If you’ve helped bring a litter of puppies into the world, it’s important that you get them checked over by a vet. Having a litter of puppies is an exciting time, but it comes with a great deal of responsibility. When they’re young, their body and immune system are not fully developed, which makes them more susceptible to illness, injury and diseases. During their first few encounters with the vet, they’ll be checked over to make sure that they’re healthy and may be given preventative care, such as vaccinations and worming treatments. Find out more about what to expect from your first few trips to the vet and how you can help these visits go smoothly.
Choosing a vet for your puppy
Since you’ll already have your bitch registered with a local vet, you shouldn’t need to choose a new one for your puppies. However, if you’re selling your puppies locally, then you could give your puppy buyers recommendations as to which veterinary practice to use.
When should you take a puppy to the vet for the first time?
Even though their mother does a fantastic job of caring for her litter (feeding, cleaning, keeping them warm etc.) it’s still important for her and her puppies to see the vet within 48 hours of giving birth. Many vets will do a home visit as it will be less stressful for the puppies and their mum. Seeing the vet is not only an important part of their health care, but it can help them get used to being handled and cared for by a vet, which could help with how they react to them in the future.
Preparing for your visit to the vet
It’s important that your new puppies and their mum are seen by the vet together so that they can all be checked at the same time. Your vet should be able to do a home visit for their first check-up after birth. Make sure that you have the following available for the vet:
- Any notes you took during whelping
- Birth weights you’ve recorded and any other measurements that you’ve taken since then
- A list of questions to ask if you have any concerns about the puppies or their mother
Travelling to the vet with puppies
If you’re having to take young puppies to the vet, make sure to transport your puppies in something that can be safely secured in your car. The first few trips to the vet can sometimes be quite stressful, but there are plenty of things you can do to make it as stress-free as possible. You could bring them in an open-top box or a carrier or a crate that’s the right size for them. Whatever you transport your puppies in, make sure that it is lined and that they can be kept warm.
How to handle your new puppy in the waiting room
Veterinary waiting rooms can be busy and packed with other animals that most puppies won’t have met before. To make your visits to the vet as stress-free as possible, why not try to book an appointment for a quiet time of the day? The practice receptionist may be able to tell you when is best to bring in a puppy.
Remember, until a puppy has been fully vaccinated, they may be at risk of certain infectious diseases. While you’re waiting to see your vet, do not let any puppies go on the floor.
Bringing mum and her litter of puppies to the waiting room can be difficult, but, provided that you can park outside, you could ask the receptionist if you could wait in the car with your dogs for as long as possible. This reduces stress but also minimises the puppy’s risk of infection. When the vet is ready to see you, they could call your mobile or give you a wave from the door.
Post-natal vet visit for new-born puppies
Your vet will be able to check the puppies for any signs of illness, birth defects, such as a cleft pallet, or any other issues that could affect them later on in life. They’ll also check on mum to make sure she’s ok after giving birth and that she’s producing enough milk to feed her puppies. Your vet will also be able to recommend when the puppies should be seen for additional treatments, such as vaccinations and microchipping, and give advice about worming.
Vet checks before sales
All reputable breeders ask their vet to perform a general health check on all of the puppies that they sell (although not all vets offer this service). If your vet is happy to carry out a vet check before the sale, they’ll supply a written document or vet check certificate that you can pass on to your puppy buyer. This check can’t guarantee that the puppy you sell is free from health issues, and doesn’t replace recommended health tests/ schemes for your breed, but it can state that there are no obvious signs of health problems at the time of examination. Having a vet check is an extra layer of reassurance for puppy buyers. It shows that you have gone to every length to ensure that the puppy you sell is as healthy as possible. If there are any findings, you should point these out to your puppy buyer and talk to them about what they mean.
Microchipping your new puppy
Microchipping is the most reliable way for a pet to be identified, should it ever go missing. In the UK, it is a legal requirement that dogs must be microchipped before they are eight weeks old. Breeders can only sell their puppies after eight weeks, so it is usually the responsibility of the breeder to get the puppy microchipped. The microchip is injected just under the skin between the shoulder blades and is no more painful than a usual injection. It can usually be done at any age, but is often given at around seven weeks. Once the puppy is microchipped, their unique microchip number must be registered with a microchipping database and the breeder’s contact details must be recorded. Once the puppy has been sold, the new puppy owner must change the contact details to their own.
Vaccinating your dog can protect them from important infectious diseases that can be harmful or can kill them. Puppies are usually more vulnerable to these illnesses, so it’s important that your dog is vaccinated at a young age. Your vet’s recommendation on when to have this done may depend on whether the mum is up to date on her vaccinations. Over time, your dog’s immunity to these illnesses can fade. To continue to keep them safe, your dog may need to have further booster vaccinations to help support their immunity. Vaccinations are usually first given at around 6-10 weeks, and booster injections are usually given around a month later. Some breeders may start the vaccination process while the puppy is still with them, while others may not.
Even if they’re born in a very clean environment, puppies can still be affected by intestinal worms. Puppies usually start their deworming treatment at an early age. There are different drugs and regimes, so it’s important to speak to your vet for advice. Responsible breeders will give these treatments while the puppies are still with them. It’s important that puppies continue to be regularly treated, about every 2 weeks whilst with the breeder. Breeders should pass on details of any worming medication the puppy has had. New owners can show this information to their vet, who can give them advice on how best to carry on treatment.
Fleas and ticks
Dogs can get fleas through contact with other animals or contact with fleas in the environment. The strong back legs of this insect enable it to jump from host to host or from the environment onto the host. Flea infestations can be unpleasant, causing itching and irritated skin.
Ticks rank second only to mosquitoes in infectious diseases spread to both pets and people. Ticks are small creatures that are closely related to spiders and can usually be found lurking in grassy areas, such as fields and meadows. Puppies may not be at risk of ticks until they begin to explore the outside world.
Puppies can be given medication to prevent and treat both ticks and fleas at around eight weeks old. New puppy buyers should ask their breeder whether these medications have been given and speak to their vet about what treatments they would recommend.
Neutering, sometimes called sterilisation, ‘de-sexing’ or ‘fixing’, is a common type of surgery that permanently stops your dog from being able to have puppies. In male dogs, this is known as castration and involves the testicles (testes) being removed. In females, the ovaries and usually the uterus are taken out, which is called spaying.
There are various pros and cons to neutering, but new puppy buyers can seek advice from their breeder and their vet to help them decide what to do.
How often should I take my dog to the vet?
After a new owner has taken their puppy for their full course of vaccinations and worming treatments, it’s best practice to take their dog for a check-up once a year. During these visits their dog can receive their annual booster vaccinations and have a general check up to make sure that they’re fit and healthy.