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PUPPY VISITS: WHAT TO EXPECT THE FIRST 4 MONTHS

French bulldog puppy at home

Like the arrival of a newborn baby, bringing home a new furry member to the family can be an exciting yet overwhelming time for all pet owners. The following is a general guide to what veterinarians will recommend and perform for your little puppy, based on their age. Please note that every veterinary hospital has its own puppy protocol and may slightly vary from the discussion below.

Under 6 Weeks Old
When a puppy is in its first six weeks of life and properly nursing from its mother, no vaccinations are necessary because his or her immune system is protected by the milk. Puppies should remain with their mothers, when possible, until they are fully weaned, usually between five and eight weeks of age. If for some reason this is not possible, please contact your veterinarian as soon as possible for feeding recommendations (for example, milk replacers) and keep the puppy away from other animals. Puppies this young should be minimally handled and kept indoors to prevent contraction of contagious diseases.

6-8 Weeks Old
Ideally, this is the age where a puppy should be first brought to your veterinarian’s office for a full physical examination. At this time, your vet will check for common birth defects such as hernias, a cleft palate, and heart murmurs. Most veterinarians recommend bringing a stool sample to assess your puppy’s feces for common intestinal parasites, such as roundworms, whipworms, hookworms, coccidia and giardia. Because the antibodies from mom’s milk will be dissipating, this is the ideal time for your puppy to receive his first “distemper” vaccination (DHPPV), which includes protection against multiple viruses that cause diarrhea and respiratory tract infections (parvovirus, adenovirus, parainfluenza virus). The first treatment of a de-wormer (which is a medication to kill intestinal worms) and heartworm and flea/tick preventative will often be prescribed at this time. As your puppy’s new family, come armed with any questions regarding feeding/ nutrition, house training, and socialization, as these matters will likely be discussed.

9-11 Weeks Old
By this time, your puppy has likely acclimated to his or her new home and has a routine starting to form. Veterinarians will provide a booster of the vaccination above (DHPPV) and may choose to discuss the bordatella vaccine based on your puppy’s exposure to other dogs; the bordatella vaccine protects against the bacteria that causes “kennel cough,” or infectious bronchitis in dogs. Be prepared for another deworming and discussion of any new concerns or problems that have developed in the past 2 weeks.

12-14 Weeks Old
As with the previous visit, your veterinarian will examine, deworm and vaccinate your puppy to continue to boost his or her immunity to common contagious viruses. Depending on where you live and your pet’s risk to exposure, a Leptospirosis and Lyme vaccine may be offered at this time. Leptospirosis is a bacteria found in the urine of wild mammals that causes liver and kidney damage in dogs and is contagious (zoonotic) to people. Lyme is a bacteria transmitted by the bite of a tick and causes damage to multiple organs, including the kidneys and joints. Your veterinarian will again prescribe a de-wormer, heartworm and flea/tick preventative.

15-17 Weeks Old
No doubt, the past two months have been an incredibly exciting time for you and your puppy, inundated with lots of love, training, and proper nutrition. At 16 weeks old, dogs may receive their first rabies vaccination, which will protect them against the fatal, highly contagious (and zoonotic) virus for 1 year. A final DHPPV vaccine will be given, along with bordatella, Leptospirosis, and Lyme if warranted. If your puppy was diagnosed with intestinal parasites, a recheck on the stool will confirm that they no longer have a burden; I personally recommend a recheck on all puppies, as some worms intermittently shed their eggs (which is what is found during the examination of the feces under the microscope) and may be missed the first time. The topic of spaying or neutering your puppy will be covered at this visit and your veterinarian may collect a blood sample for the pre-anesthetic evaluation. This bloodwork checks the vital organs (liver, kidneys), blood sugar, protein levels, electrolytes, and red and white blood cells to ensure the safest anesthetic experience possible. Once again, your puppy will receive a de-wormer and, depending on body weight, may go home with a larger supply of heartworm and flea/tick preventative.

Remember, nothing can compare to the authority, guidance, and compassion that your veterinarian will provide in the first 4 months of your puppy’s life. Vaccines have been created to keep our pets safe from contagious, debilitating, and sometimes fatal diseases. A medication to de-worm your puppy will be given multiple times to ensure that all intestinal worms have been killed and removed from the body. Important discussions regarding training, housebreaking, nutrition, sterilization, and monthly parasitic prevention will be covered.

Congratulations on your new family member!

Amy Myers, DVM

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