Selecting Your Puppy
Let's face it, almost all puppies are hard to resist - so when it comes to picking out a new pooch, it's important to know just what you're getting.
A puppy's adult personality is fairly well defined as early as seven weeks of age, so seven weeks is an excellent age to "test" a prospective pet. A few careful minutes spent choosing your puppy will make all the difference once you've made the puppy a member of the family.
Look for the puppy that's willing to relax when cradled in your arms for a minute or two. Puppies that fight, bite, or struggle may not be able to handle stressful situations or restraints such as leashes. Next, try to startle the puppy during a quiet moment. Dropping your keys on the floor is a good way to gauge the puppy's reaction. A puppy that runs and hides may always fear loud noises and eventually display destructive behavior or soil the house when left alone, for example, during a thunderstorm. If you're trying to select a puppy from a litter, the attraction test is instructive and fun. Get on your hands and knees and call to the puppies as a group. A curious puppy is the one that responds first and most often. It's likely to be people oriented as an adult.
Protecting Your Puppy
Love's not enough. Your puppy needs a preventive health care program, too.
Every new puppy faces a variety of parasites and infectious organisms as it grows. Some can pose a threat to humans too, so it's important to take your puppy to your veterinarian as soon as you can. That way, your veterinarian may get your puppy started on a preventive health care plan that's the foundation for a long, healthy life - and your family can enjoy your new dog worry free. If you don't already have a veterinarian, click here to use the Veterinarian Locator service, free from Merial.com.
Here are some puppy health care topics you should discuss with your veterinarian. This list is for the information of pet owners - it does not include every threat to the health of your puppy and does not replace veterinary care.
Heartworms and Gastrointestinal Parasites: Risks You Might Not Even See until Your Dog's Infected
Outdoor type or couch potato, your puppy is at risk of exposure to potentially deadly heartworms as well as harmful gastrointestinal parasites. But don't despair - heartworm disease can be prevented and roundworms and hookworms can be treated and controlled!
Heartworm disease has been found in all 50 states in the US. Its prevalence has increased because we live in such a mobile society - people and their dogs travel from place to place, unknowingly taking parasites along for the ride. Dogs of any age and breed are susceptible, and the disease may be fatal.
The parasitic worm responsible for heartworm disease is called Dirofilaria immitis. The life cycle of the heartworm begins when a mosquito bites and feeds on the blood of an infected dog that is carrying tiny immature heartworms, called microfilariae, in its blood. The mosquito takes in the immature heartworms when it feeds. During the next two-to-three weeks, the larvae develop into the infective stage within the mosquito. When the mosquito feeds again, it can transmit infective larvae to a healthy dog. The larvae enter the dog's body through the mosquito's bite wound, migrate through its tissues, and develop over the next few months into adult heartworms, eventually reaching the dog’s heart and lungs. Heartworms may be present in the heart and lungs approximately four months after initial infection. Once in the dog’s heart, the worms may grow to between 6 and 12 inches in length and cause significant damage to the heart and lungs. If left untreated, heartworm disease may result in death. After adult heartworms mate and produce immature heartworms, an infected dog which is bitten by an uninfected mosquito will transmit microfilariae to the mosquito, beginning the cycle again.
Heartworms are not the only parasite of concern to puppy owners. Everyday, gastrointestinal parasites such as roundworms and hookworms may weaken puppies, and can even cause death in severe cases. Effective treatment and ongoing control of gastrointestinal parasites are essential for the health of your puppy.
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Fleas and Ticks: Small Pests that Can Cause Big Problems
Ounce-for-ounce, few creatures can inflict more discomfort than fleas. These tiny pests can hop onto your puppy unobserved to feed on its blood and lay eggs, producing yet another generation. Fleas can make life miserable for people and pets alike, disrupting your household with a nasty cycle of biting and in some dogs causing scratching and flea allergy dermatitis or anemia.
Ticks attach to host animals to feed. You might not even notice these minute pests on your puppy until the ticks have fed so much that they've become engorged. Worse yet, ticks may transmit diseases that may cause potentially serious pet-health problems, including Lyme disease, also called borreliosis. Borreliosis is an infectious disease syndrome spread by a tiny tick called the deer tick. Adult deer ticks are the size of the head of a pin. Canine Lyme disease typically mimics the signs of chronic arthritis and can lead to joint damage, heart complications, and renal (kidney) problems. Canine renal borreliosis is generally fatal.
Rocky Mountain spotted fever is also a tick-borne disease that affects dogs. The disease is characterized by bleeding disorders that maybe severe.
Your veterinarian can determine whether your dog has Lyme disease by performing specific blood tests, a physical examination, and an assessment of your dog's overall health history. The best way to protect your new puppy from Lyme disease can be through a two dose immunization regimen, typically beginning at 9 weeks of age, and regular use of a product that kills all stages of major types of ticks.
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Viral Diseases: A Regular Immunization Program Can Help Protect Your Puppy
There's no way around it - potentially dangerous, disease-causing organisms are part of your new puppy's environment. And because puppys are curious and like to explore everything, they're good candidates for exposure to infection. But your veterinarian can help protect puppies and adult dogs against a number of infectious organisms through a regular vaccination program. A puppy typically receives its first vaccination at 6 to 8 weeks of age, and vaccinations will continue throughout the dog's life. Your veterinarian will set up your puppy's vaccination schedule - it's important that you follow your veterinarian's recommendations.
In fact, taking your dog to "get its shots" on a regular basis is one of the easiest, most important ways you can protect your pet's good health, because it also ensures that your veterinarian has the chance to examine your dog regularly to detect any problems before they become serious threats.
Some of the most important diseases to understand and talk about with your veterinarian are rabies, parvovirus, Lyme disease (discussed above in the Flea and Tick section), distemper and canine coronavirus. Vaccines are available against all these diseases. You'll also want to discuss heartworm disease and fleas, ticks and other significant parasites with your veterinarian.
Rabies: A Fatal Disease that Affects People, Too
Rabies is a generally fatal viral disease that affects the central nervous system and can infect all warm-blooded animals. The disease is zoonotic, which means it can be transmitted to humans bitten by an infected animal. People exposed to rabies must undergo an immunization regimen.
Canine Parvovirus (Parvo): An Intestinal Virus that Typically Attacks Puppies
Parvo is an acute, potentially fatal disease of the gastrointestinal tract and, less commonly, the heart muscle. Although dogs of all ages are susceptible, puppies are more at risk. Signs include vomiting, bloody diarrhea, fever and dehydration. Since these symptoms can indicate other diseases as well, the veterinarian will confirm a diagnosis of parvoviral infection by examining the feces.
Distemper (Hardpad Disease): The "Canine Plague"
Distemper is a highly contagious viral disease that affects a puppy's skin, respiratory system, intestines, and brain and can cause transient fever, discharge from the nose and eyes, loss of appetite, hardening of footpads, nervous disorders and even death. It is not transmitted to people. Distemper is spread via tiny droplets in a dog's breath and is so contagious among dogs that the disease is sometimes called the "Canine Plague." Young puppies are at greatest risk of contracting distemper, though all unvaccinated dogs and dogs with suppressed immune systems are at risk.
Canine Coronavirus (CCV): A Contagious Disease that's Transmitted Easily
In most cases, canine coronavirus is transmitted when dogs or puppies ingest the disease-causing organism following direct contact with infected animals or their feces. Dogs of all ages and breeds are susceptible. CCV infection can range from very mild and barely noticeable to serious. Dogs infected with CCV may refuse food, seem lethargic, become dehydrated, and suffer from sudden-onset diarrhea that can last from ten days to several weeks. CCV can occur at the same time as canine parvovirus, intensifying the dog's illness and even causing death in puppies.
Your Puppy's Vaccination Schedule
No matter what kind of puppy you've selected, its vaccination schedule should begin at six to eight weeks of age. After that, revaccinations are necessary to keep your dog healthy. See your veterinarian to establish a vaccination and revaccination schedule.