So you decided to get a puppy... this is an exciting and challenging time for your household! We realize that there are probably a lot of questions on your mind and we're here to help you through the puppy raising process. At each visit we will try to cover different topics depending on your puppy's stage of development. Here are a few answers to some common (and very important!) questions:

What vaccines should my puppy receive and when should he receive them?

By the time you pick up your puppy, he may have already received one or two sets of vaccines. Vaccine schedules can be very confusing and are different for every pet depending upon their age, previous vaccinations, and lifestyle.

  • Rabies: This is the only vaccine required by law. Your puppy needs one vaccine after 12 weeks of age and then a booster 1 year later. After your puppy has received two vaccines one year apart, he should only need to be vaccinated for Rabies once every 3 years.

  • Distemper (distemper, hepatitis, parainfluenza, parvovirus): We recommend the distemper/parvo vaccine be given every 3 weeks, ideally beginning at 6-8 weeks of age, with the last one given between 14-16 weeks of age. A booster must be given in 1 year and then annually or every 3 years, depending on your dog’s lifestyle.

  • Leptospirosis: Leptospirosis is a disease of the liver and kidneys that may be contracted by the urine of an affected animal, and may be passed to people by handling the urine of an affected pet. Wild animals, primarily raccoons, skunks, deer, rats, and opossums, have been suspected as exposure sources for rural and urban dogs. This vaccine is usually given in combination with the last 2 or 3 distemper vaccines and then boostered annually.

  • Kennel cough (Bordetella): Routine Bordetella vaccinations at Salem Animal Hospital are given intranasally—without needles. This vaccine can be given as early as 3 weeks of age and needs to be boostered annually. If your dog will be boarded, groomed, going to puppy classes, or in contact with other high-risk dogs, we recommend this vaccine be administered as soon as possible.

  • Lyme Disease (Borrelia burgdorferi): Lyme disease is a tick-borne illness that can cause lethargy, swollen lymph nodes, and arthritis. However, in more serious cases the heart and kidneys may be affected. We recommend this vaccine for all dogs because of the high risk of developing this illness. The initial vaccination series requires 2 injections 2-3 weeks apart, after 9 weeks of age, and annual boosters thereafter.

Why do I need to bring in a fecal sample to every visit?

Fecal analyses give us an indication of the types of parasites your puppy may have. A negative fecal float does not mean that your puppy has not had worms or does not now have worms in its body. If we do see eggs on a parasite float, we will require a follow-up fecal after completing the deworming protocol to get an indication whether or not the medication needs to be repeated immediately. Most of the heartworm preventatives also act as dewormers for several common intestinal parasites, so giving heartworm monthly greatly reduces your puppy's risk for acquiring new infestations in the future.

What is heartworm disease and how do I prevent my puppy from getting it?

Heartworm disease is a parasite infestation of the heart and pulmonary blood vessels. Larvae are carried by mosquitoes and transferred between different animals by biting and sucking blood. Preventative medication should be given monthly to kill any larvae present in the body before they mature into mature adults. Different preventatives are available—ask your veterinarian which medication may be best for your puppy. Dogs may be started on Interceptor at 4 weeks of age and Heartgard Plus at 6 weeks of age. If your puppy is 6 months of age or older, we will require a heartworm test to make sure there is not infection prior to starting medication.

Should I use flea and tick preventatives on my puppy? Which ones are safe and effective?

There are no reasons to not protect your dog from flea and tick infestation. Flea saliva is a common allergen responsible for itchiness, reddened skin, and hair loss. Fleas also carry eggs for a certain type of tapeworm. Ticks carry many disease agents including those causing Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. We recommend and carry Frontline, which is safe for both dogs and cats.

When should my puppy be spayed or neutered?

We generally recommend dogs to be spayed or neutered around 6 months of age, BEFORE a female's first heat. We require pre-anesthetic blood work within 4 weeks prior to surgery to ensure that your dog is in the best possible health. The liver and kidneys are the major organs responsible for metabolizing anesthetic agents, and unfortunately, often no signs of illness are obvious in young animals with mild or moderate dysfunction. Clotting tests check for any bleeding tendencies that may not otherwise be appreciated until surgery.

At Salem Animal Hospital, your pet usually goes home with you the SAME DAY as the surgery and may need to return in 10-14 days for suture removal.

What are microchips?

This is an electronic chip that stores a number unique to your pet. If your pet gets loose and is brought to a shelter or vet clinic, they can be scanned and identified. The microchip is administered with a large needle similar to a shot. If your pet has not been spayed or neutered, we recommend doing this at the time of surgery. You must register your pet with the microchip organization and keep them informed of any changes to your phone number or address. We use only the Home Again microchip.