Animal Hospital of Donald F. Steen D.V.M.

Puppy Wellness

                The wellness of your puppy can be broken down into four areas of concern:  Nutrition, Disease Prevention, Parasite Control, and Behavioral Development. For the purpose of this discussion, we will consider puppy-hood
to be from birth until 15 months of age.


                The most important factor in optimal physical development, aside from genetics and exercise , is nutrition. Proper nutrition means feeding the essential nutrients at the proper ratios and the proper amounts as determined by the latest nutritional research. This nutritional data is readily available through the National Research Council and with this data, and the expertise to use it, one could formulate a home-made ration(diet) that would meet the nutritional requirements of a growing puppy.  Fortunately, this work has already been done for us by trained nutritionist that are employed by the major pet food companies. Therefore, regardless of what you might hear, I think picking a feed from one of the nationally recognized companies that has been formulated for the appropriate age and size of your pet is your best option. It does not have to be the most expensive product on the market, but generally, except for some of the designer brands, I believe you get what you pay for in dog food. The cheapest feed is rarely the best value, and sometimes neither is the most expensive. If you have questions about specific brands, I will be glad to give you my opinion of their suitability.

                Once you have chosen a feed, stick with it. In my opinion, changing foods each time you run out and need to replenish is neither necessary or beneficial. Supplementation of the food with table foods, raw eggs, or raw vegetables is not desirable. Prepared vitamin/mineral supplements are rarely needed and should only be given upon advice of your veterinarian. I know this might be controversial, and my reasons for making this statement are beyond the scope of this brief discussion, but I would be glad to discuss them with you in person at the time of examination.

                The proper amount to feed will vary with each individual, so make it simple. FEED YOUR PUPPY ALL THAT IT WILL EAT IN A TEN MINUTE PERIOD TWICE DAILY. That's it! Now whatever  that amount is, it will increase weekly in  growing puppies until about seven months of age. At about seven month of age most puppies(some giant breeds might be exceptions) will begin to cut themselves back on the amount that they will eat . When this happens some people panic and think something is wrong, or that the puppy no longer likes the food. They buy different food or begin to add other things in order to entice the puppy to keep consuming the previous amounts. DO NOT MAKE THIS MISTAKE. You will only contribute to creating an overweight dog.

                Most puppies can transition to an adult diet at one year of age. Some large and giant breeds might benefit from a puppy diet for a longer period.


                                                          Disease Prevention

     A well-planned disease prevention program is essential for the  health of your puppy. The American Animal Hospital Association, in Guidelines for Vaccination:



                             Vaccines provide proven life-saving benefits, are associated with
                                 minimal risk, and should be part of routine preventative health care.
                                 Life stage and lifestyle, risk of exposure and underlying medical
                                 conditions should all be considered when developing a vaccination 

    Despite the negativity coming from the holistic community, immunological science supports the above statement, and we have adopted a vaccination protocol that is safe, effective and practical. It consists of what is referred to as core and non-core vaccines. Core vaccines are those that every puppy needs. Non-core vaccines are used in special situations that are more high risk, but are not essential for every puppy. Below you will find a discussion of the vaccines currently available for an array of disease in the dog.

     DA2PP- This vaccination contains antigens that stimulate immunity against the Canine Distemper Virus, Adeno Virus type 2, Canine Parvo Virus and Parainfluenza. We consider this to be a core vaccine that every puppy needs. In order to make sure every puppy has a chance to develop maximal protection, this vaccine must be given as a series of inoculations at regular intervals. 

    Rabies- This vaccination contains an antigen that stimulates immunity against the Rabies Virus.  It is a core vaccine and is needed by every puppy. It is also required in every dog by the State Board of Health as a public health precaution.

    Leptospirosis- This vaccination contains an antigen that stimulates immunity against one of the many strains of the leptospirosis bacteria. It is not currently one of our core vaccines.  This vaccine may, however, be appropriate for some situations, i.e. dogs that live in farm settings, hunting dogs, and dogs from households that have had confirmed cases of leptospirosis in the past. The duration of immunity is relatively short, and some studies have suggested that  re-vaccination should be done every 6 months.

    Bordetella- This vaccination contains an antigen that stimulates immunity against Bordetella bronchiseptica, the causative agent of the disease known as "kennel cough". This is not a core vaccine, but it is highly recommended in cases where dogs are going to be in frequent contact with other dogs from outside their own home. This vaccine is often required by boarding kennels before allowing admittance.

    Lyme- This vaccination contains an antigen that stimulates immunity against Borrelia burgdorferi, the causative agent of Lyme disease. This is a tick-borne disease that is rapidly emerging in our area.  Currently, this is not one of our core vaccines, but we are using it more and more in at-risk dogs. As the epidemiology of this disease changes, it may become a core vaccine in the future.

    Canine Influenza- This vaccination contains an antigen that stimulates immunity against Canine Influenza virus. We have never confirmed a case of canine flu in this practice and are currently using this vaccine only upon owner request.

    We are not currently using Corona Virus, Giardia, or Periodontitis vaccines in any dogs.

                                               Puppy Wellness Schedule

 3 to 5 Days  Dock Tail and Remove Dewclaws if applicable.
 3 Weeks  1st Deworming, begin to introduce solid food
 6 Weeks  Physical Examination, Fecal Examination, First DA2PP, 2nd Deworming, Microchip (if desired)
 6 1/2 to 7 Weeks  Fully weaned and placed in new home
 9 Weeks  2nd DA2PP, Fecal Examination
 12 Weeks  3rd DA2PP, Rabies Vaccination, Fecal Examination (if warranted)
 16 Weeks  Final DA2PP, Discuss non-core Vaccines and administer as appropriate
 6 Months  Spay/Neuter, Fecal Examination
 9 Months  Fecal Examination
 15 Months  First Annual Examination, DA2P Booster, Rabies Vaccine Booster, Fecal Examination, Mosquito/Tick Borne Disease Screening


Parasite Control


    Parasites can be either internal(within the body) or external(on the outside the body or in the skin). Examples of internal parasites are roundworms, hookworms, and coccidia.  Examples of external parasites are fleas, ticks, and lice.

    Internal parasites live within the tissues of the body. Depending upon the parasite, they can be found in the gastro-intestinal tract, liver, kidney, lungs, brain, and spinal cord as well as many other tissues. The most common parasites that we see in young dogs are found in the gastro-intestinal tract. They are roundworms, hookworms and coccidia. Good hygiene plays a large role in the control of internal parasites. Keeping the whelping box and the subsequent puppy quarters clean and free of fecal matter is essential. We encourage breeders to begin their first litter treatment for roundworms and hookworms at three weeks of age. It is important that your veterinarian recommend a product that is both safe and effective. We begin checking fecal samples at 6 weeks of age for parasite ova and tailor a parasite program for the particular species of parasite that we identify. Surveillance for internal parasites will carry on throughout the life of your dog.

     It is important to screen for coccidia at 6 weeks.  These protozoal parasites can cause anemia, bloody diarrhea, and neurological signs in young dogs. Coccidia can be treated effectively when detected early, but can cause life-threatening situations when left untreated.                                                   

 External parasites, such as fleas and ticks(seasonally), are the two most common species that we encounter in young dogs. Lice, ear mites, demodectic mange mites and sarcoptic mange mites occur, but with less frequency. At the time of your puppies first examination, we will inspect for any obvious signs of these parasites and if found we will make recommendations for treatment. As for fleas and ticks(seasonally), we will make a recommendation for control and prevention.


                                                  Behavioral Development

    As our U.S. population becomes less and less connected to the agrarian society of years past, it seems to me that our instincts in relating to our domestic animals has lessened. The percentage of clients coming into my office with dogs that are out of their control have definitely increased over my 40 years of practice. Although I could not find any statistics in the U.S., a study in Denmark cites that 23.6% of dogs euthanized in that country are euthanized due to behavioral issues. Based on observation of "rescue" dogs that I have treated, I would estimate that a significant percentage of these were surrendered due to behavioral issues. Through being more active in counseling with new puppy owners during examinations and offering New Puppy Owner classes , we are attempting to be more proactive in helping to mold the personality and behavior of your puppy in a positive way. 

    Many factors are at play in the behavioral health of your puppy.  Genetics, breed/situation, early socialization, age at which the puppy is acquired, and owner experience are a few of the most important. If you are considering acquiring a puppy, we hope that you will give us the opportunity to counsel with you before you make your final choice.  Also, consider enrolling in our next New Puppy class if you already have a new puppy under 10 weeks of age. Currently there is no charge for these classes.








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