useful information on how to care for your new puppy
This page gives some important information about how to keep your new addition happy and healthy as they settle in and throughout their lives. If you have any questions or would like to discuss any specific concerns please ask.
As well as treating animals who are unwell, we try to prevent health problems wherever possible. This includes vaccinations, parasite treatment, neutering, good diet and proper socialisation.
Vaccinations are important to prevent infectious disease outbreaks. The core diseases that we vaccinate all dogs against are: Distemper, infectious hepatitis, parvovirus and leptospirosis. Unfortunately these diseases cause dogs to become seriously unwell and can be fatal – treatment is not always successful, which is why it is important we prevent them.
We recommend that your puppy is vaccinated at 8 and 10 weeks of age. The initial course is two vaccinations 2-4 weeks apart and a puppy must be at least 10 weeks old when the second vaccination is given. Your puppy is not protected by his/her vaccinations until 7 days after their second vaccination and so should not go outside or meet unvaccinated dogs until then. The first annual booster is very important to ensure your puppy develops adequate immunity and they will require annual boosters afterwards.
Before they are vaccinated your puppy will receive a thorough health check to ensure that they are well enough to be vaccinated and this is repeated annually at booster time so that we can identify and treat any health problems early.
Vaccinations are required before your dog can stay in licensed boarding kennels and may be required in other circumstances such as for dog training, dog walkers or doggy day-care. Some insurance policies will not provide cover for a disease that could have been prevented by vaccination if your dog is not vaccinated. You will be given a signed record of your dogs vaccinations, please keep this safe. As a courtesy we sent out reminders when vaccinations are due, but rarely these can be lost and it is your responsibility to ensure vaccinations remain up to date.
Despite the success in reducing the number of cases of parvovirus we see, there are still sporadic outbreaks. Most dogs respond well to vaccination and are adequately protected, however a small number of dogs fail to develop immunity after their second vaccines. Rottweilers and Dobermans are known to be particularly at risk of this happening. We stock a parvovirus vaccine that can be given as a 3rd vaccination between 16 weeks and one year of age. This is not required for putting dogs into kennels but is an option if you would like peace of mind.
Kennel cough can be caused by a number of different viruses and bacteria, it is airborne and very infectious. Kennel cough does not generally cause severe disease in healthy dogs but can lead to chest infections. Despite its name, kennel cough can be caught anywhere your dog mixes with other dogs – such as puppy classes or out on a walk as well as in kennels. Infected dogs should be kept isolated at home until they are no longer coughing, which can be up to 3 weeks, to prevent outbreaks locally. We therefore recommend that your dog be vaccinated against kennel cough.
The vaccination goes up the nose and is given as a single dose yearly. The vaccination is against the most common viral strain and the most common bacterial strain. Vaccinated dogs can still get kennel cough because of the different strains, but disease is milder and generally doesn’t last as long.
The kennel cough vaccination can be given from 3 weeks of age and there is a discounted price when it is given at the same time as other vaccinations. It takes 3 weeks for full immunity to develop and so should ideally be given at least 3 weeks prior to high risk periods like going into kennels.
The vaccination contains live weakened strains of the virus/ bacteria, so should not be given to dogs who are in contact with immunocompromised people for 6 weeks after vaccination. This may include people who are having chemotherapy or have had organ transplants.
Are vaccinations safe?
Vaccinations are safe, however like all treatment there is a small risk of adverse reactions. The reason we offer vaccinations is to prevent diseases that pose a serious risk to your dogs health, so the risks must be considered against this. Most adverse reactions are mild and resolve quickly without treatment and severe reactions are very rare. If you are concerned about your dog after a vaccination, please phone the surgery.
My puppy had his/her vaccinations with the breeder, can I have the second vaccination at Filey Vets?
It is important that your puppy receives the same brand of vaccine for both their first and second injection. This is because we have no evidence as to whether using different manufacturers’ vaccines will protect your dog. If your puppy received a first vaccination that Filey Vets does not stock you can either restart their vaccines to ensure they are protected or find another practice that has the vaccination you require.
Does my puppy need the L2 or L4 leptospirosis vaccine?
We recommend the L2 vaccine, which protects against two different strains of leptospirosis, for dogs that do not travel abroad because we believe that this gives adequate protection. For dogs that travel abroad we recommend the ‘L4’ vaccination, which protects against four different strains of leptospirosis including those seen more commonly abroad. The L4 vaccination course is two doses 4 weeks apart. You can discuss which vaccination is most with a vet during your appointment.
Does my dog need a booster every year?
Yes. Following your dogs first annual booster they will be immune to distemper, infectious hepatitis and parvovirus for 3 years. However immunity to leptospirosis only lasts for 1 year and requires an annual booster. Therefore we give leptospirosis vaccines yearly and the distemper, infectious hepatitis and parvovirus component every 3 years.
Does it matter if a booster is given late or is missed one year?
Yes. There is a short grace period for annual boosters but after this your dog will need two leptospirosis vaccinations, two to four weeks apart to make sure they are immune.
Does my dog need to be vaccinated against rabies?
Rabies is not present in the UK, so provided your dog does not travel abroad there is no risk of them catching rabies and vaccination is not required. If you intend to travel with your dog then a rabies vaccination will be necessary alongside travel documents so please book an appointment plenty of time before you plan to travel to discuss this.
It is a legal requirement that all dogs in the UK are microchipped by 8 weeks of age, unless a veterinary surgeon has determined that this should be delayed. Your puppy should have been microchipped by the breeder and you will need to make sure that the contact details on the chip are your own and continue to update them when necessary. We will check that the microchip is present and working at your vaccination appointment. We can also check that the number matches your documents.
If your puppy is not microchipped we can do this for you at the first vaccination appointment.
Fleas are small parasites that can live on your dog’s skin and cause them to become itchy and develop skin disease. Fleas can be hard to spot because they only spend time on our pets to feed. They lay eggs in the environment, especially in carpets, furnishings and between floorboards. It is much easier to prevent a flea infestation than it is to treat one, so we recommend regular preventative treatment.
There are a wide variety of products available including flavoured tablets that you can give like a treat and spot-on products. Prescription flea treatment is usually safer and more effective than supermarket or pet shop brands. Frequency of dosing varies by product but in generally monthly. All products work by killing fleas shortly after contact with a treated dog, preventing them from laying eggs.
It is important to worm your dog regularly throughout its lifetime and again products supplied by a veterinary surgeon are safer and more effective than pet shop or supermarket brands. It is uncommon for adult worms to be passed in faeces and the eggs can only be seen under a microscope so your dog may have worms without you knowing,
Your dog may become infected with worms from hunting, eating raw meat and soil. Tapeworms can be transmitted by fleas and lungworm is transmitted when dogs ingest slugs or snails. Puppies can pick up worms when they are nursing from their mothers.
The most common worms we see are roundworms, tapeworms, hookworms and whipworms. Lungworm is most common in the south east of the UK but there are only occasional cases locally. Roundworm is of particular concern because it can also infect humans and households in which there are very young children or vulnerable unwell people should take particular care with worming and hygiene.
Puppies should be wormed monthly between 8 weeks and 6 months of age. After this the standard recommendation is to worm every three months, but this can be done more often if your dog is at high risk or there are particular concerns about infection of humans.
Neutering means surgically preventing pets from being able to reproduce, in males the operation is called castration and in females it is known as spaying. Neutering your pet can be an important way of keeping them healthy and preventing unintentional mating. Neutering operations are some of the most common procedures performed by vets and this is done as a day case, so your dog will come home on the day of surgery. There is always a small risk with any anaesthesia and surgery, but neutering is very safe.
The general advice we give depends on whether your puppy is male or female and we can also offer specific advice to help you make an informed decision, please make an appointment to discuss this.
For health reasons, we generally advise that all bitches who are not intended to breed are spayed. This is because neutering prevents pyometra, a common and potentially life threatening infection of the uterus and if done early reduces the risk of mammary (breast) cancers. It will also prevent your dog from coming into season and developing phantom pregnancies.
We advise that this is carried out 12 weeks after she has her first season. Neutering can be done before this, at 6 months of age, but we do not believe there is currently enough evidence to recommend early neutering of female dogs. The operation can also be done 12 weeks after subsequent seasons, but the benefits in terms of reduced risk of mammary tumours decreases and is lost after 3 seasons.
For dogs the benefits of castration include preventing unwanted mating and sexual behaviour, straying and can reduce aggression between males. It can also prevent testicular cancer and some prostate conditions, however castration can be performed to treat these conditions if necessary later in life.
Castration does not help behaviours such as anxiety and fear aggression, in fact in some circumstances castration can make this behaviour worse. We advise that you speak to a qualified behaviourist before making a decision if this is a concern and we can make a referral for this.
Castration can be performed from 6 months of age in small breed dogs. There is some evidence that performing castration early in large breed dogs (>20kg) may lead to a higher risk of orthopaedic problems such as cruciate disease or hip dysplasia so we recommend castration at a minimum age of 12-18 months in these breeds.
Non-surgical options such as hormone implants are available and may be useful for some animals. These are temporary and so require repeated use and are an ongoing cost. Please speak to a vet if you would like to discuss this further.
A good diet is essential for the health of your dog. Puppies should be fed puppy food because this is formulated to support healthy growth. You should change to adult food once your puppy reaches maturity and this will be earlier for small dogs (approx 9-12 months) and later for large (12-16 months) and giant breeds (up to 24 months). Initially puppies should be fed small meals often, we suggest four meals a day until 4 months of age, then three meals a day until 6 months of age and then two meals a day. Read the feeding guideline on the food carefully and then divide the total daily amount into the correct number of meals. Choosing the right diet is a personal choice, we are happy to discuss this with you if you would like advice.
If you change the food your puppy is being fed this should be done slowly because a sudden dietary change can cause an upset stomach. Introduce the new food whilst you still have some of the old food left and mix them together, increasing the proportion of the new food over a few days.
Gum disease in the most common dental problem in dogs and is present in most dogs by the time they are 3 years old. As in humans plaque builds up on the teeth and causes your dog’s immune system to react, so over time the attachment between the gum and the tooth is broken down. Early signs of gum disease include bad breath, tartar on the teeth and a red line along the gum where it meets the tooth.
As this progresses the teeth become loose and painful, bacteria are able to get into your dog’s bloodstream and their immune system has to destroy them and bone is lost from the jaw bone, weakening it. Treatment for gum disease requires a general anaesthetic for a thorough cleaning and often requires extraction of teeth.
Gum disease is preventable.
The most effective way to prevent gum disease is to brush your dog’s teeth once daily and there is a separate sheet explaining how to do this. You should start to do this from around 5 months of age as your puppy’s permanent teeth start to erupt because this will prevent disease and it is easier to encourage younger dogs to allow this. You can start sooner, getting them used to having their mouth handled and getting used to a toothbrush.
Socialisation is a process by which puppies learn about the world around them throughout the first year over their lives. It involves meeting people (including children) and other dogs as well as getting used to different environments and situations that your dog will encounter throughout its life. A well socialised puppy is more likely to grow into a happy, confident dog. Poorly socialised puppies may be more anxious and fearful and are more likely to develop behavioural problems in later life.
Puppy classes can be a useful tool for socialising as well as an opportunity to learn skills such as walking on a lead, recall and basic commands.
Very young puppies are likely to approach new situations without fear, but even by 12 weeks they start to become more cautious so it is important to introduce new experiences early. It is important to remember that until a week after their second vaccination your puppy is not protected by their vaccines so meeting unvaccinated dogs or walking in areas where unvaccinated dogs have been, should be avoided. You can still take your puppy outside but please carry them. It is important to introduce your puppy to everyday noises within your home (e.g television, hoover, washing machine) and get them used to being handled. It is important not to overwhelm them, but try to continue as normal. If you have children they are bound to be very excited, but encourage them to be calm when handling the puppy to avoid frightening them and to allow the puppy to move away if they are worried.
Some important things for you to include in your socialisation include:
Humans (adults and children)
Public areas & parks
Pavements, streets & traffic
Inspections (eyes, teeth, body, feet) – makes a vets job easier!
Sheep & livestock (if living in the country)
Solitude (prevent separation anxiety)
Some puppies are naturally shy and anxious and it is important to notice the signs that they are unhappy. Be patient and allow them time to get used to a situation. It is important to avoid bad experiences because this is likely to make them anxious. Pheromone collars are available and these can help your puppy feel more confident and secure as they settle into your family. Please ask about these if you are interested.
Pet insurance is available to cover the cost of treatment should your dog have an accident or become unwell. We recommend that you insure your puppy as soon as possible.
Filey Veterinary Practice
1 Station Avenue