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Your vet is the best person to discuss health care routines for your dog, so make arrangements to give your dog his first check up as soon as you acquire him from the breeder. This is important. A client recently picked up his two-month old Labrador puppy from the breeder and took him immediately for his check-up. This was wise, because it turned out the puppy was developing an ear infection.
If you have a healthy dog, your vet may want to do a general check-up once a year. Don’t skip routine check-ups because it’s better to detect a disease early to avoid serious problems later. If your dog is looking or acting a bit offish, have him checked.
Puppies can eat things, without you noticing, that will cause them to vomit or have diarrhoea. While you shouldn't panic if your puppy vomits once or has a bout of diarrhoea, repeated vomiting and/or diarrhoea (about three times) merit a visit to the vet.
Unless the weather is quite hot, your puppy's nose should be cold and wet. A hot and dry nose may indicate fever, which often shows the body is fighting an infection, so the puppy should be seen by the vet.
A lot of ear scratching or head shaking may indicate an ear problem, for example an ear mite infestation, a wax build-up that can clog the eardrum and cause vertigo or ear infection. Take your puppy to the vet. Take him also if he loses his appetite and seems lethargic.
Developing a limp also requires medical attention. The puppy may have pulled a muscle . . . a thorn or other foreign object may have pierced the skin in between the toes and become lodged somewhere, or the puppy may have twisted a joint during play.
Take your puppy to the vet if his face or part of it swells. Many dogs are allergic to bee and wasp stings. The swelling may be limited to the area of the sting, or it may spread to the whole face and throat, and cause choking.
Puppies start teething – the original milk teeth are replaced with permanent ones – as early as four months old. During this time, the puppy is likely to become irritable and will chew and tear objects more than usual. Besides the discomfort of teeth falling out and new ones erupting through the skin, the gums become inflamed and this is what causes the puppy to become irritable. There are baby teething rings you can purchase from a chemist. Place them in the freezer and then give them to your puppy to chew. The cold from the teething ring eases the discomfort caused by the inflammation so the teething process will be less distressing.
All dogs need daily physical exercise, right from puppyhood, in order not only to be healthy, but also to stay out of mischief. As the old saying goes, a tired dog is a happy and well-behaved dog. Some dog breeds need more exercise than others; some are intolerant to hot weather; some are intolerant to cold or rainy weather; others have breathing problems. These are things you need to think about when deciding on the time of day you will be exercising your puppy. Never allow your puppy to do strenuous exercise one hour before eating, and until at least an hour after eating.
There are other things to consider regarding physical exercise. For example, puppies go through a stage of rapid growth, and this is more noticeable in large dogs. Excessive jumping can damage joints that are still growing. While I recommend walking, running, playing games of fetch and others that are physically tiring, be careful about allowing or encouraging your puppy to jump. This includes high jumps and long jumps. Ask your vet about physical exercise that includes any type of jumping.
Mental exercise is just as important as the physical kind. To be more content and avoiding getting into mischief, your puppy also needs to have plenty of opportunities to think and figure out for himself how to overcome challenges and obstacles. Dogs that have everything done for them become mentally lazy and don’t develop the ability to solve even the smallest of problems. For example, such a dog may just stand still and bark as opposed to figuring out a way of recovering a toy from under the sofa.
There are toys designed to keep the puppy occupied while alone. The food-dispensing ones by Kong are excellent. Kong products can be purchased from most pet supply stores and online pet websites. But to develop the bond between you and your puppy, play with him often; don’t leave him to entertain himself all the time.
Here are two fun games you can play with your puppy to exercise him mentally. Put a few food treats in a plastic container, place the lid over it and press down so the container is partially closed. Then put it on the floor and let the puppy push it with his nose, paw it, and do all types of other things while attempting to remove the lid. Once he succeeds, let him eat the food treats.
Place one of your puppy's favourite toys under the sofa or under another piece of low furniture, in such a way that he can reach it but not without some effort first. The goal is for the puppy to figure out how to retrieve the toy. He will probably do this by first trying to stick his head under the sofa and then by reaching for it with his paw. Make sure you have placed the toy at a distance where your puppy can eventually reach it, or you’ll all end up in a bad temper, or worse.
These games of mental exercise should be challenging, but not so difficult that the puppy simply gives up.
A few words of caution on general care. Never leave your puppy or adult dog alone in a car for longer than about fifteen to twenty minutes and ensure the car is in a shady place. Leave the windows slightly open. Never park your car in the sun with your dog inside. The temperature in the car can rise alarmingly in minutes, making it far hotter than outside. Dogs don’t sweat as we do, and therefore take longer to cool down. A high temperature and a dog that doesn’t easily cool down can be a fatal combination.
People give their dogs many types of bones – real, rubber, and bones shaped from rawhide. Real bones can be dangerous, especially if they:
Cooked knuckle bones are safe because they don’t splinter. Some rubber bones break easily, while others are resistant and safe – and a puppy may choke if he swallows a piece. Buy only approved products. Rawhide bones are known to cause diarrhoea in some puppies, if given in large quantities. Before you give bones to your puppy, consult your vet.
Veterinary care for pets can nowadays entail great expense, especially as there are more sophisticated ways of diagnosing and dealing with life-threatening diseases, or helping recovery from accidents. For example, a dog with cancer can be treated with chemotherapy, and one who suffers a fracture can undergo physiotherapy. For basic care, many owners may opt to pay the costs themselves; for those who worry about big bills being incurred later in their pets’ lives, dog insurance could be a solution.
If you have chosen a female dog, there are a few things to watch out for. Females come into season every six to nine months, depending on breed and size – usually, smaller females come into season about every six months, while bigger females about every eight. Your female dog’s first season can be different, in the sense that it can come later than expected, or last longer.
Typically, oestrous is divided into two stages:
1) the first nine days, when there will be bloody discharge from the vulva. During this stage, the female catches the attention of male dogs, but isn’t sexually receptive to them.
2) After nine days, the female is sexually receptive, and the end of this stage (usually another nine days) can vary from female to female. It is during this stage that extra precautions need to be taken to ensure your female does not mate.
This is because:
a) no female dog should have puppies before she’s physically mature;
b) if a male dog penetrates her, there is nothing one can do to separate them. This is due to the penis becoming too enlarged to be removed from the vulva without causing both dogs potential harm. It is only after ejaculation that the penis returns to its normal size.
There are odour-neutralizing sprays that you can apply to your female’s vulva during the receptive stage of oestrous, but they aren’t totally reliable. You may consider spaying her, to avoid future headaches. Ask your vet to help you decide on a course of action.
Some females develop false pregnancies. This means that the hormones fail to return to normal after oestrous, so the body believes that it is pregnant. The teats become enlarged and may produce milk, and she will tend to gather cloths, toys and small cushions to her, as if nursing real puppies. False pregnancies usually coincide with the first oestrous and tend to occur again with every oestrous. In most cases, spaying is the only solution, unless you’re planning on letting her breed.