How will proper puppy care impact the life of my dog?

Puppy care is essential to their longevity and providing a healthy, happy environment for your puppy. First and foremost, we start with preventative wellness. That includes vaccination, education about diet, growth, what your puppy should be doing, what normal behaviors are, and what's abnormal. That will be the stepping stone to setting your puppy up for a long, healthy life.

Dr. Rachel Kennedy
Highland Park Animal Hospital

Why is it important to start good puppy care on day one?

Good puppy care starts with preventative wellness, as we've talked about, but also education about training. It could really limit your pet's quality of life if they're poorly trained, or you lack understanding of what they're supposed to be doing. Providing adequate exercise and playtime enriches your puppy and allows them to be socialized and very well-equipped to handle the world they're about to enter.

How soon should I bring my puppy in to see a veterinarian for their first exam?

Your new puppy will most likely be between six and eight weeks old, depending on how early you adopted them. Some breeders will go ahead and give puppies out at around six weeks, while others wait a little bit longer. It could be later, for sure. Right after you receive your new puppy, just like kittens, you want to establish a good relationship with your veterinarian, even if that means a general exam, meeting with your veterinarian, asking questions, and getting acquainted with how the whole thing works. That's a good first step. So right off the bat, get that scheduled. Then we can talk about vaccinations, deworming, general preventative care, and how to go forward from there.

What are the most common health problems in puppies?

Puppies can exhibit a multitude of diseases, most commonly infections: parasites, bacterial, and viral infections. Their little immune systems are not equipped to handle much of that, which is why vaccination is important at a young age. Additionally, they don't have the immunity to really protect themselves well against parasites, and they're very susceptible. So those are the most common illnesses. We also see some congenital issues that your veterinarian can diagnose at that first visit.

What are some signs and symptoms of illness in your puppy?

Puppies will typically be playful, active, and have a ravenous appetite. We tell people to look out for if their energy decreases or they're lethargic, if they're having any sort of coughing, difficulty breathing or labored breathing, or any sort of ocular or nasal discharge. If they're exhibiting vomiting or diarrhea, anything like that can be a sign of underlying infection or disease. Diarrhea is very common in puppies. It can range from just a little soft stool to very liquid. A multitude of underlying issues can cause this, but most commonly, it will be from intestinal parasites. We like to get these dogs dewormed adequately and test that fecal sample for any underlying parasites. It can also result from a bacterial or viral infection like parvo.

We want to ensure that we're testing and preventing those diseases with routine vaccinations. Vomiting goes hand in hand with diarrhea. It can result from infections like parvo, distemper, and some of those scarier diseases, but it also can be caused by intestinal parasites. So that's definitely a sign to look out for. If you're noticing vomiting, it's a good time to call your veterinarian. They can progress quickly with this and become dehydrated, so we never want to sit on that one too long. Not eating is very important in your puppy. It can be a very insidious sign of underlying disease. They could have a fever and nausea. It's a little bit vague, but it's definitely important to note. Puppies typically have a ravenous appetite. They eat everything you put down in front of them, so any decrease or lack of appetite is worth contacting your veterinarian.

If your puppy is also exhibiting other signs, such as increased drinking, that can be a sign that they are not regulating themselves well internally, so they could be dehydrated and compensating. There could be other reasons for that, so it's definitely worth calling your veterinarian about. Sometimes we'll see it with increased exercise or heat, which are reasonable explanations. But if we notice it outside those situations, you should definitely give your vet a call. Just like kittens, puppies can be susceptible to upper respiratory infections. Doggies can exhibit upper respiratory signs, such as coughing, sneezing, and runny nose, just like people. While it's typically mild, it can indicate more severe diseases, distemper being one of our big concerns, so it's definitely worth giving our veterinarian a call. Puppies and kittens can be susceptible to all sorts of infections. They can have straining secondary to diarrhea or inflammation in their colon. They can also get constipated and have issues defecating that way. If they're having issues with urination, such as increased urination, decreased urination, lack of urination, or small frequent urination, many combinations can indicate disease. So it's definitely worth giving your veterinarian a call, and they can test that urine or those feces and see what's going on.

What are the signs of a healthy, thriving puppy?

A puppy, just like kittens, will be playful and active, have a good appetite, and drink enough water. They are gaining weight appropriately and exploring their environment. They're interacting with different people and different animals appropriately with their vaccinations. The signs of a well-rounded puppy are both physical, social, and mental health. So it's important to expose your puppy to lots of new things so that they're a well-rounded, happy dog later in life.

When should I start training my puppy?

Right off the bat. There is no time like the present. Get your puppy acquainted with things in your house and start puppy training. Puppy classes are typically going to be reserved for dogs that are fully vaccinated, but it's definitely something you can start at home safely. Teaching lease training, potty training, and crate training are all really important. Also, allowing some socialization with some known fully vaccinated dogs is okay during the vaccination period.

What will my veterinarian be looking for when first examining my puppy?

Your veterinarian's going to be looking for congenital issues such as heart murmurs, umbilical hernias, teeth issues, cleft pallets, and things like that. That can be the result of genetics and will probably be there since birth. Then secondly, we'll be looking for signs of underlying diseases and infections: runny nose, runny eyes, a painful abdomen, diarrhea, vomiting, and anything like that. Skin issues are a big thing this summer as well. Those will all be things we're looking for during your exam and that we can have a nice trained hand do, and it's going to be really important to schedule those visits.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (214) 833-9821, or you can email us at But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can. Don't forget to follow us on social media,