Getting a new puppy is always exciting, and that excitement can go on for a dozen years or more if you and your family take some precautions to keep your pet safe and healthy. Although all accidents and illnesses cannot be prevented, there are plenty of things you can do to reduce chances that your pet will suffer.
Exam by a Veterinarian
First thing is to get Fido to a veterinarian for an examination and vaccinations. Choose a veterinarian to visit regularly; don’t count on the discounted shot clinics offered away from veterinary offices. Fido needs a personal doctor just like you do.
While you’re at the veterinarian’s office, ask questions about predispositions to medical problems. For example, some breeds are sensitive to skin or allergy problems, others to joint problems or bloat. The best place to get medical answers is from a qualified veterinarian.
After initial vaccinations are done, take Fido to the veterinarian for regular checkups, usually once a year, for boosters and a routine examination, and take him when you suspect or find a problem and when he’s ill.
Now I understand you don’t want to run to the veterinarian’s office every day or week. There are some things you can and should do yourself to help insure his health and safety.
Clean, quality food and fresh water are a must. Fido’s breeder and the veterinarian can help you select a food best suited to Fido. Food dishes must be kept clean, especially in hot weather when bacteria grow very rapidly. I recommend stainless steel dishes, elevated at least knee high for Fido. Stainless steel is nearly indestructible and can be sanitized very easily.
Exercise — physical and chewing — should be part of Fido’s daily routine. Proper levels of exercise keep people and pets physically fit and help fight off disease. Exercise along with a proper feeding program should keep Fido from becoming overweight. Adjustments in food amounts and protein and fat levels need to be addressed as Fido ages — your veterinarian can help decide when changes are needed.
Chew toys help Fido relieve his natural chewing instinct in a positive manner and help keep his teeth clean. Regular toys help Fido occupy his time and enjoy himself while you’re away.
Personal hygiene and grooming are part of everyone’s daily life and should be part of Fido’s life too. Have you ever smelled someone who hadn’t bathed or used deodorant? Did you move away from them rather quickly? When were you last hot, tired, and really sweaty and dirty? Didn’t a shower feel wonderful?
Well, Fido likes to be brushed and clean, too, and he’s certainly a lot more pleasant to be around when he doesn’t smell bad. Many pets are bathed every week or two and groomed monthly or every six weeks because their owner’s take pride in their pets’ appearance.
Cleaning up the yard after Fido urinates and defecates can be a dirty job, but someone has to do it! Worm eggs leave the dog’s body in the feces and worms can repeatedly re-infest the dog if the feces are not cleaned up.
Do a safety check of your house. Jot down problem areas as you check each room to see what dangers lie in wait for a puppy or dog. Things to watch for are electric cords that tempt puppy to chew or grab, cleaning rags or sponges left in puppy’s reach, hanging cords on draperies and window blinds, small objects that puppy might swallow, a bowl of candy on the coffee table, etc. Keep puppy out of the garage — even a teaspoon of spilled anti-freeze can be deadly.
Make sure you can confine Fido when you cannot watch him. Use a crate or baby gates to keep him safe when you are busy.
Put Fido on a schedule. Every few hours, and shortly after eating, he should be taken outside to do his business. Puppies on a regular schedule are less likely to have accidents in the house. Also, make sure you are watching for signs that Fido has to go. Sniffing around looking for a spot to squat, or whining at a door are good indicators that nature is calling.
It’s easy to clean up after Fido if you teach him to use one particular spot as a toilet. From the time he’s a pup, take him outside to that spot and tell him to “Go potty.” Put him on a leash so he can’t wander, and don’t play with him until he’s done.
When he performs, praise him and give him a special treat. If you are using a clicker or squeaker for training, click or squeak before you give the treat. Very shortly, Fido will get the idea.
Puppy Proofing the Bedroom
If Fido’s going to play and sleep in your bedroom, make sure you protect your possessions as well as Fido. Don’t leave books or other valuables in puppy’s reach. Puppies must chew in order to ease the discomfort of teething, to explore their world, and to satisfy an instinct to gnaw on things. If you keep things out of Fido’s reach, you won’t be frustrated that he has chewed a library book or your prized stuffed toy.
Put your dirty clothes in the hamper. Puppies and dogs love to chew their owner’s dirty clothes, especially socks and underwear.
Don’t allow tug-of-war with blankets and bedspreads; puppies love to grab anything and pull and can quickly destroy bed linen by doing so.
If you eat snacks in your room, be sure to clean up the crumbs. Puppies quickly become scavengers once they find a regular source of food, which can lead to unacceptable begging, obesity, and intestinal upset.
Dog Health Report Card
The Kentucky Veterinary Medical Association has a report card for pet health to help you determine if your pet needs veterinary attention. Here are the categories and grades.
- Hair coat
- A If coat is clean and shiny.
- B If it’s just clean
- C If it’s dull, but clean.
- D If it’s just dull.
- F If it’s dull, dirty and matted.
- A If teeth are bright and clean.
- B If there’s a few dirty teeth.
- C If most teeth are dirty.
- D If the teeth are dirty and smelly.
- F If the teeth are dirty, the breath smells and the gums are red.
- A If the eyes are bright.
- B If they are clean.
- C If they are watery
- D If they are red and watery.
- F If they are red and watery, have a discharge, are cloudy, or if the pet blinks a lot.
- A If the ears are clean.
- B If there’s some wax.
- C If they are dirty with lots of wax.
- D If they are dirty, smelly, and have a lot of wax.
- F If they are dirty, smelly, very waxy, and hurt to clean
- A If the nose is clean and moist.
- B If it’s clean and watery.
- C If its watery and your pet sneezes.
- D If it’s very watery and there’s lots of sneezes.
- F If it’s very watery, there’s lots of sneezes, and there’s a green discharge.
- A If vaccinations have been given every year.
- B If only rabies vaccination has been given.
- C If vaccinations more than two years old.
- D If puppy shots only.
- F If never vaccinated.
- Has your pet been spayed or neutered?
Pets with Cs, Ds, and Fs should head to the veterinarian for a checkup.