a dry food intended specifically for puppies,
avoiding generic foods and those that
sell for unusually low prices. We suggest
brand name puppy food because it is impossible
to distinguish good dog food from poor
dog food simply by looking at the ingredient
list on the label. Many things that owners
look for, such as high protein levels
and extra vitamins, are more likely to
be harmful than helpful. For example,
overfeeding and over supplementation are
factors contributing to hip dysplasia.
If you have a large-breed puppy, purchase
"large breed" puppy food. The
actual formula is different, not just
the the kibble size, and is better for
very rapidly growing puppies.
Offer food to young puppies three times
a day. If your puppy isn't hungry that
often, reduce the frequency. After ten
or twelve weeks of age, feed twice a day.
Even adult dogs should have their food
split into morning and evening feedings.
When fed once a day dogs become overly
hungry and are more likely to overeat
Let your puppy eat as much as she wants
in fifteen minutes and then pick up the
food dish. Having food continually available
encourages overeating, and chubby puppies
are more likely to have hip dysplasia
and weight problems later in life. Also,
because free-fed puppies never get very
hungry, they don't enjoy their food unless
given special treats. The combination
of special treats and freely available
food encourages them to become bored,
overweight and picky.
Do not give people food. If you start
with a balanced diet and add goodies from
the table, you won't have a balanced diet
anymore, and your puppy will have more
digestive trouble. Treats that are reasonably
balanced, such as Milk Bone Biscuits are
OK, but since they are not really all
that great nutritionally, don't let them
become an important part of the diet.
Canned puppy food is perfectly all right,
but we usually suggest feeding dry food
because it is cheaper, easier to use,
and better for the teeth.
Between six and sixteen weeks of age,
puppies lose the disease protection they
received from their mothers and become
able to form their own immunity to disease.
Unfortunately, we never know when this
will happen, so there is often a brief
period when puppies have lost the disease
protection they received from their mothers
but have not yet developed strong immunity
of their own. Fortunately, new vaccines
for distemper and parvovirus are much
more effective than what we had even two
or three years ago, and eliminate much
of this problem. Also, since the new vaccines
work better we don't have to give as many,
which saves money.
Until your puppy is four or five months
old, try to prevent contact with stray
dogs or sick dogs. Avoid boarding your
puppy or taking her places like highway
rest stops where lots of other dogs go
to the bathroom.
When we say "distemper shot"
we are talking about a combination vaccine
(DHLAPPC) which protects against a group
Infectious canine distemper (ICD) is
a highly infectious viral disease that
attacks the lungs and affects the brain
and spinal cord in somewhat the same way
polio affects people.
Infectious canine hepatitis
(ICH) spreads between dogs most
often by contact with infected urine.
ICH does its worst damage to the liver
and can cause loss of vision.
Leptospirosis causes kidney and
liver damage and is spread most often
via infected urine. The leptospirosis
portion of distemper vaccine can cause
a reaction if given repeatedly. For this
reason, and because Leptospirosis has
become a fairly rare disease, we immunize
for it only twice during the vaccination
Canine adenovirus type 2 (CAV-2) is a
respiratory virus that causes a severe
form of "kennel cough".
Parainfluenza is another highly
infectious respiratory virus that causes
Canine parvovirus (CPV) attacks
the lining of the intestinal tract, and
in very young puppies, damages the heart.
It remains our most common fatal infectious
disease and is the most difficult to protect
against. Dobermans, rottweilers and boxer
or bulldog type dogs are especially susceptible.
Canine coronavirus (CCV) causes or contributes
to parvovirus-like intestinal disease
and severe diarrhea. Because coronavirus
vaccine is expensive, and since the disease
is usually not fatal, many veterinarians
omit coronavirus protection from their
puppy series or immunize for it separately
at additional cost.
Spread by animal bites or through the
saliva of an infected animal, rabies is
always fatal. Because infected pets can
give the disease to people, rabies immunization
is something you don't want to ignore.
Rabies shots are started at sixteen weeks
of age, boostered a year later, and every
one to three years after that, depending
on local laws and your veterinarian's
recommendation. Unvaccinated dogs that
come into close contact with a skunk must
be quarantined or put to sleep. Vaccinated
dogs that have skunk contact should be
given a rabies booster as soon as possible,
regardless of when they were last immunized.
Spread by ticks, Lyme Disease has become
a significant human health problem in
El Dorado County, but because the disease
is difficult and expensive to diagnose
with certainty, there have been few proven
cases in dogs. When we suspect Lyme disease,
we treat with antibiotics. The dogs usually
get better and we are seldom certain whether
the condition being treated was Lyme disease
or something else.
Dogs that roam in brushy areas and get
lots of ticks should be vaccinated. Those
restricted to their own immediate area
and never get ticks probably don't need
it. Immunization is given as an initial
series of two injections three weeks apart
followed by an annual booster.
Bordetella, a common cause of "kennel
cough", is a severe but rarely fatal
respiratory disease. Because it spreads
through the air in confined areas, kennel
cough is common even in clean, well run
boarding kennels. If your dog will be
at the groomer's frequently or periodically
left at a kennel, it is wise to protect
against the disease. Most boarding kennels
require it. For dogs that don't need year
'round protection, the best time to administer
the vaccine is two to four weeks before
going to the kennel.
Roundworms & Hookworms
Heartguard Plus and Interceptor, two new
combination heartworm medications, also
kill the intestinal worms common in our
area. By using either of these products,
we eliminate the need for routine fecal
examinations and separate worming medications.
However, if your puppy has persistent
diarrhea please bring in a small fecal
sample to check for other less-common
If you see little short white worms (1/2
inch long or less), these are probably
tapeworm segments. When the segments dry
they look like grains of brown rice and
may stick to your dog's hair. If you see
anything like this, let us know and we
will dispense medicine to use at home.
Prescription tapeworm drugs are extremely
effective, very safe, and cause no discomfort
whatever. Non prescription tapeworm medications
don't work very well and often cause intestinal
cramps and diarrhea.
Before dispensing medication, we need
to know your dog's weight. If he is not
extremely small or too large to lift,
you can be sufficiently accurate by weighing
yourself with and without the dog. Otherwise,
bring him along. We will weigh him and
set up the prescription when you come
Because of a mosquito species that lives
in oak trees at our elevation, the Sierra
foothills of NorthernCalifornia have a
serious heartworm problem-worse than just
about anywhere else in the Western United
States. In 1972, approximately one fourth
of all heartworm cases reported in California
were diagnosed at Placerville Veterinary
Clinic. In our area, dogs that don't receive
prevention medicine, especially if they
sleep outdoors, will probably get heartworms.
If we discover the problem in time, heartworms
can be eliminated, but treatment is difficult,
dangerous, and expensive. And even with
treatment, heartworms cause permanent
damage. Although the treatment isn't nearly
as dangerous as many people seem to believe,
regular testing followed by treatment
when needed is not a reasonable alternative
We recommend Interceptor Chewable Tablets,
because they taste good and need to be
given only once a month. In addition,
Interceptor kills hookworms, whipworms
and roundworms, eliminating the need for
separate worming medications and routine
fecal examinations. It is important to
use Interceptor every month without fail.
Dogs with heartworm disease ordinarily
have adult male and female worms living
in the heart, and microscopic baby heartworms
throughout the bloodstream. Baby heartworms
become adults only after living in a mosquito
and then getting into another dog when
it is bitten by the mosquito.
Because we cannot detect heartworms until
about six months after infection, we never
know for sure if puppies already have
heartworms when we start them on prevention
medication. Although this is a concern,
the risk of puppyhood infection is small,
and we can safely wait to perform an initial
heartworm test until about fifteen months
of age, when rabies and distemper booster
vaccinations are given. After that, we
encourage you to test every two years
to protect against the small possibility
that a dose has been missed, or the extremely
small possibility that the medicine isn't