Oceanside Animal Clinic Puppy Care Recommendations

Congratulations on the acquisition of your new puppy! Owning a dog can be an extremely rewarding experience, but it is also a large responsibility that lasts the entire lifetime of the dog. This handout is a guideline to help get you the information needed to make some excellent decisions regarding the care of your puppy.

It is important to get your puppy established for veterinary care as soon as possible in order to make a plan to ensure he/she receives proper protection and that you receive timely and appropriate advice. An initial health check is typically recommended at a minimum of 6-8 weeks of age, at which time we will begin vaccinations and parasite prevention protocols.

Preventative Care At-A-Glance

6-8 weeks: Initial wellness exam, Da2pp Vaccine, Fecal Exam, Deworming and Flea/Tick prevention
12 weeks: Wellness Exam, Da2pp-L Vaccine, Bordetella Vaccine, Flea/Tick/Heartworm prevention +/- additional fecal exam/deworming
16 weeks: Wellness Exam, Da2pp-L Vaccine, Bordetella Vaccine, Rabies Vaccine, Flea/Tick/Heartworm prevention +/- additional fecal exam/deworming
6 months: Heartworm test and continued monthly prevention or switch to Proheart Injection
6 months – 1 year: Spay/Neuter (May recommend 1-2 years for giant breed dogs)
After 1 year: Switch to adult food, boost all vaccines at 1 year, then continue Leptospirosis and Bordetella annually, and Da2PP and Rabies every 3 years. Year round flea, tick/heartworm prevention and annual heartworm testing are recommended.
Please note, these recommendations are general guidelines and may change based on each pet’s individual needs and circumstances.

When should my puppy be vaccinated?

There are many fatal diseases that can affect dogs. Fortunately, we have the ability to prevent several of these by vaccinating your puppy. In order to be effective, these vaccines must be given as a series of timely injections. Ideally, they are given at about 6 to 8, 12, and 16 weeks of age, but the recommended vaccines and schedule of injections may vary depending on your pet’s individual needs.

The core vaccination schedule will protect your puppy from several harmful diseases: distemper, hepatitis/adenovirus, parvovirus, (DAPP) and rabies. We also strongly recommend vaccinating against leptospirosis, a bacterial disease transmitted in the urine of local wildlife. In addition, if you plan to board your pet, take it to puppy classes or dog parks, or otherwise frequent high dog traffic areas, we recommend vaccination against Bordetella, one of the common causes of kennel cough syndrome.

Our recommended vaccine schedule is as follows:
– 6-8 weeks: DA2PP
– 12 weeks: DA2PP, 1st Lepto, 1st Bordetella
– 16 weeks: DA2PP-L, Bordetella, Rabies

This timing may vary slightly based on when the first vaccine is given, but in general the DA2PP vaccine should be boosted every 3-4 weeks until they are 16 weeks old.
All of these vaccines are then boosted at 1 year. Leptospirosis and Bordetella continue to be boosted annually, whereas DA2PP and Rabies only require every 3 year immunization after the first set of boosters.

Microchip Identification

The most widely recommended pet identification device is the microchip. This tiny device is implanted with a needle much like administering an injection. A special scanner can detect these chips; veterinary hospitals, humane societies, and animal shelters across the country have these scanners. A national registry assists in the identification and return of microchipped pets throughout the United States and Canada.
The microchip can be quickly implanted during any regular veterinary appointment. Ideally, you should have your puppy identified with this permanent form of identification at its first puppy visit. Alternatively, this can be done while under anesthesia at the time of spaying/neutering.

Intestinal Parasites and Deworming

Intestinal parasites are very common in puppies. Puppies can become infected with some types of intestinal worms before they are born or later through their mother’s milk. Microscopic examination of a stool sample will usually help your veterinarian to determine the presence of most intestinal parasites. This exam is recommended for all puppies, especially during their first few veterinary visits. Routine deworming during puppyhood as well as year-round prevention is recommended.

Flea Prevention

Year-round flea prevention is recommended in this area, and depending on the product can be started as early as 8 weeks of age. Topical Advantage II or Advantage Multi, or oral Nexgard or Simparica Trio may be given monthly depending on your preference. Please be sure to bring up any questions you may have regarding these products during your puppy visits.

Heartworm Prevention

Heartworms are important parasites that can live in the dog’s bloodstream and cause major damage to the heart and lungs that often results in death. Heartworms are transmitted by the bite of mosquitoes. While historically, heartworm disease has not been a significant concern in this area, with increased travel and climate change, we are starting to see an increase in heartworm prevalence. We therefore recommend year-round heartworm prevention and testing, especially if you will be traveling out of area with your pet. In general, an initial heartworm test is recommended at 6 months of age and then annually after that. Either a monthly oral combination preventative such as Simparica Trio or Advantage Multi may be used, or once your pet is 6 months old, a Proheart injection may be given every 6–12 months.


We know pet foods and nutrition can be overwhelming and you have many, many choices. In general, our recommendations are to feed a commercial dog food that meets AAFCO standards and has undergone extensive feeding trials. Vetted brands include Purina Pro Plan, Hill’s Science Diet, and Royal Canin. If one of these diets is being fed exclusively, it offers a complete and balanced nutrition profile, and additional vitamins/supplements are unnecessary. Typically, we recommend feeding a puppy-specific food until 1 year of age. Additionally, for large breed dogs, we recommend one of the large breed puppy formulations, as these help reduce the risk of some bone and joint growth problems in these breeds. Finally, we recommend feeding a “grain-inclusive” diet, as there has been a potential link found between “grain-free” diets and dilated cardiomyopathy (heart disease) in dogs. If you have further diet/nutrition questions, we are happy to discuss them in more detail.

General Care

Socialization and training are incredibly important as well as learning safe handling of your pet. Puppy obedience and training classes can be incredibly rewarding for you and your pet. We also recommend you get your puppy used to handling its ears, paws, and mouth as this will make it easier for ear cleaning, nail trimming, and dental care in the future. Please let us know if you would like additional information and we are happy to help in any way we can!

If you have questions or concerns, please call us at 360 642 2232 or visit our website www.oceansideveterinary.com

Why does my puppy need more than one vaccination?

When puppies are born, they get a temporary form of immunity through maternal antibodies obtained via nursing. These maternal antibodies provide passive protection against diseases that the mother has been exposed to, either naturally or by vaccination. This passive immunity is of benefit during the first few weeks of the puppy’s life, but at some point, its levels decline and the puppy must be able to develop its own active long-lasting immunity. Vaccinations are used to provide this long-lasting protection.

As long as the mother’s antibodies are present, vaccinations are unable to stimulate the puppy’s immune system because the mother’s antibodies neutralize the vaccine.

Many factors determine when the puppy will be able to respond to vaccinations. These include the level of immunity in the mother at the time of birth, how many antibodies the nursing puppy absorbed, and the general health of the puppy. Since it is unknown when an individual puppy will lose its short-term maternal immunity, a series of vaccinations are given. The goal is for at least two of these to fall within the time frame when the puppy has lost immunity from its mother but has not yet been exposed to disease. A single vaccination, even if effective, is not likely to stimulate long-term immunity, which is critically important.

Rabies vaccine is an exception to this, since one injection given at the proper time is enough to produce long-term immunity due to the lack of maternal antibody interference.

Why should I have my female dog spayed?

Spaying is the surgical removal of the uterus and the ovaries, and eliminates the dog’s estrus, or “heat” cycles. When to spay a female dog is not always straight forward, and there are pros and cons to waiting for them to experience an estrus cycle.
Spaying before the dog experiences her first estrus cycle has 3 benefits: it eliminates the risk of unplanned pregnancy and helps control the problem of dog overpopulation; it eliminates any possibility of uterine disease; and it virtually eliminates any chance of developing mammary (breast) cancer. Therefore, it is often recommended to spay your puppy at 6-7 months of age, prior to her first heat cycle. However, there are potential benefits in waiting until your pet is slightly older, including a lower risk of urinary incontinence and improved joint maturity. Especially in larger breed dogs, waiting until growth plates are closed may result in lower risk of certain orthopedic diseases when they are older. In these dogs, waiting until they are 8-12 months of age to spay is often more reasonable.

The decision of when to spay your dog is often individual to the pet and your situation. We encourage you to discuss this with your veterinarian to determine what is best for your family.

Why should I have my male dog neutered?

Intact male dogs are attracted to a female dog in heat and will climb over or go through fences to find her, making them prone to getting lost, injured, or even hit by cars. Intact male dogs tend to be more territorial towards other male dogs. Intact male dogs are prone to develop prostatic disease as they age and testicular cancer is relatively common in intact male dogs.
Neutering or castration is the surgical removal of the testicles, and will prevent or decrease these problems, as well as being an effective method of controlling the problem of overpopulation. The surgery can be performed any time after the dog is six months old. In large and giant breed dogs, we recommend waiting until at least 10-12 months of age, as their growth plates take longer to close than small breed dogs.
After neutering or spaying your pet, their metabolism will typically slow down and they are prone to gaining weight. Therefore, it is typically recommended to feed 20-30% less within about a month after the procedure.

Do I need pet insurance?

If you are considering pet insurance, now is the time! As veterinary medicine becomes more technologically advanced, the cost of care increases. That’s because of higher costs associated with the equipment, facilities and training required to provide these higher-quality services. Pet health insurance can help by offsetting some or most of the costs of diagnosing, treating and managing your pet’s illness or injury.
There are now many different pet insurance companies, and it is important to do your research prior to choosing one to make sure you fully understand what each plan costs and covers. Pet insurance plans are generally reimbursement plans – you pay the bills up front and are reimbursed by the insurance provider. Ask the insurance provider how claims are processed and what the timeframe is for reimbursement.
Ultimately, it’s your decision whether or not to buy, what coverage to choose, and from what company. There are consumer websites that compare the features and costs of pet insurance, and/or offer reviews, and you might find these helpful.