Preventive Medicine:
for Puppies & Young Adult Dogs
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Wellness Exams and Vaccine Programs Recommended for Puppies and Young
Adult Dogs

Here's What I Generally Recommend to my Dog Clients at different Life Stages

Puppy Recommendations

Puppies 6-7 weeks of age

Puppy - Pediatric exam paying special attention to birth and genetic defects, hernias, heart murmurs, carpal deviations, and cleft palettes.  Really look close for parasite problems.

Record of weight, temperature, heart rate, and resp rate
Screen for Ringworm if indictated
Microscopic Scrapings for mange if indicated

Vaccinate for distemper, hepatitis, flu, and parvo
I avoid vaccinating for lepto at this early age

Deworm with high dose pyrantel
Capstar for fleas if indicated

Play, fondle, enjoy, and bond to the patient
Discuss Crate training, bathroom training, etc
Discuss nutrition choices including vitamins and minerals
Discuss Pet Insurance: This is the most advantageous time to get insurance

Dispense carpet cleaners, vitamin supplements, shampoos, grooming aids, and toys as needed.

Dispense a fecalyzer fecal container for the purpose of bringing back a fecal sample on the next visit

Make an appointment to bring back the puppy for a repeat exam and vaccine boosters in 3-4 weeks.  Young puppy immune systems are very immature and initial vaccinations give critical but a very limited duration of protection. 

At our hospital, we offer free rechecks for our puppy patients for minor infant bouts of diarrhea, snotty noses, and so forth.  And we send you a reminder a few days before your next visit to bring in a stool sample and to make sure the appointment time is still convenient for you.

Puppies 9-11 weeks old

At this stage of development, pups are like human toddlers and in addition to checking everything over for problems we might have missed on the initial exam, we pay special attention to bone and joint development, ear canals, and eyes.

Record of weight, temperature, heart rate, and resp rate

Vaccines for distemper, hepatitis, flu, and parvo
Add the 4 strains of Lepto to the vaccination protocol for most breeds but I often skip the lepto in miniature breeds as this vaccine is very reactive.

Microscopic fecal exam and choose appropriate dewormer
(Controlling intestinal worms is not a one or two time deal.  It often takes multiple dewormings with different types of effective deworming medicines to get control of the situation.)

Your puppy is old enough at this age to apply most flea control medications and to start heartworm prevention.  At our clinic we give out a free sample dose of Revolution or Sentinel to get you started

Play, fondle, enjoy, and bond to the patient
Discuss Crate training, bathroom training, etc
Discuss nutrition choices

Dispense carpet cleaners, vitamin supplements, shampoos, grooming aids, and toys as needed.

Make an appointment for the next visit.  We’ll send you a reminder.

Puppies 14-15 weeks of age

At this stage of development, your puppy’s immune system is mature and able to respond well to vaccines giving about a year’s worth of excellent disease protection.  This is also the age where we see a lot of development changes in the skin, hair coat, glands, and problems with teething.  Bacterial rashes, demodex mange, and bladder infections are fairly common at this age.  Once again, we closely examine your pup for diseases and problems, make a record of it’s vital signs and discuss training, behavior, grooming, and nutrition.

Now that our hospital has a wireless EKG, we do a free cardiac EKG screen for puppies at this visit.  This famous device picks up heart defects that we might otherwise miss on routine exam, it makes the upcoming neuter/spay visit safer, and it gives us a baseline for future comparison for this patient.  This is all pretty cool, but it’s not yet a normal feature of a puppy exam in most hospitals.

“Adult” vaccines for distemper, hepatitis, Lepto, flu and parvo.
Rabies vaccine. 

Discuss and consider need for Lymes vaccine and kennel cough.  We expect these vaccines to give your growing pup about a year’s worth of protection with a couple of exceptions:  kennel cough protection fades after about 6 months and should be repeated if warranted based on risk-exposure, and Parvo disease is so widespread and deadly in dogs this age that I like to recommend a booster in 6 months.

Note:  In other parts of the country where Lymes is a bigger problem, as many as 3 Lymes vaccine boosters  might be recommended.

Rabies certification and tag.

Consider a personalized ID tag and Microchipping

We deworm with a big bolus of Pyrantel for any remaining round worms and if other intestinal worms were a problem at the last visit, we repeat a microscopic fecal exam to see if the problem is resolved.

We make sure you get started using heartworm prevention
We discuss the viable options for flea and tick control

I dispense a free sample of Science Diet T-D to be given as treats as an aid for removing any remaining baby teeth.  Other vets use other products, but in either case, it’s important that your puppy has appropriate chewing aids.

At this visit, we recommend doing a blood screening test for kidney and liver function and a blood glucose test.  These tests are inexpensive and knowing that these tests are normal greatly increases the safety up the upcoming anesthesia and neutering-spay surgery that we will be recommending for most pets.

Make an appointment for surgical neutering/spaying of your pet

The ideal time for doing this is between 4 and 6 months of age. 

We send a letter a few days prior to your pet’s surgery to remind you about the need for an empty stomach and to go over some options you might want to consider such as fluoride treatment for the teeth, dental sealants, dewclaw removal, and hernia repair if needed.

Make an appointment for 6 months from now for a mid-year wellness exam and parvo – kennel cough booster !  Otherwise you’re likely to forget.  We’ll send you a reminder and you can always change the appointment closer to the event if your initial appointment is inconvenient.

Puppies 4-6 months of age:

As discussed above, this is the ideal age for neutering and spaying. 

We are very careful with anesthesia … the safety of which has been tremendously improved in the last decade. 

We take the precaution of doing pre-anesthetic blood work for liver function, kidney disease, and blood sugar.  We monitor body temperature, hydration, heart rate, blood pressure, gum refill time, respiration rate, oxygen saturation, and run continuous EKG during our surgeries. 

And like all vets, we pay special attention to pain management.  For the vast majority of patients, these surgeries go very smoothly.  Most are up and playful within hours. 

I like to keep my spay patients overnight for observation in a ward cage not because I’m overly worried about their recovery but rather I want to enforce rest for at least 12 hours after surgery to prevent these young patients from over-activity.  The body needs some quiet time to clot and initiate healing.

While your puppy is under anesthesia, consider any additional minor procedures such as hernia repair or dewclaw removal if needed, and I like to recommend fluoride treatment for the teeth and also dental sealants. 

This is also a convenient time to insert a microchip if not already done.  We also make sure that there are no retained baby teeth at this time.

We have you return about 10-14 days later for suture removal and of course, we check on your post op puppy anytime during this period if there seems to be any trouble with healing or infection etc.

Mid Year Wellness Check
About 10-12 months old if your pup is on our usual schedule

At this stage of development your pup IS IN PUBERTY.  Even though your pet was neutered or spayed, there are a lot of hormonal and development changes going on. 

This is also a time when there are a lot of behavior problems to discuss. 

At any rate, we go over your young dog again and deal with the skin problems, acne, juvenile mange, skin or ear allergies, and injuries that are common at this age.  We check out joints carefully. 

Don’t be cynical, we’re not out to get your money with an unneeded visit.  In fact, at our practice, this mid year mini check is usually free if there are no time consuming problems to deal with.

Also at this time:

Vaccine booster for Parvo and maybe for Lymes and Kennel Cough depending on your pet’s circumstances.

I like to give a bolus of Panacur Dewormer.  Here in the South, whip and hook worms are a constant threat.  Many vets repeat the fecal exam at this time instead. 

Refill your supply of heartworm preventive and flea control.  They should be running out about now if you bought a 6 month supply at your last Puppy Exam.

Record and discuss your pet’s weight

Discuss changing your pet’s diet from puppy formulas to “Adult” diets.

Life Stage:  Young adult dogs 1-3 years of age

Once a year:

Complete annual Physical - Wellness exam.  At our clinic this includes a screening test for Ringworm, a careful dental exam, careful attention to eye, ear, and skin problems, and an EKG.  We record weight, heart rate, resp rate, body score, and temperature.  Just like at the auto oil changing places, we have a 32 point check up list and check out your pet from head to tail.  And remember how quickly dogs age; examining your pet once a year is like a human going to the doctor every 7 years.  Our goal Preventive Medicine; to find problems in their early stages so we can deal with it.
Rabies Vaccination   We now have a vaccine that is only legally required every 3 years (this varies from 1-2-3 years depending on your state laws), but for maximum protection, we recommend young adult dogs get the vaccine yearly for the first few years of their life.

It’s ideal to stimulate their immune system multiple times to maximize protective titers.  Besides, the vaccine is dirt cheap, very safe, and your dog should be coming in anyways for a good yearly physical exam, for other recommended vaccines, and for all the other benefits and responsibilities of good pet care:

Other Vaccines:  At this stage of life, I recommend giving the combination vaccine for distemper, hepatitis, flu, parvo and lepto once a year, even though the vaccine for distemper, hepatitis, and flu give protection for up to several years in some dogs. 

Why?, for the same reasons that I recommend giving rabies vaccine for young dogs.  And because the critical parvo and lepto portions of the vaccine give much shorter protection and need to be given yearly.

As you will see if you read on, I am a believer in not over vaccinating, and once your dog enters the next stage of life, (3-7 years) we will start skipping years between vaccinations.

Lepto (4 types) is a syphilis like organism and a major cause of kidney disease.  An inexpensive, newly improved vaccine is available, but protection lasts only 6 months to a year.

Porphyromonas:  This new vaccine for the prevention of gum disease should be considered for those individual dogs with soft spongy gums or evidence of early dental disease.  Like the lepto vaccine mentioned above, this is another vaccine made from bacteria (as opposed to virus') and tends to give protection for only 6-12 months.

What else to consider:

Heartworm screen
Microscopic fecal exam

I like to give a yearly bolus of dewormer  (I don’t rely on the worm medicine in your heartworm preventive or 100% on fecal exams)

Mid year wellness check for young adult dogs:
At our clinic, this midyear wellness exam is a free mini check up for regular patients if there are no time consuming problems to deal with.  Other vets don’t like the idea of a free exam.  Why, because they fear it might diminish the value and importance of the exam part of the visit, arguably the most important part of a good preventive medicine program. 
They’re correct; for preventive medicine to work, your pet needs to be given a check up fairly often … every 6 months … even if there are no big and obvious problems evident to the untrained eye.
My argument is that frequent check ups every 6 months are so important that I don’t want pet owners to have any excuse for not doing them, hence a short mid-year check up at no cost.  But that’s just at our clinic where we’re a little gun ho and slightly addled; don’t let a few dollars stop you from taking good care of your pet.

And we also do several things important to the health of your pet that do cost a little money:

Intestinal worms have become so resistant to our deworming medications and are so prevalent in yards, fields, and parks, that it’s important to fecal examinations at least once a year.  I like to do them at this mid year check.

I like to give a bolus (extra large dose) of Panacur dewormer mid year even if the fecal exam is negative.  Panacur is super safe and very broad spectrum, killing many different intestinal organisms, including those that we miss on fecal exams.  (You need to understand that fecal exams are good for detecting mid-heavy worm infestations but not so good at detecting early and mild infestations.  Also that certain types of intestinal parasites are quite difficult to detect at all on routine fecal exams and are frequently missed)

I recommend giving a mid year parvo booster to young dogs under 3.  It may not be necessary, but this vaccine is cheap and safe, and the disease so common and deadly, I think it’s wise to “over vaccinate” in this case.  Parvo dysentery, with very few exceptions, is a young dog disease, so after 3 years of age, I, like other vets, recommend giving this vaccine much less often; usually every 1-3 years depending on the exposure and the patient’s general health.

Kennel Cough vaccine is not very protective after about 6 months, so if your dog boards, shows, or just has a fair amount of interaction with other dogs on walks and so forth, we should booster your dog with kennel cough vaccine (nasal spray or injectable or both in some cases)

This mid year visit is a good time to discuss any concerns, talk about flea control, skin or ear allergies, diet, bad habits, behavior, and so forth. 

For preventive medicine to work well, we need to keep records of your dog’s weight, heart rate, temperature, and respiration rate. 
Mid year is usually the time to pick up Flea and Heartworm Control.  It should be running out about now.

On This Page:

How I approach Preventive medicine for different age groups of puppies and young adult dogs

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Disc Disease in pets

Tuberculosis, Plague, and Brucellosis. Pasteurella, Encephalitis, Samonella, e-coli, and Cryptosporidium: a brief reveiw of these zoonotic diseases you can get from pets

Toxoplasmosis from Cats

Cat Scratch Fever

Diseases people get from pets from mosquitos, fleas, ticks, and lice

West Nile Disease

Diseases people get from pets through worms

Coccidia; a protozoan parasite causing diarrhea and other problems in puppies and kittens

Giardia; an amoebic parasite causing diarrhea, nausea, and other problems in pets

Cryptosporidia; another parasite that causes diarrhea in pets and humans

Heartworms; a parasite spread by mosquitos that causes severe heart, vascular, and respiratory disease in dogs, cats, and maybe humans.

All the important stuff I know about fleas


Denistry: why oral hygiene and health is so important and what you can do about it

Dermatology: How I treat skin diseases in pets

Orthopedics: How I treat arthritis, pannus, hip dysplasia, and other problems of the bones and joints

Ear problems and the miracle treatment Zymox

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Metabolic Diseases like Diabetes, Cushings Disease, Addison's Disease, and Thyroid Disease

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