Puppy care and puppy health recommendations depend a lot on the advice you get from trusted people like the breeder and your vet. So choosing the right vet is a crucial step in rearing your ideal canine companion. Like it or not, much of the advice offered by some veterinarians seems more aligned with selling you on medications and procedures than taking the best care of your fur-buddy. Of course this is only my opinion as an informed veterinarian and dog breeder with the highest welfare of her owners and their pooches at heart. I believe there is a significant degree of over-servicing of dogs going on out there, a lot of it contrary to the best long term interests of dogs and their humans. So here I will outline some of the main areas I believe people are being effectively shafted, in the hope it will help you, the owner, find a veterinarian willing to put you and your doggie first.
Puppy Care and Dog Vaccinations
The latest scientific findings point to the fact that puppy shots, once boosted a year later, usually protect your pet for the next three years. And that over-vaccination is dangerous for pets and their humans. Vaccines contain a myriad of poisonous substances including toxic preservatives and adjuvants, designed to increase the bodies reaction and so allow a smaller amount of the actual vaccine to be used. Injected into the body these bypass its normal means of detoxification through the liver and can cause serious and sometimes fatal reactions. So it makes sense to keep the number of vaccinations given to the absolute minimum needed to effectively protect your pet from serious diseases.
When choosing a vet, know that a great veterinarian will be promoting strategies that minimize the number of vaccinations given, and not sending you vaccination reminders every year of your pet’s life (except for kennel cough if you want it). They will let you know every three years after the booster given just over a year old, that your dog may need another booster if serology shows his antibody status has run down to dangerous levels.
Puppy Care and Age at Sterilization
The age at which you sterilize (spay, castrate or neuter) your new fur kid have big implications to the quality of puppy care, now and for the rest of its life. If your dog is a bitch of a breed highly susceptible to developing mammary cancer (breast cancer) – and some are – then sterilizing them before their first heat at around 6 months of age is a necessary precaution to dramatically reduce their likelihood of this horrible disease. Breeds at higher than average risk of mammary cancer (in descending order) are the Golden Retriever, Rottweiler, Boxer, Old English Sheepdog, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Weimaraner, Standard Poodle, Cairn Terrier, Irish red and white setter, Irish Wolfhound, Afghan Hound and Flat Coated Retriever.
For optimal puppy care and puppy health in other breeds we now know that the best age for sterilization for both dogs and bitches is between 12 and 24 months of age. The sex hormones actually protect dogs from cancer, and also reduce their risk of joint issues and (for bitches) later urinary incontinence.
When choosing a vet, steer away from those who try to bully you into neutering your fur-chum earlier than this, unless of course it is a female and of one of the high risk breeds mentioned above.
Owners who go to the trouble of skilling themselves up to manage their new pet’s behavior are well positioned to provide the best puppy care. And puppy classes can be a great way to do that. Puppy classes are offered by most veterinary clinics these days. A responsible vet will ensure the person leading the class has recognised training in dog behavior, and not just vet nursing qualifications. In this way you will have the chance to learn how to effectively manage and enjoy your new puppy. Too many are conducted as a means of selling owners into buying particular brands of dog foods and other products stocked by the clinic, or indoctrinating them into over-medicating their pets or subjecting them to unnecessary medical procedures. So do check on the qualifications of the person conducting the classes before signing up. Look for people with certified training in animal behavior.
Puppy Care and Diet
Diet is pivotal to puppy care and indeed your puppy’s health all through its life. Most veterinarians tout the line that commercial dog food is best. Indeed, when I was a student at vet school we were told the same. In the bad old days before commercial dog food, many owners fed their dogs on meat only, and rickets (deformed limb bones from calcium deficiency) was not uncommon. However all commercial foods, no matter how expensive or “complete”, are highly processed. Humans don’t do well in the long term on highly processed foods and neither do our pets. The best diet for dogs lies between these two extremes through informed and conscious feeding of your dog as close to natural, whole foods as practical for your situation. Like fast foods for humans, commercial dog foods are OK as a small part of the diet, but not the whole diet. Instead opt for mostly fresh, whole foods. I favor a diet based on raw, meaty bones following the lead of Australian veterinarian Dr Ian Billinghurst. Go now to our puppy care guide on feeding puppies.