Puppy - Caring for your Puppy the First Year

Harmony Veterinary Center Recommendations


At Harmony Veterinary Center our team is here to help you create a lifetime of health and happiness with your new companion. You are about to embark on a journey of love and laughter that is like no other. This article will help you get started and we have others in our website library and resource pages. And of course please contact us if you have any questions.


Veterinary Visits and Exams 

Veterinary visits are very important to start your new puppy off right. Bring your puppy for an appointment with us as soon as possible after you bring him or her home.  Our veterinarians will examine your new family member thoroughly for signs of illness or congenital diseases. We will also design a personalized health care plan based on your puppy’s age, breed, overall health, and disease risk.


During your appointment you will have time to ask our medical team any questions. A few common issues to get you thinking are house training, unwanted biting, clawing or chewing behaviors, nutrition and training. Our team will also spend time socializing your puppy to being in a veterinary clinic, making his or her experience more like a play date than and exam. Please bring a list of your questions, as well as any medical records, and a stool sample to this first appointment.


Diagnostic Tests

Whether it a fecal exam, x-rays or blood tests, regular and consistent diagnostic testing throughout your dog’s life establishes a normal range, or baseline for your dog. Knowing the baseline trends for your puppy allows you to make informed decisions that keep your best friend active and healthy for years to come. Consistent diagnostic testing can also detect abnormalities before outward signs of illness can be observed, providing you and your dog with valuable time to treat disease early when it is easier and less costly to manage. Our team will work with you and your pet to determine the appropriate to keep you dog happy and healthy throughout his or her life.



Vaccinations are a wonderful tool in preventing potentially fatal diseases like parvo.  However, not every puppy needs every vaccine.  Our doctors can guide you in designing a vaccination schedule that is safe and protective for your puppy. To learn more about vaccinations and how they work, read the Harmony Veterinary Centers Vaccination Philosophy article in our website library and visit our resource page to find other informative links. 



Good nutrition is vital to your puppy’s health and development, but with so many pet foods on the market, how do you know what is best?  Here are a few guidelines:

  • Choose a puppy food.  In general, puppy foods contain more of the nutrients that puppies need versus adult foods. 
  • Avoid fillers and non-essential ingredients.  Dogs are omnivores and can utilize a variety of nutrients.  However, foods containing high amounts of corn, wheat or soy are usually short on overall nutrition.
  • Avoid chemicals.  Not all chemicals are bad, but in general avoid foods with things you can’t begin to pronounce.  This includes ethoxyquin, a preservative that is a known carcinogen.
  • Measure the amount you feed.  Obesity is becoming an epidemic in our pets.  To avoid overfeeding, measure the amount of food you put in the dish so you know exactly what your puppy is eating.  We can help you determine if the amount needs to be adjusted up or down based on your puppy’s weight.
  • Feed more often.  Puppies, especially very small-breed puppies like Yorkies, have a harder time regulating their blood sugar.  Feeding puppies three times a day until they are at least 4 months old can help avoid this problem.
  • Treats.  Treats are critical in our relationship with our dogs.  Just remember every treat adds calories, and consider this when determining how much food to feed.  A “little bite” here or there can really add up, especially in a 10# dog.


Take Care of Your Puppies Teeth

Regular oral health care can add years to your puppy’s life. Unfortunately, dogs don’t brush their teeth daily and most people don’t do it for them.  Even with the best preventative home care, bacteria can accumulate at the gumline, ultimately hardening into tartar.  Brushing, oral rinses, and tartar control treats can help slow this process.  Just as we need our teeth cleaned regularly, so do our dogs.  Lack of dental cleanings can ultimately allow bacteria to gain access to the bloodstream, affecting the heart, kidneys, joints and other internal organs.  Teeth can also become abscessed and painful.  Our veterinarians can advise you on when your dog should have a thorough professional cleaning and what preventative home care may be best for your companion.



Regular exercise is important for musculoskeletal growth, development of coordination, improved cardiovascular health, weight control, and a variety of other physical factors.  But the mental health benefits of exercise may be even more important.  Play sessions, walks, and other activities allow a puppy to explore new environments, learn new skills, and get rid of excess energy, which makes the puppy easier to train.



Puppies require a lot of work to integrate into a human household.  After all, their natural behaviors tell them to chew, destroy, bite or wrestle with their human “pack”, bark, steal food, and soil the carpet.  It is up to us to show them the “rules” for living in our environment vs. a traditional dog pack structure.  Consistent, appropriate training is the best way to accomplish this.  Puppy kindergarten classes can help socialize your puppy and get you off on the right foot.  Our staff are happy to help you address simple training issues, and to refer you to a qualified dog trainer for the more challenging problems. 


Spaying and Neutering  

Spaying and neutering prevents unwanted puppies, as well as multiple health problems, including breast cancer and prostate issues.  We recommend spaying or neutering your puppy around 6 to 7 months of age to avoid hormone-related behavior issues like aggression.


First Aid

Should your puppy get sick or injured, a little first aid may be required until you can get him or her to the vet.  Check out the “Pet First Aid” article in our website library or look on our resource page for more information about emergency resources.


Pet Identification

Puppies are prone to distraction and can wander away from home.  While collars and name tags can help, the best form of identification for your puppy is a microchip.  About the size of a grain of rice, a microchip is injected under a pet’s skin as a permanent form of id.  If the puppy is found and taken to a vet or shelter, the chip can be scanned and checked against a database to find the owner’s information and get him or her home the same day.


Parasite Control

Even if their stools are normal, dogs can harbor intestinal parasites, many of which can be passed to people (especially children).  Since these parasites in people can cause serious problems (such as blindness), we recommend all puppies have a fecal exam for worms and parasites.  Please bring a fresh stool sample to your puppy’s first appointment.


Dogs can also get canine heartworm infection.  We will discuss your puppy’s risk and heartworm prevention at your first visit.


A Word About Puppy-proofing Your Environment

Puppies are like 2 year old children.  They put everything in their mouths and have no sense of what is inappropriate or dangerous.  To avoid intestinal foreign bodies, poisonings, and other mishaps, do the following:

  • Police the floor for small objects.  Common hazards include children’s toys, hair ties, superballs, pennies, crayons, sugarless gum, rubber bands, string, socks, underwear, panty hose, and a host of other objects.
  • Put the plants up.  Houseplants are just another source of food as far as puppies are concerned, and many can be poisonous.  For a list of common poisonous plants, please visit www.petpoisonhelpline.com.
  • Get a dog proof trash can.
  • Get childproof plugs for electrical sockets.
  • Hide all electrical cords out of the puppy’s reach.
  • Store all antifreeze, cleaners, and other chemicals in a locked cabinet out of the puppy’s reach.
  • Police the back yard.  Make sure fences and gates are secure.  Check for any toxic plants.  Pull out metal lawn edging or cover it with a plastic cap.  Avoid small sized and cocoa based mulches.

Periodically checking your puppy’s environment at his level and from his perspective can help you avoid costly and emotional accidents or emergencies.


Accidents and Illness

Even the healthiest, best cared for puppy can become sick or injured.  Signs of illness in dogs include:

  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Limping
  • Changes in behavior
  • Lethargy or sleeping a lot
  • Aggression in a dog that is normally not aggressive
  • Changes in urination habits, straining to urinate
  • Loss of housetraining
  • Excess drooling
  • Excess shedding or bald spots
  • Crying or anxiety
  • Increased or decreased affection for family or other pets
  • Hiding or other changes in behavior or routine
  • Weight loss
  • Shaking the head
  • Licking obsessively at one spot
  • Excess panting or labored breathing
  • Inability to keep up on walks, not wanting to play
  • Changes in appetite or water consumption

Should you see any of these symptoms, call us for an appointment.



In our busy lives, it is often necessary for us to travel away from home.  If you decide to take your puppy with you, be sure to consider the following:

  • Does your puppy travel well?  If not, consider leaving him at home with a sitter.
  • Will your puppy have a place to stay once you are at your destination?  Many hotels don’t allow pets, so be sure to check first.  Make sure your dog is welcome if you are staying with friends.
  • Take food, toys, beds, and kennels that your dog is used to.
  • Your dog should be current on vaccinations, whether you are flying or driving. Always bring your Proof of Rabies vaccination, as well as our phone number, with you when you travel.
  • Consider calming treats to ease your puppy’s travel anxiety.
  • Dogs flying on a commercial flight need a health certificate signed by a veterinarian within 10 days of travel. 
  • Certain areas of the country see diseases we don’t see in Colorado.  Be sure to call us if you are traveling out of state so we can advise you on appropriate vaccination, external parasite control, and other hazards.


Leaving your puppy at home?  Pet sitters are a great option because your canine friend gets to stay in her own environment, which generally means less stress.  If you have to board her in a kennel, be sure to visit the kennel first.  Ask about exercise, staff to dog ratios, bringing personal belongings like beds and toys, and what vaccinations are required to board your dog there.  Kennels with daycare programs can provide social puppies with playtime and interaction during the day, making the whole boarding experience much more pleasant.  Please call if you have questions about boarding your pet at a kennel.


Pet Insurance or Medical Savings Plan

We never know when an unexpected accident or illness may occur. Approximately one in every three dogs and cats visit a veterinary hospital each year due to an illness or accident. Pet insurance combined with a medical savings fund for your pet can help you offset many unexpected expense.


Pet insurance is primarily designed to cover emergency situations, and some plans are now covering more routine care. Medical savings funds are something you set aside each month in a savings account specifically for your pet’s health care. The hardest choice you will ever make will be to proceed with a lifesaving procedure or not because of financial constraints. Taking the financial responsibility to have health insurance, a savings plan, or both for your pet will give you peace of mind if your pet has an emergency or illness.


Insurance companies our clients recommend: VPI, Pet’s Best Insurance, and Embrace. Coverage varies and it is always best to do your own research. Harmony Veterinary Center accepts all pet health insurance.

© 2013 Harmony Veterinary Center, LLC.