Puppy - Canine – Age 0 to 6 months
Our Preventative Healthcare Plans allow our attending veterinarians to offer a reward program for preventative screening. Your veterinarian will evaluate your pet’s condition, breed, age, medical history, and lifestyle to create a Health Risk Assessment (HRA)— identifying your our pet’s risk for potential disease. During this evaluation and family discussion we'll create actionable items which vaccinate your pet against infectious disease and allow us to manage other non-infectious diseases or conditions should they occur.
Components of Puppy Life-stage Preventative Healthcare
Physical Exam, Booster Reviews, & Care Counseling from Growth to Early Adulthood
Fecal Centrifugation or ParaTest Examination & Recheck
Initial Inoculations & Pediatric Boosters Against Common Viral Diseases
Total Parasite Protection & Prevention
Pre-Spay/Neuter or Reproductive Screening and Counseling (Consider Orivet Genetic Lifeplan)
HomeAgain Pet Recovery and TempScan Microchip System
Annual Healthcare Planning (Based on Breed, Medical History, or Lifestyle)
Fecal Screening & Protection: A fecal exam is performed to check for intestinal parasites, microscopic protozoa, and occult blood. Many parasites, particularly protozoan parasites, cannot be treated through over-the-counter "wormers" and most parasites can't be seen without the aid of the microscope. Parasites affect your puppy's health and can put your family and other pets at risk. We will provide deworming medication for your Puppy, but did we get them all? For pediatric patients, we perform an initial screen, and a re-screen for free in 6months to catch any infection that may have been sub-clinical during the first screen, and to protect your household.
Inoculating your dog against danger: For all pups, infectious diseases pose an even greater risk while the pet is young. Certain Vaccinations must be bolstered every three weeks between 6wks (when the puppy's maternal antibodies are no longer effective) and 16wks/18wks of age depending on the start age, and lifestyle vaccines needed. Diseases that are considered "core vaccines" for all puppies regardless of lifestyle are the Distemper/Parvovirus complex & Rabies vaccines. While Rabies virus is not common in Indiana, state law and public health risk mandate that all puppies be vaccinated against this disease by 12 weeks of age. Upper Respiratory diseases such as a Bordetella Bronchispectica, Adenovirus, and Parainfluenza virus are endemic in our area and very common. The Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease vaccine is oral now, and is administered once at 9-11wks of age.
There are a handful of other vaccinations that are recommended based on your pet's lifestyle (such as whether your pet boards, shows, lives near raccoons/wildlife, or travels to other areas) or occupation (such as whether your pet guards livestock, hunts, or helps to train other dogs). These are non-core vaccinations, but a titer is started later in the puppy series (usually older than 8wks or 12wks) and is continued based on health risk assessment in later years. These vaccines include Leptospirosis, Lyme's Disease, or Bi-valent Flu (H3N8, H3N2) vaccines.
The AAHA vaccine calculator can help you find out more about the core and non-core vaccinations based on lifestyle.
Total Parasite Protection & Prevention: Who wants to worry about external or intestinal parasites (fleas, ticks, ear mites--hookworms & roundworms) or even heartworms? Not only can parasites pose discomfort and inconvenience in the household, but our pediatric patients are very vulnerable to the direct and indirect diseases unchecked infection can cause. Because your puppy grows so quickly with each passing month, it's important to weigh your puppy in the clinic and continue a parasite prevention program as he or she grows! Different breeds grow at different rates than others and grow more or less than others. We typically use Revolution when a puppy is very small--plus or minus a Drontal Chewable Taste Tablets treatment for intestinal parasites, to help defend your puppy. After 7wks of age, and weight checks, depending on your puppy's lifestyle, we may make other recommendations in combination or out of combination with each other (Topical Provecta Advanced for Active Lifestyle dogs, Simparica Trio for puppies who can accept a simple once monthly multi protectant, Interceptor Plus for puppies who are at risk for multiple intestinal parasites). We are often asked at what age dogs can receive extended-release prevention. At 6 months of age, small to large breeds (1yr for giant breeds) can usually receive a ProHeart 6 injection for Heartworm/Hookworm Protection, and this can be bundled for major savings/convenience with superior external parasite coverage with Bravecto 3month tablets (Prevents Fleas, Ticks, Mange Mites, and Ear Mites).
Microchipping Provides Protection & Peace of Mind: 1 in 3 pets goes missing during their lifetime, and without proper ID, 90% never return home. 67% of pet owners whose dogs go missing identify their dog as a mostly "indoor dog" who never travels. Dogs remain curious into early adulthood, and certain breeds follow their nose and love people enough to find themselves further from home. Microchipping can also assist when determining the right answer in property disputes. Accidents happen, but a microchip for dogs & cats gives the best protection with a permanent ID that can never be removed or become impossible to read. Every month, HomeAgain reunites 10,000 pets with the people who love them. A microchip implant takes just seconds at our clinic, and then your pet has a permanent ID that will last its entire lifetime. HomeAgain TempScan is the only microchip with the benefit of allowing us to measure your pet's body temperature quickly, accurately, and without the use of a rectal thermometer! The final step is to register your pet's microchip with HomeAgain, and we will do that for you in seconds over the internet. We insert the microchip once your pet is 16wks of age during his/her booster visit or discounted spay/neuter visit.
In addition to healthcare: Plan on re-assessing your puppy's enrichment and activity every month based on the puppy's emotional, behavioral, and physical health. Your puppy will grow considerably in both size and learning ability (consider toys, safe chewing/teething items, and monitor your puppy's collar and leads for the correct size). Training should emphasize correct household behavior, basic obedience, and resources for correct learning, play, and separation anxiety prevention—particularly in multiple pet households or households with young children. For more on socialization and developmental steps, please see the below guide on development. There is a LOT of hype online and in varying pet care communities regarding feeding and nutrition for dogs. The Tufts University Cummings Veterinary Center provides a wealth of information on pet food, what to look for, what different pieces of information mean, and more. More specifically, here are their puppy nutrition pages for basic feeding as well as puppies with special needs. We can even safely help you get your pet's food ship to your door via Purina ProPlan Direct our Online Pharmacy, or HillstoHome for the best price without sacrificing value. Please include your cat in your family's emergency action plan! The CDC offers a complete guide and checklist for caring for your pet during times of emergency or disaster--for the love of your dog and the health of your community.
There are breed-specific health concerns that can affect the spot’s quality of life. At your visit, your veterinarian will examine the spot from mouth to tail for any breed-related abnormalities. Consider DNA testing for breed identification in mixed-breed dogs to determine risk factors for breed-specific diseases. A genetic health risk assessment can help determine the best life plan information for your dog's senior years.
Puppies – Developmental Information
A lot happens during a puppy's first year. It's hard to believe that a tiny, yipping baby that fits in the palm of your hand or your purse can grow into a full-fledged adult dog in the length of only twelve or 18 months! A typical puppy growth chart shows that the most changes — and the most amazing ones — happen during the first six months. Puppy development involves a lot of stages and milestones as puppies grow into adulthood. Whether you've adopted a puppy and you're wondering when he'll calm down and stop chewing on everything — or you're simply curious about what puppies go through to become full-fledged dogs — this puppy timeline has the answers you're looking for. Check out this puppy developmental timeline to learn when to expect certain milestones on your puppy's journey to becoming a dog.
Week by Week Pediatric Guide
0-3weeks - Neonatal: Immediately after birth, a puppy should be guided to suckle. The mother passes important antibodies and nutrients to their litter in these first hours and days that support their healthy development. At birth, puppies' eyes are closed, so they cannot see. Puppies are born blind and deaf, with both their eyes and ears sealed shut. For their first two weeks of life, newborn pups experience the world entirely through touch and smell. During the third week their eyes and ears open, giving tiny pups a whole new way to experience life. This is typically because puppies are born without their brains fully developed, unlike other mammals that have longer gestation periods. That being said, a puppy will navigate their way to their mother and littermates using scent and touch for warmth, care, and nutrition. Puppies will spend the majority of their time sleeping at this early stage. It's important that puppies suckle as soon as possible after they are born. Rather than ingesting milk, the puppies ingest colostrum, a substance produced by the mother which supports and enhances the puppy’s immune system. Puppies should be around 1 - 5% of their expected adult weight at birth. Thanks to the nutrition provided by their mother, they will quickly begin to put on weight. How much weight the puppy gains in its first few days is determined by the breed size. Puppies should normally gain around 2 - 4g a day for each kilogram of an adult dog of the same breed. Orphan puppies or puppies who will be unable to nurse from their mother require very special care to survive.
Once puppies are able to hear, they begin to mimic the sounds they hear from their mother. It doesn't take long after their ears open for puppies to go from soft grunts to full-fledged whining and barking. The neonatal period extends from birth until around three weeks. This stage can also be known as the vegetative phase as, externally, most of their life seems to be dominated by sleep and a few reflex activities. Puppies’ eyes begin to open 10 to 14 days after birth and during the third week, the ears gradually begin to function. Both senses will be weak at first but will improve as they progress. Puppies begin to stand around the same time their senses develop. By the third week, they begin taking their first clumsy steps, giving them a new sense of independence. Once puppies become mobile, it's not long before walking leads to scampering around and playing with their littermates. At about three weeks of age, this marks the beginning of the crucial socialization stage as pups learn from their mom and siblings what it means to be a dog. Weeks three to four is also the time when pups develop control over their bladder and bowel movements, and learn to leave their sleeping area before relieving themselves. While puppies will spend all their time within crawling distance of their whelping pen or mother during this period, regular and gentle handling by humans will help puppies cope with stress and human contact more effectively later in life. After birth, puppies will continue to rely on their mother for the important proteins they need to synthesize. As they grow older, they may start to show interest in their mother's food. With the introduction of solids, the weaning process begins.
4-8weeks - Weaning: Weaning is a crucial period in puppyhood, as it signifies the moment when they start to gain their independence. Their eyes and ears are now working to some degree and puppies begin to react to light and sound. First steps are taken and puppies begin to play fight with their siblings, and may even begin to practice growling and tail-wagging as social interaction begins. The fourth week in the puppy timeline is also when puppies begin forming emotional attachments and bonds with the people around them. While it's still too early to separate a pup from his mother and littermates, this is a great time to start getting to know the puppy you intend to adopt. A puppy's mental and physical development is aided by a complex environment. A responsible breeder will provide puppies with a gently increasing amount of human interaction, a range of toys, noise and other stimuli as this stage progresses. While puppies may start trying to sample mom's solid food as soon as their teeth start coming in, it's not until the fourth week that the mother's milk production starts to slow down and pups begin the permanent transition to solid puppy food. This weaning process typically takes about four more weeks, and puppies are fully weaned by week eight. At this stage, the food must be adapted to the development of the puppy’s digestive functions. Infections transmitted between humans and animals are called zoonoses. They are transmitted in different ways, such as bites, raw food, and poop, so talk to your veterinary team about disease prevention. It’s important to let the veterinary team know if there are children, elderly, or immune-compromised family members who may have exposure to dogs and puppies to keep everyone healthy before, during, and after adopting the puppy.
During weeks 4-6 the "immunity gap" begins to occur. At this time, when the level of antibodies provided by the mother are no longer enough to guarantee the puppy is protected, but too high to ensure a vaccination will be effective, the puppy is more vulnerable to disease. If your puppy is a rescue orphan, his/her vaccine and immune status may vary. According to the American Kennel Club, puppies should start receiving vaccinations between six to eight weeks. Puppy Shots Schedule: A Complete Guide to Puppy Vaccinations. By the time a puppy is ready to be adopted, s/he should already be vaccinated for distemper, parvovirus, and parainfluenza one time--this vaccination will need to be repeated while others are added. A pup will be ready for the next round of vaccinations between nine and eleven weeks of age.
By week seven, says Dogtime, a puppy has developed the physical coordination and muscle control necessary to begin house-training. Accidents are still likely. Puppy's muscles continue to develop and s/he gains new neural pathways that help him understand how and where to properly relieve him/herself. A puppy can only be expected to hold his or her bladder one hour for every month that s/he has been alive, up through twelve weeks. Crate training, in addition to timed feeding methods can help your puppy get off to a great start, by using your puppy's natural denning instinct to teach them where to eliminate and urinate. Puppies pee a lot. It's part of raising them from a young age. Even if your puppy is a bit frustrating and even if there is a crating issue, excessive urination can be explored after 12wks of age, or if your pet also presents with a fever or problems eating. Please NEVER KNOWINGLY WITHOLD WATER from a puppy out of frustration. Water needs to be freely offered to maintain hydration and prevent resource guarding or unwanted behaviors.
Although puppies start learning about the world and the social order within their litter by week three, weeks four through twelve make up a crucial window for safe socialization that will make the difference between a pup growing into a well-adjusted dog or one with emotional and behavioral problems. The earlier puppies in this stage of development can start meeting new people, interacting with other pets safely (you'll want to make sure these pups are also vaccinated on time, and have gone through their vet checks so as to not expose your puppy to anything), exploring the world, and gaining new and positive experiences, the better. A lot of fuss is made over socialization, and for good reason, but also know that there are fear periods through puppyhood that can create some unanticipated problems should pups be pushed too hard to meet and greet. Once puppies are fully weaned at week eight, they're ready to leave their canine birth family and go to their new homes. This can be a delicate time. While a pup this age is still within the time frame of readily accepting new family members and new experiences, s/he's also shifting into a fear stage that can last until about week twelve. Puppies at this age need a lot of reassurance and positivity to keep from becoming anxious adults.
8-12 weeks - Hello Puppyhood!: “Puppyhood” is a BIG chapter in spot’s life book. What you do now will have a profound and lasting effect on spot’s relationship with you, other people, and other animals. There are key priorities at different stages of spot’s development, including socializing with a wide variety of people, learning when and on what it’s appropriate to use their mouths (bite inhibition), navigating the world at large, and many more. Tell your veterinarian about spot’s actions. How does spot act and play? Do you use a crate as part of your training? Share any concerning behavior you have seen. Many issues can be addressed and corrected with expert advice from your veterinarian. Ask about selecting appropriate trainers, too! By week nine, after he's had a chance to settle into his new home and form a bond with his new family, a pup is ready to begin basic obedience training. While some pet parents are reluctant to enroll their pups in obedience classes prior to obtaining all of their vaccinations, the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior points out that the socialization benefits of attending obedience classes at this age far outweigh any risks posed by not having completed vaccinations. Make sure to check with your pup's veterinarian to get their opinion first--some pups may be special needs and have an immune system or health history which may delay this process.
After twelve weeks of age, you can double the amount of time you expect your puppy to be able to hold his/her bladder to be a goal of two hours for every month s/he has been alive. This is the stage where structure, activity, and boundary reaffirmation are vital. Puppies have a natural capacity for learning at this age, so it's important that lessons learned during this time need to be adhered to, and training and wider socialization need to be maintained. This will help your puppy develop into a confident, well-behaved adult dog.
Please keep your puppy's growth and dietary formula for pediatric patients up until adulthood. A timed feeding method is best as puppies self restrict fairly well (30mins of food three times daily and they usually will need to go to the bathroom 10-20mins after feeding!). Timed feeding works well with a highly digestible puppy diet. Most pet foods can be evaluated as far as value based on digestibility and use as well as cost per pound. It does not save much money if a puppy has to eat 6 cups a day to grow as opposed to 3 cups of the smaller bag that costs a few dollars more. On the other hand, just because something is boutique does not mean that it is better! Recent studies linked to exotic proteins combined with legumes indicate enlarged, non-congenital heart disease in some dogs! Science and your vet team can help you navigate this complex subject.
Ensuring that your puppy has their own set places for eating and sleeping, as well as a range of toys to play with, will help with the understanding of basic house rules. Exploring a range of outdoor environments and being exposed to new experiences will stimulate learning, breed self-confidence, and generate a stronger bond between puppy and owner. At week twelve, a puppy's dominance and submission instincts start coming to the fore and he starts to figure out where he fits in the social order of the household. At week twelve, the fear stage gives way to curiosity as he becomes more independent and assertive. Now, he needs plenty of reassurance from his loved ones. Usually, pups are secure about their place in the family by about six months of age. Adult teeth start coming in between three and six months of age, which is when the dreaded chewing begins. It's important to puppy-proof the house at this stage, hiding or placing out of reach anything you don't want to get chewed, as well as anything that might pose a choking hazard or otherwise harm the pup, such as power cords or toxic plants. Providing chew toys during this time can help prevent him from satisfying his urge to chew on the living room rug or your favorite shoes.
Your puppy should be fully potty trained (housetrained) by now. If you are using a crate training method, do not lose patience--different puppies are able to conceive of space in different ways. If there are setbacks, particularly with a small breed dog, remember how huge your house is in comparison to "what is outside" vs "what is inside." you may have to use baby gates in addition to crating to help him/her understand that their "den" is larger than they think. By the time your puppy is six months old, or about a month after reproductive surgery, they may be fed their puppy food twice daily without interrupting their growth. Their bone and muscles are growing rapidly, however, so it is wise to continue with puppy food until 12months.
Beginning in puppyhood, dogs need good dental care throughout their lives. spot’s mouth sees a lot of action these days. Deciduous teeth (“baby teeth”) come in and fall out, and permanent teeth may be on their way. Your veterinarian will perform a complete oral exam to evaluate the development of spot’s teeth, gums, and mouth structure. During all this action, spot also wants to chew on everything! This is the time to talk about acceptable and safe chew toys. Hint: Your hand should not be one of them! Once spot’s permanent teeth have grown in, discuss home oral hygiene training with the veterinary team to maximize lifelong health.
Much of a puppy's height and muscle growth happens between six to nine months, depending on the breed size. Milk teeth are replaced by adult teeth, and an adult coat replaces the puppy coat. Somewhere between six to 12 months, your puppy may begin to lift his leg or enter her first heat period. At this point, reproductive and genetic health should be analyzed in an ideal world. Female puppies should not be bred during their first heat cycle.
6-18months - Teenage Puppies and Their Ch-ch-ch-changes!: As adolescent pups become more independent, they may try to assert themselves in the pack order, establish dominance, and stake out their territory. It's common for pups between six and eighteen months of age to push their boundaries and challenge the authority of their human, as well as any other pets that make up their "pack." Although they are all members of the same species, different dog breeds can be poles apart in terms of size, weight, and nutritional requirements. These differences really come to the forefront during the puppy growth period. The five breed sizes all reach adulthood at varying ages. The growth process for puppies differs depending on their breed size. Extra Small breed dogs can reach full maturity at 8 months, while giant breeds are not considered fully grown until 2 years old. Up to eight or nine months, large and giant puppies experience rapid skeletal growth, with the remaining months focusing on developing muscle until they reach their adult body weight (70 times their birth weight in large breeds and 100 times their birth weight in giant breeds).
As puppy transitions into adulthood, their nutritional needs change with them. At this point, it's time to gradually transition them onto adult food that supports the nutritional requirements of their size, breed, and lifestyle. Puppies typically develop the emotional maturity and temperament of an adult dog between twelve and eighteen months of age, although they may continue to occasionally exhibit puppy behavior like chewing and nipping until they're about two years old. Generally, by the time a pup reaches eighteen months, s/he's settled into his grown-up personality and fully acclimated to his place in the family. Now, this doesn't mean he won't still be a bundle of energy — this can continue for a few years depending on the dog, which is why regular exercise and training are important for them to learn proper behaviors.
Resources and Information Credit:
HVC's complete Puppy and Kitten Socialization Guide from Selection to Adulthood
Orphan Puppy & Kitten Care
Royal Canin Puppy Development Timeline
Puppy Timeline: How Puppies Grow up to Be Dogs
AKC How To Potty Train Puppies: A Comprehensive Guide for Success - Sponsored by Purina
AKC The Complete Guide to Traveling With Your Dog
Veterinary Partner Library - A VIN Guide for Pet Parents
Preventative Healthcare Plan Services For Dogs
Our progressive reputation has led us to where we are today with our Preventative Healthcare Plan Services. Gregg J. Gormley, DVM, our Medical Director was an experienced sole practitioner in 2001 and he partnered with Carol A. Gormley, RN—Our Practice Manager at the time and now our Hospital Administrator--to create the first veterinary “Wellness Program” in the Evansville, Indiana area which bundled discounted screening and rewarded our patients with over 100 medical, surgical and boarding service discounts PLUS free core vaccinations every year! An entire generation of dogs and cats have partners with Highland to prevent heartworms, and monitor wear and tear diseases and have enjoyed a lifetime of prevention against rabies, distemper virus, and more without paying a dime for the vaccine.
At the beginning of this program, Molly Welch was their head patient technician, and in 2005 Melissa Gormley was their lead CSR. Molly and Melissa have since gone on to become the Practice Manager (PM) of Finance and Operations, respectively. Each PM can confidently say that today they have learned a lot by evolving these programs and working with Dr. and Mrs. Gormley to continue to customize them and broaden them—always taking advantage of the latest progressive screening techniques, technologies, immunizations, and preventatives to offer a spectrum of customizable and affordable bundles and plans for their patients. We always ask if this were my best friend—what is within reach? What would I want to know and how would I want to improve my pet’s life?