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Keeping your new puppy healthy

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By Melanie Vittitow

Did you get a new puppy for Christmas? Is it a little daunting to try to think of all the things that you need to do for your new pet? Well here is a short list that will go a long way toward keeping your little one healthy and happy.

If you haven’t already done so, you need to take him to a veterinarian. Your pup should have already received the first of the series of shots all dogs need to immunize them against the “core” diseases, but your vet will give him an exam and will be able to spot any possible health problems. He can give you tips on puppy care and answer questions specific to your breed.

The shots mentioned above cover distemper, parvovirus, hepatitis and rabies. These are serious diseases that are highly contagious, difficult to treat and often fatal.

There are two other shots needed for certain situations: kennel cough (if you plan to board your pet, and leptospirosis (if your dog will be around wild animals, i.e. hunting or farm dogs).

Proper nutrition is vital to insure your puppy grows into a healthy adult. Puppies’ stomachs are smaller and their metabolism is faster, so they have to eat four times a day. They also should be fed a diet that has been specially formulated for puppies’ higher nutritional needs.

Your vet can advise you on how long to keep him on such a diet. It will depend on how big he will get. Any commercial brand of dog food that is labeled “complete and balanced” should have all the requirements he needs without the need for supplements, unless there is a specific health problem.

External parasites (fleas, ticks, mites, mosquitoes) and internal parasites (hookworms, roundworms, heartworms) are not only a nuisance but can cause anemia, diarrhea, malnutrition and even death. Your vet will check for parasites and prescribe treatment and preventive measures.

There are over-the-counter meds you can buy, but they are not usually as effective and have not been tested as much as the prescriptions, so they may not be safe for young animals.

You didn’t think I was going to forget to mention spay and neutering did you? Besides helping to control pet overpopulation, it can reduce or eliminate problems with the uterus or prostate and diseases such as mammary or testicular cancer. Spayed and neutered dogs are also less likely to roam and to get into harmful situations.

Some vets prefer to wait until about four months of age when the dog’s immune system is mature, but it is now agreed that it is safe at about eight weeks. If you got your puppy from an animal shelter, it will already have been done.

This may not sound like a health tip, but if you want your dog to live to a ripe old age, you should keep him in a fenced yard or on a leash. Dogs that are allowed to run free are prone to get into fights or poisons or hit by cars or get into trouble with the neighbors and get picked up by Animal Control. You don’t want all that for the new little member of your family.

One last thing I want to mention is safe toys. Dogs can get into serious trouble by swallowing or chewing the wrong thing. Even toys designed for dogs are not safe for all breeds. Watch your dog as he plays to see if he is shredding his soft toys or biting off small chunks or splinters of hard ones that can cause blockages in his throat or stomach.

Now that you are fully aware of some of the major health issues, I hope you thoroughly enjoy all the rewards of sharing your life with a canine companion and that you both have a healthy and happy new year.

SPCA News

Our local chapter continues to meet at On Top of the World, in the Arbor Conference Center, room H, at 1 p.m. on the third Thursday of the month. On Jan. 15, Christy Jergens from Marion County Animal Center will speak to us about the center and all the animal services provided by the county. We would be happy to have you attend.

The animal center is always in need of towels and blankets, so we are asking everyone attending to bring an old towel. Christy can take them back to the center.

In February we have rescheduled our trip to the Horse Protection Association in northern Marion County. They are a nonprofit rescue organization that takes in abandoned and neglected horses. If you would like to accompany us, you can sign up at the January meeting or call me at my number below.

The SPCA of Marion County was established to help animals with health care and to find homes for lost or needy pets.

Till next month remember: “Pets are not our whole lives, but they make our lives whole.

Melanie Vittitow is an OTOW resident who does publicity for SPCA of Marion County. For SPCA information and directions to meetings, call Melanie at 873-8690, Jeannie at 873-2354, or Jodi at 861-9765.