It is so exciting bringing a new family member home, but it can be overwhelming, particularly if you have never had a dog before. There are so many breeds to choose from, and trying to find a trustworthy breeder can be a daunting task. There is also the question of rescue Vs. buying. Hopefully this page will give you a few pointers on what to look for when looking for a puppy and their health requirements once you have brought them home.
What to Consider before buying a Puppy
Choosing the right addition to your family if very important and the decision should not be an impulsive one! Your new puppy could potentially be with you for over 14 years, so there are a few points that should be taken into consideration:
Breed: Your current lifestyle should be taken into consideration whilst choosing what breed of dog you want to own. If you have a high-energy lifestyle, where you are active a lot of the time (including walking, running, hill walking, country pursuits etc), you may want to consider a breed of dog that has been bred for an active lifestyle. If you do not have a particularly active lifestyle, we would advise that you look at breeds that have been bred as companion dogs, such as the Lhasa Apso. Once you have chosen a breed, we advise that you talk to a breeder to discuss the breeds characteristics. Any good breeder will be happy to spend some time discussing their breed with prospective new owners to ensure their puppies will be going to the right home.
Cost: Dogs can be costly, and thats not just the veterinary fees! There are many costs that new owners forget to consider. Dogs shouldn't be left at home alone for more than 4 hours per day on a daily basis so you may need to consider doggy day care and kennels. Insurance can be pricey too, and then they require anti-parasitics, vaccinations, grooming and dental care that can all add up!
Time: Please ensure that you have enough time to dedicate to your new family member. Puppies need a lot of time and attention, they require you to show them the world so that it is not a scary place. Puppy training classes are a good idea. If you do not spend enough time training and socialising your puppy, you may end up with a nervous or badly trained dog, that can be difficult to deal with.
Buying your Puppy
Once you have chosen the breed of dog you want, you need to choose a breeder or rescue. There are pros and cons to both buying from a breeder and adopting from a rescue. Whilst adopting a rescue puppy/dog can be a very rewarding experience, this is not for everybody. A lot of rescues need a lot of time, reassurance and training, and very occasionally they may have un-resolvable issues that you may have to learn to live with.
If you choose to buy a puppy from a breeder, you should be able to see the puppy with its mother and siblings. This will help you to judge if the puppy is being sold through a 3rd person. Ask plenty of questions, such as when were they last wormed? Has the mother been wormed? What are they going to be fed on? Will they be microchipped and vaccinated when you pick them up? Has the mother been vaccinated? Has the mother been health tested, and if so can you see the certificates? These will all help you to judge whether you are going to get a healthy puppy.
Lastly, the puppies should all be playful, well fed and have no discharge from their eyes or nose and have nice clean ears.
It is now a legal requirement that all dog are microchipped, microchip details kept up to date and that an ID tag is worn on a collar or harness whilst in public.
It is likely that your puppy's breeder had them microchipped at 6 weeks of age, but it is your responsibility to change the registration details and to keep them up to date throughout your dog's life. the breeder should supply you with the microchip number in your paperwork which you will need to be able to change the registration details.
ID tags are available in lots of places including online, in key-cutting shops and we also have a wide range of tags available in the clinic that you can order and they will be posted to you, usually within a week or ordering.
Your puppy requires an initial course of vaccinations, usually one at 8 weeks of age and then a 2nd at either 10 or 12 weeks, depending on which vaccination your puppy received as a first dose. Some vaccinations require 2 weeks inbetween doses and some require a 4 week interlude. After this initial 2 vaccine course, your dog will require annual vaccines.
Annual vaccinations are important as the vaccines protect against potentially life-threatening diseases (Parvo Virus, Leptospirosis, Parainfluenza, Distemper and Infectious Hepatitis), and it also gives us a chance to give your dog a once over and discuss anything you may be worried about. It is also important to note that some insurances become void if you don't keep your dog up to date with their vaccinations. We do have the option of buying a Vaccine for life. You pay a one off fee of £129.90 within 30 days of your dogs last annual booster, and then, providing your dog is vaccinated every year, you no longer pay for your annual vaccine and health check. This is non-transferable between Veterinary Clinics and does not include the kennel cough vaccine, Rabies vaccine or extra vaccines if your dog requires to restart their vaccination course.
An optional vaccination is the Kennel Cough Vaccine. This vaccine is suitable for any dog that socialises with other dogs, whether that be in the park, doggy day care, training classes or kennels. Whilst not always 100% effective, it will dramatically reduce symptoms experienced if your dog does contract Kennel Cough. Most Insurance companies will not cover treatment for Kennel Cough if your dog has not been vaccinated against it. It is also worth noting that most kennels require dogs to have the Kennel cough Vaccine at least 3 weeks prior to entering the kennels.
Worming and Flea Control
We generally recommend worming your dog monthly with a prescription wormer throughout their life. This will protect your dog against round worms and tape worms. 2 of the most important worms we protect against are Toxocara and Lung Worm. Toxocara is zoonotic, meaning that it can be transmitted to humans from dog faeces. If humans are infected with Toxocara then it can be particularly dangerous to children and people who are immune suppressed, and in severe cases can cause seizures, blindness and stomach issues. Lung worm, although rare, is often fatal and can be picked up by the dogs from puddles, grass and slugs/snails. It is important to note that non-prescription wormers do not protect you dog against Lung Worm.
We advise year-round protection against fleas and ticks, as fleas can be picked up from other dogs. We advise prescription flea control as the latest studies have reported a reduced effectiveness in non-prescription flea control. There are both spot-ons that are applied to the back of the dogs neck and tablets available at out clinic.
Whilst we are not legally allowed to recommend a particular insurance company, we can give some pointers on what to look for when selecting a pet insurance:
Always choose a Lifetime Policy. This will mean that you will be covered for a condition for the whole of a pets life. A 12 month policy will only cover you for a condition for 12 months from the day that symptoms first appeared, after which you will have to cover the cost of further tests, medications and check ups. If they develop a life-long condition such as allergies or a heart condition, then medication can easily reach £200-£300 per month!
We advise a yearly limit policy, with up to at least £7000 per year. Policies where you have a limit per condition can limit further treatments later on in life. Emergency out of hours and referrals can become very expensive very quickly!
Always check with the insurance if they will increase your premiums if you make a claim. There are companies that advertise that they will not increase premiums if you make a claim, and we suggest that you choose policies from these companies. It is worth bearing in mind that your premiums will increase as your pet ages.
You get what you pay for with insurance, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is!
We advise you to never change your pet insurance as any condition that the pet has ever been seen for, no matter how small and no matter whether you have claimed for it or not, may be considered a pre-existing condition and therefore may not be covered on any new policy that you take out. If you do decide to change insurance policy, we recommend that you contact your vets to request a history for your pet to submit to any prospective insurance companies so that you may know what may be excluded from your policy.
We generally advise neutering from approximately 6 months of age, however every individual is different. For large and giant breeds of dogs, we tend to advise waiting until they are at least a year old. For male dogs with behavioural issues, we always encourage the owners to have a chat with their vet before surgery, to try and ensure that neutering is the best course of action.
Neutering is a routine procedure, however there is always a slight risk when any animal undergoes an anaesthetic. This risk is increased in brachycephalic breeds such as French Bulldogs and pugs. There are Pros and Cons to neutering.
The benefits of neutering in bitches include a reduced risk of mammary cancer and eliminating the risk of pyometra (which can be fatal if left untreated) and elimination of risk of unwanted puppies. In male dogs, the advantages include a reduced risk of prostate problema (cancers, cysts and hyperplasia), elimination of risk of testicular cancer and reduction in dominance-based aggression.
The disadvantages in bitches include the risk of a change in coat texture in certain breeds from a sleek to a fluffy coat. Urinary Incontinence is also a rare side effect of neutering. In Males, aggression may worsen if this is due to anxiety.
It is always advised that if you have any further questions or queries about neutering, to speak to your vet.
Feeding and Dental Care
It is important to feed your pup a well balanced, complete puppy food. There are many dog foods out there and it can be hard to choose. As a small puppy, we adv feeding them 3-4 times per day, eventually reducing down to 1 or 2 meals per day as an adult. If you choose a kibble/tinned based diet, ensure it is from a reputable brand and is complete. There is no need to opt for grain-free food unless you know your puppy has an allergy to grains, and in some cases, by feeding grain-free when not necessary, you may cause more harm than good. If you decide to feed a raw food diet, please ensure that it has been developed by a veterinary nutritionist and contains a combination of meat, carbohydrates and vegetables so that your puppy does not suffer from any vitamin or mineral deficiencies. it is also very important that it is kept in appropriate conditions and defrosted properly so that no bacterial contamination can occur. Always feed according to the package instructions.
Dental Hygiene is important in dogs. it is advisable to brush your dogs teeth every day to prevent plaque build up. Dental chews can be a useful aid, however the dog/puppy needs to chew for at least 30 minutes for there to be a mechanical effect in reducing plaque.
Training is an important part of rearing a puppy. This can include puppy training classes where they can learn socialisation skills and obedience and taking them out to lots of different places to expose them to many different situations that they may experience in their life. This can help reduce anxiety and bad behaviour in unfamiliar situations. It can also be a good idea to gradually introduce your puppy to being alone for short periods of time so that they do not develop separation anxiety.
It can also be really useful to crate train your puppy. You can make it a space where they feel calm and safe and if they ever have to go to the vets or a kennels, they will feel more at ease, having been trained to stay in a crate.
It is also important to get your puppy used to being handled, so by touching and manipulating their paws, ears and mouths in a calm manner can really help with their experience at the vets. Similarly, it can be a good idea to take your puppy to the vets regularly to get weighed and have a fuss. This means you can keep track of their weight and they can learn that it doesn't have to be a bad experience going to the vets!
There are also some great tips and information if you visit the DEFRA website and look for the "Code of Practice for the Welfare of Dogs"