How will puppy care impact the life of my dog?

We need to address so many essential things in a young puppy to start them off right. So one of the biggest things I think that is often overlooked is puppy behavior and the socialization process of a puppy and how important that is. And the best time to do that in a dog is really early in life. After about 14 weeks of age, your opportunities to significantly socialize your puppy and have them be socially developed are diminished after that period. So there are many behavioral aspects to think about. And then, of course, you want to ensure they have proper immunity through vaccinations. Unfortunately, we still see parvovirus throughout the year, which can be devastating. So ensuring that we have adequate immunity, proper nutrition, and parasite prevention are the critical things to start early in life. It can be hugely impactful to get started on the right foot with puppy care.

Dr. Shawn McCorkle
Summer Creek Animal Clinic

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

Bring them right after getting your puppy, even if the breeder or whoever you're getting the puppy from has already vaccinated the puppy or just recently vaccinated the puppy. That's the best time to bring them in because that first visit to the veterinarian will be a positive visit for the puppy and an educational visit for the new puppy owner. And with us being a fear-free-certified hospital here at Summer Creek, it's imperative that the visits early on are really positive. So if that first visit doesn't require any pokes for vaccinations, that's a win. And I think it's important for puppy owners, especially new ones, to get a thorough education. We make it a big point to focus on puppy behavior at the first puppy visit to ensure that things are moving in the right direction from the get-go because that best window is relatively narrow to work on those things.

What are the most common health problems in puppies?

The things that we see are parasites, as intestinal parasites are very common in puppies. They can get them from their mother, and they're a lot more susceptible to them in general, which is why we check multiple fecal samples to be able to treat that effectively. As mentioned, parvovirus is still rampant and causes many issues for young puppies. There are also plenty of other viral diseases. And then we see a lot of breed-related problems. So depending on the breed that you get, many of them come with anatomical problems that are just inherent in the breed. For example, your English bulldogs, your pugs. or other squished-face dogs are just inherently going to have lots of anatomical issues as a result.

We'll also skin infections, and ear infections tend to be pretty prevalent in any age dog, but we tend to see those a lot in puppies as well. So the list goes on and on, but those are some of the big things that we see pretty regularly. And then, again, we want to identify any puppy behavior are issues that are genuine issues and not just normal puppy behavior early on. If there are significant behavioral issues, the earlier we intervene, the better.

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

The big thing you want to be looking for is how are they eating? With very young puppies, we typically recommend feeding three to four times a day, especially the tiny breed dogs, because they don't regulate their blood sugar as well. And so feeding them small, more frequent meal is helpful. You also want to monitor the stool for diarrhea. Sometimes you can see intestinal parasites. Some of them you can't see, but other times you'll see worms in the stool. You should also look out for vomiting, shaking the head, or scratching the head. Puppies are particularly prone to skin infections on their belly. And so make sure you're looking on their underside for any red spots, as that's a common thing that we see. Also, be on the lookout for tiny, skinny, fragile teeth. Puppy teeth are not robust until about six months of age when they get their adult teeth. Ensure that those teeth are evaluated closely at the veterinary visits because the canine teeth in the front of the mouth are long and skinny, and I've seen those get broken and cause a lot of issues. And then any other symptom that you'd look for, such as coughing, sneezing, nasal discharge, or really anything out of the ordinary, should be raised for concern and with puppies. We want to be more careful because puppies are less resilient than adult dogs.

What are some signs of a healthy, thriving puppy?

The signs of a healthy, thriving puppy are the opposite of everything I just mentioned, so normal or formed stools, no visible parasites, and eating and drinking well. So really, what a healthy puppy is doing is eating, playing really hard, and sleeping hard. It's just those things on repeat and eating those smaller, more frequent meals. So if your puppy is doing those things, you're in good shape.

When should I start training with my puppy?

You start training your puppy right away. And that's why we focus on puppy behavior at the first visit to our hospital because focusing on positive reinforcement training early on has so many positive benefits throughout that dog's life. And so starting on puppy training right away, focusing on the basics, sit, stay, um, you know, your potty training, your crate training. If you're going to use a kennel, all of those things should be started early. And then the method that you use for those could not be more important. So, unfortunately, there's a lot of variety in how people approach these things. Still, the research out there nowadays does show very definitively that the best methods to use are positive reinforcement. And all that means is that your positively reinforcing the good behavior. So when you walk your dog outside to the yard to go to the bathroom right after they go, you're out there with them to give them a small treat as a reward or a positive reinforcement.

That's reinforcing that behavior, and it's teaching them that this is a good thing versus negative reinforcement, which is teaching them not to do something that they shouldn't be doing. And that is a much more difficult thing to do correctly. And we have seen many cases where that is done very poorly, which makes the dog more fearful and anxious. And so we see a lot of negative repercussions from that type of training. So starting early, right away, focusing on positive reinforcement and it's going to have a significant impact on your puppy.

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

We focus heavily on looking at all the different parts of the puppy to ensure everything is in order and there are no developmental defects. So, as an example, we look in the mouth for any broken teeth, also looking at how the bite is to see if there's any contact between teeth that shouldn't be there. That's more prevalent in some breeds. We also look at the top of the mouth on the pallet, as sometimes the pallet doesn't close appropriately, and you can end up with some problems there. We look at the toes and skin and listen to the heart. That is important because there are developmental heart conditions that can be pretty serious that we can identify using a stethoscope.

We will be looking at each part of the puppy to see if there is anything out of the ordinary where we can intervene and address that issue early. We're also looking for other basic things like the puppy's body condition. What's their nutrition looking like, as we want to focus on starting them off right with puppy nutrition and ensuring that they're being fed adequately and not too much, which is common. We want to ensure that as that puppy grows, they maintain that really lean body weight. We want to feel the ribs easily as we rub our hands across the chest, but we don't want to see the ribs. We just want to feel them easily, so we don't want extra padding. Those are all things that we're looking for and discussing throughout the visit to ensure that the puppy is healthy and that we're moving in the right direction.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (817) 523-1139, 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.