Getting a new puppy can be very exciting but also overwhelming at times. There as so many things to consider:
- which breed to choose,
- what to feed,
- essential health care such as vaccination and worming,
- training and puppy preschool, and
- what sort of lead, collar and toys to use.
Here are a few hints to help you get started.
Firstly choosing a puppy from the right source is very important for your puppy’s long term well-being. Ideally choose your puppy from a breeder that is happy to let you meet your puppy’s parents and the puppies. Look for breeders that handle their puppies from an early age and allow their puppies and their parents plenty of environmental enrichment, such as access to outdoor runs, toys, digging pits etc. Avoid purchasing puppies from pet shops and online especially if this involves air transport as research has show that puppies from these sources are more likely to have long-term behaviour and health issues.
Food: Choosing a good quality puppy food that is balanced for growing bodies and developing brains is important. It is vital that the nutrients are balanced for healthy bone growth and muscle development, but also that the diet is rich in Omega Oils, Lysine and L-Cartenine, as well as B Vitamins and Antioxidants so that your puppy’s brain develops normally. You can feed your puppy to be smarter!
Vaccinations: Puppies need to be vaccinated to develop immunity against many diseases. The essential vaccinations are for Distemper, Hepatitis and Parvovirus so it is safe for them to go for a walk, but also Canine Cough vaccinations are important so it is safe for them to socialise with other dogs and learn proper dog etiquette for later in life. Vaccinations are usually given at 6-8 weeks of age, 10-12 weeks of age and again at 16 weeks of age. Puppies should not go out into public areas until after their second vaccine is given.
Worming: Puppies need to be wormed at 6,8, 10 and 12 weeks of age and then monthly until they are 6 months old. Worming should cover all of the stomach worms and heartworm. At 6 months of age a heartworm injections may be given so that the routine worming medication only needs to be given every 3 months. If you want to continue with oral heartworm prevention, worming needs to continue monthly.
Fleas: We are lucky in Canberra as fleas do not tend to be as much of a problem. However once you get fleas on your pet the environment can quickly become contaminated requiring months of treatment to resolve fully. There are now many combination products available that will worm and flea your pet at the same time, so its easy to cover all bases.
Training: Puppies need environmental enrichment and socialisation from a very young age. Ideally the breeder will already have begun this before you get your puppy. But once you get your little bundle of joy it is important to gently expose him to lots of different things so he learns that new things are good and enjoyable and nothing to be scared off. Get him used to different surfaces such as tile, wooden floor boards, carpet, grass, tan bark etc. If he seems worried about any of the surfaces gently coax him onto the surface with some treats and feed him his favourite treats when he walks over the surface. Invite friends over to hang out with your puppy so he gets used to men and women of different ages and sizes, kids too but make sure they are closely supervised and very gentle and quiet when handling your puppy. Once the second vaccination has been given gently introduce your puppy to the outside environment. Puppy preschool is the ideal way to help you and your puppy with training, but don’t think a 4 week class will get the job done, keep working with your puppy and continue to socialise for his first year of life so he has every chance to develop into a happy, well adjusted and polite canine companion. Your hard work early will be rewarded with a lifetime of happy dog behaviour.
Leads and collars: Introduce a collar to your puppy early on. Start by putting it on when you are feeding him or playing a game so he is distracted from it and given positive associations, then gradually leave it on for longer. When he has accepted his collar start introducing his lead. Initially coax him forward with a toy or treat if he seems reluctant to walk on the lead and once he is used to it in the house and backyard start taking him for walks with it. Don’t use the lead to drag him though if he stops, continue to coax him with a toy or treat if he stops until getting the lead out results in a happy dance.
Please call us and discuss any questions you have regarding your new puppy with one of our helpful staff.
Introducing any new pet into your household with other pets can be a worrying time and can lead to some unusual behaviours by your resident pets as they try to get used to the new family member. Often they adjust quickly to each other and after a short period of adjustment everything is fine. But sometimes problems can develop, so slow gradual introductions are generally best.
NOTE: Before introducing any new pet ensure it is healthy, vaccinated, wormed and has no fleas.
Gradual introductions often make the process a lot easier giving your new pet and your “pets in residence” time to get used to each other, slowly and gently.
Initially keep your pets separate when you are not supervising them. Your original pet(s) should have much the same access to areas as before and the usual routine should be maintained as much as possible. The new addition should be kept in a neutral area such as a bathroom or garage. Make sure that the area is well lit and not too hot or cold and “pet proof”. Provide toys, food, water and bedding and for cats a litter tray or puppies wee mats if they are likely to be confined for some hours. Don’t put your new pet into the favourite area of your resident pet.
Make sure to spend time with both pets so that the routine of your original pet remains much the same but the new addition also gets plenty of time.
The next step is some limited interaction between pets. Make sure that the new pet is on a leash or in a crate or cage. If you are at all concerned your other pets may react badly to the new addition then place them on lead also. Allow them to explore each other at a distance at first. Any calm behavior or even ignoring of each other can be rewarded with calm praise or a treat.
If initial introductions go well, with calm behavior, perhaps even a little sniffing and tail wagging then you can progress to feeding pets in the same room, but quite a long way apart. If this goes well every few days move the bowls a little closer together. If either pet acts aggressively then back of the distance again to one that is acceptable and then after a few days try to bring them a bit closer together. If your pet actively guards food and wants to fight over food do not do this step.
If one of your pets reacts violently (hissing, spitting or swiping by cats, or staring growling, snarling, lip lifting by dogs) banish the pet showing the aggressive behavior into a neutral “time out” area (second toilet for example) and leave them there until they are calm, then try again. If they react aggressively again then leave them in time out for longer.
If things are progressing well continue to offer pats, food and treats whenever the pets are together to show them it is a positive thing to have a new family member. Make sure to spend several minutes each day, ideally at least 5-10 minutes with each individual pet on their own without the others around.
Once your pets are either not reacting to each other at all or are doing so positively allow them to be together unrestrained but still under supervision at all times. This may take hours or weeks to achieve. Remember to praise and reward them if they are interacting well together. Be prepared for possible negative situations by having a water pistol or whistle handy that maybe used to startle them and get them apart if aggressive situations develop and always be careful when handling pets that are aroused and upset.
If these supervised interactions go well allow them to be together without strict supervision but when you are home and listen out for problems and check on them regularly to make sure all is going well. Once they have been fine with this for some time they will be able to be together when you are not at home to keep an eye out. Make sure there are extra water dishes, food bowls, beds and litter trays available so these do not become a cause of fights.
Be patient, don’t rush your pets and don’t push them to interact if they are not wanting to. It maybe a much happier household with 2 individuals living side by side but separate lives than trying to force them to be best buddies.
- Don’t inadvertently reward bad behavior by misplaced assurances that everything will be OK. If your pet is acting aggressively, that is not OK. Separate them allow the aggressor to calm down and go back a step in the program and reward calm interactions to encourage good behavior.
- If you have tried slow introductions and things seem to be getting worse get help from a qualified behavioural trainer or a veterinarian.
INTRODUCING CATS to CATS: A SPECIAL CASE
- Bring the new cat into a neutral room and make it a pleasant and calm environment. Allow your cat or kitten to get confident in this location and make sure he or she is comfortable with all human members of the family.
- Make sure your resident cat(s) has plenty of attention and food
- Consider using Feliway pheromone both in the new cats room and the rest of the house to keep all cats calm and relaxed.
- In the first stage of introduction use scent only. Get a face washer or hand towel and label it with each cat’s name. Each day rub the face and flank of the cat whose name is on the towel and store it in a plastic bag afterwards. Whenever you go to greet, feed or play with one of your cats wrap the towel of the other cat around your hand and present it to the cat you are greeting. This may initially cause the cat to back away, do not force them to sniff it. If they back away allow them time to settle and come forward to investigate. Once you can present the towel and the cat ignores it you can move on to stage 2.
- Stage 2 the swapping of smells. Now you can put the towels of the cats in one bag and let the smells mingle. Proceed as above and present the towels to each cat. Once the cat is reacting positively then you can rub the towels on objects that the cats might rub against such as furniture or even your legs. At this stage you maybe able to use a single cloth to wipe both cats with it. Make sure the cat is happy to accept rubbing with the cloth that carries the scent of the other cat. Once all cats happily rub against the cloth and objects rubbed with it is time for the next stage.
- Allow the new cat access to the rest of the house to explore while the other cat(s) are shut away elsewhere so it can find hiding places and escape routes should they be needed. Allow some time each day for this before returning your new cat to its room and allowing your other cat(s) back in. You might be able to have your resident cats out during the day and locked up at night and have your new cat confined during the day but allowed the run of the house at night for example. Once your new cat is confident in the house its time to move to the next stage.
- Allow cats to see each other but keep a barrier between them. Ideally a mesh screen can be used as it allows odours to travel but a glass door may also work. Cats should be given food at normal feeding times on either side of the screen or distracted with play. You can rub the screen or door with the towel you have been using for the scent swapping to help the process along. Move play and food progressively closer to the screen as long as the cats remain calm.
- The final stage allows them to meet. Once they are calm and content on either side of the screen with distraction allow them to meet with the screen between and if they remain calm after an initial greeting open the door and allow them to meet.
- Once your cats have started to mix in calm and relaxed manner and start scent marking areas with their chins in the house or even each other you can gradually remove environment barriers and changes and the Feliway.
It may take weeks to months to reach this happy co existence so be patient and persist. Cats take time to adjust to new things and especially new cats.
For more information on animal behaviours and behavioural issues go back to our behaviours page.
As your pets get older their behavior may change, they might be sleeping more, or become restless at night. Or they may show changes in appetite or drinking. Often dogs will slow down on their walks.
These changes are not due to aging so much as the diseases that are more commonly seen in older pets. Often older pets experience some degree of hearing loss (just like older humans) or they may lose some vision due to aging of the lenses in their eyes. These changes can lead to them becoming more anxious or reactive.
Sometimes dogs and cats become less active in their senior years and this maybe due to arthritis or heart disease. Arthritis causes discomfort and may result in dogs and cats being less willing to exercise. Heart disease can affect the circulation and the pets ability to cope with exercise and your may see shortness of breath or panting with exercise or your dog may cough when exercising.
As well as some hearing and vision loss aging pets can sometimes suffer from cognitive dysfunction as well. In dogs this may lead to agitation and restlessness at night, loss of toilet training, changes in appetite and “getting lost” in familiar surroundings. In cats the most common sign is often loud yowling at night or during the day and again appearing lost or staring into space.
Another common disease with age is kidney disease, with the most common symptoms seen being increased thirst and urination, and loss of appetite.
Hyperactive thyroid function is also quite common in older cats often leading to an increase in appetite but loss of weight, and increased irritability.
So if your pet is aging and you are concerned about any changes in their behavior, why not have them examined and checked for these problems, so that they may age gracefully and with maximum vigor and enjoyment.
Arthritis can affect dogs and cats of any age but is most common in pets over 7 years of age. In dogs predisposing causes include being overweight, genetic causes such as hip dysplasia and repetitive high impact exercise such as leaping up to catch balls and Frisbees. In cats being overweight, injuries and to a lesser extend genetics play a role.
So how do you know your dog has arthritis? Signs can be variable depending on which joint is affected.
◦ Initially your dog may simply stretch a lot more on rising after rest, or have a bit more difficulty getting into the car.
◦ He may tire more easily on walks or start using both back legs together when running.
◦ You may also note a loss of muscle mass in the affected leg.
Eventually though you see lameness with the joint becoming so painful your dog no longer puts all his weight on the leg. Arthritis is a chronic painful condition but most dogs wont yelp or show obvious signs of pain, its up to you to notice and get them help.
Cats are a lot more difficult to see signs, as they are not usually highly energetic especially as they get older, so signs are a lot more subtle.
◦ Initially you may notice they are a little less certain when jumping up, or they no longer get up as high.
◦ Your cat’s coat may also become less glossy as she starts having trouble with grooming.
◦ Another sign maybe that she begins to miss the litter tray when urinating or defeacating or she starts to avoid human contact.
◦ Sometimes all you see is that your cat sleeps more or becomes more restless and sleeps less.
So what can you do if your pet has arthritis?
Firstly make sure they are not overweight as this simply adds to the wear and tear of joints. There are some steps you can take to help your pet lose weight, call the veterinary hospital to discuss what options could work for your pet.
Secondly make sure you provide warm supportive bedding. Dogs often prefer a firm surface to assist them with getting up. A trampoline bed or a wooden packing palette with carpet or a thin foam mattress can make ideal beds. For cats they often like to snuggle, so a bed with sides is ideal but make sure the entrance is not too high so your cat can gain easy access. Heating pads are also available to add extra comfort.
Early on in the disease diets such as Hills j/d or Royal Canin Mobility Support can help get your pet back to normal. Food additives such as Joint Guard, Pernaease and many others, offer joint support through addition of glucosamine and natural anti-inflammatories.
However, medication often becomes necessary to relieve your pet’s pain and get them back to their spry selves. There are many options.
For more severe cases using Cartrophen Injections or Non Steroidal Anti-inflammatories maybe necessary to maintain your pet’s quality of life. When used correctly and with medical supervision these medications carry minimal risks and provide great relief from the chronic pain of arthritis.
Contact us at Weston Creek Veterinary Hospital for further information if you think your pet has arthritis or you’d like to discuss treatment options for arthritis. We are here to help you and your pet.