Dog Life Stages

After you get a new puppy, it is important to come in for an initial exam and establish care.

Our priorities are to identify any medical problems, develop a long term health plan, and help foster a bond between you and your new pet.

During the first exam, we will cover/do a number of things:

  1. First and foremost, we want to make sure your puppy is healthy and address any maladies.
  2. Next, we want to lay out a schedule for updating future vaccines, deworming, spay/ neuter, etc., needs. Each individual has a little bit different needs, some dogs need more vaccine than others. Some dogs are better off waiting until they are older to be neutered, while other’s should have the surgery done early (of course some may want to be kept intact so they can have puppies)
  3. Educate, educate, educate, there are so many things to touch on and go over, such as which vaccines to get, which flea product, which Heartworm preventative product, behavior issues, nutrition, and many, many more. There are so many flea products, that it can be overwhelming. We will help identify which product best suits your pet’s needs.
  4. Answer questions! We want to emphasize that we are a resource for you. We encourage questions. If we don’t have an answer, we’ll do our best to find the answer!

Here is a typical Puppy Visit Schedule with vaccines. (The abbreviations are explained a little further down, and we ideally have the first visit right around 8 weeks of age).

8 weeks Exam with Dr.
Vaccine DH(L)PP
Fecal test
1st Flea product application
1st Heartworm preventative
12 weeks Follow up exam with Dr.
Vaccines: DH(L)PP, Bordatella
Review Flea and Heartworm products
16 weeks Follow up exam with Dr.
Emphasize importance of yearly exams
Vaccines: DH(L)PP, +/- Rabies
Review Flea and Heartworm products
Discuss spay/ neuter procedures
Discuss microchip and Licensure
20-24 weeks Spay/ neuter
+/- Rabies vaccine

On the morning of the spay/neuter surgery, we will have you withhold food (no breakfast). We will do a check in procedure between 7:30 and 8:00, during which one of our technicians will go through a checklist/ consent form. Your pet will stay with us for the day. The surgery will be done in the morning and he/ she will stay with us until mid to late afternoon for observation. When you come in for pick-up, we will go over home-care instructions.

Vaccine Explanation

Vaccines are important for developing and sustaining a strong immune system. Dogs are given an initial vaccine series as puppies.

Exams are done yearly after that and are tailored to your dog’s needs.

The following is an explanation of our vaccine abbreviations and a brief description of diseases that we are vaccinating against:

DH(L)PP – Often referred to simply as the distemper vaccination, the DHLPP vaccine prevents a number of canine diseases:

  • Distemper: This is a type of virus that can cause severe disease and affects multiple body systems. Gastrointestinal, respiratory, and neurologic systems are most commonly affected.
  • Hepatitis: Canine Adenovirus is the active virus causing Hepatitis. It causes damage to the liver, as well as multiple other organs. In severe cases vomiting, diarrhea, and vascular collapse can occur.
  • Leptospirosis: There are multiple types of Leptospirosis. It can affect people as well as animals especially dogs that like to investigate dirty puddles and such (where infected wildlife may have urinated). The disease can cause kidney failure, liver failure, sepsis, death. There has been a reemergence of the disease in recent years. Smaller dogs are prone to vaccine reactions, therefore we forgo the vaccine in certain dogs. (and is why it is in parenthesis)
  • Parainfluenza: Parainfluenza is a virus that causes respiratory disease. Tracheobronchitis and persistent coughing are common. By itself, it is usually not severe but it can allow for secondary pneumonia to develop.
  • Parvo: Parvo is a virus that causes intestinal disease, leading to severe diarrhea and vomiting. Parvo can be severe and is very contagious. Parvo is one of the more common contagious diseases we see. Vaccination is very effective at preventing it!

Rabies – Rabies is not only a life threatening disease for pets but is also transmissible to people. Because of the public health concern there are many government regulations concerning rabies vaccination with potentially harsh consequences if your dog is not current on vaccines.

Bordatella – This is a bacteria that causes tracheobronchitis and is often referred to as Kennel Cough. As with parainfluenza it causes a persistent “hacking” cough. The organism is easily transmitted between dogs, regular vaccination greatly reduces the incidence of disease. An annual vaccine is usually adequate, but if your do is frequently around unknown dogs (parks kennel, etc.) more frequent vaccination may be beneficial.

General Health Topics for your Dog

  • Yearly Exams – Dogs are unable to “voice” their discomforts. A complete history and physical exam can reveal problems that allow us to improve your dog’s quality of life.
  • Intestinal Parasites – Round worms, hook worms, tape worms, and coccidia are common parasites that we treat. Puppies are especially prone to parasites and we typically deworm them with each initial vaccine visit. The need for adult dogs to be dewormed depends on their “lifestyle”. Fleas often carry tapeworm eggs, which can lead to tapeworm infestations in your dog.
  • Fleas and Ticks – There are many products available from numerous sources with widely varying effectiveness. We recommend Advantage, Vectra 3D, Comfortis, and Trifexis. They are safe and very effective. Each individual pet has different needs, and each product has different features that it offers – we can help what suits your pet best!
  • Heartworms – This is a parasitic disease of dogs that exists at modest levels in our area. Not very far from us, Southern Oregon and Northern California (Grants Pass to Sacramento), Heartworms are at high levels. Dirofilaria immitis is the causative agent, mosquitoes transmit the larval stage, which develop into adult worms that reside in the heart. Congestive heart failure develops as a result of impaired heart function. It is a treatable condition but has potentially serious complications and is costly. Prevention is the key; we recommend monthly preventative tablets (Heartguard, Iverheart, or Trifexis), which kill larval stages.
  • Ovariohysterectomy (spay) and Castration (neuter) – We recommend surgery between 5-6 months of age. Females benefit from a decreased incidence of mammary cancer if Ovariohysterectomy is performed prior to the 1st heat cycle. The benefits for males include; a calmer attitude, less likely to mark territory, less likely to have dominance-aggressive behavioral problems, and avoids accidental breeding’s.
  • Anesthesia – There are numerous procedures that require anesthesia. We have an excellent safety record but there are always risk factors involved with anesthesia. To help eliminate risks we recommend pre-operative blood work. This helps us evaluate internal body systems. The specific blood work that we recommend depends on your dog’s age and condition. We have numerous anesthetic monitoring devices as well. The anesthetic agents that are used now, are much safer than what were used even 10 years ago.
  • Dental Health – Routine dental exams and dental cleanings are an important part of preventative medicine. Special toothbrushes, toothpaste, treats, chew toys, and prescription diets are also available to aid in dental care. Providing good dental health for your dog can add years to its life. As your pet gets older, regular dental cleanings may become important for preserving healthy teeth. Smaller breed dogs are much more prone to dental disease.
  • Emergency Service – During working hours we are available for emergency needs. Emergency Veterinary Hospital is available for after hour and weekend needs. They are located in Springfield just two blocks from us (near intersection of Pioneer Parkway and Q Street). The phone number is 541-746-0112.
  • Behavioral Issues – We deal with many behavioral issues, ranging from learning “potty training” to separation anxiety and aggression problems. Separation anxiety in particular is as common as 1 in 6 dogs. Severity varies, but some cases cause a lot of damage to the house and even to the pet themselves. There are techniques to help, as well as herbal remedies, pheromone therapy, and prescription anti-anxiety medications available. Ideally we intervene early and avoid the need for medications.
  • Nutrition – Nutrition has a major impact on an individual’s health and lifespan. Pet food labels can be misleading. A food may have 15% crude protein listed, but that does not mean it is digestible. A leather shoe is a good example, it has as much as 10% protein. BUT it is not digestible = the body cannot utilize it. SO, BEWARE = labels can be misleading.
    It can be hard to determine if a food is of good quality, marketing is extremely aggressive. Raw meat, no corn, grain free, may have some value for certain individuals – but for the most part they are just marketing buzz words. Some dogs genuinely have underlying gastrointestinal issues and need a specialized diet, in these cases, veterinary guidance is strongly recommended. Avoid low cost foods, but at the same time don’t assume that a food is good just because it’s expensive.

Housebreaking Hints provided by “Heeling Free”

  1. Get your dog on a regular feeding schedule (2-3 times each day). Don’t leave food down all day. Leave it down for 20 minutes at each feeding and then pick it up.
  2. Feed the same food all of the time. If you give your dog a piece of toast today and a hamburger tomorrow, it will be a harder job.
  3. When you and your family are home, keep an eye on your dog. This will give you the chance to learn what your dog’s signal will be. Your dog may circle or sniff. When you see this, take your dog out right away. Use a word as you go outside like “Outside” or “Potty” or whatever you wish. As soon as your dog goes, give your dog lots of praise. Use the same area if you can.
  4. If you can’t keep an eye on your dog, keep your dog in a small space. An airline kennel works will. Don’t treat it like jail and don’t correct your dog by putting him in the kennel. You can use words “in your bed” when you put your dog in the kennel.
  5. If you find a mess in the house, you need to go back to step #3 and read it again. Keep an eye on your dog or confine your dog and you won’t be finding messes.
  6. In some cases, higher quality food will have less filler and less resultant stool to clean up.
  7. Be sure you are teaching your dog other things too. Your dog learns that you are the teacher and this makes it easier for your dog to learn about housebreaking.
  8. Paper training can be used if you are going to be gone for a longer time than your dog can hold. This is true for your puppy too. Give your dog the choice of a hard surface or a few layers of newspapers. Take some of the soiled papers and place them in the yard where you want your dog to go.
  9. Keep in mind the importance of “hard surface” or “soft surface”. Your dog may go from your tile floor onto your carpet and relieve himself. He does not do this because he hates you or because he is evil. He is actually trying to do the right thing, he thinks “the ground is soft and so is the carpet”.
  10. Keep a record of when your dog eats and when your dog goes. After a few days, you will see a pattern. This will help you schedule trips out at the right time.
  11. Spend time teaching your dog the right thing to do. It will be easier and kinder than letting the dog have accidents than just using corrections.
  12. If you want your dog to stop going in a certain place, start feeding the dog there. Leave the dog food dish at that spot as a reminder that “this is where you eat.”

Adult Stage

At this stage of a dog’s life, they should be happy, healthy, and having relatively few problems. However, some dogs do have problems and the best way for us to help is to have regular check-ups. Some of the conditions we see are:

  • Dental disease – even in youth, some dogs have significant dental disease
  • Skin disease – fleas, food allergies, and inhaled allergies all manifest as itchy skin
  • Overweight – while young, being heavy is often tolerable, but with age it can genuinely lead to more and more problems
  • Behavior – Numerous dogs have behavior issues that we can address
  • Stiffness – Joint stiffness is a common problem and manageable in most cases
  • Infectious disease – which we try to prevent through vaccination

Those are typical issues, of course there can be many others issues ranging from bite wounds, trauma, leg injuries, internal organ disease, metabolic disease, etc.

Senior Stage

At what age does a dog become a senior? It really seems to vary with the individual, generally we think of it as around 10 years of age. Large breed dogs definitely show their age sooner. It is important to emphasize that each individual is different, age related issues vary greatly.

All of the conditions listed amongst “˜adults’ also apply to seniors; to an even greater degree! Regular exams become even more important. Regular lab-work is very helpful in identifying internal organ disease and endocrine disease early in their course.

Dental disease – becomes more problematic with age and can impact overall health profoundly

  • Skin disease – ongoing issue for a surprising number of dog.
  • Overweight – really causes issues with senior dogs, especially with joint stiffness
  • Behavior – some dogs mellow with age, and some . . . . become problematic
  • Urinary Issues – be a problem, females are prone to infection and incontinence
  • Infectious – always a potential issue
  • Organ disease – kidney, liver, etc. can develop disease – blood work is key to identifying
  • Endocrine disease – diabetes, hypothyroidism, hyperadrenocorticism are all endocrine diseases we see
  • Arthritis – reduced mobility, decreased jumping, etc. – there are medications that can help

Regular exams and routine lab work can help catch things early. Management of disease is much easier if caught earlier.