information that you need.

How often does my puppy need to go to the veterinarian?

It's critical when you get a puppy to come in right away, and then every three weeks until they're four months. We'll also recommend that they come in for a six-month visit. Between four and six months, many things go on, and we hate to miss that six-month visit because we have behavioral and diet changes, and exercise recommendations. Most important is the behavioral aspect of things. We want to make sure that your dog is meeting the right guidelines. We're going to make sure certain behavior is correct, or we're going to help you to find the best way to redirect that behavior.

When should I get my puppy spayed or neutered?

We recommend having most puppies spayed or neutered right around six months. For some of the larger breeds of dogs, we recommend that we wait until later on because of their bone development, so with the large breed dogs, we'll discuss whether to wait. There are even a few breeds that we find that there may be a reduction in cancers say if we wait a little bit longer, such as with golden retrievers. That being said, some large breed dogs do have some behavioral issues that come up, and we want to stay on top of that. We don't want to see any signs of aggression in an eight-month-old dog. We may want to consider neutering them earlier in those cases. It's essential that you stay in close contact, and that six-month visit is so crucial for this reason.

What are some things my vet will be looking for at my puppy's first appointment?

At your first visit, what we're going to be looking for is their temperament, demeanor, and their general energy level to determine whether or not we think there may be something that the puppy's come down with. And then we're going to be looking in their eyes and their ears and their nose and their mouth and listening to their chest and feeling their intestines and looking at how they walk. These are all things that are part of the physical exam. We also collect information from you about how things are going at home to determine a good physical assessment of your dog.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (760) 456-9556, you can email us, or you can reach out on Facebook. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.