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Veterinary Care for Puppies

Your vet will give your puppy the vaccinations it needs. He'll also tell you anything you need to know about worming, teething and any other aspects of the puppy's health.


Nearly all puppies have roundworm, passed on through their mother before birth and possibly also through her milk. It is important to worm puppies regularly. Worming involves giving each puppy a drug which kills the worms so that they are passed in faeces, and does no harm at all. Breeders normally start worming at about three weeks old, repeating the dose every two to three weeks. If you're acquiring a new puppy, your vet will advise you when to worm it and what to use. It is best to continue the worming course until the puppy is 16 weeks old. After this, worm it at six months and again at 12 months.


Your puppy needs protection from a range of dangerous diseases that could kill or damage it. These are:


Rabies (in certain countries).
The first injections against all these diseases (except rabies) are usually given to puppies at eight to ten weeks, although in some high-risk cases they may be given at six weeks. CP (parvovirus) vaccination is sometimes treated separately.


Passive immunity injections
Some puppies are sold inoculated with a measles vaccine to give temporary protection against distemper. Injections of antiserum giving passive immunity are sometimes given by animal welfare organizations. Your vet may give such an injection to hand- reared puppies lacking the passive immunity which is given via the colostrum in bitch's milk. Neither of these stop-gaps is an alternative to a full course of vaccination.

Like human babies, puppies are born toothless. Between three and five weeks, the puppy's set of small, sharp temporary teeth appears. In the fourth month the growth of the permanent teeth makes the gums a little inflamed and swollen as the permanent teeth press on the roots of the temporary teeth. The signs of teething are varied. Puppies often become restless, for their food, salivating and even vomiting. Many show a desire to chew hard objects. This encourages the temporary teeth to fall out, stopping the pain caused by pressure on the roots.

Tooth retention
Sometimes, the eruption of permanent teeth doesn't push out the temporary teeth as it should. This is a common problem with toy breeds. Consult your vet if a temporary tooth is still firmly in position when the permanent tooth looks half-erupted - he may want to extract the temporary tooth.


Tail docking causes controversy and is something you'll need to decide about if your puppy belongs to a breed whose Kennel Club standard requires a docked tail. Not all vets will carry out tail docking, and you may have to ring round to find one willing to do it.


The best time to dock puppies' tails is at three to five days old; younger puppies may be adversely affected and blood on the tail stumps can provoke the bitch to cannibalize them. Older puppies suffer more pain and there's more bleeding. The procedure involves cutting the tail at the appropriate point with surgical scissors, staunching the bleeding, then stitching the skin over the stump. This last step is crucial with some breeds to avoid unsightly scarring. Often no anesthetic is used and the puppies may suffer some pain.


Dew claws Removal of the dew claw (equivalent of the thumb, on the side of each foot), is another common practice and should also be carried out at three to five days. There are various reasons for removal. Being off the ground, the dew claw doesn't wear down like the other claws. In some dogs, it grows round in a circle, penetrating the toe in a very painful way. Working dogs can catch these claws in the undergrowth. In some breeds, they are removed simply to give a smooth, sleek look to the legs. The breed standard may also require removal of all, or one pair of the dew claws.