Your Step by Step Guide After Your Puppy or New Rescue Purchase!
What to expect on your first day with a new puppy
It’s the day you’ve been waiting for! Your new puppy is home. What do you do now? Where do you start? Follow these guidelines to ensure you create the kind of bond that lasts a lifetime:
- Step 1: Stay home for the first day or two while your puppy gets used to you, his new family, and his new environment.
- Step 2: Only fools—and puppies—rush in! Keep your puppy confined to a small area at first. New people, smells, and places may cause him to get confused and overexcited. Let him explore his new environment one room at a time.
- Step 3: Decide where you’d like your puppy to use the bathroom. This may be in a certain spot outdoors or on a puppy pad. No matter what, be consistent! Guide him there on a leash to start and use a command, like “potty!” Be sure to reward him when he eliminates, and eventually he’ll go there on his own.
- Step 4: Introduce him to the people and other pets that will be in his life slowly. Keep the interaction calm and positive, especially where small children are concerned. Don’t let them pick up the puppy, but rather encourage them to hold them in their laps so the puppy doesn’t get scared or injured.
- Step 5: Let him get used to his new family and environment before overwhelming him with friends and neighbors.
- Step 6: Save the dog park for another day! Your new puppy likely hasn’t received all of his vaccinations yet, and he shouldn’t interact with strange dogs until he does.
- Step 7: Set boundaries! Make sure you have rules in place before your dog comes home and begin enforcing them on day 1. For example, don’t allow your new puppy to sleep in bed with you on the first day if you don’t want him there permanently. Doing so will only cause confusion and make it harder to enforce a different rule later on. If your puppy seems upset, try placing a crate next to the bed and reaching in to comfort him instead.
- Step 8: Make a vet appointment! Your veterinarian will want to meet your pup right away to ensure he’s healthy and discuss how you can help him stay that way.
Vaccinating Your Puppy
You may be making a lot of trips to the vet during the first few months of your puppy’s life, but you definitely don’t want to miss an appointment! Vaccines and boosters will help give your dog a long, happy life and prevent dangerous diseases. The following are some of the vaccinations that your veterinarian will discuss with you. Not all are necessary for every puppy; however, some are vital.
- Bordetella: A highly contagious disease that is the main culprit behind kennel cough. May cause severe coughing, vomiting, and occasionally death. While this is an optional vaccine, if you ever plan to board your dog or enroll them in group training classes, this vaccine will likely be required.
- Canine Distemper: A contagious, viral disease that can be transmitted by other dogs as well as wild animals, such as raccoons and skunks. This disease is recognizable by symptoms like a runny nose and eyes, as well as fever, coughing, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, and paralysis. Contracting Canine Distemper often leads to death.
- Canine Hepatitis: While different from the human form, this disease can cause issues with the eyes, lungs, liver, kidneys, and spleen. Common symptoms include fever, congestion, jaundice, vomiting, enlarged stomach, and, of course, pain in the area of the liver.
- Canine Parainfluenza: Can contribute to kennel cough.
- Canine Coronavirus: This is different from the strain found in people. COVID-19 is not believed to be a risk to dogs. However, this preventable disease can cause symptoms that are similar to canine distemper.
- Leptospirosis: A bacterial disease found in soil and water. While sometimes asymptomatic, this disease can be passed to people as well as to other animals. More severe symptoms include vomiting, pain in the abdomen, diarrhea, weakness, jaundice, and organ failure.
- Lyme Disease: Dogs do not show a rash like people might when exposed to this bacterial disease. This tick-borne illness causes severe symptoms such as limping, swollen lymph nodes, fever, and loss of appetite. If left untreated, Lyme Disease can begin to affect a dog’s heart, kidneys, joints, and brain function.
- Parvovirus: This disease most often affects puppies less than four months of age, but any unvaccinated dog is at risk. It’s a gastrointestinal disease that causes the dog or puppy to stop eating, fever, vomiting, and bloody diarrhea. Death due to dehydration can occur within 48-72 hours.
- Rabies: A viral disease that affects the central nervous system. Can cause headache, hallucinations, drooling/foaming at the mouth, refusal to drink water, paralysis, and death. Treatment within hours of exposure is key, otherwise death is very likely to occur.
This is a disease you want to prevent in your puppy! Puppies should begin a heartworm prevention in most cases by 8 weeks of age. Consult your veterinarian for recommendations.
Why are heartworms bad? The name says it all. These worms can be found in the heart and pulmonary arteries. Sometimes, they dislodge (usually in clumps) and travel through the body to invade the liver, kidneys, and keep vital organs from functioning. A single worm can grow to be 14 inches long.
Unlike other types of parasites, heartworms are transmitted by mosquitoes rather than through soil or feces. Diagnosis requires a blood test.
Signs Your Dog May Have Heartworms
Some dogs show no symptoms, while others show the following symptoms, in no particular order:
- Tiring easily
- Fluid buildup in chest or abdomen
- Bleeding nose
- Sudden death
It is vital to treat and prevent intestinal worms in your puppy starting on the first vet visit. The following are some of the intestinal worms (and other intestinal parasites) that we want to eliminate and prevent. Some of these parasites can be transmitted to people although this is less common. Your veterinarian regularly tests fecal samples to ensure your puppy is treated appropriately.
Roundworms: Puppies can get these from their mother at birth. Diagnosis requires a fecal sample, and treatment is a simple deworming medication. Failure to treat can cause poor growth and possibly death.
Tapeworms: Dogs can become infected with this parasite by eating fleas or ingesting wild animals that have tapeworms. You may be able to see segments of the tapeworm in your dog’s stool, which would look like small bits of rice. Diagnosis requires a fecal sample.
Hookworms: These can be found in soil, so it’s easy for dogs and puppies to get these just from going for a walk and then licking their paws. This can also be passed to puppies through their mother’s milk. Diagnosis requires a fecal sample.
Whipworms: These can be found in food, water, soil, feces, or the carcasses of wild animals. The eggs can survive for years. These worms can cause inflammation, weight loss, loose stools, and occasionally nutrient deficiencies like anemia. Diagnosis requires a fecal sample.
Other Intestinal Parasites that are not really “worms”:
Giardia – an intestinal protozoa that infects dogs through contaminated stool or soil. Mild infections often cause no symptoms or mild diarrhea. More serious infections can cause severe watery diarrhea, dehydration vomiting, lethargy, abdominal pain, and anorexia. Severe disease can lead to death if not treated. Treatment includes antibiotic/dewormer to remove the parasite, and any supportive care needed in addition to treat diarrhea, dehydration, vomiting depending on severity.
Coccidia – an intestinal protozoa that causes gi disease in dogs that is transmitted through contaminated soil and water. Giardia causes acute, sudden-onset of foul- smelling diarrhea. Infection may lead to weight loss, chronic intermittent diarrhea, and fatty stool. The stool may range from soft to watery, often has a greenish tinge to it, and occasionally contains blood. Vomiting may occur in some cases. Treatment includes a dewormer and antibiotic, with supportive care for diarrhea and vomiting if severe.
Both diseases can be transmitted to people from infected stool as well as people can also be infected from the environment in the same fashion. Proper hygiene reduces the chances of infection to people significantly.
Hookworms are an intestinal parasite that is common in puppies. This parasite can be contracted through contaminated soil or stool. Hookworms attach to the intestinal lining and suck nutrients and blood from the pet, robbing them of essential nutrients. Common symptoms include diarrhea in mild cases. In more severe cases it causes watery diarrhea, dehydration, anemia, lethargy, vomiting, and abdominal pain. If left untreated, life threatening anemia can occur requiring a blood transfusion. This infection can be fatal if left untreated. A simple dewormer is the treatment for mild cases. More severe causes could require additional treatment for diarrhea, vomiting, dehydration, anemia.
Intestinal Worms and Symptoms
There are a variety of intestinal worms that can affect your dog. However, all of them are treatable and rarely cause death. Sometimes, there are no symptoms at all, especially if we find them before they are in large numbers. The following are some of the the signs and symptoms:
- Pain in the abdomen
- Weight loss
- Dull coat
- Anemia (low blood count, pale gums)
- Intestinal blockage
- Bloody (bright red or dark purple) stool
- Worms in stool
Spaying and neutering
Help keep animals out of shelters by spaying and neutering! Millions of dogs and cats are euthanized each year due to overpopulation. Even if this isn’t at the top of your list of priorities, there are some medical and behavioral benefits to spaying (females) or neutering (males) your dog:
- Your pet may live longer and be healthier. Spaying has been shown to prevent uterine infections and breast cancer, and neutering has been shown to prevent prostate problems and testicular cancer.
- Spaying prevents going into heat. It also stops the bleeding that comes with a female going into heat!
- Your male will be less likely to wander. He will also be less likely to mount other dogs, people, and objects, and he will be less likely to mark his territory.
- It’s cost-effective. Having and caring for a litter of puppies is more expensive than the cost of spaying/neutering.
- Spaying/Neutering will cause my dog to gain weight. Make sure your dog gets adequate exercise and stays on a healthy diet, and you shouldn’t notice any weight gain.
- Spaying/Neutering will solve my dog’s aggression. While spaying/neutering may help with some undesirable behaviors, it’s certainly not a cure-all. If your dog is aggressive, the only way to guarantee behavioral change is by hiring a vet-recommended trainer.
Discuss with your veterinarian the best age to spay or neuter your puppy including risks and benefits.
Ask your vet for more detailed information on pre-operative and post-operative instructions. In general, you can expect the following after your dog has been spayed or neutered:
- Medication to help with pain
- Must be kept indoors and away from other animals
- Must not be too active (running, jumping) for approximately two weeks
- Keep incision site clean and dry; avoid excessive licking!
- No baths during recovery period.
Call your vet with any questions or concerns.
Flea and Tick Prevention
Always check with your vet to determine the flea and tick medication that’s right for your dog or puppy. Most medications require your puppy to be at least 7 weeks old.
If Your Dog/Puppy Has Fleas
- Ask your vet for a medication that can kill fleas, like Capstar, which is safe for puppies as young as 4 weeks old (and at least 2 pounds). The effect of this medication lasts for 24 hours.
- Flea shampoos and collars are not very effective, with the exception of Seresto. Speak with your veterinarian about this option, which is suitable for puppies as young as 7 weeks.
- For younger puppies, the most effective alternative to medication is good, old-fashioned elbow grease in the form of a flea comb. This can be used to check for the presence of fleas and to remove them.
- You may need to treat your home to remove flea eggs and larvae. All plush furniture and bedding your dog has come in contact with should be cleaned, the floors should be vacuumed, and you must stay vigilant for signs of fleas returning. This may include little black specks called “flea dirt” which can be found around a dog’s stomach or tail. Talk to your vet about extra measures you can take to ensure these pests stay gone for good.
- Stay alert for signs that your dog has contracted tapeworm from the fleas. Your vet may want to follow up with a fecal sample.
Keeping Your Dog (and You!) Safe from Ticks
Ticks can be uncomfortable for your dog and also carry diseases such as Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Anaplasmosis, and more. Your dog can also carry ticks into your home where they may attach to you! So what can you do?
- Use a preventative medicine. There are drops as well as oral options that can keep ticks away from your dog.
- Perform a tick check after your dog has been outside, before he comes indoors.
- Remove any ticks you find attached to your dog and call your veterinarian for additional guidance.
A balanced, nutrient-rich diet is essential to your dog’s health and longevity. Unless your dog has a special condition, most commercial pet foods will provide what he needs. If your veterinarian suspects that your dog has any deficiencies or special needs, they will be able to recommend a food better suited to your dog.
However, even if you have a dog with no special dietary requirements, dogs at different stages of life require different nutrition. Your puppy will require more food than your adult dog, and your senior dog may require food containing extra vitamins and minerals, such as glucosamine.
Your dog requires six types of nutrients to stay strong and healthy:
- Water: Water should be available to your pet at all times.
- Proteins: Can be found in meat. Incomplete proteins can be found in vegetables, cereals, and soy. Your dog requires complete proteins. He should not consume raw egg.
- Fats: Essential for energy, hormone production, and the absorption of some vitamins.
- Carbohydrates: Essential for energy, healthy digestion, and reproduction. Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that can help manage issues like diarrhea, but too much fiber can slow down young dogs and puppies.
- Vitamins: Unless your dog has been diagnosed with a vitamin deficiency, do not give your dog vitamin supplements. It’s surprisingly easy for a dog to overdose on vitamins. As long as you provide your dog with a balanced diet, he should be getting everything he needs.
- Minerals: Must come from your dog’s diet. These help ensure strong bones, teeth, fluid maintenance, and a healthy metabolism.
If You are Weaning a Puppy
Puppies don’t need anything but their mother’s milk (or a specially-formulated milk replacement) for the first four weeks. After this time, a young puppy will need high-quality puppy food, which can be softened using warm water or a milk replacement. Ask your vet about your breed’s specific needs, but generally speaking puppies will need foods that contain 25-30% protein. Do not overfeed in an attempt to accelerate a puppy’s growth rate. This could lead to health problems
Global Nutrition Toolkit
Following on from the launch of the WSAVA’s Global Nutrition Guidelines in 2011, its Global Nutrition Committee (GNC) has developed a suite of tools. These include practical aids for the veterinary healthcare team to make Nutritional assessment and recommendations more eﬃcient, such as a diet history form, hospitalized patient feeding guide, body condition score charts, and calorie recommendations for dogs and cats. In addition, educational materials for pet owners have been developed. More tools are in development and will be added to this site. These tools are designed to help the veterinary healthcare team address Nutrition at every patient visit and to advance the central role of the veterinary healthcare team as the expert source of Nutrition information.
Read the Toolkit in your language
Nutritional Assessment Tools for the Healthcare Team
As the 5th vital assessment – after temperature, pulse, respiration, and pain assessment – Nutritional assessment should be performed on every patient at every visit. These tools have been developed to help to eﬀectively incorporated into every visit.
Body condition score tools for dogs and cats. These charts and videos can help the veterinary healthcare team to accurately assess body condition, a measure of fat stores, at every visit. Body Condition Score Chart for Cats
Muscle condition score chart. Compared to the body condition score, which assesses fat stores, the muscle condition score assesses the animal’s muscle, which can be aﬀected by disease or aging.
Quick one page charts listing starting points for calorie needs of the healthy dog and cat.
The Short Diet History Form is a quick questionnaire for owners to collect critical information on their pets’ diet.
This Nutritional Assessment Checklist is a tool to help ensure that all parts of the Nutritional assessment are performed – the quick Nutritional screening on every patient at every visit, and the extended evaluation for patients in which risk factors are identiﬁed.
A 2—page summary of the WSAVA Nutrition Guidelines – what do they say, how can Nutritional assessment be incorporated into the standard physical exam, and quick tips for implementing the Guidelines in your practice.
This resources provides ideas for incorporating the Nutrition Guidelines into practice, including communication tips, ideas for using the guidelines eﬀectively, and other ways to ensure that every patient gets a Nutritional assessment at every visit.
For dogs and cats in the hospital, providing optimal nutrition and careful monitoring is key to recovery.
The Feeding Guide for Hospitalized Dogs and Cats can help the veterinary healthcare team select the appropriate patients that require Nutritional support, the optimal route, and to quickly determine calorie goals.
In some cases, nutrition for the hospitalized patient is best accomplished using either an esophageal feeding tube or a nasogastric feeding tube. How to place each of these is demonstrated in the following videos.
Esophagostomy Tube Placement
These videos have been generously provided by the Dove Lewis Memorial Emergency and Critical Care Hospital (atdove.org), for use by the WSAVA Global Nutrition Committee.”
The Feeding Instructions and Monitoring Chart provides a step-by-step approach to determining appropriate calorie needs and writing eﬀective feeding instructions, as well as a comprehensive Nutrition monitoring chart for hospitalized patients.
Tools for Pet Owners
Information on the Internet can be confusing and there is lots of myth and misinformation on the topic of pet Nutrition. These guides (one for cat owners and one for dog owners) provide tips on eﬀectively and objectively using the Internet. In addition, both include a list of useful and accurate Internet resources on pet Nutrition.
Nutrition on the Internet dogs Most pet owners consider the ingredient list to be the most important factor in choosing a pet food. However, the ingredient list gives no information on the quality of the ingredients and can be very misleading on the overall quality of the food. The WSAVA Global Nutrition Committee tool provides owners with recommendations on how to use more important information from the label to select the best food for pets.
Selecting a Pet Food
WSAVA Food Label Guides
Are you confused by food labels? With so much information offered, it can be hard to find the data you need. These handy guides highlight the most important nutritional information to check to ensure that you feed your pet an appropriate and high quality diet.
Raw Meat Based Diets for Dogs and Cats
Raw meat based diets for dogs and cats are increasingly popular. This infographic sums up the potential risks associated with their use
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) and Myths
Puppy Teething Timeline
Some puppy owners don’t realize that their new bundles of joy have baby teeth that fall out, just like human babies! We’ve compiled a puppy teething timeline so you know exactly what to expect as your furry friend grows into his adult body.
Weeks 2 to 4: Baby teeth come in.
Weeks 5 to 6: Your puppy should have about 28 teeth and can begin the weaning process.
Weeks 12 to 16: You may start finding tiny teeth around your home as your puppy’s baby teeth begin falling out and permanent teeth emerge. This process can be painful. Offer your puppy safe chew toys. Ask your vet if you aren’t sure which ones are best for your pup! This is also a good time to start getting your puppy used to having his mouth touched so he will tolerate having his teeth brushed later on.
6 Months and Older: All puppy teeth should be gone, and you can expect your dog to grow about 42 teeth total. Talk to your veterinarian if you notice any remaining baby teeth.
Keeping Teeth Healthy
Now it’s time to keep all of those pearly whites clean! Stuck food and plaque can quickly lead to stinky doggy breath and periodontal disease. Be sure to brush your dog’s teeth regularly to prevent the need for invasive dental cleanings from your vet.
You can start slow, in order to help your dog get used to the sensation:
- Start by brushing with your finger or gauze
- Graduate to a soft toothbrush and toothpaste that has been specially formulated for a dog’s system. (You can also use a baking soda and water paste.)
- Be sure to give your dog treats and food that have been proven to help reduce plaque.
As always, ask your vet for advice and recommendations!
Sources: akc.org, aspca.org