Your puppy's first visit to the vet
Your puppy’s first visit to see our vet will probably be when their first vaccination is due. This will involve a weight check and our vet will ask a variety of questions that may include:
- How long have you owned your puppy?
- Where did you get him/her?
- What type of food is he/she eating?
- Are you having trouble with house training?
- How are you dealing with chewing?
- How is your puppy settling in with family members, including other pets?
They may then discuss tips on behaviour, training and feeding, and answer your questions on what to expect as your puppy ages. After talking about your puppy, the exam will begin and our vet will check the following:
- The puppy’s eyes, ears and teeth to look for abnormalities
- The skin for abnormalities, dry skin and fleas
- The abdomen for pain, enlarged organs or other abnormalities
- The belly button for umbilical hernia
- The heart and lungs to detect any heart murmurs, irregular heart rhythm or harsh lung sound
- The joints for normal movement
- The genitals for discharge or abnormal development
Our vet will also likely discuss relevant issues such as parasite prevention, vaccination and de-sexing. Some purebred dogs have special concerns and our veterinarian will discuss these with you along with a scheduled time for the next visit.
At eight weeks old, your puppy is due for their first vaccination. The core vaccine they receive guards against parvovirus, canine distemper and canine hepatitis. The next round of vaccinations will be due at around 12 weeks (which may also include a vaccination against leptospirosis if you choose), with the final vaccines given at 16 weeks (which may also include a vaccination against kennel cough if you choose). A booster is required 12 months after completion of the primary course, and then yearly or three yearly vaccines are required thereafter. Our vet will advise you of the recommended protocol for your particular dog.
What are we vaccinating against?
Parvovirus causes severe gastroenteritis (vomiting and bloody diarrhoea) and has a high mortality rate in puppies.
- It is a very “hardy” virus and can survive in the environment for a number of years.
- The virus particles are spread by infected dogs’ faeces and are transmitted by the ingestion or inhalation of these particles.
- Older dogs and puppies are most susceptible to disease (those with a lowered immune system).
- Clinical signs can include (but are not limited to) the following:
- Vomiting and/or bloody diarrhoea
- Depression and lethargy
- A loss of appetite
- There is no specific treatment for the virus, only supportive treatment.
Tracheobronchitis is often referred to as “Canine Contagious Cough” or “Kennel Cough” although this affects many dogs that have never been near a kennels. This vaccination helps prevent infections with parainfluenza virus and Bordetella bacteria. It can be carried out at the same time as the other injections and may be given as an injection or involves drops inserted into the nose. Kennel Cough is highly infectious, although not fatal, and is spread by aerosol effect.
Leptospirosis is a bacterium which is often carried by rats and can be transmitted to dogs via rat urine. It is recommended to vaccinate against Leptospirosis in situations where the dog may be near a dairy farm or visit the river regularly, however new research shows that even dogs living in an urban area are equally at risk. Leptospirosis can also be fatal, and treatment relies heavily on supportive care. This vaccination is also given by a series of primary injections followed by annual boosters.
Why do we vaccinate?
While puppies are suckling from their mother, they receive a temporary form of immunity from disease primarily through the mother’s colostrum. This immunity is in the form of proteins called antibodies and for the first 12 to 24 hours after birth, the puppy’s intestine allows the absorption of these antibodies directly into the blood stream.
This maternal immunity is only of benefit during the first few weeks of life and, at some point, the level of immunity falls and the puppy must begin to produce its own long-lasting protection against disease – vaccines 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, which is why we wait until at least six weeks of age to begin the vaccination course.
Each year for a dog is equivalent to 5-7 human years, so it is important that your puppy receives a wellness check every 2-3 months in his/her first year. Regular wellness exams allow our veterinarians and nurses to evaluate your puppy’s general health and detect any health problems before they have a chance to become serious. Since your puppy cannot vocalize his/her feelings, you must rely on regular physical examinations by our trained staff, and your own observations, to assess your puppy’s health. Contact our clinic to schedule your puppy’s next wellness check.