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Puppy Care 101

We’ve created a question and answer guide of our most commonly puppy questions:

Check out the newly released puppy guide by Royal Canin.


We would like to congratulate you on the acquisition of your new puppy. Puppy care is an extremely important part of owning a puppy.  Owning a dog can be an extremely rewarding experience, but it also carries with it quite a bit of responsibility. We hope this document will give you the information needed to make some good decisions regarding your puppy.

First let us say that we are grateful that you have chosen us to help you with your puppy care and the health of your new puppy. If you have questions concerning any subject related to your puppy”s health, please feel free to call our hospital. Either one of the technicians or one of the doctors will be happy to help you.

When should my puppy be vaccinated?

We have the ability to prevent many deadly diseases by the use of very effective vaccines. Vaccines must be given to puppies in a series in order to build the puppy’s immune system and overcome the immune system that was inherited from the pup’s mother.  Usually, this means vaccines at 8, 11, 14 and 18 weeks.  This may vary depending on your puppy’s needs.  We will discuss your puppy’s best plan at your first visit, and will revisit this plan as needed.  At Dogwood, we follow all the current guidelines for protecting your dog’s immunity.

When should I have my puppy spayed or neutered?

In general, about 6 months of age.  Again, every puppy is different, and we will discuss what is best for your pup.

Why should I have my female dog spayed?

Spaying is a complete ovario-hystercomy; the removal of the uterus and the ovaries.  After spaying, heat periods will no longer occur, and your dog will not have vaginal bleeding several times a year.  One of the best reasons to spay is to prevent unwanted litters and help curb pet overpopulation.

It has been proven that as the female dog gets older, there is a significant incidence of breast cancer and uterine infections if she has not been spayed. Spaying before she has any heat periods will virtually eliminate the chance of either.

If you do not plan to breed your dog, we strongly recommend that she be spayed before her first heat period. This can be done anytime after she is six months old. As it is major abdominal surgery, we will want to do a pre-surgical examination and blood test, will perform the surgery under strict sterile conditions and using the latest in anesthetics and surgical monitors, and will administer pain control medication after the surgery.

Click here to learn more information about our spay surgeries at Dogwood Pet Hospital.

Why should I have my male dog neutered?

Neutering offers several advantages. Male dogs are attracted to a female dog in heat and will climb over or go through fences to find her. Male dogs are more aggressive and more likely to fight, especially with other male dogs. As dogs age, the prostate gland frequently enlarges and causes difficulty urinating and defecating. Neutering will solve, or greatly help, all of these problems that come with owning a male dog. The surgery can be performed any time after the dog is six months old.

Click here to learn more information about our neuter surgeries at Dogwood Pet Hospital.

Do all puppies have worms?

Intestinal parasites are common in puppies. Puppies can become infected with parasites before they are born or later through their mother’s milk.  Please bring a fresh stool sample at your earliest convenience so we may check for parasites.  Our deworming medication rarely has side-effects.  Deworming is done now and repeated every two weeks until your puppy is 16 weeks old. Periodic deworming throughout the dog’s life is also recommended for dogs that go outdoors.

How important are heartworms?

Heartworms are important parasites, especially in certain climates. They can live in your dog’s heart and cause major damage to the heart and lungs. Heartworms are transmitted by mosquitoes so your dog does not have to be in contact with another dog to be exposed. Fortunately, we have drugs that will protect your dog. These drugs are very safe and very effective if given monthly and regularly. We recommend giving Sentinel or Heartgard monthly and testing the blood for heartworms prior to starting treatment and every other year.  Be aware that staying primarily indoors does not protect a dog against heartworm infection.

Heartworm preventatives are dosed according to your dog’s weight. As the weight increases, the dosage should also increase. Please note the dosing instructions on the package.

What can be done about fleas on my puppy?

Fleas do not stay on your puppy all of their time; occasionally, they will jump off and seek another host. Therefore, it is important to kill fleas on your new puppy before they can become established in your house. Many of the flea control products that are safe on adult dogs are not safe for puppies less than four months of age. Be sure that any flea product you use is labeled safe for puppies and is from a veterinarian.  Most flea products bought off the grocery store shelf contain unsafe pesticides, ineffective, and can make your puppy sick.

What are ear mites?

Ear mites are tiny parasites that live in the ear canal of dogs (and cats). The most common sign of ear mite infection is scratching of the ears. Sometimes the ears will appear dirty because of a black material in the ear canal; this material is sometimes shaken out.

There are lots of choices of dog foods. What should I feed my puppy?

Diet is extremely important in the growing months of your puppy’s life.  We highly recommend feeding your puppy Prescription Diet Royal Canin.  We have spent hours upon hours researching and sampling multitudes of diets and have found this to be the BEST commercial diet available.  In fact, we feed our own pets Royal Canine and Hills diets.

There are many other over the counter diets available too, and several we like.  Every puppy is different, and many will thrive on different diets.  We will discuss what is right for your pup.

How often should I feed my puppy?

We recommend “meal feeding.” This means that the puppy is fed at specific times of the day. This helps regulate the puppy’s digestion and helps facilitate potty training.  A measured amount of food should be offered four times per day for 5-12 week old puppies. What is not eaten within 30 minutes is taken up. If the food is eaten within 3-4 minutes, the quantity is probably not sufficient. Puppies fed in this manner generally begin to cut themselves out of one of those meals by 3-4 months of age and perhaps another one later.  We do not recommend free feeding.

How do I insure that my puppy is well socialized?

The socialization period for dogs is between 8 and 18 weeks of age. During that time, the puppy is very impressionable to social influences. If it has good experiences with men, women, children, cats, other dogs, etc., it is likely to accept them throughout life. If the experiences are absent or unpleasant, it may become apprehensive or adverse to any of them. Therefore, during the period of socialization, we encourage you to expose your dog to as many types of social events and influences as possible.  We also highly recommend PUPPY CLASSES to help socialize your puppy to other puppies and people.  It is one of the most valuable investments you can make in your pup’s life.  Talk to us about the variety of classes available in the area.  Before your puppy is fully vaccinated, public areas where other dogs visit (like the DOG PARK) need to be avoided.

My puppy seems to be constantly chewing. Why does this occur?

Puppies, like human toddlers, explore with their mouths and are trying out their new teeth.  Therefore, chewing is a normal behavior. The puppy’s baby teeth are present by about four weeks of age. They begin to fall out at four months of age and are replaced by the adult (permanent) teeth by about six months of age. Chewing is a puppy characteristic that you can expect until about 6-7 months of age or longer.  Appropriate chew toys must be present at all times to prevent your puppy from chewing on furniture, cords, shoes, etc.  And, if you can’t watch your puppy, make sure she is in a safe spot like her crate.  Appropriate chew toys include things like Nylabones, Kongs, Rhinos and bully sticks.  Try to only leave 3 toys out at a time, otherwise your puppy will get bored with them.



How do I potty train my new puppy?

CT will never work.  Never ever rub her nose in it!  If you catch your puppy in the act, great!  Pick her up right away (she will stop peeing, don’t worry) and take her right out side to finish.  Peed on the grass!  Yea!  Now it’s time for her favorite toy or treat!

Call us with any questions you might have.  We’ve all been there before!



How do I trim my puppy’s sharp toe nails?

Puppies have very sharp toe nails. They can be trimmed with your regular finger nail clippers or with nail trimmers made for dogs and cats. If you take too much off the nail, you will get into the quick; bleeding and pain will occur.  We recommend scheduling a short demonstration on nail trimming techniques with one of our veterinary technicians.


What is the best form of pet identification?

Until your pet learns to use the phone,  microchip identification will help him find his way home. We recommend that ALL dogs and cats be microchipped. This tiny device is implanted with a needle so the process is much like getting an injection. A special scanner can detect these chips; veterinary hospitals, humane societies, and animal shelters across the country also have scanners. A national registry permits a safe return of microchipped pets throughout the United States and Canada. We recommend the reliability of the AVID microchip.

Is there Pet Insurance?

Yes!  We recommend starting pet insurance as soon as possible before any unforeseen illness or accident.  Pet insurance will help you make the BEST healthcare decisions for your pet.  Which Pet Insurance Company do you recommend?

If you learn a few things about puppy behavior, puppy training becomes much easier.  First of all, puppies do not want to pee and poop where they eat and sleep.  You can use this to your advantage with crate training.  If the crate is small enough, your puppy will want to hold her urine until you let her out.  An appropriate sized crate is large enough for your puppy to stand up, turn around, and lay on her side with her legs out.  The crate should be used anytime you are not 100% focused on your puppy, when your puppy is sleeping, and to feed your puppy.  She will whine the first few times you use the crate.  Don’t give up!  If you ignore her and make the crate a happy place, she will learn to love it and will eventually put her self to bed in it.

Puppies need to use the restroom after they wake up, after they eat, and when they have been playing for 20-30 minutes.  A good rule of thumb is that puppies can hold their urine for one hour for every month of age plus one.  For example, a 2 month old puppy can hold her urine for 3 hours max.  Keep this in mind if you are working.  If you can’t get home to let her out, make sure you have puppy pads available and a bigger crate so she can get away from her waste.

Puppies learn to pee on a particular SUBSTRATE, not OUTSIDE VS INSIDE.  So, if you want your puppy to pee on grass, place her on the grass right after waking or eating, and reward heavily when she uses the grass to pee.  Punishing your puppy for peeing on the carpet AFTER THE FA

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