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. The way I went about this was to make a list of all of the vets near me and 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 to 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 which I wasn’t aware of – 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.
What does dog insurance cover?
Insuring your puppy or dog is important in my opinion but you do end up paying 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 yes and not worry about the costs as his pet insurance will pay. Dog insurance includes your dog being covered for any damages he or she may cause to third parties (I suppose the most serious example would be an attack or your dog destroying property). You can also choose to insure 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:
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 provide puppy insurance for one month. This means that it is already covered 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 piece of mind.
Insuring a rescue or adult dog:
If you adopt an adult dog you need to check with the shelter or owner what the circumstances are and you need any vet files to have a comprehensive insight into the dog’s health record. Depending on the circumstances you can then carry over the existing insurance I assume 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 case of an emergency you can pay for expensive surgeries and tests yourself.
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, with the difference 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, I would go see my vet to have it checked out.
There are a few important things to keep an eye on during puppy teething time:
Just like in human medicine, prevention is better than having to heal 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, 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 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 the options to decide what is best for your dog. Different dogs have different immune systems depending on any conditions they may have.
Rabies vaccinations only are necessary if you are travelling with your dog abroad. There is no rabies in the UK.
Bordetella or commonly called 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 which would not happen to a dog who has been vaccinated. Kennel cough in puppies and short-nosed breeds are at higher risk due to a not yet fully 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.
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 in that in between month. As breeders 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. Perhaps this is a good thing but it simultaneously means that the puppy will lose out on a month of socialisation. This could create other problems in the future.
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. 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 we’re talking about. Especially puppies are full of worms!
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 instead of worming tablets you can use a flea and worm treatment 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 risk is to catch fleas which can be cured of course, but it’s a huge job to clean your dog and your home in a way to make sure 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, it’s 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 I would ask my vet.
Dog neutering can be a bit of a controversial topic for me as I have different views to the UK & US. I grew up in Germany where it is perfectly normal to leave your dogs in tackt (as long as there is no pressing 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 prone to gaining weight. Sometimes males need their testosterone and sometimes the oestrogen levels cause havoc in females. If you are seriously considering neutering your dog do some research first I would suggest. Speak to other dog owners who have gone through with it and 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. Read more about this here. It is not 100% like a real 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 was I! Chilli loves to run for hours, play with other dogs, do doggie sports and much more.
How much exercise does your dog need? It greatly depends: puppies need a lot less exercise than young dogs, as 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 and 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 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.
This is why a puppy worming schedule is so important:
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 misbehaviour! A dog bursting with energy can’t sit still at home on his or her best behaviour. That’s not 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 a little pee or two?
Just as for humans, when a dog has suffered an injury or has a certain condition, we all 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 a healing human. One common treatment is physio for dogs back legs. The whole hip joint and hind legs can be weak or slightly displaced and need strengthening to create better movement.
The most common dog physiotherapy treatment reasons are:
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. I also know some practitioners use acupuncture.