A written transcript of the above video is provided below:
Congratulations on getting a new puppy. They are so fun, but also are a lot of work. Besides the basic training that new puppies need, they also need a lot of care from a medical standpoint, and I will hopefully answer most questions you may have about what all new puppies need.
Let’s start with the vaccines. There’s a thousand vaccines on the market and here at Coastal we really just give the minimum necessary. With that, there are three vaccines. The first is the distemper-adenovirus-parvovirus vaccine, commonly referred to as the DAP vaccine. There are a lot of different names for it and variations with extra components, but typically DAP is the core. This is the most important vaccine for them because this is really what’s going to make them get sick. Typically, it is a series of three vaccines given one month apart, starting at 8, 12, and then 16 weeks. It’s just very important the last vaccine is given, at the earliest, between 14 and 16 weeks of age.
The next vaccine that they get is the kennel cough vaccine. Now, we don’t recommend all adult dogs get this vaccine. It really depends on their lifestyle. If they’re going out and meeting a lot of other dogs at dog park, dog beach, or they are boarding, then we recommend adult dogs receive this vaccine every 6-12 months. However, we do recommend that all puppies get this because we tend to be a little bit more social with our puppies and we want to show them off. Also, kennel cough in adult dogs is typically a self-limiting disease. They cough for a week or two and then they get better. But in puppies, it has a higher tendency to turn into pneumonia. So we really like to give them some protection while they’re young and the most vulnerable.
Then the final vaccine is the rabies vaccine given anytime after 16 weeks. This is a public health issue more then anything else. They receive this vaccine anytime after they are four months old and then a year later and then once every three years.
Every time they get a vaccine we always need to watch them for vaccine reactions. It’s always possible, just not very common. We need to watch them for any facial swelling, hives, difficulty breathing, vomiting, or collapse. If you notice any of those signs, you need to get them in somewhere so they can give some supportive care to get them through. Almost all dogs will end up being a little bit sore and a little bit tired from the vaccine and that’s really normal. After about 24 hours they tend to be back to their old self and up to their old tricks.
The other thing to note is they can’t meet any other dogs until one week after their last set of vaccines because they are not fully protected until that time. Now, there are exceptions to that rule. If you know the other dogs – they’re your family’s dogs or your friend’s dogs and they’re healthy and up to date on all of their vaccines, then I think that socialization is great for them and is highly encouraged. You should really try to get them around those dogs as much as possible so they learn good social skills. The other exception to this rule is puppy training classes which are very important. The more front-end work in training you put in now, the easier the next 15 years of your life are going be.
The next items after the vaccines are a fecal and deworming. Almost all puppies have intestinal parasites, they get it from their mother and it’s just part of their system. We continue to give them a dewormer at least once a month because the life cycle of these parasites. This is a really important treatment for puppies because a lot of the intestinal parasites are potentially transmittable to people. The people who are most susceptible are anyone who is pregnant, planning on getting pregnant, anybody who has small children, or anybody who is immunosuppressed. Those are the four populations of people where we really need to be careful with getting parasites from our dog.
We also check a fecal sample to look for the various parasites. Even if it’s negative we still recommend treating them because a negative fecal doesn’t mean they don’t have parasites. It just means they’re not shedding eggs that day. We give a broad-spectrum dewormer, but it doesn’t cover everything. We often need to add on other medications to treat parasites that are outside of the spectrum of our general dewormers. We may also need to follow up with another fecal sample to ensure we have treated an active infection appropriately.
The next item to discuss are flea medications. San Diego is terrible for fleas. It never gets cold enough for the fleas to die off here, and that’s one of the beauties of living in San Diego is that it’s always temperate year-round. It also means we have fleas here year-round and to prevent problems, we need to be treating them with appropriate medication. We used to use a lot of the Frontline and Advantage. Those used to work great. However, they have been on the market for 15+ years, and they really aren’t working like they used to. There are a whole new generation of flea medications that are working a lot better. If you prefer the topical flea meds, there is a new one called Activyl which works well. However, I do prefer the oral flea medications. To start, you don’t have to worry about washing it off like you do with the topicals (even though the manufacturers claim otherwise). The second reason is you don’t have to worry about touching it, especially if you have small children. We have several options available in oral flea meds and can go over that if you have questions about them.
Then there are the heartworm medications. Heartworm is a disease that is spread by mosquitoes. Mosquitoes actually bite these dogs and inject the worm into them. The worm travels through their body, it ends up in their heart and their lungs, and can be fatal if they get it. That being said, in San Diego, we don’t have a lot of heartworm here. It is not as prevalent as it is in Texas, and Louisiana, and the rest of the South where there are tons of mosquitoes and heartworm is rampant. But it is still here in San Diego. There are a few reports of dogs getting it every single year here so it is not a bad idea to prevent it. You prevent it with a pill you give them once a month, year-round. The other reason why I like the hearworm medications is not only does it prevent heartworm disease, but it also has an intestinal parasite dewormer. So once a month, it’s getting rid of those hookworms, roundworms, and whipworms, which are potentially transmittable to people. This helps keep everybody free and clear of those parasites, which is a really great benefit. There are combo products that have the flea and heartworm medication in one, so it’s one pill once a month, and that is typically the way I start with puppies.
The next topic is spaying and neutering. We don’t typically recommend early spaying and neutering. For females, the ideal time to still do this is right before their first heat cycle. The problem is predicting when that heat cycle is going to happen is difficult. We make our recommendations based on the size of the dog because that is our best indicator as to when they will have their first heat. For small dogs (less than 20 lbs), typically they’ll go into heat somewhere around six months so we recommend spaying between 5 and 6 months. For dogs that are between 20 and 60 pounds, we see them go in to heat typically somewhere between six and eight months so we recommend spaying around 6 months. Then for dogs about 70-100 pounds or so, we wait nine months, typically, around eight months when we spay them. And for a giant breed dog, try to wait at least a year.
Now, if they do go into a heat cycle there are a few downsides. The first downside is you have to deal with the heat cycle. The second downside is every heat cycle they go through, it actually increases their risk of mammary cancer. We can essentially eliminate that risk by spaying them before the first heat. The other concern is something called a Pyometra, or an infection in their uterus. The risk of that is relatively low that they will develop pyometra or mammary cancer after just one heat cycle, but it is always possible. These are the reasons why we are still recommending spaying dogs before that first heat. If they do go in to heat, we recommend waiting about a month after their heat cycle finishes before we spay them.
In terms of neutering your male dogs, we don’t recommend early neutering. We do like them to grow as much as possible before removing the natural hormones that help with their development. There have been some associations with negative outcomes from dogs who were spayed and neutered at an early age. The biggest one that I am seeing a lot of and concerned with is tearing their cruciate ligaments (the ligament that helps stabilize the knee. In humans, it is referred to as the ACL). When these dogs are early neutered and early spayed, they grow really tall and lanky. They’re not getting that hormone feedback on their bones to tell them to stop growing tall but actually to fill out and bulk up. Letting them grow, letting their body develop it’s natural size is really important. Plus, there’s possibly some association with urinary incontinence in female dogs. And then there’s even some association possibly with cancer development later in life as well, although that’s still being debated. At the time of the neuter or spay, we do also recommend microchipping them. However, we can always do that early as well. Microchip is a really important thing. If your dog gets lost, this is the way that they’re going to get found because most of the time when they’re lost it’s because they’ve slipped out of their collar. They won’t have that nice little tag with your phone number on it and are ending up at the shelter naked. The microchip is the only way we’ll have to be able to find them and get them back to you.
The final thing is pet insurance. We highly, highly, highly recommend pet insurance. And it didn’t used to be this way, because there was a lot of variation in the companies and what they reimburse. Now there are companies out there which are ethical and doing a great job. Veterinary medicine as you know has become really expensive because it’s gotten so sophisticated. We’re doing laparoscopic surgery on all of our animals here to spay them as well as ton of other different surgeries. So the technology is advancing, but at the same time, so is the cost of that. If you go into an emergency clinic, if you’ve ever been in there with your dog, it’s probably a minimum of $3000 almost as soon as you step in the door. So we can do a lot of stuff, but it’s also making it more expensive. That is making pet insurance really, really important especially in puppies. Puppies like to eat random things and end up swallowing whole the new chew toy you just bought them. We do more surgeries to pull random objects out of puppies’ stomachs than any other population of pets. That’s a two to five to up to $10,000 surgery depending on how extensive the damage and the recovery process. But the other thing is if you get pet insurance when they’re a puppy, before they’ve had any pre-existing conditions, then it’s going to cover everything for their whole life. Now, we’ve done a previous blog post on a pet insurance shootout. And you can read about that and our latest recommendation on who the best one is. So we highly, highly recommend it. And if you have questions, call the office, and we can let you know who the best pet insurance company is at the moment in our eyes.
So that is it. Congratulations again on your new puppy. If you have any other questions, definitely let us know and we can guide you through this new adventure.