By Capt. Nicholas Anderson
Special to GUIDON
Congratulations on the newest member of your family. Owning a young dog can be challenging, but isn’t without its joys and benefits.
In order to ensure your puppy is set up for success and a life time of happiness and healthiness we recommend the following:
We recommend your puppy receive heartworm, flea, tick and intestinal parasite prevention year-round for their entire life.
In the first few months of life, puppies must be vaccinated several times. This is because their immature immune systems can’t fight off diseases as well as when they’re older. Consulting with a veterinarian will help ensure your pet receives the right vaccines at the right times.
Puppies should be vaccinated on a regular schedule beginning at 6 to 8 weeks of age. Booster vaccines should be given every 3 to 4 weeks until the pet is at least 16 weeks old. The rabies vaccine is given no earlier than 12 weeks.
We recommend a microchip be implanted on the same day as the first rabies vaccine, so that the microchip number will be on the rabies certificate.
For active duty military personnel, make sure the microchip that is implanted is ISO compliant. These microchips are required for overseas travel, so getting the right chip implanted the first time is crucial. Here at Fort Leonard Wood, we use the ISO compliant Home Again microchip.
Once your puppy has had the rabies vaccine, please ensure he/she is registered with the city where you reside, per local ordinance. Please consult your local authorities to find out if you need to register your pet and at what frequency they need to be vaccinated. When you move, make sure you check with your receiving location to see if their requirements differ.
We recommend waiting until at least one week after the final vaccine in the series until your puppy goes to any high-traffic dog areas with dogs of unknown vaccine status, such as the dog park.
Please talk with our veterinarians around 12 to 16 weeks about neutering your puppy (spaying or castrating.) We usually recommend neutering your puppy around 6 months of age. There are many health and behavioral benefits that come from neutering dogs, including minimizing unwanted pets, which continue to be of great concern in the United States and the rest of the world.
Initiating puppy socialization and training/obedience classes during the first few months of their life is vital. Dogs with no guidance or direction will attempt to make their own rules, and their owners need to provide that guidance and structure for them. Only register and attend puppy socialization classes that require updated vaccination status for all attendees.
It would also be good to start handling your puppy’s feet, ears, and mouth while they are still young. This will get them used to the things that we will need to do during examinations in the clinic. Show them that it’s nothing to be afraid of, and it will definitely make all of our jobs easier.
At around 8 weeks of age, your puppy will start to lose their baby teeth and have them replaced with their adult teeth, and this will continue for at least a few months. You may notice the puppy chewing on more things and providing them with acceptable chew toys may prevent them from chewing on things you would prefer they didn’t.
Additionally, keep all things out of reach you don’t desire the puppy chew on. Lastly, if a toy is broken into small pieces that may be ingestible, pick up the pieces and throw away the destroyed toy.
(Editor’s note: Anderson is a veterinarian at the Fort Leonard Wood Veterinary Treatment Facility.)