We do understand how overwhelming it can be when you have a new puppy in the family! But preventative healthcare – treatments to prevent disease, rather than just to treat it – is really important. In the last article we looked at vaccination, this time we’re going to look at some of the other routine treatments that are so important in helping your pup to grow up healthily.

Flea and Worming

The next component of preventative healthcare in puppies is protection from internal and external parasites. Internal parasites include horrible critters like roundworms, tapeworms and protozoal diseases. There are a huge number of different species of these creatures, and the symptoms vary hugely – some cause no disease, others will cause mild diarrhoea or weight loss. Some of the more serious can lead to anaemia, heart and lung disease, secondary infections, or even death.

Where do puppies get worms from?

Most puppies will be infected either directly from their mother in the womb, or by consuming microscopic eggs found in their mother’s milk, in fleas, or other animals’ faeces. It can be very difficult to prevent puppies having access to infected fleas (or faeces), and impossible to prevent them contracting worms from mum, so instead we recommend worming your puppy regularly.

How often should we worm?

Worming a puppy every 2 weeks until 12 weeks old, then monthly until 6 months, will prevent any worms they do pick up being able to develop into harmful adults. It will also mean that they cannot complete their life-cycle and infect your house (or your family!).

What external parasites do I need to worry about?

External parasites include fleas, ticks, mites and lice – all of these little insects and arachnids can cause irritation, skin damage, secondary infections, and anaemia in your pets – and even spread tapeworms! It is important to remember that many of these creatures can infect humans as well, so, to prevent your entire family getting very itchy, regular puppy flea treatment is necessary.

What medications should I use?

There are a huge variety of drugs available that kill and prevent parasites, ranging from tablets, to injections or spot-ons, and even drug-impregnated collars. Certain combinations work best against certain parasites, and you have to ensure that all types of parasite are being treated by the drugs used. Many over-the-counter drugs are not effective against all types of parasites, and some even seem to be becoming less effective completely! We would recommend coming into the vets and discussing the products best suited for your puppy. Most are applied every 1-3 months. The advantage of products administered by a vet is that the appointment offers a great chance for your vet to check over the rest of your puppy, as we will discuss further below.

If your puppy is going to go travelling with you…

As an aside, it is important for any frequent travellers to know that all dogs must be treated against a specific tapeworm (Echinococcus multilocularis) 24-120 hours before entering the UK – this means that if your puppy will be abroad for more than a few days, you will have to find a vet in another country that can treat tapeworms before coming back home. As with rabies, if you are planning on travelling abroad with your puppy anytime in the next year, please discuss tapeworm treatment with us first, so we can offer recommendations.

Puppy Checks

It can be hard to notice small problems when you’re around your puppy every day, so we recommend visiting us regularly for puppy health checks. At these checks, we can look at your puppy’s weight, growth, behaviour, effectiveness of flea treatment and more, to make sure they are on the right track. The first year of life is crucial for a puppy, so getting things right is really important to reduce the incidence of disease later in life. Overweight puppies are a particular issue that we like to focus on preventing at an early age.

These checks also give you a chance to talk to our vets and nurses if you have any questions or concerns about your puppy. There’s never a silly question to ask, and it’s always worth checking. As mentioned above, it can be good to combine these health checks at the same time as your flea, worming or vaccine appointments. Regular checks can help our vets spot any issues you may not have noticed, and hopefully prevent any problems growing too large.

Healthcare in Adult Life

Of course, once your puppy is fully grown (around a year old or so), that doesn’t mean healthcare stops. Thankfully, your pup’s immune system will be fully developed, so many of the diseases common in puppies are much rarer in adults. Nevertheless, fleas, worms, and the diseases we vaccinate for can occur if their prevention is not kept on top of. Ensure your puppy regularly visits the vet for their treatments when needed – use these appointments as general health checks as well. Your vet will know what problems will become more common as your pet gets older, and which are less important.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully after reading these articles, you’ve got your head round preventative puppy care a little more. As with most things, prevention is always better than cure, and regular vaccination, flea and worm treatment, and health checks will ensure your puppy is as safe as can be. At this critical stage in their life, your puppy needs the most care, to help them enter adulthood healthy, happy and free of preventable diseases.