Nothing compares with the joy of welcoming a new puppy into your home. The first year is sure to be a sweet combination of puppy kisses, joy, and fun, but it is also the critical time to start them off happy and healthy. This involves hard work, but their development depends on the care they receive from you and their Johnson County Animal Clinic veterinary team. 

As a new puppy owner, your responsibility is ensuring you provide your pet with a safe, nurturing environment in which to grow and develop. Familiarizing yourself with your puppy’s needs during their first year can help clarify your expectations and set you both up for success. Our team stands ready to get you started on the right path.

Wellness visits for your puppy

Your puppy changes a great deal in the first year and for this reason, it’s important they have a comprehensive veterinary exam no more than 48 hours after you bring them home. During this visit, we’ll conduct a thorough physical exam, and check for any signs of developmental abnormalities and disease. Several additional visits will take place during your puppy’s first year, where we will ensure your puppy’s health with vaccines, parasite prevention, and sound advice. 

Vaccinations for your puppy

Your puppy is born with maternal immunity that gradually wears off during the first months of life, leaving them vulnerable to diseases that lurk in the environment. Vaccinations help your puppy form their own immunity to diseases they will likely be exposed to during walks, trips to the park, and boarding and grooming appointments. Because puppies’ immune systems develop at different rates, your puppy will need a series of vaccinations every few weeks, beginning at about 6 weeks of age until 16 weeks of age. Your puppy’s core vaccines include:

  • Rabies
  • Canine distemper
  • Parvovirus
  • Hepatitis
  • Leptospirosis

Depending on your puppy’s lifestyle, your veterinarian may also recommend vaccinations for other diseases they may be exposed to, such as Lyme disease, canine influenza, and Bordetella. 

Parasite prevention for your puppy

Intestinal parasites are commonly found in puppies, who normally contract them from their mother. These pests can wreak havoc on your puppy’s health, so it’s important that they receive two to three doses of deworming medication during their first few months. They should also receive a fecal examination to identify any parasites the typical deworming medications do not clear, so we can ensure they are parasite-free.

Heartworm disease is transmitted by mosquitoes, and puppies can be infected at an early age. The presence of parasitic worms in the blood vessels and heart leads to progressive heart and lung disease, which is deadly without treatment. 

External parasites, such as fleas and ticks, are a lifelong concern, and you should talk with your veterinarian about the best parasite prevention options. Your puppy is old enough at 8 weeks to begin monthly doses of flea, tick, and heartworm preventives to protect them. As your puppy grows, the dose will change based on weight. 

At your puppy’s one year exam, they will have their first annual blood test to check for heartworm and tick-borne diseases. 

Sleeping and house training

Red-eyed puppy owners everywhere want to know when their puppy will sleep through the night, and when their puppy will be house-trained. 

Since each pup is an individual, there are no hard and fast rules for when they will sleep for eight hours, or will go to the bathroom on schedule. Much of their progress depends on your commitment to a routine, and your puppy’s growth and development rate. Most puppies start sleeping through the night between 12 to 16 weeks of age. If your puppy is waking at night, try to determine if they need to go to the bathroom, or it’s because they realize they are alone when they wake up. 

Try to remain consistent with the bathroom routine and, in general, take your puppy outside:

  • First thing in the morning
  • After eating, drinking, and playing
  • After waking from a nap
  • Last thing before bedtime

If your puppy is waking up and feeling lonely, they may need a few weeks to settle into their new routine and feel safe and secure. Once your puppy has acclimated to their new home and bonded to you, night wakings become much less likely. 

Spay and neuter your puppy

Between 6 and 18 months of age, your puppy should be spayed or neutered, not only to eliminate unwanted litters of puppies, but also because spaying or neutering decreases problem behaviors and the chances of certain cancer types. Your veterinarian will discuss the best course and time for the procedure based on your puppy’s lifestyle, breed, and health needs.

Dental care for your puppy

Dental disease is the most common medical problem to affect dogs and cats, and begins attacking your pet’s mouth from a young age. In fact, most pets have some degree of dental disease by 3 years of age. Start your puppy on the path to life-long dental health by instituting a daily toothbrushing regimen. Although older pets can learn to accept toothbrushing, it is easiest to begin when your pup is young so they consider it part of their daily routine. Our team will perform a thorough oral exam during each of your furry friend’s wellness visits, and will recommend regular professional cleanings when the time comes. By working together, we can help your puppy stave off painful dental problems, and keep their pearly whites through their gray muzzle years.

Socializing and training your pup

Puppies have an important socialization window that occurs between 3 and 14 weeks of age, when they need gentle exposure to a wide variety of new people, places, and situations. This ensures they become comfortable with new experiences, and can prevent behavioral problems, stress, and anxiety as they age. Allow your puppy to approach new situations at their own pace, and provide plenty of treats and praise to encourage and reward them for being calm and accepting of new people and environments. 

You should begin basic training the day your puppy comes home, and puppy training classes as soon as they are vaccinated. Puppy classes help socialize your puppy, teach them basic manners and obedience, and build your bond. 

Keeping your puppy healthy from the start is critical for a long, healthy life. If you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to call or email the Johnson County Animal Clinic team. We are excited to meet and help care for your new friend.