As the proud parents of a puppy or kitten, you have taken on some big responsibilities. The puppy or kitten will be entirely dependant on you for food, water, shelter, training, good hygiene, good health, plus lots of love and attention.
They will need bedding, brushes, collars and leashes. For dogs, it is best to have a crate so that they can be house trained. Cats should have a cat carrier for safe traveling. And, of course, toys for mental stimulation, learning what its allowed to chew on, and playing. Pet proof your house- there should be nowhere they can crawl into that you can’t reach to extract them from. Keep electrical cords out of reach, chemicals locked away and garbage pails securely closed. For, the first 2 or 3 months of life, they should not be going outside except puppies for house training, under strict supervision. Kittens should quickly adapt to using a litter box.
Still a work in progress, puppies and kittens have a lot of bone and soft tissue to construct, and require a high level of protein in the diet to provide the “raw materials”. They also have a whole big world to explore, with a lot of running, jumping and playing, so they need a high energy concentration in the diet to provide the fuel. There are many quality brands of puppy and kitten food available to meet these needs. Chose a convenient spot to feed your puppy or kitten and use it consistently. Be sure to clean the dishes after each feeding and offer water with each meal. Puppies and kittens can be fed 4 times daily until 12 weeks of age, and then 3 times daily until 6 months old. After that, twice daily feeding should be enough, and large dogs after a year may be fed once. Frequent feeding will reduce the risk of hypoglycemia in small breed puppies. Unfinished food should be removed when they walk away from it. Regular meal times will help to regulate their bowels and make house training easier to coordinate. Cats are unlikely to become overweight if they get used to twice daily feeding with no food left down in-between meal times.
Puppies of large breed dogs provide a special consideration because of the tendency some of them have to develop “hip dysplasia”. This is a condition, partly hereditary, where the hips fail to form properly over the first 8 months of life. Instead of forming deep “ball and socket” joints, the joint is shallow and flattened, and arthritis will develop over time. With any given hereditary background, the deformity will be worse in puppies that are encouraged to grow rapidly and undertake strenuous exercise during their first year of life. I recommend that after large breed puppies reach 3 months of age, they be switched to a lower protein, “adult maintenance” formula food, to slow their growth rate. I also recommend supplementing their diet with Cornucopia Phyto- & Super-food, which will provide all the vitamins, antioxidants and chelated minerals they need to form healthy bones and joints.
Puppies need a lot of exercise to grow up healthy, but it should be structured and supervised. After 3 months of age they can begin to spend time outside, but it should be on a leash, and be part of their training sessions. Walks of 15-20 minutes a few times per week can be exceeded once you are confident the puppy can handle more. Walking and running helps strengthen the heart, lungs, and muscles, while games of fetch challenge puppies mentally. Running with an older puppy is alright, but be sure to monitor the amount of time and energy spent so the puppy is not exhausted. Running with someone on a bicycle is never a good idea.
Kittens will usually have sprints of intense activity, running and jumping all around the house. Be sure there is nothing the kitten is likely to fall from or knock over that could cause an injury.
There are a number if infectious diseases to which puppies and kittens are susceptible for which we recommend vaccination. Puppies are given a series of 3 types of vaccine. One protects against Distemper, Parvo virus, Parinfluenza, and Hepatitis. It is given every 3 weeks until they are at least 15 weeks old. They should spend a minimal amount of time outdoors, just “to go to the bathroom”, until they have had 2 or 3 of these vaccines.
The 2nd protects against 4 stains of a bacterium called leptospirosis, which is carried in the urine of wild animals and causes very serious liver and kidney disease, also transmittable to people. The vaccine is given twice, 3 weeks apart. We usually give it in the weeks in-between the “distemper shot”.
The third vaccine is the rabies shot, which is required by law, We give that vaccine in a week when they aren’t due for either of the other 2. By splitting up the vaccines this way, and by giving a “premed” injection of Benadryl, we keep the risk of vaccine reactions to a minimum.
Kittens are given 3 or 4 kinds of vaccine also. From 6 weeks on, they need a vaccine to protect against Feline Distemper and upper respitory virus (i.e. Herpes). This is repeated in 3 weeks, and a Rabies shot is usually given at that time. Kittens are also susceptible to a disease called Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP). A vaccine to protect against this disease is given by nose drops and can be given with the distemper shot. Kittens who may be exposed to feline leukemia (such as those that will be going outside) should be protected with 2 doses of leukemia vaccine, three weeks apart. First, they should be blood tested to ensure they don’t have the disease already, and we may also test for a disease called Bartonella (carried by fleas, and notorious as the cause of “cat scratch fever” in people) at this time.
Both male and female dogs may be neutered after 6 months of age, females usually before their first “heat”, or estrus. Unspayed bitches are prone to false pregnancies, mammary cancers and pyometra, an infection of the womb. The latter is common, may be fatal and requires emergency ovohysterectomy (not always safe when the dog is old or gravely ill). Male dogs are usually castrated to stop unwelcome behaviors such as vagrancy, excessive libido or aggression, or, later in life, to treat prostate enlargement. Both male and female cats are routinely neutered at 6 months of age. Otherwise, females will start going into heat frequently, becoming pregnant if they go outside. If they don’t go through pregnancy, they are prone to pyometra and mammary tumors. Un-Neutered male cats spray urine and become territorial, getting into fights, resulting in abscesses and disease such as leukemia and immunodeficiency virus. For these reasons, we strongly recommend any pet not intended for breeding should be spayed or neutered at the appropriate time.
A crate is a home within a home, sort of a dog’s bedroom. It’s similar to a den in which they would be raised in the wild. The crate will provide the following benefits;
Somewhere to stay when no one is home, so that they can’t get into mischief.
Most puppies are reluctant to soil their own space, so this helps them to learn house training.
When in the wild their mother senses danger, she will gather the puppies and put them in their den. Thus, they will learn not to stray beyond their boundaries.
When puppies are playing too aggressively or misbehaving in any way, the crate (AKA Den) instinctively provides a place for them to take a “time out”, and helps them learn to avoid that behavior.
To teach puppies not to defecate in the house, we take advantage of their instinct not to soil in their crate, together with a reflex that encourages them to defecate about 15 minutes after eating. To ensure regularity, feed the puppy 4 times daily (up until the age of 3 months, then reduce to 3 times daily) and feed the puppy at the same time every day. Then, 15 minutes later, take the puppy outside to the designated area to go to the bathroom and praise the puppy for using it. Do not take puppies outside for any other reason. For one thing, they are not fully vaccinated yet, and besides, if they learn that outside is a fun place to play, they will forget the reason you brought them there. If the puppy does not defecate when brought outside, bring him or her inside, place in the crate for 5 minutes, and then return outside to the designated potty area. Repeat steps as needed until the bowel movement has occurred and then lavish with praise.