Dr Katrina Warren explains what you need to be mindful of when getting a new pet.
Before you become consumed with the overwhelming desire to bring a new furry bundle of joy into your life, it’s important to consider what bringing a puppy into your life will actually entail.
Puppies are similar to toddlers in many ways - they love to eat things they shouldn’t (dirt, insects and grass, just to name a few!) and require a lot of care and attention.
However, rest assured, you will be rewarded if you invest ample amounts of love, time and effort into your pet, who will ultimately grow to be a happy, healthy member of your family.
Here are six things no one tells you about raising a healthy dog.
1. Gut feeling: Intestinal worms
These critters are very easy to catch, and your whole family can end up suffering from them unless you take care! Don’t fret too much, though - the remedy is simple. Regular worming is the trick to both treating and preventing intestinal worms in your pup.
To make sure new puppies start off on the right paw, worm them for roundworm, hookworm, tapeworm and whipworm. You need to ensure your puppy has been vaccinated at two, four, eight and 12 weeks and then at four months, five months and six months. They should be wormed every three months after that for the rest of their lives. It's a long-term commitment, but it's much easier than treating a serious worm outbreak.
Unless you intend to breed dogs, de-sexing is recommended. Most vets recommend de-sexing dogs at six months of age. Many rescue groups de-sex puppies earlier, before they go to their new home. Apart from preventing unwanted pregnancies, a de-sexed dog will be less likely to want to roam from home.
3. A guide to vaccinations
Just like human babies, puppies need vaccinations to protect them from the many infectious diseases out there. They need a series of vaccinations to protect them against Parvovirus, Distemper, Hepatitis and Canine Cough. Your puppy will need to receive these injections by a veterinarian and should have received their first vaccination prior to coming to you (ask the breeder for the vaccination certificate). Vaccination costs for your pup may seem steep, but consider the veterinary bills for treating your dog if it develops one of these illnesses – it could easily run into the thousands.
4. Itching and scratching: Dealing with fleas
These pesky critters may not seem serious, but it doesn’t take them long to burrow into your carpet, furniture or bedding entirely unnoticed - and once they’re in your furniture, getting rid of fleas can be an almost impossible task.
Fleas are not just irritating, the distressing itch can be very upsetting for a puppy and the sore skin from the bites will make your poor dog feel miserable. You can treat fleas on your pup with chewable tablets or a topical treatment from your vet. Be sure to wash all bedding and vacuum thoroughly, to avoid new fleas hatching. Just be careful using harsh washes on little dogs - opt for soothing products when bathing to ensure you don’t irritate the skin further.
5. Squeaky clean ears
Maintaining ear health and hygiene is just as important for pets as it is for humans. As it’s quite a sensitive area of the body, it is important to avoid any harsh chemical alcohol or acids for the comfort of your canine friend. A once a week clean with a gentle ear cleaner will keep your pet’s ears in check and ensure you don’t get an earful about any discomfort!
6. Creepy crawlies: Heartworm
These parasites are as nasty as they sound, infecting your dog's heart and potentially leading to death. Since heartworm is spread by mosquitoes, the only safe option to prevent these pests is to give your puppy a heartworm preventative. There are many options on the market including a monthly chewable and topical products. Start heartworm protection by 12 weeks of age, but dogs older than six months will need a blood test before starting - you can talk to your vet about this.
For additional tips on how to raise a healthy dog, check out the PAW by Blackmores eBook, 20 Things No One Tells You About Raising a Healthy Dog.