Puppy Health Care Milestones
Puppy health care milestones are all about doing a seamless handover from mother’s milk to medicine. That’s right, your puppy is born with a significant amount of immunity from their mum. Then they get a good booster dose of immunity as suckling puppies.
Soon though, they start weaning and that in-built immunity wears off. As a first time pet owner, knowing what to expect and when means you can ensure your pooch is never without some level of protection. From vaccinations and worming through to tick and flea treatments, here’s what you need to know:
Planning your puppy health care schedule
At just two weeks, puppies open their eyes and see the world for the first time. Around three weeks, they may already start weaning from their mum, playing with their brothers and sisters and wagging their tails!
At this young age, they’re already being exposed to several creepies and crawlies and becoming vulnerable to canine viruses. Which is why it’s crucial to have a great puppy health care plan in place, so you get in there with prevention rather than cure.
In most instances, your vet will augment the general puppy health care medication and schedule according to your pup’s weight, breed and health. With this in mind, we’ll outline the general schedule but always adhere to your vet’s recommendations.
Key puppy health care milestones:
Here are the key puppy milestones you need to know to give your best friend the best life:
2 weeks: Puppy worming
Worms are inevitable in a puppy’s life and also quite commonplace nasties. Worms are intestinal parasites that live and feed in your puppy’s intestines. This drains a puppy’s energy and can wreak havoc with their health. As a result, you should ask your vet for a good worming treatment.
Your puppy’s worming schedule may vary, depending on their size as well as the worming product you use. Generally, the steps are as follows:
- 2-12 weeks. Once every two weeks
- 12-24 weeks: Once a month
- 24 weeks onwards: Once every 6 months
Remember that these are approximate guidelines and will always vary from dog to dog and vet to vet. Be sure to get your vet’s exact recommendation to suit your dog’s constitution.
6 weeks: Puppy vaccinations
These days the human and canine population seems to be on a vaccination conveyer belt. And happily, these helpful jabs help protect us and our pups from pains far bigger than the pinch of a needle. In Australia, there are three primary or core canine illnesses which are vaccinated against.
Your puppy’s vaccination schedule looks like this:
Core-vaccinations for dogs
- Canine distemper virus. Distemper is a highly contagious virus that puppies are the most susceptible to. Symptoms can include a fever, coughing, sneezing, nasal and eye discharge, paralysis and death
- Canine hepatitis. Hepatitis is an acute liver infection that can affect the nervous system. Symptoms may include congestion, fever, lethargy, loss of appetite, jaundice, seizures and in severe cases, death
- Canine parvovirus. Parvo is a highly contagious virus that can be fatal when left untreated. It causes bleeding in the intestines and symptoms include loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea, hypothermia, bloating and blood in the stool
- 6-8 weeks. Round one of vaccinations
- 10-12 weeks. Booster vaccinations
- 14-16 weeks. Second booster
- 16 months. Third booster
- Annual booster. Every 12 months thereafter
Non-core vaccines for dogs
Depending on where you live and what your puppy is exposed to, your vet may also recommend non-core vaccinations. These will then be included at the same time as your core vaccinations.
- Leptospirosis. A potentially life-threatening bacterial infection that can be that is transmitted from water that contains urine from wildlife like marsupials and rodents.
- Bordetella bronchiseptica. Also known as kennel cough, this is a bacterial infection of the upper-respiratory-tract
- Parainfluenza. Much like the human cold, this can be dangerous when it progresses into pneumonia
- Canine coronavirus. This virus infects the intestinal tract and can be fatal, especially when dogs are very young or are immuno-compromised.
Regardless of whether your puppy is from a breeder, or you’re bringing home an adopted dog vaccinations are core to puppy health care.
Here’s a video that helps explain why:
7 weeks: Tick Treatment
Every year hundreds of dogs die from Paralysis Tick bites. However, if you find and remove the tick timeously, the risk can be minimised. In most cases, you’ll still need to see the vet, and if partial paralysis kicks in, you’ll need to provide for a veterinary hospital stay of up to nine days.
In addition to knowing how to remove a tick, the best method is to have adequate upfront protection with preventative tick medicine. Ask your vet for a recommendation or prescription for puppy safe tick medication. And be sure to follow the product guidelines closely to keep your young one protected from both the ticks and the medicine.
- 8 weeks. Once every two weeks
- 12-24 weeks: Once a month
- 24 weeks onwards: Once every 6 months
Preventative flea treatment generally as follows, and sometimes you can choose a combined all-in-one flea and tick treatment for dogs.
8 weeks: Flea Treatment
A major puppy health care milestone – and a constant one at that, is treating fleas. These awful critters set up shop in and amongst your canine’s fur, and that’s not all. Fleas also go to work, eating, and leaving their poop on your dog’s skin. Which, unfortunately, is then eaten by the larvae.
While the fleas tend to live on your pooch, it’s not entirely an exclusive lodging arrangement. When your dog has fleas (one or many), expect them and their larvae, pupae and eggs to be scattered around your home. Fleas cause dog skin conditions that can be painful and traumatic for your pup.
Speak to your vet about the best preventative treatment to help keep at bay not just the adult fleas, but the eggs, larvae and pupae that quickly develop into frivolous new hordes of fleas. Some products need to be repeated every few weeks, while others are effective up to six months. Be sure to get a puppy safe product recommendation and schedule from your vet.
Once your dog gets fleas you’ll know about it! Because they can jump from your dog into carpet, furnishings and more.
8 weeks: Microchipping
Microchipping is a legal requirement in most states and territories. Besides being for the law, microchipping your dog gives your dog an added layer of protection if they get lost. Pets that go missing and land up in shelters are far more likely to be reunited with their owners when microchipped.
The procedure is quick, painless and allows all your ownership details to be stored in your pet’s chip. This can be scanned by vets, and shelters who will then be able to access your contact details easily. With stolen dogs on the rise since the pandemic hiked up puppy prices, your canine will be more secure with a microchip.
Read all about microchipping your dog to see how it’s done and discover more benefits.
You can microchip puppies anytime from eight weeks on. And in Australia, it’s a requirement that it be done by the time they’re 12 weeks old, or within 28 days of purchasing them.
8 weeks: Puppy teeth cleaning
Start brushing your canine’s canines (we couldn’t resist) when they’re between eight and sixteen weeks old. The younger they are when you introduce them to the enticing taste of dog toothpaste and sensation of the doggy toothbrush, the better.
Routine brushing of your dog’s teeth may sound difficult, but it’s actually a great bonding activity your pup can enjoy. The key is to get them used to it in steps and only when they’re calm. Read dog dental care to find out how easy it can be. You’ll also learn how many terrible sicknesses you’ll be preventing with routine brushing.
You should also have your vet check pup’s teeth at every visit to the vet, and once annually.
24 weeks: Desexing
Desexing your dog comes with ample health benefits and helps curb indiscriminate breeding. Of course, that’s not to say it’s a must-do, but the tables are certainly turned toward it being the most favourable choice. Read our article on whether to neuter and spay dogs to help get prepared and make the choice that suits you and your pooch.
Depending on what breed (or if you don’t know their breed, dog size), the general guidelines are as follows:
- 6-9 months: Small dog breeds
- 8-14 months: Large dog breeds
As you might gather from these guidelines, larger breeds become sexually mature later than littler ones. In addition to your dog’s breed or size, If you’re unsure of your dog’s breed or their eventual size, then a good rule of thumb is for female dogs to be spayed later than six months, and closer to nine. Males on the other hand should be neutered between six and nine months.
And if you don’t know your dog’s breed, but want to, you can always get your pooch a dog DNA test.
Pet insurance for your puppy health care plan
Pet insurance is a great way to safeguard your puppy against the unexpected (and expected). The biggest bills for puppy health care often come out of the blue, with all sorts of medications, hospitalizations and treatments.
With a dog insurance plan, you won’t be gambling with your puppy’s future. Because if they need these treatments, you and your pet plan mean can guarantee they’re possible.