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Puppy and Dog FAQ

What type of playing should I expect from a puppy?

Stimulating play is important during the first week. Stalking and pouncing is important play behaviour in puppies and is necessary for proper muscular development. If given a sufficient outlet for this behaviour with toys, your puppy will be less likely to use family members for these activities. The best toys are lightweight and movable. These include wads of paper and rubber balls. Any toy that is small enough to be swallowed should be avoided.

Can I discipline a puppy?

Disciplining a young puppy may be necessary if its behaviour threatens people or property, but harsh punishment should be avoided. Hand clapping and using shaker cans or horns can be intimidating enough to inhibit undesirable behaviour. However, remote punishment is preferred. Remote punishment consists of using something that appears unconnected to the punisher to stop the problem. Examples include using spray bottles, throwing objects in the direction of the puppy to startle (but not hit) it, and making loud noises. Remote punishment is preferred because the puppy associates punishment with the undesirable act and not with you.

When should my dog be vaccinated?

There are many diseases that are fatal to dogs. Fortunately, we have the ability to prevent many of these by the use of very effective vaccines. In order to be effective, these vaccines must be given as a series of injections. Ideally, they are given at between 8 and 12 weeks of age and cover Distemper, Hepatitis, Parvovirus, Parainfluenza and leptospirosis. It is also worth considering vaccination against tracheobronchitis, often known as kennel cough although this affects many dogs that have never been near a kennels. It is at least as common for a dog to get this disease in the park as in kennels. This vaccination can be carried out at the same time as the other injections and is not an injection but involves drops trickled into the nose.

Why does my dog need more than one vaccination?

When the puppy is suckling from its mother, it receives a temporary form of immunity through the mother's milk. This immunity is in the form of proteins called antibodies. For about 24-48 hours after birth, the puppy's intestine allows absorption of many of these antibodies directly into the blood stream. This immunity is of benefit during the first few weeks of the puppy's life, but, at some point, this immunity falls and the puppy must organise its own long-lasting protection Vaccinations are used for this purpose. As long as the mother's antibodies are present, vaccinations do not have such a good chance to stimulate the puppy's immune system. The mother's antibodies interfere by neutralising the vaccine.

Many factors determine when the puppy will be able to respond to the vaccinations. These include the level of immunity in the bitch, how much antibody has been absorbed, and the number of vaccines given to the puppy. Since we do not know when an individual puppy will lose the short-term immunity, we give two vaccinations. A single vaccination, even if effective, is not likely to stimulate sufficient long-term immunity which is so important for the puppy's protection.

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. The microscopic examination of a faeces sample will usually help us to determine the presence of intestinal parasites. Modern deworming preparations are safe and effective and we recommend their use at two week intervals, from two weeks of age. It is important that the medication is repeated since it is usually only the adult worms that are killed. Within 3-4 weeks, the larval stages will have matured and will need to be treated.

Round worms pose a small but definite risk to children therefore it is good practice to regularly administer deworming preparations to your dog throughout its life. Today combined preparations, eradicating both roundworms and tapeworms as well as other pathogenic worms are available and can be administered as tablets, liquids, or granules which can be mixed in the food.

We recommend that all adult dogs are wormed at least four times a year and more frequently if in contact with young children.

Tapeworms are the most common intestinal parasite of dogs. Puppies become infected with them when they swallow fleas; the eggs of the tapeworm live inside the flea. When the puppy chews or licks its skin as a flea bites, the flea may be swallowed. The flea is digested within the dog's intestine; the tapeworm hatches and then anchors itself to the intestinal lining. Therefore, exposure to fleas may result in a new infection; this can occur in as little as two weeks.

Dogs infected with tapeworms will pass small segments of the worms in their faeces. The segments are white in colour and look like grains of rice. They are about 3 mm (1/8 in) long and may be seen crawling on the surface of the faeces. They may also stick to the hair under the tail. If that occurs, they will dry out, shrink to about half their size, and become golden in colour.

Tapeworm segments do not pass every day or in every faeces sample. Inspection of several consecutive bowel movements may be needed to find them. We may examine a faeces sample in our laboratory and not find them, then you may find them the next day. If you find them at any time, please let us know and we will provide the appropriate eradication drug.

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

Diet is extremely important in the growing months of a dog's life, and there are two important criteria that should be met in selecting food for your puppy.

1. We recommend you feed a “super clinical” pet food through the various life stages of your pet. Our nurses and vets are fully qualified to offer free advice on all aspects of your pet’s nutrition. Please ask for help.

2. Ensure it is specially formulated for puppies under the age of one year.

Follow the directions on the packet or can and if you have any queries do not hesitate to contact us.

Feeding a dry, canned, or semi-moist form of dog food is acceptable. Each has advantages and disadvantages. Dry food is definitely the most inexpensive form. It can be left in the dog's bowl without drying out and becoming unappetising. Most veterinary surgeons will recommend dry food for your puppy, unless the puppy is very fussy. However remember canned food contains about 75% water compared with only 10% in dry food. Hence dry food, price for price, usually works out less expensive. Your puppy will need to drink more if fed a dry food.

Semi-moist and canned foods are also acceptable. However, both are considerably more expensive than dry food. They sometimes appear to be more appealing to the dog's taste; however, they are not more nutritious. If you feed a very tasty food, you are running the risk of creating a dog with a finicky appetite. In addition, the semi-moist foods are generally high in sugar.

Table foods are not recommended. Because they are generally very tasty, dogs will often begin to hold out for these and not eat their well-balanced dog food. If you choose to give your puppy table food, be sure that at least 90% of its diet is good quality commercial puppy food.

We enjoy a variety of things to eat in our diet. However, most dogs prefer not to change from one food to another unless they are trained to do so by the way you feed them. Do not feel guilty if your dog is happy to just eat one food day after day, week after week.

Commercials for dog food can be very misleading. If you watch carefully you will notice that most media commercials promote dog food on one basis, TASTE. Nutrition is rarely mentioned. Most of the "gourmet" foods are marketed to appeal to owners who want the best for their dogs. However, they do not offer the dog any nutritional advantage over a good quality dry food, and they are far more expensive. If your dog eats a gourmet food for a long time, it will probably not be happy with other foods. If it needs a special diet due to a health problem later in life, it is very unlikely to accept it. Therefore, we do not encourage feeding gourmet dog foods.

Please be aware that you usually can not compare the nutritional composition of one pet food with another based on the label. Comparing one food with another can only be made on a “dry matter” basis. Almost no pet food manufacturers provide this information on the label.

How do I ensure that my puppy is well socialised?

The socialisation period for dogs is between 4 and 12 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 socialisation, we encourage you to expose your dog to as many types of social events and influences as possible. However since the puppy will not have built up a complete immunity from the vaccination program until approximately 13 weeks of age you have the dilemma of endeavouring to socialise him on the one hand and trying to isolate him from exposure to potentially harmful diseases on the other. The aim is to strike a balance and obviously not expose him to the risk of disease but at the same time ensure that as much socialisation as possible, both with people and other animals takes place.

Dogs that are safely and gradually exposed to many different experiences, including loud noises, during their essential socialisation period of 3 to 16 weeks of age, are often able to cope more effectively with novel, frightening sounds like fireworks or loud engine noises. The Dogs' Trust has put together a "Sound Therapy for Pets" program of free downloads,  together with their corresponding how-to-guides, contain a collection of specifically recorded noises that all puppies need to get used to, including domestic noises, traffic, fireworks and thunder.

What can be done about fleas on my dog?

Many effective flea control preparations for use on adult dogs are not suitable for use on puppies, therefore it is worthwhile consulting your veterinary surgeon regarding flea control in the young animal. Today there are new, innovative products which are eminently suitable for use on even very tiny puppies. It must be emphasised that flea control in the puppy is every bit as important as with the older dog and must be coupled with the control of fleas in the environment.

Can I trim my puppy's sharp toe nails?

Puppies have very sharp toe nails. They can be blunted and shortened using an emery board or a piece of carpenter's fine sandpaper. They can also be trimmed with nail scissors or with clippers made for dogs and cats. However if you remove too much nail, you will cut the quick and cause bleeding and pain. If the puppy has clear or light coloured nails it is possible to see the quick as a pink line running through the nail. With black nails this is more difficult and therefore these should be trimmed at only about 1 mm a time until the puppy is beginning to resent it when it is likely you are getting very near to the quick. It is useful to have a men's shaving styptic pencil available so that if you inadvertently cut the quick you can stop the bleeding without causing pain or discomfort to the puppy. If in doubt, please consult us and we will show you exactly how to trim the nails.

What are ear mites?

Ear mites (Otodectes cyanotis) are tiny parasites that live in the ear canal of dogs (and cats). The most common sign of ear mite infection is scratching and shaking of the ears. Sometimes the ears will appear dirty because of a black material in the ear canal; this material is sometimes shaken out. The instrument we use for examining the ear canals, an otoscope, has the necessary magnification to allow us to see the mites. Sometimes, we can find the mites by taking a small amount of the black material from the ear canal and examining it with a microscope. Ear mites spend most of their time within the ear canal although they can be found on the face, around the ears, and sometimes around the base of the dog's tail, since dogs curl up with their head near their rump. Transmission is by direct contact between animals and the mites can be transmitted between dogs and cats. Ear mites are common in litters of puppies if the mother is infected or alternatively if the bitch has been brought up in contact with a cat or cats with mites.

Ear infections may also cause the production of a dark discharge in the ear canals. It is important that we examine your puppy to be sure the black material is due to ear mites and not infection. Please do not ask us to just dispense medication without having the opportunity to make an accurate diagnosis.

Why should I have my female dog spayed?

Spaying offers several advantages. The female's heat periods result in about 2-3 weeks of vulval bleeding. This can be quite annoying if your dog is kept indoors. During this period she is attractive to any neighbourhood male dogs and these can sometimes cause considerable nuisance. Your bitch will have a heat period about every 6 months. In some cases, despite of your best efforts, the bitch will become pregnant. Spaying is the removal of uterus and ovaries. Heat periods no longer occur and thus unplanned litters of puppies are prevented.

It has been proven that as the bitch 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 prevent these problems. If you do not plan to breed from your dog, we strongly recommend that she be spayed at six months of age. There is no advantage to her in having a season or a litter. It is important to only neuter puppies that are well grown, fit and healthy. Please discuss this with your vet.

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. It is worth remembering that all service dogs, Guide Dogs, Hearing Dogs and Dogs for the Disabled, both male and female, are routinely neutered. Recent work has shown that immature puppies can be neutered provided they are fit, healthy and well grown for their age. Please discuss this with your vet.

If I choose to mate my female dog, when should that be done?

If you plan to mate your dog, she should have at least one or two heat periods first. This will allow her to physically mature allowing her to be a better mother without such a physical drain on her. We do not recommend breeding after 5 years of age unless she has been bred from prior to that. Having her first litter after 5 years of age increases the risk of problems during the pregnancy and/or delivery. Once your dog has had her last litter, it is worth considering spaying in order to prevent uterine infections and other reproductive problems.

How do I train my puppy?

Responsible ownership involves having a well-trained dog and this training should be commenced as soon as the puppy is acquired. Puppies are continuously learning from the moment their eyes are open and responsible breeders will ensure that the elements of training have commenced long before you acquire the puppy at 6-8 weeks of age. Remember training is not some formal process but should occur all the time we are together with a dog.

Training and socialisation are intermixed, a well socialised dog is invariably a well trained dog and vice versa. Thus puppies should be socialised. They should be handled by family members and strangers as soon as possible and then be introduced to other dogs, preferably to puppies, as soon as their inoculation program allows. Many training clubs and some veterinary practices today run puppy classes in order to initiate training and ensure adequate socialisation takes place. Enquire from your veterinary surgeons.

Basic training of a puppy is not a very difficult task provided certain simple rules are followed:-

1. Keep the tasks simple and only go one step at a time.

2. Teach sounds and words as commands and not sentences

3. When trying to program the puppy to respond to your command, avoid distractions and competing activities, for example you will never get your puppy to learn to walk round the garden on a collar and lead if Aunt Emma is playing ball with her mother in another part of the garden.

4. Be effusive with your praise and don't be afraid to use food rewards.

5. Ignore failures and certainly do not punish and finally.

6. Be consistent and this applies to all members of the family.

Local training clubs are an ideal way of ensuring socialisation and dog and owner participation in basic training methods. Other means of training available involve one to one methods, ideally involving both owner and dog with a trainer or sometimes sending the dog away to be trained. However these are certainly less fun and sometimes not as successful as the owner/pet participation and are often reserved for problem animals that have to undergo behavioural therapy.