Your puppy’s First Wellness Exam
This wellness exam will include thorough “nose-to-tail” physical evaluations and allow us to establish an individualized wellness care plan for your puppy. The first few visits will allow you to develop a relationship with us, allow our veterinarians to complete your puppy’s vaccination series, start your puppy on heartworm medication, begin parasite prevention and monitor any developing medical or behavioral conditions your puppy may develop.
this wellness exam will include:
Canine Core Vaccines
The Distemper Vaccine is a multi-component vaccine. It is given to puppies starting at 8-9 weeks of age; an exam and booster vaccine are done every 3-4 weeks until 16-17 weeks of age. This frequent vaccine administration is necessary to keep puppies protected as the maternal antibodies disappear. Large breed, black/tan dogs should receive the last booster at 17-18 weeks of age because of their increased susceptibility to parvovirus. This vaccine is boosted the following year, and then given every 3 years. The vaccine protects against the following viruses:
Distemper is a widespread virus and is often fatal. This virus attacks the respiratory tract, gastrointestinal tract, skin and central nervous system. All dogs should be vaccinated for distemper, as all ages are susceptible.
Canine adenovirus can cause respiratory disease and hepatitis, and can be fatal. This viral infection is rare now because of immunizations.
Parvovirus is a widespread, sometimes fatal disease which causes severe dehydration, diarrhea and vomiting in dogs, especially younger pups and unvaccinated dogs.
Parainfluenza is a viral cause of infectious tracheobronchitis (ITB) or kennel cough. It is often a mild respiratory infection in otherwise healthy dogs.
For mature patients at risk to vaccine reactions or who have immune diseases, a vaccine antibody titer for distemper and parvovirus can be done yearly in lieu of the vaccine, starting after the one-year booster vaccine. This does not apply to puppies.
The Rabies Vaccine is first given at 12-16 weeks of age. The booster vaccine is given at 1 year; thereafter it is administered every 3 years. Rabies is a lethal virus to all mammals, including people. It is prominent in wildlife of the eastern shore, so all dogs should be vaccinated. This vaccine is required by Maryland law for all dogs 12 weeks of age and older.
For commonly asked questions about vaccination visits: https://www.avma.org/KB/Resources/FAQs/Pages/Vaccination-FAQs.aspx
A heartworm (Dirofilaria immitus) is a large spaghetti-like worm that lives in the heart and lungs of infected dogs and causes heart/respiratory failure. The lifecycle of the heartworm is 6-8 months. Immature larvae are spread to dogs through a mosquito bite. It takes 6-8 months for the larvae to reach adulthood and produce microfilaria, the first stage larvae that are ingested by the mosquito. The life-cycle starts again when the mosquito bites another dog.
The Heartworm test should be done yearly, starting at 6 months to 1 year of age.
For information on Heartworm disease in dogs visit: https://www.avma.org/public/PetCare/Pages/Heartworm-Disease.aspx
ALL dogs are susceptible to intestinal parasites, including roundworms, hookworms, tapeworms, whipworms, giardia, and coccidia. These parasites can cause malnutrition, anemia, gastrointestinal, and respiratory problems. A small, thumbnail size fresh stool sample is required for testing.
Fecal testing: A centrifuged fecal sample is recommended at the first several visits for all puppies and annually for adults to test for intestinal parasites. Many intestinal parasites shed eggs or cysts intermittently, which may result in a false negative stool sample. For this reason, puppies are dewormed at least twice to treat roundworm and hookworm infections.
Common external parasites on the Eastern Shore include fleas, multiple species of ticks, ear mites, and skin mites. These parasites can be debilitating for all pets, casing skin rashes and often severe discomfort. Fleas and ticks can also transmit serious infections, including Lyme disease, and protozoan infections like Ehrlichia and Anaplasma.
For information on external parasites visit: https://www.avma.org/public/PetCare/Pages/externalparasites.aspx
External Parasite Preventative: Many different types of oral and topical medications and flea collars are available for dogs to prevent fleas, ticks and ear mites. We recommend topical Frontline Plus or oral Nexgard. Talk with the veterinarian to see what medication is best for your pet. Remember even animals indoors are affected by parasites, especially fleas.
Internal Parasite Preventative: All puppies should be started on heartworm disease preventative at 8-12 weeks of age. The dosage will be adjusted for weight as your puppy grows. The heartworm tablet is actually treating the early stage of heartworm infection, by killing the L3 stage larvae spread by the mosquito. We recommend Interceptor Plus or Heartgard as heartworm/intestinal parasite disease preventative. These are systemic medications that kill the immature larval heartworms, and the adult intestinal parasites.
Your puppy’s second Wellness Exam
Feeding Your puppy
Most young puppies should be fed three times daily, changing to twice daily once they are 3 months old. Canned foods add palatability and moisture to the food. Fresh meats or cooked vegetables can be added in limited quantity – be sure they are not the bulk of the diet as the nutrient content may be deficient. Avoid all processed human foods, fatty foods, sweets, and dairy products, as their consumption can lead to serious health issues. For snacks, offer dog treats made in the USA. Foods which are toxic to dogs include chocolate, raisins, grapes, macadamia nuts, and onions.
At VMC we believe pets should eat a good quality food that your pet likes and that suits your budget. A few recommended brands include Royal Canin, Science Diet, and Purina ProPlan. Many popular brands spend more money on advertising and packaging than on the quality of ingredients. Other brands use gimmicks to make the food sound more appealing: for example, terms like all natural, holistic, and fresh. What is most important is to feed a product that supplies the three essentials: vitamins, minerals and energy supplying nutrients.
Recently grain-free diets have become popular, but have shown to cause cardiac problems in certain breeds of dogs, such as golden retrievers. It is unclear what the cause is, but legumes, potatoes, and novel proteins play a role, in addition to the pet’s breed and genetics. Dogs are “carnivorous” omnivores, which mean they do not have a strict meat-based diet requirement. Some of their diet can include vegetable-based protein. The exact amount of protein, fat, and other nutrients depends upon your dog’s life stage (puppy, senior, large breed vs small breed), lifestyle (working vs. sedentary) and health related needs (weight management). Feed a diet appropriate for your pet’s stage of life.
Avoid foods that contain a lot of dyes or fat, which are often used to either make the product more palatable or appear more interesting to us as pet owners. Chicken meal is basically the entire chicken ground up into a meal. Chicken by-product meal uses the animal parts not consumed by people. By-products are a less expensive yet still nutritious protein source. Whole grains, fish meal, corn gluten meal, and brewers rice are other examples of inexpensive protein sources. Be sure the diet names the meat source- for example, chicken, beef, lamb. Avoid diets which list meat meal or meat by-products, as the source of this meat is unknown.
Any pet food should be AAFCO labeled. AAFCO stands for the Association of American Feed Control Officials and is defined as a voluntary membership association of local, state and federal agencies charged by law to regulate the sale and distribution of animal feeds and animal drug remedies. Essentially, they are the only group in the industry that has established a standard at which you as the consumer will know that your pet food is delivering the nutrients that it is formulated to provide.
Nutrition Websites and Resources
• American Animal Hospital Association
• American College of Veterinary Nutrition
• AAFCO does not differentiate between the qualities of the protein source.
• An Indoor Pet Environmental Enrichment Guide: https://indoorpet.osu.edu
Your puppy’s third Wellness Exam
COMMON neutering FAQs
Neutering is a surgical procedure that removes the ovaries and uterus (ovariohysterectomy) or the ovaries (ovariectomy) in the female (commonly known as spaying), and the testicles (castration) in the male. This permanent surgery sterilizes your pet so it cannot reproduce.
Sterilization of the female eliminates unwanted pregnancy, as well as eliminating heat cycles that occur on average every 6 months. It reduces the risk of mammary cancer that is linked to heat cycles, and it reduces the risk of pyometra (infected uterus).
In the male, it reduces unwanted male behavior, such as urine marking and aggression, as well as roaming. It eliminates the risk of testicular tumors, and also reduces the risk of prostatic infections. It does NOT reduce the risk of prostatic cancer.
There is no definitive “best” time to neuter your dog. Shelter animals are usually neutered before they are adopted, sometimes as early as 8 weeks of age. However, there is new evidence to support waiting much longer than that. Recent studies in Golden Retrievers, Vizslas, Rottweilers and other large breed dogs have shown that early neutering of both males and females MAY increase the incidence of certain cancers and orthopedic problems in these breeds. It is unknown how this applies to smaller breeds. However, multiple heat cycles may increase the incidence of mammary cancer and pyometra in female dogs. Unneutered males also have a higher rate of prostatic infections and testicular cancer. Taking all these factors into account, it is now suggested that neutering at 18 months to 2 years of age may be the best compromise for large breed dogs. For small breed dogs, there is no data to suggest that waiting longer is beneficial. Of course, if you do not have a safe place to keep your female when she is in heat, the risk of accidental pregnancy and pet overpopulation far outweighs the risk of later cancers. If you have concerns about your pet, please discuss it with us!
In cats, there is no clear evidence at this time that early neutering is detrimental in any way. We still recommend surgical sterilization at 6 -7 months for both male and female cats.
Surgical sterilization does not cause your pet to get fat. Diet, exercise, and heredity have much more influence on the weight of your pet. However, because your neutered pet does not have the caloric needs of an unneutered pet, they should be fed less in order to maintain the same weight.
Oral hygiene is just as important for our pets as it is for the other members of your family. It is easier to start dental care when your pet is young, but any dog can be trained to have the teeth brushed daily. A puppy has 28 deciduous (temporary) teeth; adult teeth start to erupt at 4 months of age, and all 42 teeth should appear at 6 to 7 months of age. Some puppies may still retain their baby teeth at 6 months of age, which leaves no space for the permanent teeth to erupt. If this occurs, these retained deciduous teeth will need to be extracted.
Plaque and tartar accumulate on your pet’s teeth at an early age. This plaque and tartar can lead to gingivitis (infections of the gum). If left untreated, the supporting structures of the tooth will be compromised, leading to tooth decay, pain, and possible bone infection (periodontal disease). Approximately 85% of dogs over three years of age have some degree of periodontal disease. Poor dental health can lead to loss of teeth or accumulation of harmful bacteria, which may cause heart, kidney, and liver disease. The key to preventing dental disease is to start dental care early!
For more information on pet dental care visit: https://www.avma.org/public/PetCare/Pages/Pet-Dental-Care.aspx
Brushing Your Pet’s Teeth
Your dog’s teeth should be brushed once daily. With a puppy, pick a time of day when they are tired. Begin by letting your pet take the toothpaste – give a special reward when they try it! Slowly progress to touching their teeth (use your finger or finger brush), continue to reward and make it fun. Once you can touch all the teeth easily, advance to using a soft toothbrush; again, continue the reward. Wipe all teeth at the gum line from front and back, with strokes from the gum line to the tip of the tooth. Any non-xylitol fluoride-free toothpaste will work.
Brushing your pet’s teeth and regular veterinary dental exams are the best ways of preventing tartar accumulation and periodontal disease. Dental chew toys can be of benefit, as can water additives (Healthy Mouth). For more information on veterinary accepted chew toys and oral health, refer to the website www.VOHC.org.