Puppy Health Basics

Give your puppy a healthy start by covering these dog basics.


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When: Puppies must eat more frequently than adults because their higher metabolism digests food quickly and smaller stomach holds less. Feed new puppies four times a day and gradually decrease the number to two per day by the end of the first year.

Remember: Avoid overfeeding. Diets too high in calories can compromise bone growth in larger breeds and lead to orthopedic problems.

The Veterinarian View: "There isn't one food that is right for every single pet," says Eric Eisen, DVM. "Some dogs do well on super-premium foods; others won't touch them. And, when switching foods, do so gradually over 10 to 14 days by replacing increasingly larger amounts of the old food with new food."

Take your puppy to be spayed or neutered in the first year.

Why: Thousands of unwanted puppies are born each day in the United States. Most will face euthanization due to a lack of adoptive homes. By spaying or neutering your pet, you are helping to minimize the homeless dog population.

When: The American Veterinary Medical Association endorses spaying/neutering for dogs as early as 8 weeks old. Many veterinarians prefer to wait until 4 to 6 months—when vaccinations are completed and the puppy is stronger and better able to withstand the anesthesia.

Remember: Sterilization offers behavioral advantages. Females' risk of pregnancy is spared, males' aggressive behavior tempered, the urge to breed eliminated. Males and females will have a lesser tendency to wander when the female is in season.

The Veterinarian View: "Spaying or neutering has many long-term health benefits," Dr. Eisen says. "The chance of mammary cancer—one of the top cancers in unspayed femalesis almost completely eliminated. Uterine infections, uterine cancer and ovarian cancer are also virtually eliminated. In males, [risk of] prostate problems, rectal tumors and testicular cancers [is] eliminated, and in dogs with existing rectal tumors, neutering often is the only necessary cure."

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