We love our dogs, and knowing that our dog is a healthy dog makes all the difference in the world. Choosing the right dog health care from the start is very important and should include: 

  • Worming & flea treatments
  • Vaccinations & boosters
  • General check ups
  • Monitoring teeth and gum health
  • Weight & diet 
  • Monitoring any conditions
  • Supplements as needed
  • Medical insurance


If you are getting a puppy, I would recommend you begin looking for a vet before your puppy arrives. You will need a vet to check the puppy’s health as soon as you bring him or her home. How to choose a vet is quite personal, I have discovered. I made a list of all of the vets near me, then I went and visited them. I also checked them out online to get a feel of their services and ethos. I didn’t have any friends with dogs at the time so I couldn’t ask for recommendations. What I have learned over time is that different people look for different qualities in vets. Aside from competence, obviously, some people value friendliness and approachability over more detached approaches. So you need to feel comfortable with the vet clinic of your choice. 

I would also advise that you do a Google search on an emergency vet or 24 hour vet or an animal hospital. You never know if one day you might need one. However having said that, your vet should provide you with an emergency phone line or veterinary clinic which you can contact in case of emergencies out of hours. 

Just a little side note: the veterinary code of ethics encourages each dog to only have one petvet. If your dog is registered at more than one vet this might cause some friction and vets can ask you to “un”register.

Pet Insurance

What does dog insurance cover?

Insuring your puppy or dog is important, and the cost does accumulate quite a bit over the years. But for me it’s totally worth it. If Chilli needs any blood tests or treatment I know I can just say go ahead and not worry about the costs as his pet insurance will pay. Dog insurance also covers your dog for any damages he or she may cause to third parties. Perhaps the most serious example would be an attack or your dog destroying property. You can also choose to insure against your dog’s death, the price you paid for your puppy, and you can set an excess to reduce the cost of monthly payments.

Pet insurance does not cover the following:

  • Vaccinations
  • Annual booster vaccinations
  • Worming or flea treatments
  • Some homeopathic remedies
  • Professional dental cleaning of teeth
  • Toothbrushes, finger mits, dog toothpaste
  • Supplements (unless they are used to treat a specific condition)

Insuring your puppy:

Pet insurance is important from the day you have met your puppy or your adopted dog. In the case of a puppy, usually the breeders will provide puppy insurance for one month. This means that there is already cover for any conditions that may arise. It is also important (and I’m sorry to have to be so blunt) as you are transporting the tiny creature home. God forbid something bad were to happen – if your puppy is not insured you will be responsible for any treatment, or worse. This will be a pre-existing condition and you will not be able to insure your puppy for this subsequently. I hate to speak about finances here but some conditions can be very very costly. It is a reason for people to abandon their puppies or dogs as they don’t realise how costly dog health care can be.

Once you bring your puppy home you can choose to stay with the insurance choice of the breeder, or switch to another insurance company. There are so many available your best bet is to check online or check some names your friends suggest, and compare monthly prices to the coverage they provide. Your puppy will have lifetime coverage and will be insured for anything that arises. It does give a huge peace of mind.

Insuring a rescue or adult dog:

If you adopt an adult dog, you will need to check with the shelter or owner what the dog’s health circumstances are, and you must obtain any vet files for a comprehensive insight into the dog’s health record. Depending on the circumstances you can then carry over the existing insurance, or begin a new cover. This again can be limited to any pre-existing conditions if the dog has no prior dog insurance. If you are adopting a rescue, check with the animal shelters beforehand – ask them what their policies are.

Having said all of the above, some dog owners choose to not insure their dogs. They prefer to pay for any treatments as and when they arise. If you do this, you need to be sure that in the case of an emergency you can cover the cost of expensive surgeries and tests yourself.

Dog teething

Do puppies lose teeth like humans? The answer is yes! I still have Chilli’s dog baby teeth. I disinfected them to keep them as a memory of his puppydom. Puppy teeth are very similar to baby teeth, the difference being that they come out much sooner than a baby’s. Your puppy will already have all of his or her baby teeth by the time he or she comes to your home. However puppy losing teeth will start shortly after, and by month 6 your pup should have all of his or her adult teeth. I have seen cases where a dog has a double row of teeth. If you see that your puppy’s teeth are not falling out and adult teeth are growing, go to the vet to have it checked out.

There are a few important things to keep an eye on during puppy teething time:

  • Biting – or NO BITING! Your puppy will go through a phase where he or she wants to bite everything in sight, including you. This is an opportunity to gently teach your pup not to bite, otherwise it will become a problematic pattern. Mother dogs and sibling puppies teach when not to bite through play. If a puppy bites its sibling, the sibling will stop playing and walk away. This way after a few attempts the puppy will learn that biting means spoiling the fun, so it will stop doing so. You can use the method. When your pup is biting you or the blanket or your furniture, make a little squeal and walk away (for tiny puppies do not leave them unattended on the furniture – lift them on the ground then walk away). In addition to this, I taught Chilli the command “no biting”! Whenever he was chewing my fingers I would say this in a serious voice and withdraw my hand. When he stopped I’d praise him and give him my finger again. If he didn’t bite I’d praise him.
  • Get your puppy used to you touching his mouth – you will need to brush his teeth and you want the vet to be able to look at his mouth so you need to acquaint your dog to the sensation of someone touching his or her mouth.

Dog Vaccinations

Just like in human medicine, prevention is better than having to cure a complicated illness. Of course, the risk factor of catching a contagious illness needs to outweigh any side effect from dog vaccines. The Veterinary Medicines Directorate splits dog vaccinations into three categories:  

  • Core vaccinations: Canine distemper, Parvovirus, Adenovirus, Leptospirosis vaccine
  • Non-core vaccinations: Parainfluenza, Bortadella
  • Other: Herpes, Coronavirus, Rabies vaccine for dogs

Core, non-core and rabies vaccinations

My vet encourages core and non-core vaccinations with the appropriate booster injections. My vet uses Nobivac and Duramune. Nobivac Lepto 2 has been upgraded with Lepto 4 vaccine as new strands of the leptospirosis bacteria are becoming prevalent. However there is a higher percentage risk of adverse effects from the Lepto 4 vaccine compared to the Lepto 2. I would advise you to discuss this with your vet and weigh up the options to decide what is best for your dog. Different dogs have different immune systems depending on any conditions they may have, or have had.

Rabies vaccinations only are necessary if you are travelling with your dog abroad. Rabies is not present in the UK.

Kennel Cough

A vaccine for Bordetella, more commonly known as Kennel Cough, is highly recommended if your dog stays with other dogs whilst you are away. Without the kennel cough vaccine, a dog who gets infected can develop respiratory disease. Kennel cough in puppies and short-nosed breeds are at higher risk due to a lesser developed immune system, and their narrowed noses and trachea respectively. Kennel cough treatment is usually a combination of antibiotics as it needs to treat bacterial and viral infections at the same time.

Puppy Vaccinations

Your puppy first vaccination usually is advised at 8 weeks. Puppy second vaccination occurs one month later at 12 weeks of age. Between the two vaccinations a puppy is NOT immune to any diseases. You will need to be careful what you expose the puppy to during that month. As breeders now keep the pups until week 12 anyway, you shouldn’t need to worry about this. I have come across a breeder who refused to vaccinate a Chihuahua puppy at 8 weeks because she felt it was too small. This meant that the puppy lost out on a month of socialisation, which could create other problems in the future.

My Opinion on Vaccinations!

My opinion on vaccinations: as we are unable to explain to our dogs what can be contagious and what they would need to avoid in order to be safe, I think some vaccinations are necessary. But I wouldn’t vaccinate for Rabies, for example, if I didn’t plan to travel with Chilli.

Worms in Dogs

I think we’ve all heard about worms in dogs and that they are transferable to humans. They are usually harmless, unless it’s a tapeworm. Puppies in particular are, unfortunately, full of worms!

This is why a puppy worming schedule is so important:

  • From 2 weeks old until 3 months of age, puppies need deworming every 2 weeks
  • From 3 – 6 months of age, puppies need deworming once a month
  • 6 months + follow a grown up deworming pattern (every 3 months or monthly flea+dewormer)

Puppy worming tablets come as chewable or non-chewable options. Ask your vet for a recommended dewormer for puppies.

For adult dogs you can either use dog worming tablets or, rather than worming tablets, you can use a flea and worm treatment which is usually administered on a monthly basis. Your dog does not need both.

Dogs and fleas

No matter how often you bathe your dog or keep him or her out of trouble, fleas are easy to contract. Depending on where you live and with how many (and which) dogs your pooch hangs out with, he or she will be at risk. The problem with fleas can be dealt with, of course, but it’s a huge job to clean your dog and your home in a way that ensures any possible flea eggs don’t survive. It is advisable to use a flea treatment if or when needed. What is the best flea treatment for dogs? That really depends on the dog, its size and health. For example Frontline plus is too strong for Chilli, he doesn’t tolerate it well. The advantage Frontline has is that it protects against ticks as well as fleas. Advocate for dogs is much better for Chilli. For flea treatments for puppies consult your vet.

Dog neutering

Dog neutering can be a bit of a controversial topic for me as I have different views to the UK and the US. I grew up in Germany where it is perfectly normal to leave your dogs intact, as long as there is no medical urgency. When I found Chilli and started looking for a vet, I was surprised that the first question they asked at most receptions was “Shall we book him in for neutering at 6 months of age now?”. I didn’t even have my puppy yet and they already wanted to plan a procedure. You can imagine I didn’t choose those vets. I discussed this with a dog trainer at the time, and she warned me that puppy neutering is actually very dangerous. A puppy needs its hormones for its brain to develop fully. Dog castration at 6 months impedes this development. 

Should I get my dog neutered? I think it greatly depends on various factors. First of all is it medically necessary? Is it a behavioural issue? Or do you have a male and female dog together and find the season impossible to manage? A castrated or spayed dog can be a changed dog, and it’s not always for the better. Neutered dogs have an increase in appetite and their metabolism slows down, so they are more prone to weight gain. Sometimes males need their testosterone, and the oestrogen levels can cause havoc in females. If you are seriously considering neutering your dog do some research first. Speak to other dog owners who have gone through with it, and find out what the consequences were. It is so easy to make such a decision, and irreversible if you regret it. There is a chemical castration option which lasts around 6 months to 1 year. It is not 100% like an actual castration, but it provides an insight into what your dog could be like neutered. It has been reported that for unwanted behaviour a few Suprelorin implants have affected the dog’s hormones enough so that when the dog stopped receiving the implants the behaviour had changed for the better permanently, and the dog no longer needed castration.

Dog Exercise and Dog Physiotherapy

Your dog needs exercise, perhaps more than you anticipated. Even toy breeds, such as Chihuahuas, have a lot of energy and need to burn it. Dog fitness is a real thing! I thought I was getting a quiet lap dog… how wrong I was! Chilli loves to run for hours, play with other dogs, do doggie sports and much more.

How much exercise does your dog need? Well, it depends: puppies need a lot less exercise than young dogs – puppies’ bones and joints are still growing and developing, so they shouldn’t be overused. Be careful as to how many steps/stairs your puppy climbs – limit it at the beginning and then slowly increase. You can also get an indoor puppy pen for your little friend to have a safe play area which also includes exercise. Puppy exercise is usually a burst of energy, after which the pup will want to go to the toilet, then sleep.

Old dogs will also require less exercise on average. They might have joint aches and general wear and tear, and will want to take things more slowly. I sometimes even see people in the park with a push buggy for their old dogs  – the dog sits in the dog stroller whilst the owner pushes him or her through the park. It touches my heart.

Exercising needs are also breed dependent. Hunting dogs will want to run and do things for much longer periods than say a whippet, who has short bursts of energy.

What are the consequences of too little exercise for your dog?

Firstly obesity, yes an overweight dog, which will add extra strain on your dog’s joints and increase the risk of diabetes, heart disease and respiratory disease. Dog weight can also affect your dog’s tendons, muscles and ligaments as well as setting off any arthritic underlying conditions. If your dog has a few extra pounds, it’s not a bad idea for the dog losing weight. Trust me, I keep a close eye on Chilli’s Chihuahua weight. There is no need for him to be carrying excess pounds, especially as with him 100g makes a huge difference.

The second big thing is a bored dog, and hence bad behaviour! A dog bursting with energy can’t sit still at home on his or her best behaviour, which isn’t fair. If I don’t take Chilli out for long runs he climbs up the wall sometimes! He will find noises to bark at, wander around the flat, and ask me to play as much as he can. So if your dog does not get enough exercise he or she might start chewing up things around the house, or perhaps even doing a little pee or two? 

Canine physiotherapy

Just as for humans, when a dog has suffered an injury or has a certain condition, he or she will need some restoration and rehabilitation. Dog physiotherapy includes several forms of treatment such as massage, stretching and muscle strength building. A good dog physio will choose the best treatment options for the dog’s needs at any given time, and these can change and evolve, just like for a recovering human. One common treatment is physio for dogs back legs. The whole hip joint and hind legs can be weak or slightly displaced, and may need strengthening to create better movement.

The most common dog physiotherapy treatment reasons are:
  • Improving and treating musculoskeletal injuries in highly active dogs
  • Rehabilitation after surgery (orthopaedic or neurological)
  • Improving quality of life for dogs with chronic conditions such as arthritis

Dog hydrotherapy, using underwater treadmills, is a great physio treatment which gently strengthens using the water’s floating quality to reduce the weight on the dog’s joints and muscles. Some practitioners also use acupuncture.