Welcoming a new puppy into your family is exciting, but any new family member is an adjustment. As human parents prepare for their baby’s arrival, responsible pet owners should prepare for their new furry family member with the same care and intention. Our Leawood Plaza Animal Hospital team wants your new bundle of fur to enjoy a long, healthy life with your family, so we are sharing good practices you can institute before you bring your new pup home.

Choosing a healthy puppy

One of the best ways to ensure your new puppy’s lifelong good health is to do your homework before adopting. Before choosing a dog breed, research health conditions that various breeds are prone to, and ensure you are equipped to handle issues that may arise in the breed you choose. For example, large breeds are more likely to develop hip dysplasia, which may require life-long medical management. However, feeding your large-breed puppy a diet formulated for large dogs can help reduce the likelihood of hip dysplasia, so doing your homework can also help you learn how to set your new puppy up for success. 

When deciding on which puppy to take home, know the signs to look for, such as lethargy, nasal or ocular discharge, or a poor haircoat, that indicate poor health, and stay away from puppies that look obviously sick. The puppy you choose should be bright, energetic, curious, and free from obvious illness signs. 

Puppy proofing your home

Puppies, like human children, need observation, teaching, and attention. Puppies learn about their world through their mouths, so it stands to reason that anything that can harm your puppy should be carefully put away. Most homes hold many items that can be toxic to pets, and can lead to issues ranging from mild vomiting to life-threatening organ failure. Before your puppy comes home, spend some time in your house and yard, and place these items out of reach:

  • Cleaning supplies
  • Antifreeze
  • Toxic foods
  • Toxic plants
  • Human and pet medications
  • Sharp objects
  • Electrical cords
  • Essential oils and potpourri
  • Cosmetics and personal care products
  • Fertilizers and herbicides
  • Rat and mouse poison
  • Pesticides
  • Cocoa bean mulch
  • Garden mushrooms
  • Garbage bins

Pet toxicity is always easier to prevent than treat, so proactively protect your new puppy’s health by knowing which items can cause problems, and keeping them safely behind latched doors and cupboards.

Selecting a healthy diet for your puppy

Your puppy will need a high-quality diet to grow properly and thrive. A nutritionally balanced puppy food will keep your pup’s coat shiny, their digestive system in working order, and will set them up for good overall health. Choose a well-established pet food brand, and always ensure the packaging indicates that it meets Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) standards, which are backed by research and studies. Choose a food formulated for growth, and labelled specifically for puppies during their first year. If you are unsure which food to choose, our Leawood Plaza team can help you with this important decision. 

Purchasing essential puppy supplies and equipment

Some supplies and equipment are essential for your new puppy. Gather these items before bringing your puppy home:

  • Crate — A crate is indispensable, because it can help give your puppy a sense of security, and it facilitates house-training, since puppies don’t want to soil their sleeping area. Your puppy should be able to stand up, turn around, and lie down in their crate.  
  • Leash, harness, and collar with ID tags — These essentials will keep your puppy safe and secure. 
  • Metal food and water bowls — Metal is the preferred material for your pet’s dishes, since they can be easily cleaned and are less likely to become a haven for bacteria.
  • Toys — Puppies have an innate, natural chewing instinct, and you must provide them with a selection of appropriate chew toys. You should also purchase some fun, interactive toys that will exercise your puppy mentally and physically. 
  • Grooming tools — Gather a selection of brushes and combs based on your puppy’s coat type, as well as nail trimmers, shampoo, and conditioner. 
  • Dental care tools — Dental disease begins early, and can be best prevented by beginning a daily toothbrushing routine. Choose a small toothbrush that will easily fit inside your pet’s mouth, and pet toothpaste. Never use human toothpaste, which can be toxic for pets.

Establishing house rules and routines for your puppy

Your puppy has left their mother, siblings, and a familiar environment, and will need an adjustment period to acclimate to their new home. Puppies are creatures of habit, and learn most easily with a safe, predictable, familiar routine. 

That said, talk with your family before the puppy arrives. Decide who will care for the puppy on a daily basis, and ensure all house rules and routines will be consistent, especially if there is more than one human in the house. Puppies will experiment with different behaviors to figure out how the world works, and will understand more quickly when they are taught consistent behaviors. Your family should discuss and agree on the following:

  • Where your puppy will sleep
  • Whether they will be allowed on the furniture
  • Where they will spend their time during the day
  • What kind of games they will be allowed to play
  • Who will feed your puppy what, and how much
  • Who will train your puppy, and how
  • How your puppy’s mistakes will be corrected

Go slowly when Introducing your puppy to their new home and your family, so you do not overwhelm them. Give your puppy time to explore their new surroundings, and show them their sleeping spot, outdoor potty spot, crate, and water and food bowls. 

Planning your puppy’s preventive care

Your puppy will need regular veterinary care to ensure they stay happy and healthy throughout their life, starting with an initial visit the first week that your puppy comes home. This first visit will include examining your puppy from nose-to-tail to ensure they are free from disease and developmental problems, setting up a vaccination schedule based on your puppy’s lifestyle, and discussing flea, tick, and intestinal parasite prevention. Until your puppy is 16 weeks of age, they will require a series of preventive care visits and vaccinations to protect them from diseases. At each visit, we’ll discuss nutrition, training, behavior, exercise, and your puppy’s overall health. 

This is also a good time to purchase a pet insurance policy for financial assistance should your puppy become unexpectedly ill or injured, and to ensure pre-existing conditions are covered. 

It’s never too early to start planning for the addition of a new puppy to your family. The Leawood Plaza Animal Hospital team is ready to care for your new puppy and answer your questions or concerns. Call us and schedule an appointment to give your new puppy a healthy start.