PUPPY'S FIRST YEAR
• Training & Behaviour
• Parasite Control
• Spay & Neuter
• Microchip Identification
• Pet Insurance
House training, training to commands, and how to avoid puppy chewing up your new leather shoes.
With any new puppy, there is a period of time when you need to learn how your dog reacts to the environment and when she needs to learn how to live with you. Behavioural problems such as biting, destructive chewing, or excessive vocalization are the main reasons why dogs are abandoned or given up. Fortunately, most problem behaviours can be avoided by starting with proper training techniques at an early age, by being consistent, and by having everyone in the family get involved in training.
House training should be well underway by 3 months of age, and complete by 4 months of age for most dogs. We recommend crate training, as it is instinctive in dogs not to urinate or defecate where they sleep. Generally, you should limit the amount of time in a crate to no more than 3 hours for an 8-week old puppy, increasing by an hour for each month of age. Frequently, puppies learn to stay clean and dry through the night in a very short time.
Take her out first thing in the morning, the last thing at night, and within 20 minutes of any meal. Make sure you accompany her to the toilet area, so that she becomes familiar with the area, and you can offer a treat and praise when she goes. Avoid telling off a puppy that has an accident in the house – you will just make them fearful and distrustful of you. It’s best to not have her see you clean up the mess, either, so that she is more likely to forget the mess in the house. Use vinegar and water or a good quality disinfectant to clean the area and remove odours.
We recommend puppy classes to all new dogs. Basic training helps to teach you the correct methods to achieve not only the essential commands such as sit and stay but also the methods for more advanced training should you need it. We advocate a positive reward method that makes for a happy, friendly puppy, rather than one that uses excessive discipline. Please ask us for names of great trainers in your area. The other advantage of puppy classes is to foster positive responses to other dogs and to other people. Failure to expose puppies to varieties of dogs and to different people can lead to social problems later in life.
Separation anxiety is common in puppies and occurs when the owners leave the puppy alone in the home. Severe anxiety can lead to destructive chewing or barking when you are absent. To avoid this problem, offer your puppy time alone when you are at home, either in the crate or in a separate room. The puppy should know you are home, but you must not pay attention to the puppy. A half-hour of “downtime” is usually sufficient each day for the puppy to learn that he can survive the day without you.
Don’t make a fuss of the puppy for 15 minutes before you leave, and avoid direct contact for 15 minutes when you come home.
Although this is very difficult for most people, fussing over leaving or coming home only heightens the anxiety when you are not there. Leave a radio or TV on at low volume when not at home, and offer an enjoyable treat for when you are gone, such as a Kong filled with peanut butter. The distraction might be enough for the puppy not to notice you leaving, and to learn to enjoy her downtime.
Severe separation anxiety can also be treated with medication, but this is best used in conjunction with behavioural modification, and your vet can explain these techniques. Chewing is a normal behaviour in puppies as they explore their environment. Puppies don’t know how hard their bite is initially, and must learn bite inhibition from the owner’s response. A loud cry from you in response to the puppy biting your hand will often elicit a startled reaction. Next time, the puppy will often use less pressure as it learns to hold on without causing pain.
What to feed Buster
There are hundreds of choices of dog foods available for your new puppy. Sorting through the myriad diets can be challenging, especially as so much emphasis is placed on marketing the food. Whatever resonates with us in terms of what we think good nutrition should be invariable and will show up on the exterior of the food bag. Plus, myths abound about what dogs should eat, with some people advocating meat first and foremost, to vegetarian diets, to raw food diets.
Fortunately, most foods available likely provide the basic needs of pets, but only a handful of companies actually conduct nutritional research to prove the quality of their foods.
While not the only companies providing excellent nutrition, diets such as Royal Canin, Hill's, and Purina have been backed by veterinarians for many years due to extensive research involved in the formulation of these diets. These companies have also created diets to manage many health problems such as obesity, diabetes, urinary tract disease, arthritis, and joint disease.
We now have a tremendous understanding of the role of good nutrition on health problems, and by extension, the role of good nutrition in promoting good health. While we do not advocate for any one company, premium foods from these companies are backed by years of research and can be trusted to offer great products.
Safety of food sources is of paramount concern for companies making dog food, as we saw with the melamine scare a couple of years ago. Medi-Cal, for instance, sources as much of the nutrients for their food from local producers. Each food ingredient is subject to analysis. A graph profile for each ingredient is kept by the company, and any food that does not match the profile is rejected from use. In this way, any contaminants, molds, etc, are detected before the food is used.
How much to feed is determined by the food and by the activity level of the puppy. Most foods provide general guidelines, but the amount fed may have to be increased or decreased. We expect a puppy to produce 2 to 3 normal well-formed bowel movements each day with a portion of good quality food, and to have a clean, glossy coat.
Please ask us for more information.
Parasite control for your puppy
Many parasites have the ability to infect dogs, with puppies being most susceptible. Intestinal parasites include the common roundworms and hookworms, but puppies may also be infected with whipworms, coccidian, and giardia. Intestinal parasites may cause weight loss, diarrhea, blood loss, and vomiting, although many dogs may seem healthy with only intermittent gastrointestinal signs. External parasites include fleas, ear and skin mites, lice, and ticks.
Heartworm disease is caused by a parasite transmitted by mosquitoes and infects the arteries leading from the dog’s heart to the lungs.
Serious infections can cause exercise intolerance, a chronic cough, heart failure, and death. While there is currently not a high incidence of heartworm in British Columbia, caution should be taken if you are planning to travel with your pet. In Ontario, for example, over 300 cases occur each year, with most in Southern and South-Western Ontario, but cases also occur in dogs that have never travelled outside of the Ottawa Valley. There was also an increase in heartworm infection following the re-homing of abandoned Hurricane Katrina dogs all over the continent. Be sure to speak to one of our veterinarians about heartworm risk if you plan to travel with your pet.
Roundworms have a particularly stubborn life cycle in dogs. The microscopic eggs hatch the following ingestion, and the larvae burrow through the intestinal wall and travel through body tissues for a period of time, an event known as Visceral Larval Migrans. Eventually, these tiny parasites emerge back into the intestines, grow into adult spaghetti-like worms, and breed, releasing thousands of eggs back into the environment. Dewormers only work in the gut so we continue to administer them every 2 weeks until the puppy is 3 months of age, then once a month until the puppy is 6 months of age, as the larvae emerge back into the intestine.
Fleas can be a problem at any time of the year if your puppy meets another animal with fleas. Adult fleas spend their entire life cycle on the animal but will lay 20 to 30 eggs a day following a blood meal. The eggs fall off the dog and lodge in cracks and crevices in flooring, in carpets and bedding, around baseboards, and outdoors. Within several weeks, if the conditions are right, the eggs will hatch into larvae, transform into pupae, and eventually emerge as young adults looking for a warm pet to call their own. Fleas can cause intense itching, skin diseases, and even transmit diseases. In our region, most flea problems peak in late summer and fall as the number of eggs builds up in the environment.
Currently, we can prevent many intestinal parasites, fleas, and heartworm with safe and effective medications administered once a month. Having a stool sample checked once to twice yearly allows us to identify parasites before they become a problem. Some parasites can also infect people, especially children and those with lowered immune systems.
Vaccines for puppies
All puppies need vaccination to protect them against infectious diseases. We recommend that all puppies be vaccinated against Distemper, Parvovirus, Hepatitis, and Rabies.
These diseases are highly contagious, fatal or serious, or, in the case of rabies, of public health concern. Also, we recommend Bordetella (kennel cough) for most puppies, and Leptospirosis to those at risk. Bordetella is similar to Whooping Cough in children, is highly contagious, and can lead to pneumonia in severe cases. We like all puppies to receive basic immunity to this disease.
Adult dogs continue to receive the vaccine only if they are considered at risk. Leptospirosis causes liver damage and is spread through the urine of raccoons and skunks, and can also infect people. The organism proliferates in damp soil and following heavy rainfalls. Ontario has seen the number of annual cases increase from 250 to over 1,200 in the last ten years. We review your puppy’s lifestyle, previous vaccines, and consider his age, breed, and health status before determining what to recommend for vaccines.
Most puppies receive vaccines between 2 and 4 months of age, again a year later, and then through life at an interval determined by the vaccine. For instance, Rabies and Distemper/ Parvovirus/ Hepatitis are given every three years to adult dogs, whereas those dogs receiving Leptospirosis or Bordetella require annual revaccination. For pets spending time in tick endemic areas we may also recommend Lyme vaccination and tick control. For those owners wishing to use titers in lieu of vaccination, we also provide this service. While becoming more popular, reliance on titers has some limitations that we will discuss with owners. We can accommodate specific vaccine schedules if requested by the owner or breeder, as long as the owner understands the risks and benefits of changes to currently accepted schedules
Spay & Neuter
If you do not plan to breed your dog, you should seriously consider spaying her or neutering him. Vancouver has an overabundance of dogs that need homes, so adding to the numbers doesn’t help. We discourage the breeding of dogs just to experience the “joys of birth”, as interesting as it is. Serious, responsible breeders invest a significant amount of money and time in breeding to reduce genetic problems and to promote positive conformational and behavioural traits. Unless you intend to make a career from breeding, you should consider the risks of not having your pet altered.
Female dogs will go into heat two to three times a year on average, during which time they will attract any males in the vicinity. Unexpected breedings account for many of the dogs surrendered to shelters and humane societies. Intact female dogs are at a significantly higher risk for infections of the uterus called pyometra, which can be life-threatening, and also for mammary cancer. Intact male dogs may have a greater urge to “wander”, particularly if they sense a female in heat. Aggression between male dogs can be a problem, as can excessive marking behavior with urine. Male dogs also have a greater risk of prostatic infections and testicular cancer.
Spaying and neutering are usually performed after 6 months of age. Owners who intend to have dogs in sporting events such as Agility, Herding, or Tracking should consider delaying the surgery until the full physical maturity of the dog, the age of which depends on the breed. For most dogs, however, 6 months of age is the accepted standard. Spaying a female dog involves abdominal surgery to remove her uterus and ovaries. She will not have any more heat and cannot develop infections of the uterus afterward. Neutering the male dog involves the removal of both testicles. Both procedures are performed under full anesthesia, but the pets go home the same day as the surgery.
We strongly recommend a pre-anesthetic blood test in the week before surgery to assess the kidney and liver function, the blood volume, as well as sugar and protein levels, all of which are important for safe anesthesia. Pets are placed on intravenous fluids through a catheter in their front leg during the surgery to help maintain their blood pressure. Constant monitoring of their heart rate and rhythm, the blood pressure, and the oxygen levels in their blood ensure a safe anesthetic procedure. Following surgery, we advise pet owners to keep the dogs from free-running, jumping, and climbing stairs or on furniture for the following week. The sutures are absorbable and buried below the skin, so there is no need for them to be removed once the healing has occurred.
While most pet owners will hopefully never have to worry about a missing pet, the reality is that many pets go astray every year in British Columbia. Even the least expected wanderer may suddenly disappear.
We know of a small toy poodle that ran away on July 1st after being scared by loud fireworks, although he was eventually reunited with his family 6 weeks later.
Identification in any form is essential to reunite lost pets with their owners. Tags on
collars remain the first and most visible method to provide a contact number or name, but unfortunately, once the collar has come off only the pet can tell you where she came from – and most can’t talk!
Since the introduction of microchip technology for pet identification, many pets that would have previously become lost have been reunited quickly and efficiently with their owners. Microchips, with rare exceptions, work throughout the life of the pet, do not fade with time and do not fall off.
The microchip is the size of a grain of rice and is inserted under the skin, over the shoulders of the puppy at any age, by a needle only slightly larger than that used for vaccines. To “read” the microchip, a scanner is waved over the dog and the number encoded to that
particular chip is registered to an owner, so once the microchip number is found, all we need to do is call up the database to find the owner. The databases are maintained 24/7 and microchips placed in British Columbia can be read by scanners in Canada or the US,
thanks to the standardization of chip technologies.
We highly recommend a microchip for any household dog, even those whose risk of wandering seems low. You never know when your pet may stray!
Pet Insurance: peace of mind for those unexpected accidents
Currently, there are many companies that offer comprehensive pet insurance in Canada, for example, Petsecure, Pet Care, and Trupanion. In addition, the Canadian Automobile Association, HBC, President’s Choice Financial, and Purina offer Petsecure insurance under their own branding.
Pet insurance provides coverage for accidents and illnesses to dogs of all ages and breeds. Some policies also provide coverage for routine health care, such as vaccination, dental care, and parasite control.
How much you can expect to pay for monthly premiums for your new puppy depends on how comprehensive the coverage you need. Insurance premiums also can vary based on the level of co-insurance provided. For example, a company may require the owner to pay 20% of veterinary fees, while the insurance will cover the remaining 80%.
All companies provide free insurance for a month, and we strongly recommend taking advantage of this offer while you decide whether to use pet insurance long-term. Generally speaking, insurance is of great value in the first year or two of a dog’s life, when they are most likely to have accidents or ingest things they are not supposed to. Also, a dog with genetic susceptibilities to bone development problems such as hip dysplasia, allergies, and congenital problems may have life-long health problems for which insurance can be of great benefit. While not immune to health problems, middle-aged dogs will likely need less insurance, but there is an increased need for veterinary care with advancing age.
Having insurance in place before problems such as cancer, heart disease, or arthritis develop can provide peace of mind for both short and long-term care.