Now that you have brought your puppy home, you want them to have a long healthy life—time to get started! Early care and prevention can help to avoid a variety of dog illnesses and painful conditions. The first step should be a trip to the vet: they will do a complete checkup, inform you of any already-existing conditions, and recommend vaccinations. Then, it's up to you to start your puppy on the path to a healthy life. You can begin preventing a variety of illnesses early in puppyhood:
1. Ovarian or Testicular Cancer
Spaying or neutering your dog is more than just responsible population control, it can also reduce the risk of some diseases and cancers. Spaying and neutering can even reduce the risk of injury and communicable diseases, as your dog will be less likely to run away and roam, looking for a mate. Work with your vet to determine the safest age for the procedure and look around for affordable spay and neuter options in your area.
Obesity often starts early when puppies are given too much food but not enough exercise. Puppy food tends to be high in caloric content, so work with your vet to see if your dog should receive adult food with supplements instead, based on breed and lifestyle. Obesity can cause or exacerbate a number of other problems: injuries, heart disease, hip dysplasia, and more, so it's very important to keep their weight in a safe range.
3. Hip Dysplasia
Hip dysplasia is a hereditary condition, primarily affecting large dogs, wherein the hip socket is loose, causing damage when the dog runs or walks. Dysplasia begins developing very early, and some dogs can be tested as early as 6 months. You can help prevent dysplasia from causing problems in your German Shepherd, Golden Retriever, or other large or giant breed, by targeting the right amount of exercise and food intake.
While puppies need exercise, a moderate level spread out throughout the day is best. Long periods of intense exercise, like running or rough play, can begin loosening and damaging the joints. Similarly, when puppies are given too many calories, they grow and develop irregularly, causing bone and joint growth to occur out of sync. Several walks per day and carefully monitored food intake with joint supplements are best for growing puppies at risk of hip dysplasia.
4. Communicable Diseases, Such as Parvovirus, Kennel Cough, and Rabies
Puppyhood is usually the most vaccine-intensive time for dogs because they are so susceptible to illness and need to develop their immune systems for their adult lives. Most dogs are recommended to get vaccines around 6 weeks, so they need to be kept in a healthy environment, and away from sick animals, until they can be vaccinated. Work with your vet to determine which vaccines are required (called “core” vaccines) and which are optional based on your dog's exposure to other animals and the environment.
Many flea, tick, and heartworm medications are too strong for puppies, but they can usually begin treatment at around 8 weeks. Before treatment, they are very susceptible to both internal and external parasites. It's important to begin a lifetime regimen of monthly preventatives to avoid putting your dog at risk.
6. Periodontal Disease
We don't always worry about our dog's breath, but we should. Dogs are 5 times as likely to get gum disease
as humans and it can lead to a lot of pain, tooth loss, and even jaw fractures. The good news is, a healthy dog
mouth can be achieved if you start early and schedule regular check-ups. The best preventive health plan
includes brushing your puppy's teeth daily, using tartar control foods or chews, and monitoring your puppy's chewing on hard objects like bones.
More on Dog Care
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Prevent Dental Problems Before They Start
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This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.