The Ultimate Dog and Puppy Wellness Guide

Studies show that good preventive care is the key to disease prevention and early detection of health issues. Committing to a comprehensive yet customized wellness plan for your puppy or dog will keep their tail wagging for many years to come.

This guide covers everything you need to know about dog and puppy wellness, from vet visits and vaccines to nutrition, flea prevention and dental care.

Dog & Puppy Wellness 101: The Basics

1. Veterinary Exams
Examinations by a veterinarian are an essential tool in assessing your puppy’s health and wellbeing, and invaluable in making proper decisions about your puppy’s overall care from a young age. We recommend having exams performed at 8, 12 and 16 weeks of age.

As your dog becomes older, regular physical exams by a veterinarian are an important part of a proactive and preventive approach to health and wellness. Checkups play a key role in the early detection of serious illnesses, especially since our pets can’t tell us when there is something wrong.

Dogs age more rapidly than people, and therefore changes in health status may occur more quickly. We recommend general physical exams every 6 months, especially for pets older than 5 years of age.

2. Core Vaccines
Core vaccines are those immunizations recommended for all dogs regardless of life stage or lifestyle due to factors such as the likelihood of infection, the threat posed to the pet’s health, or the risk of transmission to humans (zoonotic potential).

  • DA2PPV – Recommend starting at the 8-week puppy visit with boosters at the 12-week and 16-week puppy visits. Boosters need to be at least 3 weeks apart but not longer than 5 weeks apart to be effective. The last vaccine must be given at 16 weeks or older to be fully protective. A booster should be given 1 year after completing the initial puppy vaccines, and every 3 years thereafter.
  • Bordetella – Recommend starting at the 8-week or 12-week puppy visits with a booster 3-5 weeks after the initial vaccine. This vaccine is recommended every 6 months for dogs regularly exposed to high-risk situations such as grooming, boarding, day play, and dog parks. At a minimum, this vaccine should be given annually to all dogs.
  • Rabies (RV) – Recommended at either the 12 or 16-week puppy visit. A booster should be given 1 year after completing the initial puppy vaccine, and every 3 years thereafter, unless state, provincial or local requirements stipulate otherwise. Rabies vaccination is required by law.

3. Spay / Neuter
We generally recommend that puppies be spayed or neutered at approximately 6 months of age, but some variations may apply to certain breeds and in certain circumstances. Consult with your veterinarian for specific recommendations.

4. Food / Nutrition
Your puppy or dog’s health depends on nutrition. The foods you feed your dog will have a life-long impact on overall wellbeing. We recommend feeding your dog a healthy, all-natural, meat- based or grain-free food that is free of dyes, fillers and low-quality ingredients. Choosing a healthy food can be difficult, which is why we only carry healthy foods that our veterinarians feed their own pets.

5. Microchipping
We recommend that every puppy and dog be microchipped regardless of age; it can mean the difference in whether a lost pet is returned home safely or not. Microchipping is a simple procedure that can be done in the exam room or while under anesthesia for other procedures. Some cities require microchipping for pet registration.

Ongoing Dog & Puppy Care

1. Non-Core Vaccines
Non-core vaccines are given depending on your dog’s exposure risk. Conversations with your veterinarian regarding the risks and benefits will help in determining a vaccine regimen that will provide the safest and best protection for your individual pet.

  • Leptospirosis – Recommend starting at the 12-week puppy visit with one booster 3-5 weeks after the initial vaccine. Given annually after the initial puppy vaccines. It should be considered for dogs who are exposed to wildlife environments like ponds, or when urban and rural wildlife share the environment with your dog.
  • Canine Influenza (H3N8 and H3N2) – Recommend starting at the 8-week or 12- week puppy visit with one booster 3-5 weeks after the initial vaccine. Given annually after the initial puppy vaccines. CityVet only recommends this vaccine for at-risk dogs (exposed via boarding, day play, grooming, dog park, etc.) based on risk assessment by your veterinarian or in the face of an outbreak.

2. Dental Care
Dental cleanings are recommended annually starting as early as 1 year of age for some small-breed dogs and 2 years of age for larger-breed dogs. Brushing your dog’s teeth regularly promotes good oral health.

Learn more about how to care for your dog’s teeth.

3. Parasite Screening, Testing & Prevention
The following protocols should be based on the known prevalence of parasites for your region and will be performed accordingly by your local veterinarian.

Parasite Screening & De-worming
Dogs can contract intestinal parasites from the environment in many different ways. Puppies, on the other hand, are most commonly infected with intestinal parasites from their mother in utero or from nursing. The best way to ensure your puppy is parasite-free is to have your veterinarian perform a fecal screening to identify any parasites that might be present. This is performed at the 8-week, 12-week, and 16-week puppy visits.

As your dog ages, it is possible for them to become infected and show few or no signs of illness. Therefore, routine screening and early intervention are important to good health.

The use of a general deworming medication is a practice recommended by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). While this treatment will address most of the common parasites, it does not treat all parasites your puppy or dog may have; therefore, it is still recommended that deworming be accompanied by regular fecal screening.

Heartworm Testing & Prevention
Dogs and puppies can be exposed to heartworms in almost any location where mosquitoes can be found. The risk of puppies getting heartworm disease is the same as that for adult dogs.

The American Heartworm Society recommends puppies begin a heartworm preventative as early as the product label allows, and no later than 8 weeks of age. Ask your veterinarian for advice about anticipating when a dosage change will be needed since the growth rate in puppies can vary widely from one breed to another.

All dogs should be tested annually for heartworm infection during a routine visit for preventive care. Annual testing is necessary, even when dogs are on heartworm prevention year-round, to ensure that the prevention program is working.

Flea Prevention
Most flea and tick medications are not safe to use on puppies until they have reached at least 7 to 8 weeks of age. Your veterinarian will be able to recommend a flea and tick medication that is most appropriate and advise you on when it is safe to begin administering it to your puppy.

Fleas and ticks can be found at any time of year and anywhere in the United States. They can cause irritation, discomfort, allergies and can carry diseases. Due to their small size, they can be difficult to locate on your pet, but screening for fleas and ticks is part of your veterinarian’s wellness exam.

Annual Blood Testing
Routine laboratory screening (blood testing) is recommended for all dogs as part of a comprehensive preventive health care program. In young adults normal values serve as a baseline against which changes can be measured as your dog ages and aids in early detection and management of many disease conditions. Annual health screens are especially important in senior pets and those with chronic medical conditions.

The CityVet Approach to Dog & Puppy Wellness
Our PetCare Plans make providing the best care f or your dog or puppy simple, convenient and affordable. Only at CityVet can you receive:

  • Top-quality veterinary care
  • The healthiest foods
  • The best flea/tick/heartworm prevention
  • Quality pet supplies
  • One-stop grooming, bathing, and boarding services overseen by your local veterinarian

All at costs well below the local, regional and national averages. Our Complete PetCare Plans provide the very best for your dog or puppy, while saving your money and time along the way.

Questions? Contact us! We are always here to help!