During the coronavirus crisis, there has been a massive increase in puppy adoption. Welcoming a gorgeous new pup into your family is certainly very exciting and a source of great comfort during the lockdown, but bringing a new puppy home is also a great responsibility. We have prepared the following guide to help you with everything from choosing the most suitable puppy for you to ensuring you know everything they need to care for them. Read on to find out everything you need to know to keep your puppy healthy and happy!
Preparing to Become a Puppy Parent
Puppies can be adorable, irresistible bundles of fun; however, they need a lot of attention and a structured routine, which can be a bit hectic if your life is busy. There are several things for you to consider before getting a new puppy.
The best breed for you
Every dog has its unique personality; however, there are some instincts and behaviours that some breeds are born with. Are you a first time or seasoned dog owner? Are you active or looking for a sofa buddy?
Some breeds are great for first-time owners, whereas some might need a more experienced owner to understand their unique quirks and characteristics! Some breeds are more active and require several vigorous walks whilst others are more relaxed and need gentle walks. Before you begin thinking of getting a dog, make sure you research a dog breed that suits your lifestyle and your routine so you can both enjoy your time together.
We would stress to anyone looking to adopt a new puppy or dog that they should research the breed and any health considerations. Are you willing to make changes to your home and lifestyle should your dog's health decline? Can you afford the vets bills that are associated with breeds that have known health issues?
An example of this is that there has been an upward trend in the popularity of short-nosed breeds (Brachycephalic breeds) such as Pugs, Bulldogs, Boston Terriers in recent years. These breeds are adorable, but please be aware of some of their potential health complications. Short-nosed breeds may suffer from a condition called Brachycephalic Syndrome, which is a worrying but common condition. These breeds can suffer from breathing issues their entire lives and may need expensive procedures to correct the problems. Unfortunately, many Brachycephalic breeds cannot be 'cured' and will simply suffer and live shorter lives.
Breed health schemes
The British Veterinary Association (BVA) provides a lot of information about breeds and their potential health conditions such as hip and elbow dysplasia and eye diseases by offering dog health screening schemes for several known conditions to improve dog health and welfare. Research your breed and ask your breeder for the health scores of your puppy’s parents.
Large breeds such as Labradors, Rottweilers and Black German Shepherd Dogs can have joint and bone issues leading to arthritis, so ensure they follow the correct diet and get the right exercise. Each breed can have health predispositions, so we’d recommend doing your research on your preferred breed.
Where to get your puppy from
In April 2020, a ban on third-party puppy sales was put in place by the government called Lucy’s Law. Any puppy under six months old must be sold directly by the breeder (or rehomed directly from a rehoming shelter). The breeder must sell them from the place they were born (with mum), which means you will be able to see the conditions they raised them in.
There are many options out there, but you need to know what to avoid and how to make the right choice. Across the UK, there are several welfare charities such as RSPCA, Dog’s Trust and Battersea Dogs where you could find a young dog that need a loving family. The benefit of adopting from an animal welfare charity is that all animals are health checked by a vet before becoming available for adoption. This means you can be confident that you will bring a healthy puppy into your family and will give it a loving home after a rough start to life. You may even consider adopting an adult dog. This can be equally rewarding, and you can avoid the initial issues of toilet training, socialisation and puppy training.
If you choose to buy a puppy from a private seller, make sure you thoroughly research the breeders and check if the parents have completed all the relevant tests and screening procedures. We would recommend choosing a breeder from the Kennel Club as these breeders must follow their extremely high standards and your puppy has a better chance of being healthy and happy for the rest of their lives.
We would not recommend getting a puppy from puppy farms, newspapers, or websites. These breeders do not have to follow any health guidelines to register a puppy, meaning they could have underlying health issues.
Once you have chosen your puppy, get in touch with the person you're adopting or buying it from to arrange how to get your puppy home. Sometimes, the breeders can provide you with a blanket that has the mother’s smell on, a bag of food and even a crate to help you get your new family member settled in at home. Puppies usually have their first vaccination when they are eight weeks old and microchipping is usually done along with the first vaccine — speak with your breeder and ask for your puppy’s vaccine record and microchip details.
Getting Ready for a New Puppy
The first week you and your new puppy spend together is exhilarating but it’s also likely to be unnerving. Moving to a new home with a new family can cause anxiety for dogs, and can certainly cause stress for you, too. You can make the transition easier on both of you by doing a little advanced planning.
Before you bring home a new puppy, it is important to plan so that your puppy gets the best possible start to life. Buy some of the basics ahead of time, so you and your dog can settle in nicely. To help them stay calm during the first stressful nights, you could try calming products such as Adaptil D.A.P collars and sprays. Your new puppy will benefit from some stimulating toys and chews and buy some training pads and wet wipes to remove stains and odour.
Arrange a health check with the vet before getting your puppy to make sure you have everything planned. That first visit to the vet when you get the puppy is a great way to make sure everything is fine, check their preventatives are up to date and get them registered onto a healthcare plan.
Caring for Your New Puppy
Bringing home a new dog can be a bit challenging, particularly in the current climate. The first few days and weeks after your puppy’s arrival can make a lot of difference to how well they settle into your home and family. Here are our top tips to help your new family member be as happy and healthy as possible.
Diet — What to feed a new puppy
Puppies can leave their mothers when they are around eight weeks old. Your puppy’s body is growing in critical ways, so you will need to select a food formulated for puppies instead of adult dogs. Feed them the diet they are used to at first, but make sure to speak with your vet first as foods provided by breeders are not always suitable for your puppy.
You might need to introduce a new food, but change it gradually and always use food suitable for the puppy’s breed and size. Please remember that several small meals are better than fewer large ones. Always make sure fresh water is available. Please follow your vet’s instructions when feeding, and please keep a close eye to your puppy’s weight — obesity is a problem for dogs just as much as for humans.
We would recommend that you consider pet insurance but pay careful attention to the small print. It is essential to get insurance while your pet is healthy, as the insurance policy will not cover pre-existing conditions. Lifetime insurance may be worthwhile, as some 12-month policies often exclude conditions you have already claimed for when the policy comes up for renewal. And don’t forget to look at the ’excess’ (the amount of each claim you have to pay upfront). Use a comparison site to ensure that you see more of what is on offer, ask your veterinary surgery which insurance they recommend and don't forget word-of-mouth recommendations. Ask your friends and family which pet insurer they use.
Common illnesses in puppies
For the first few months, a puppy is more susceptible to sudden bouts of illnesses that can be serious if not caught in the early stages. If you observe any of the following symptoms in your puppy, speak to your vet:
- Lack of appetite
- Poor weight gain
- Swollen or painful abdomen
- Lethargy (tiredness)
- Difficulty breathing
- Wheezing or coughing
- Pale gums
- Swollen, red eyes or eye discharge
- Nasal discharge
- Inability to pass urine or stool
Health checks at home
A quick health check at home is a great way to find any underlying issues and make sure your pet is in tip-top shape. Please make sure to regularly check your puppy’s nails as they can be uncomfortable when they are long so they might need a trim. Please do not attempt to clip your pet’s nails as sometimes it can cause nasty injuries. You can take your pup to a professional groomer or vet for a nail trim. Another great way to keep an eye on their health is to check for lumps and bumps when giving fuss and teach them from a young age to get used to having their teeth, eyes and ears looked at. If you notice anything worrying, contact your vet.
Fleas and worms
Fleas are a very common problem and once you have a flea infestation, it can be tough to get rid of them. These blood-sucking parasites cause a multitude of issues for your pets from skin allergies to anaemia. Fleas can be a problem for the whole family as they can bite humans, lay eggs and infest furniture.
Fleas are the most well-known offenders, but they are only a small part of the picture. Other common parasites include mites and worms such as tapeworm and lungworm, which can be fatal if not treated. A puppy can pick up parasites from their mother, other pets, eating slugs and snails and by coming into contact with the faeces of other animals.
Several types of worms will cause disease ranging from weight loss to severe life-threatening diarrhoea. Roundworm and some types of tapeworm can be passed on to people, particularly children, and can cause disease and even blindness.
Treating your pet regularly for fleas, ticks and worms will save you and your puppy from a lot of discomfort and stress. Please only use products recommended by your vet. Flea and worming products available over the counter are often ineffective and do not treat dangerous parasites such as Lungworm, ear mites and mange. Consider buying online after obtaining your prescription to save up to 40%.
Once your new pup is settled into their new home, book an appointment with your vet to take care of any outstanding vaccinations. Vets recommend that all puppies have their vaccinations at eight and ten weeks of age and kittens should be vaccinated at nine weeks and 12 weeks. Vaccinations are a vital part of routine care for your pet to protect them against some potentially lethal diseases such as parvovirus, leptospirosis and distemper for dogs and cat flu for cats.
Unfortunately, over the past year, vets have reported quite a few parvovirus cases, leptospirosis, and cat flu. A Kennel Cough vaccine is recommended for most puppies as they can get this respiratory disease not only from kennels but also from encountering other puppies. After the second vaccination, puppies can start going out in the world and socialising with other dogs.
Training classes are especially important for your puppy’s socialisation and behavioural growth. Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 crisis, most puppy classes have been cancelled; however, your vet will happily recommend books and online resources!
Most dogs can be neutered or spayed after six months of age. Female dogs not intended for breeding should be neutered to prevent or reduce the risk of many potentially serious diseases such as Pyometra. Neutering can protect your pets not only from unwanted pregnancies but can also prevent tumours and unwanted behaviours in males. If they become aggressive, agitated, or show undesirable sexual behaviour, it is a good idea to have them neutered. Neutering does not change their character, but it will help calm them down.
Puppies lose their milk teeth between four and eight months of age; however, at around five months, you might find a retained canine tooth (the milk tooth still in place and the new tooth growing alongside it). So it is always a good idea to check and contact your veterinary surgery if you notice anything. Although you don’t have to worry about their milk teeth, it would be nice to focus on getting your dog used to having their mouth opened and touched, as this will help you maintain their permanent teeth, which is vitally important as they get older. Please note that human toothpaste can be poisonous to dogs so always use an enzymatic canine toothpaste. These pastes come in different flavours that are appealing to dogs.
A pet microchip is a tiny chip that is about the size of a grain of rice. It contains a unique code that matches your pet’s details on a database containing your contact details. Microchipping a dog is a painless, quick and simple procedure. The chip is inserted under a dog’s skin, usually around the scruff of the neck, using a needle.
A microchip is a permanent form of identification and, if you keep the details up to date, a vet or rescue centre can always contact you if your dog is found after going missing. Under the new microchipping law that came into effect in April 2016, all dogs must be microchipped and registered.
Please be aware that the first 3-8 months after bringing your puppy home can be challenging as they will need lots of attention and care but have a little patience and everything will gradually start becoming easier. If you will be leaving the house for long periods, please consider taking your puppy to doggy daycare or hiring a dog walker. You may also benefit from signing up to training classes; these will provide excellent support in your pet’s growth and socialisation.