One very important part of caring for your dog is preventative health care, and this starts right from the beginning as a puppy. Vaccinations are one type of preventative health care; however it is also very important to prevent your puppy from becoming infected with fleas, ticks or worms. Breeders will have started this from the very beginning of the puppies lives, by using a strict anti-parasite regime on the pregnant mum.
Most rescue centres will also start a good worming and flea treatment regime for all the animals in their care. If you are not sure what treatments your new dog has had in the past, make sure that you ask the person you are getting your puppy or dog from. Parasites which are targeted with preventative health care include fleas, ticks and worms.
Fleas are small brown insects which feed on blood by biting through the skin. They can be picked up from other animals, or by visiting a house or building where there are fleas in the environment. Only adult fleas are found on animals – flea eggs, larvae and pupae are found in the environment such as in the dog’s bed, in carpets or under furniture. Therefore, if you do find an adult flea on your puppy, you will need to treat your house to completely get rid of the problem. Your vet can supply you with products suitable for this. Ensure you read the instructions carefully, as some of these can potentially be harmful to other animals in the household such as cats if not used properly.
Ticks are small 8-legged creatures which attach to your pet and feed on blood. Ticks tend to be found in grassy areas with a large wildlife population, and are picked up out on walks. They are not fussy about the type of animal they attach to – so make sure you keep your ankles covered when out walking in long grass too! Not only are ticks unpleasant, but they are also carriers of some diseases which can affect dogs. Some preventative flea treatments will also have some activity against ticks, but the best thing to do is regularly check your dog for ticks (particularly the long-haired breeds!) and remove any that you find. Your vet will be able to show you how to remove ticks properly, as it is important not to leave any parts of the tick behind. Make sure you kill the tick once it has been removed so it cannot re-attach itself!
Worms are parasites which live inside the body, and it is impossible to tell whether a puppy or a dog has worms just by looking at them. Some types of worms can be transmitted to humans, especially to children, where they can cause problems, and so it is vital to have a strict, regular worming protocol in place. Make sure that you always clean up after your puppy, and wash your hands after handling them – and ensure that any children in the house know to do this too, as they are particularly vulnerable to these worms. Puppies can become infected with worms from their mother, and so the breeder will have been worming the mother throughout her pregnancy and as the puppies were drinking her milk. However, as puppies are so susceptible to picking up worms, all puppies are assumed to carry them and so your vet will give you a worm treatment regime at your first appointment.
Your vet will be able give you more advice on your dog’s anti-parasite regime, but remember to use products that are recommended by your vet as they are rigorously tested for both safety and efficacy before being licensed for use.