Puppy Care

Congratulations on the acquisition of your new family member!  Owning a dog is a rewarding experience, but also carries important responsibilities. This advice is just the beginning of your journey with your new companion! Please feel welcome to ask any questions that arise; we are here to help!

We recommend puppies begin their vaccinations between 6-8 weeks of age. Often your breeder will start these for you.  Most dogs in our area benefit from a full C5 vaccination. This includes your C3 vaccination (canine parvovirus, canine distemper, and canine adenovirus (hepatitis)) and Kennel Cough vaccination (canine parainfluenza virus and Bordetalla bronchiseptica bacteria).  Some puppies may have increased risk of Leptospirosis, which can be protected against by the C2i vaccination (also referred to as a C7).

Recommended Schedule:

Puppy Age


6-8 weeks


10-12 weeks

C5 +/- C2i

14-16 weeks*

C5 +/- C2i

6 months for at-risk breeds^

C5 +/- C2i

*-16 weeks is considered optimal, but 14 weeks is acceptable for most dogs.
^-certain breeds may not respond as well to vaccination. Rottweilers are a common example.


This schedule has been formulated based on the international standards set out by the WSAVA global veterinary group, and simplified for general recommendation. However, every animal is an individual and your veterinarian may recommend a different schedule.  Similarly, if you have a concern with the recommended schedule, please feel welcome to discuss with your veterinarian. 

Parasite Control:

There are 4 general categories of parasites we are concerned about for your average pet dog.
1) Heartworms  2) Intestinal Worms        3) Fleas 4) Ticks

The most immediate concern for puppies is usually intestinal worms and fleas. Due to the lifecycle of intestinal worms, most puppies are born with some worms. This is true even with very careful and dedicated breeders. This is why we recommend early prevention from 2-4 weeks of age with a product labelled for this age of puppy.

Flea control is recommended for puppies in infested households, puppies going outside, or puppies living with other pets who go outside. Flea infestation can cause anemia much more quickly in puppies due to their small size. Fleas also carry tapeworms, which can affect puppies more severely as well.

Heartworm prevention should be initated before your puppy is 6 months old. This is based on the lifecycle of the heartworm, which requires 6 months between infection (mosquito bite) and a reproducing adult heartworm. After about 8 weeks, it is very easy to use an intestinal worming product that also protects against heartworm.

Ticks are less of a concern for puppies, because they are not usually going outside very much. However, older puppies who are playing outside more should receive tick protection, especially if they are playing in shrubs, long grass or bush.   Mites are an infrequent concern for most puppies, but certain individuals may be predisposed.

Assuming you have acquired your puppy at 6 weeks or older, we recommend the following minimum guidelines:

Puppy Age

Preventative Treatment

6 weeks

Intestinal Worming

8 weeks

Intestinal worming

10 weeks

Intestinal worming

12 weeks

May decrease to monthly intestinal worming
Old enough for most flea/tick products

16 weeks

Final puppy vaccines
Ideally all parasites covered ongoing

6 months

Is your puppy on heartworm protection yet?
It should be!

12 months

Quarterly intestinal worming

There are a variety of parasite treatment protocols that meet or exceed these recommendations. Build a plan with your veterinarian based on what schedule you would like your puppy to have as an adult dog.

Puppies are often growing rapidly, so monthly treatments such as NexGard Spectra or Comfortis Plus are often the easiest way to insure the correct dose lasts the appropriate duration. A 10kg dose of Bravecto will not last as long if your puppy becomes 12kg in the next month!


A nutritious diet is a primary cornerstone for a health pet. This is especially true while a puppy is growing! Insufficient nutrition may stunt a puppy’s growth and development. Conversely, excessive nutrients or nutrients that are presented out of balance will cause disjointed and incorrect growth.  Fortunately, over the decades, there have been dozens to hundreds of studies and trials performed to help guide nutritional decisions for our pet dogs.

Marketing terms such as “holistic”, “organic” or “human-grade” have little to no legal definition for pet foods. “Grain-free” has no data to support superiority and is currently being investigated for possible contributions to a type of heart failure in dogs.  Avoid foods that appeal to your emotions as a pet owner; often these companies have spent more money on marketing than hiring teams of nutritionists (some particular brands in the US have been found to only have a single nutrition “consultant”!). While many of these foods may be okay, there are some big questions being asked about whether some of these diets are even safe.  When selecting a formulated pre-made food, we recommend you utilize the following guidelines:

  1.    AAFCO Statement for Growth: “formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles for growth” or “Animal feeding tests using AAFCO procedures substantiate [PRODUCT] provides complete and balanced nutrition for growth”
    1. We acknowledge that this is not an Australian standard and not all products will have such a statement. The PFIAA has a voluntary certification program that accredits adherence to the Australian Standard. This is a manufacturing standard only, not a nutritional standard.
  2.   Conventional-Ingredient and Cooked
    1. Raw diets currently have no rigorous scientific evidence that they are necessary or superior. They do present an infectious disease risk for pets and their humans. This is amplified for puppies, who have incomplete immune system development.
    2. “Exotic” ingredients such as buffalo, crocodile, lentils and still others do not have strong data to indicate how dogs digest and assimilate these nutrients. We do not know if the computer formulation reflects what your dog actually acquires from the food. These ingredients are not essential for any dog; even dogs with diet-intolerances and allergies do not require them in most instances.
  3.   Manufacturer with a long history of quality control, dedicated nutrition research and reliability
    1. See WSAVA Handout : Selecting The Best Food For Your Pet (available on request)
    2. RECOMMENDED BRANDS: Royal Canin, Eukanuba, Purina, Hill’s Science Diet
    3. There are many other brands available that may be OK. Smaller companies are at an industry disadvantage that is difficult to overcome. However, they may also be less reliable.
  4.   Breed-based Guidelines
    1. Most puppy diets meeting the above guidelines will suit toy to medium sized dog breeds
    2. Large and Giant breed puppies should be fed “Large-Breed Puppy” foods to accommodate differences in growth requirements.

Many individuals recommend home-cooked diets. While there are arguments to be made for whole-food based diets, we do not currently recommend home-cooked diets, especially for growing puppies. Formulated food is more reliable and more convienient for you as an owner. We like care to be convinent for you, as this helps insure complete care! However, If you are interested in home-cooking your dog’s food, we recommend:

1)  Consultation with a board-certified veterinarian nutritionist, or PhD Small-Animal Nutritionist. These indivudals can formulate diets that are right for your dog, based on modern and up-to-date scientific research. Not based on food-fads, outdated traditions or human biases. This will be more expensive than your breeder’s advice, but dramatically more reliable

2)  Ample free time to prepare and cook your dog’s food, as well as space to store any frozen batches.

3) Finances to support the additional food ingredient purchases for your household. Meat is expensive!

4) Commitment to stick to the recipes and avoid corner-cutting. Commitment to follow up with your specialist nutritionist if your pet has a lifestyle change requirement (Eg. Diabetes, kidney failure, food intolerance, etc…).  Commitment to be thorough in communication with your veterinarian about your pet’s diet.

We strongly discourage the use of pet mince. Pet mince is poorly regulated and may also have undesirable preservatives that can cause disease for some individuals.  It is simply higher risk. If you give your puppy meat, we recommend cooked meat intended for human consumption.

How do I ensure that my puppy is well socialized?

The socialization period for dogs is between 4 and 12 weeks of age.  During that time, the puppy is very impressionable to social influences.  If it has good experiences with men, women, children, cats, other dogs, etc., it is likely to accept them throughout life.  If the experiences are absent or unpleasant, it may become apprehensive or adverse to any of them.  We encourage you to expose your dog to as many types of social events and influences as possible.  However your puppy will not have built up a complete vaccine protection until 1-2 weeks after their final vaccination, and their immune system will still be growing for many months. Strike a balance and obviously not expose him to the risk of disease but at the same time ensure that as much socialization as possible, both with people and other animals takes place.  Avoid dog parks, dogs recently attending dog parks, or dogs where you are unfamiliar with their vaccination history, health and general demeanor. A mate’s dog that is up to date on vaccines, in good health, and hasn’t travelled around recently is a good opportunity!


Unless you are planning to breed your dog (and are prepared for the large financial, time and personal costs associated with breeding!) we strongly recommend desexing for all companion dogs.  Desexing not only prevents unwanted litters for yourself or your neighbors, but decreases a number of health risks including various infections, cancers and traumatic risks. Desexing—especially as a young dog—can limited unwanted behaviors associated with high testosterone. Dogs do not appear to express emotional loss from the inability to procreate or lick their testicles. Maternal instincts can be appeased with companionship and the risks of pregnancy, whelping, and rearing puppies are not to be taken lightly.

We are commonly asked “When is the best time to desex my puppy?” The only simple and honest is: “it depends”!  Desexing too early can have an adverse effect on growth, as well as may increase the risks of certain cancers (although most of these are still less common than cancers seen in their intact counterparts!). These risks are amplified in select breeds. Desexing too late can allow the development of unwanted behaviors, lead to accidental and risky litters, or (for female dogs) prevent desexing from all-but eliminating the risk of malignant breast cancer.

For most dogs, desexing between 5-6 months of age is a good risk-benefit balance. Most unwanted behaviors have not developed, most female pups have not had a season (or only had one), and the majority of breeds have experienced sufficient growth.  For certain breeds, waiting until they are nearing 12 months old is potentially safer. Examples include Golden Retrievers and Giant Breed dogs (eg. Great Danes). If you are concerns about whether your dog should have a prolonged desexing age, please feel welcome to discuss with your vet.