Rum River Veterinary Clinic
Puppy Care 101


Puppy Care 101


Choose your veterinarian

You and your pet may be together for a long time.  Your partner in your pet’s health is your veterinarian.  Now is the time to find the right one for you.  Regular veterinary care is an important part of maintaining your pet’s health. Most experts recommend that puppies see their veterinarian once every 3 – 4 weeks from 8 weeks of age until 16 weeks of age. This will usually entail 3 visits.  Adult dogs (ages 1-7) will visit the vet at least once a year and senior pets (more than 7 years old) may be recommended to visit twice each year.   No one veterinarian is perfect for everybody but if you are honest with yourself about what you want you may be able to find the perfect vet for you…

Choose a veterinarian based on location, hours of operation, price, and most importantly philosophy/communication style.  Take advantage if a clinic offers free new-pet exams and get to know your local veterinarians.  Consider your veterinarian’s hours and make sure they are open during the times of day when you plan to bring your pet in.  Ask your veterinarian how emergencies are managed.  If you have a problem in the middle of the day do they squeeze you in or refer you to another practice?  If you have an emergency overnight what do you do?  Find a veterinarian who you feel comfortable talking to, whose answers make sense to you, and whose perspective on pet healthcare matches your own.  Someday you will need this individual to help you make difficult decisions for your pet – make sure you trust the advice they give.

Be honest with yourself about what you want for your pet. If you want only those services legally required to own a pet please be clear about that and choose a veterinary clinic whose policies facilitate this.  If you do not want vaccinations, does your vet require them?  Most do, and so do most local municipalities.  Your veterinarian’s job is to ensure that you make informed decisions about your pet.  If you don’t’ want recommended services, say no, but please understand that it is a veterinarian’s job to offer those services and to make sure you understand why they are recommended and the risk you are accepting when you decline them.  Also, If you want everything, expect to pay for everything.  Please ask how much items cost if you would like to know.  The better a job you do right now of finding a veterinary clinic that aligns with your values, your financial expectations, and your communication style, the easier it will be for you to provide your pet the type of care you feel is best.

If visiting every veterinarian in the neighborhood is not a realistic option there are many sources you can turn to for veterinary ratings.  Online review forums can be misleading because they often represent only the extremes at a clinic and are based on that individual’s expectations (which may differ greatly from yours) so interpret them accordingly.  Early in my career, I sat down with my boss and he reviewed with me the online criticism I had received from clients – one was enraged because I had callously provided an estimate for hospitalization of a pet (which was suspected to be due to my preoccupation with money) and the second was from an animal owner who was upset because I didn’t discuss the cost of the vaccinations with her ahead of time (also presumed due to a desire to make more money).  Each of these clients had completely reasonable, yet opposite, expectations for their veterinarian.  Help your veterinarian know what you need so they can provide it for you.


Your First Visit

How to ace your first veterinary visit

1.  Paperwork.  Bring all the paperwork provided by your breeder, rescue group, or previous veterinarians.  This will ensure your pet doesn’t get anything they don’t need and get you on the clinic’s reminder system.

2.  Arrive a little early so the staff has time to enter all of your information and call any previous providers if needed.

3.  Come hungry and bring treats.  Your veterinarian will complete an examination for birth defects, illness, and risk factors for future illness.  Help them out by making your pet motivated and distracted.

4.  Bring a fecal sample so the staff can test for intestinal parasites.

5.  Read the Rum River vaccination recommendations and have an idea of what non-core vaccinations you would like more information about.

6.  Write down the name of the food you are currently feeding for the veterinarian and be prepared to discuss what is important to you in a pet food product so your veterinarian can make a recommendation for your pet’s specific needs.

7.  Be ready with any training questions you may have.


Your First Visit

What to expect

Your First Veterinary Visit: Most experts recommend that puppies see their veterinarian once every 3 – 4 weeks from 8 weeks of age until 16 weeks of age.  This will usually entail 2 – 3 visits.  There is a lot of information to cover some come with questions and all of your paperwork to make the most of your time with the veterinarian.



The core vaccines are recommended for EVERY dog:


What is it?  A combination of distemper virus, parvovirus, hepatovirus, and parainfluenza virus.  Parvovirus and Distemper are common in unvaccinated dogs and both can be fatal.

How often – Once every 3 – 4 weeks until at least 2 vaccinations have been given, one of them after 16 weeks of age.


What is it?  This virus is fatal in pets in people.  It is required by law and found in wild raccoons, skunks, and bats.

How often  Once They also recommend that all dogs be vaccinated for Rabies.  Rabies vaccination is usually given between 14 – 20 weeks of age.


Non-Core Vaccines  These are diseases preventable through vaccination but only recommended to dogs whose lifestyle will expose them to the disease.

Bordetella vaccination  Bordetella is a type of kennel cough.  Dogs who are frequently around other dogs are considered high risk and should be vaccinated.

Lyme vaccination

Leptospirosis vaccination

Canine Influenza

Diagnostic Testing

Fecal exam  The Companion Animal Parasite Council recommends that all puppies be tested for intestinal parasites when first adopted then re-tested once every 6 – 12 months for the rest of their life.  If positive they should be treated and then tested again in one month to ensure resolution.

Genetic Profile Testing

Genetic Profile Testing is a great way for you to learn more about your dog’s risks.  Some breeds of dogs are at higher risk for certain behavior issues, health concerns, and drug reactions.  If you are interested in learning more about your dog please ask your veterinarian or follow the link here for at-home testing options (Wisdom Panel).


Preventative Medications

1.  They grow fast – growth timeline.

Large breed dogs take longer to grow up than small dogs but it goes by fast!

Capture each adorable and awkward stage, because it won’t last long. Large and giant breed dogs continue to mature for up to 2 years.  Most small breed dogs reach their full growth by 12 months and large breed dogs at 18 months.

2.  Training

Puppy classes aren’t just for amateurs.

Puppy classes are a great way to get your pet off on the right paw, but it isn’t about the tricks. The most important thing your dog will get is socialization!  Young dogs leave their mothers and littermates to live with a family of humans without really understanding the new relationships. Puppy classes allow them to interact with other young dogs and their owners. Not only does this help them to understand their place within your family, but it also helps them understand how they are supposed to act with other people and other dogs. Good manners are priceless and very difficult to teach dogs without repetitive exposure to other people and pets. Puppy classes help give us that opportunity, and the tricks are just a bonus.


Puppy Dental Health

Losing Baby Teeth

Just like people, puppies have two sets of teeth- baby teeth that they lose as they get older and adult teeth that remain during adulthood.

Puppies are born with no visible teeth (they are buried beneath the gums). At 2-3 weeks of age, the baby, or deciduous teeth start to emerge from below the gums. The teeth erupt in a predictable order starting with the incisors (front teeth), then the canines, and premolars (in other words, front to back). By 2 months of age, all 28 baby teeth are usually present.  and boy are they sharp!

Around 3-4 months of age, your puppy will start to lose their baby teeth and their adult teeth will begin to appear.  Adult teeth also first appear in the front and work their way back.  You will probably not notice when your pup loses a tooth because they are usually swallowed when eating and passed in the stool.  You may see a spot of blood on a toy or hear your puppy crunch on something.  During this time, puppies will chew on anything and everything- furniture, toys, people, shoes, etc.  Chewing helps to alleviate some of the discomfort associated with losing their teeth so provide lots of chew toys during this time.

By 6 months of age, all the baby teeth should have been replaced by adult/permanent teeth- dogs will have 42 permanent teeth and cats will have 30. Some breeds, especially small breed dogs and brachycephalics (smushed-faced dogs) tend to retain some of their baby teeth beyond 6 months of age, however, any dog or cat can experience this. This occurs when the incoming adult tooth does not successfully dislodge the baby tooth that was already in place. This can occur with any tooth, however, it is most commonly associated with the upper canine teeth. These retained baby teeth can cause multiple problems, including malocclusions (abnormal bite) for the permanent teeth may need to erupt in abnormal locations, crowding of the other teeth in the mouth, gum disease, and pain or discomfort and should be surgically removed. This is a relatively common procedure that is often performed at the time of your pet’s spay or neuter.


How to Links

How to Brush your Puppy’s Teeth

Understanding your Puppy’s Behavior and Development

Dealing with Puppy Rough Play

House Training your Puppy

Guide to Crate Confinement

How to Puppy-Proof your House

How to Brush your Puppy’s Teeth

Protecting your Puppy from Fleas & Ticks

Protecting your Puppy from Intestinal Parasites

Protecting your Puppy from Heartworm Disease

Spaying or Neutering your Puppy

Socializing Your Puppy

Leadership Exercises for You and your Puppy

Training Using Positive Reinforcement

Nothing in Life is Free – A Training Technique for Dogs

Training your Dog to Settle or Relax


Tara Kasmarik, DVM