Choosing a Puppy
A dog brings much joy to your life with its loyalty and companionship. However, there is also a certain amount of work, training and expense that goes into looking after your new best friend. This makes the decision to get a new puppy one that requires serious thought. Once the decision has been made it is essential to do some research into the breeds to ensure you choose one that is compatible with your circumstances. Important factors to consider include the size of your yard, your family circumstances (especially young children) and the amount of spare time you have to interact with and exercise your pet. Having said this stereotypes do not always ring true and animals can go against the grain of their breed’s expected traits. You should be prepared for some hiccups along the way, but the commitment you made in your original decision to get a new dog should remain strong. With all this in mind there are many places to get your new puppy. We suggest that you try the RSPCA as not only are the prices reasonable, but you are saving a little pup from a shakey future.
Socialisation and Puppy Preschool
It is now recognized that the period from 6 – 16 weeks of age is the key socialisation
period for puppies. Essentially they use their experiences during this time as a blueprint for what is “normal” in their world. It is therefore important to expose your puppy to as many stimuli as possible during this period. Especially important is controlled exposure to noises like vacuum cleaners, mowers and thunder that they may otherwise develop phobias to in adult life. Of equal importance in this time is socialisation with other dogs. We suggest that pups are kept isolated to your home until 8 weeks of age when they have their first vaccination. After this time it is acceptable for your pup to visit friends as long as their dogs are up to date with their vaccinations. It is safest to keep your pup away from parks and public places until after their second vaccination because you cannot guarantee that the dogs they meet there are vaccinated and some viruses can live for up to a year in parks. A great way to socialise your puppy is through our Puppy Preschool. Over 4 sessions you will learn a lot about looking after your pup, and in the meantime your pup will be socialising with other pups and learning some simple obedience too.
Puppies should be wormed at 2, 4, 6, 8, 10 and 12 weeks of age. It is easiest to use a worming syrup in younger pups and switch to worm tablets as they grow. A good quality all wormer should give protection against roundworms, whipworms, hookworms and tape worms. After 12 weeks of age pups should be wormed monthly until they are 6 months old. After this, worming should be done every 3 months for life. We stock the necessary tablets/syrup.
All dogs should be vaccinated in order to prevent several deadly and debilitating infectious diseases. Vaccination is very safe and not only protects your own dog, but also helps to reduce the prevalence of infectious diseases in the wider animal community. Every vaccination appointment is also a veterinary consultation so we perform a thorough physical examination to check your dog’s health and we can look at any problems you may have noticed.
C3 Vaccine – Canine 3 – protects against Parvovirus (a serious gastroenteritis that is frequently fatal in puppies), Infectious Hepatitis Virus (a liver disease) and Distemper Virus (a neurological disease).
C5 Vaccine – Canine 5 – protects against the above three viruses and also the two pathogens involved in Canine Cough (aka Kennel Cough, a painful upper respiratory infection). Vaccination for Canine Cough is a requirement for acceptance into most boarding kennels and dog obedience clubs.
Puppies – should first be vaccinated at 6 weeks of age, and then receive a booster each month until they are over 12 weeks of age. Most puppies will therefore receive three initial vaccinations. Usually the first two are a C3, and the final is a C5.
Puppies over 12 weeks of age only require a single vaccination to be protected for 12 months.
Microchipping and Registration
All new puppies need to be registered with the local council. A new law has been passed recently in Wangaratta stating that registration must take place by the time the animal is 3 months old. It also states that to be registered they must be microchipped. We recommend microchipping at the 12 week vaccination visit as the animals are a little bigger and therefore the procedure is less stressful. In addition to the legality, microchipping is also a responsible thing to do as it ensures that if your dog is ever lost it will be quickly returned to you.
Heartworm is a deadly worm spread from dog to dog by mosquitoes. A recent study showed that 2% of unprotected dogs in Wangaratta were infected. Although this is not a huge number the real issue is that if infected it is a very serious disease. The risk of heartworm also increases if your dog travels to areas of higher prevalence such as along the Murray or along the Victorian coast. Heartworm is easily prevented with either a monthly treatment (tablet or topical) or a once a year injection. We find that most people like the convenience of the once a year injection as it removes the potential for forgetting a monthly treatment. If monthly treatments are to be used we suggest that they begin from the 12 week (3 month) vaccination. The injection is based on body weight and puppies are continually growing so the first injection lasts around 9 months rather than 12. For this reason pups need a combined all wormer/heartwormer tablet at 3, 4 and 5 months of age. They then have their first heartworm injection at 6 months of age. This may seem complicated, but in reality we worm the pup at the 12 week (3 month) vaccination with the combined wormer, then send you home with 2 more tablets to give at the 4 and 5 month mark. The 6 month injection coincides nicely with the pup’s return to us for desexing. The next injection is then given at the first annual vaccination booster (15 months) and following this the yearly vaccination and heartworm injection are synchronised.
Flea prevention should begin at 12 weeks of age. The most effective products are Advantage® and Frontline® as they continue killing fleas for a month from the day of application. They also kill fleas, flea larvae and flea eggs in the dog’s environment. It is important to treat all the animals in your home, especially cats as they roam, otherwise the unprotected animals will continue to reinfect the others. You should also wash the dog’s bedding every few weeks to leave it clean and free of flea eggs and larvae.
We recommend that all dogs that are not going to be breeding animals are desexed at around 6 months of age. Desexing reduces the number of unwanted puppies that are either dumped or surrendered to the RSPCA. It can also help to prevent unwanted sexual related behaviours. Thirdly there are medical benefits. Desexing a female dog before her first heat significantly decreases the likelihood of mammary tumours in later life. It also entirely removes the potential for ovarian cancer and uterine infections. Desexing a male dog removes the potential for testicular cancer and also greatly reduces the likelihood of prostate problems in the future. Desexing operations are performed routinely on all weekdays and in the vast majority of cases animals are able to go home the evening of their surgery. Recovery is very quick and complications are few.
Puppies should be slowly introduced to solid food from about 4 weeks of age. We recommend using a high quality commercial Puppy food as it is specially formulated to contain all the nutrients that a growing puppy needs. It is also higher in protein and energy than adult dog food to supply the greater needs of a fast growing, active pup. You should continue to feed this food until your pup is fully grown (about 12 months old). It may be easier to start with a moist puppy food and gradually introduce dry puppy food over a few weeks. Some dry food in your pup’s diet is essential for healthy teeth and gums. It is a good idea to get some chew toys, like a Kong, that can be packed with food that entertains your pup and exercises their teeth and gums. At about 12 months of age you should change to a high quality Adult dog food as continued feeding of high energy puppy food can cause obesity.