Puppies change fast and haven't developed their immune systems, so a veterinarian will be examining your puppy every 4 weeks, which corresponds with distemper and parvo vaccines. We try to plan these visits at ages 8, 12, 16, and 20 weeks.
Puppies have undeveloped immune systems and are very susceptible to infectious disease. In the first few months we teach their immune systems to recognize the most common and/or dangerous diseases dogs can get. We vaccinate for distemper, parvo, hepatitis, and para-influenza (in one shot) 4 times at ages 8, 12, 16, and 20 weeks. Bordetella (kennel cough) is boosted at ages 8 and 12 weeks, after which we add a leptospirosis vaccine for the 16 and 20 weeks visits. Once the puppy is old enough (usually around 16 weeks), we give a rabies booster which lasts for a year. By 6 months of age puppies have typically finished their puppy boosters and need no additional vaccines, but if any boosters were missed, we will give them when they come in for spaying and neutering.
Young puppies are the most susceptible to parasites and therefore we are very careful about offering the maximum protection against them. On the puppy's first visit we will give an all purpose dewormer which will kill the most common types of intestinal parasites. We will run an intestinal parasite test during every puppy visit until we receive 2 back to back parasite free fecal samples. Also during your first visit we will start your puppy on a heartworm/intestinal worm preventative (Iverhart Max – protects against heartworms, tapeworms, hookworms, and roundworms) and a flea preventative (Front Line – protects against fleas and ticks). At 6 months of age we have successfully treated any puppy parasite issues and we are just continuing to give a once a month heartworm preventative as well as a flea and tick preventative. It is important in North Carolina that your dog stays on a heartworm AND a flea preventative every month.
A young healthy puppy does not usually undergo any type of extensive lab work or procedures. We will be running intestinal parasite checks every four weeks until we have 2 back to back parasite free samples. When you bring your puppy in to be spayed or neutered we will run some pre-anesthetic blood work to make sure that your dog is fit to be a surgical candidate and to get a baseline for their internal body chemistry.
Spaying and Neutering Your Puppy
At 6 months old, it's time to get spayed or neutered! When your pet comes in for one of these procedures, the doctor will examine them again, making sure they continue to mature well, are fit for surgery, and have lost all of their baby teeth.
This is also an opportune time to implant a microchip under their skin to make sure that if they ever make a dash for it, everything that can be done to insure their safe return to you is done.