Perfect Puppy Care Book – Chapter 7 – Puppy Health Care (Part 2)
Chapter 7 – Puppy Health Care (Part 2)
The Veterinarian (Continued…)
Puppy’s First Visit
One of the first things that you should do after bringing your puppy home is to take her to your veterinarian for a thorough checkup. If there is anything wrong, you want to know about it right away. It’s an extremely sad thought, but it may even affect whether or not you keep your puppy. Should your veterinarian find a serious or genetic problem, you will have to make a decision about whether or not you will be able to face the associated risks, problems, and medical costs of keeping the puppy for the rest of your life.
During your puppy’s first visit, a veterinary technician will take her temperature and weight. Depending on your puppy’s age and previous care, the vet also may take blood to test for heartworms. Your veterinarian should give your puppy a thorough examination. The doctor will be checking for general health issues, genetic problems, and parasites. The doctor may administer vaccines, depending on how many your puppy has already had.
Be sure to discuss any concerns you may have with your veterinarian. If something feels wrong to you, or if you’re unsure of something, let the doctor know.
Teaching Your Puppy to Love Veterinary Visits
Even if you have chosen the most caring veterinarian and office support staff in the world, the doctor’s office can be a scary place for a puppy. Your puppy can hear and smell things you can’t, things that could be frightening to her. The staff will insert a thermometer into her rectum and give her injections, which could be startling or unpleasant.
Puppies that are afraid will whine, tremble, bark, or even act aggressively. If your veterinarian goes to examine your puppy and she growls, it’s probably because she is frightened. Your puppy will have to visit the veterinarian all her life, so it’s important that she be as comfortable as possible when she’s there. You don’t have to leave that to chance—you can train your puppy to enjoy her veterinary office visits.
Give Her a Comfort Rug
- Purchase a small bath rug that’s machine washable, with a rubber backing to prevent slipping. When you feed your puppy her regularly scheduled meals, put the bowl on this rug.
- Throughout the day, toss some treats onto the rug so that your puppy starts to associate the rug with good things. Don’t let her chew on the rug.
- Throughout the day, bring your puppy to the rug and place her on it, petting her and giving her affection.
- When it’s time to take your puppy to the vet’s office, take her comfort rug. Place it on the examination table. Those tables are very slippery, and this will give her some traction so that she will feel more secure.
- When you get home, toss the rug in the washing machine. When it’s dry, put it back in place for your puppy’s next meal.
This exercise will help to teach your puppy to enjoy being examined, which will make it much easier for you and your veterinarian to care for her.
- Have some treats handy. Put your puppy’s comfort rug on a table or counter. Put your puppy on the rug, and give her a treat.
- Now you are going to examine your puppy. You’ll do it in short steps, rewarding your puppy for each action that goes well. Only reward your puppy if she lets you examine her. If she’s overly wiggly or starts to mouth you, don’t mark the behavior and don’t give her a treat. Instead, take it slower and work more gradually.
- Hold her head and look in her eyes briefly. If she behaves, reward her with a treat.
- Look in each ear. If she behaves, reward her with a treat.
- Continue to perform the examination, examining her teeth, paws, rear end, tail, and belly. If she misbehaves at any point, stop the “examination” and try again the next day.
- Finally, put one hand under her belly and squeeze slightly (this one may take some time to build up to).
- Practice your examination at least once a day (for a period of a week), and vary your routine each time. For example, you may start by examining her head first one time, and then the next time, start with her paws.
- Once your puppy allows you and your family to examine her all over, ask your friends to take on the role of veterinarian and examine her, too.
- While your friend performs the examination, make sure to stay with her to comfort her.
Remember, a veterinary office is not the same as your living room. Your puppy may do great at home but still get nervous or fidgety at the vet’s office. So, when you take your puppy to the veterinarian’s office, bring your treats with you and reward her occasionally throughout her exam.
One of the best ways to prevent fear and aggression at the vet’s office is to occasionally take your puppy to the office just to socialize. This way, she will learn that not all visits mean shots.
Bring some treats, and ask the staff to give them to your puppy. If there are people waiting in the lobby who don’t have their hands full with their own pets, ask them to give your puppy treats, too.
When you first get your puppy, it will seem as though you are at the veterinarian’s office all the time, and taking her to the office for extra visits may seem like an added inconvenience. This pace won’t last, though. Once your puppy gets her last round of shots, hopefully she won’t need to go to the vet unless it’s time for her annual visits. By making socialization visits now, you’ll help to ensure that those later visits go much more smoothly.
Plan on taking your puppy to see the veterinarian at least once each year for an annual checkup. These visits are very important, because problems that go undiagnosed could be life threatening. Also, some dogs are very stoic, so they could be in pain but you’d never know it. A comprehensive physical exam can help your veterinarian discover potential problems.
During the annual visit, the staff will weigh your puppy, take her temperature, and check her heart rate and respiration. They’ll inspect a stool sample for parasites. They’ll also take blood from your puppy to check for heartworms. Even if you have diligently given your puppy her heartworm prevention medication each month, this laboratory test is still necessary to make sure that no heartworms are present.
The veterinarian will examine her from head to tail. This includes checking her ears for signs of infection or parasites. He will check her eyes for cataracts and retinal disease. Your puppy’s mouth will be examined for abscesses or tumors. Her teeth will be checked for cracks and tartar buildup and to see if any are missing. The veterinarian also will check her gums and listen to her heart and lungs. He will feel her abdomen to make sure that all the organs are the right size and that no abnormalities are present. In addition, he will inspect her skin for parasites, “hot spots,” or other problems. Your puppy will then receive any vaccinations that she may need.
The annual exam is a good opportunity for you to touch base with your veterinarian about your puppy’s growth and progress and to share any concerns or questions that you may have. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Your puppy depends on you for her health care, so make the most of your veterinarian’s expertise.
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