New Born Puppy Care:
Give Your Puppy the Right
Start in Life

The following article on new born puppy care was adapted from an article I wrote for Puppies USA magazine. This health care planner will outline the basics of what your puppy needs to thrive in his first year.

For lots more information on your dog's health as he matures, check out the rest of our site, including articles on dog illnesses , dog first aid , and dog vaccinations.

But first, be sure to read our tips on new born puppy care. Taking care of a puppy is a big responsibility, and this information will be sure to get you through your puppy's first year with flying colors!

You’ve just brought your new puppy home, and you’re on cloud nine. You can’t help but smile at those sparkling brown eyes beaming up at you and that little pink tongue darting out to lick your face. But puppy parenthood is about more than just sloppy kisses, playtime, and long naps -- it's also about new born puppy care. After all, your puppy is dependent on you for everything – especially his health care needs.

If you feel a bit lost, don’t worry. The following guidelines will help you master the basics of new born puppy care.

Puppies six months of age and younger are in the “pediatric life stage.” This is a critical developmental period of new born puppy care. During this time, regularly scheduled checkups are crucial to ensure your puppy is maturing properly. This is also the time to begin preventive care that will pave the way for your pup’s future health.

“A preventive life stage program consisting of comprehensive examinations for puppies younger than 6 months is an essential part of providing for their general health needs,” says Johnny Hoskins, DVM, PhD, diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine. “Such checkups go far beyond simply bringing your puppy in for his scheduled vaccinations.”

According to Dr. Hoskins, a comprehensive office visit usually occurs at 6, 9, and 12 weeks of age and should include the following:

  • Complete physical examination
  • Record of accurate body weight
  • A check for external parasites and dermatophytes [a group of three types of fungus that cause skin disease in people and animals]
  • Initiation of necessary therapy for fleas, ticks, and ear mites; mange mites; and dermatophytes
  • Fecal examination
  • Use of an appropriate anthelmintic product [a drug used to expel parasitic worms from the body]
  • Initiation of a heartworm preventive protocol
  • Administration of the first set of vaccines according to risk assessment and health needs.

Dr. Hoskins says that veterinarians should also provide new puppy parents with educational information, including:

  • Identification, treatment, and control of fleas, ticks, and ear mites
  • The benefits of preventive management for canine heartworm disease
  • Management of normal and abnormal puppy behaviors
  • Normal skin, nail, and ear care
  • "How to" on grooming and nutrition.

The practice of automatically administering yearly vaccine boosters to adult dogs has recently come under scrutiny, as researchers discover that immunity from vaccines potentially lasts for several years.

“Without a doubt, modern vaccine technology has enabled us to protect our canine friends effectively against serious infectious diseases,” says W. Jean Dodds, DVM, founder of Hemopet animal blood bank and a noted researcher in the field of canine vaccines. “In fact, the widespread use of vaccination programs has so significantly reduced the risk of disease that today we have the luxury of questioning conventional vaccine regimens and adopting effective and safe alternatives.”

An important part of a safe, effective canine vaccine program during new born puppy care is to make sure that puppies receive the “core” vaccines [those vaccines that the advisory boards of the American Animal Hospital Association and American Veterinary Medical Association deem necessary] in order to protect them from dangerous viruses. Dr. Dodds’ core vaccine schedule is:

Distemper Virus + Parvovirus (MLV) + Adenovirus 2 [protects against hepatitis]

  • Give first dose at 9 – 10 weeks.
  • Repeat at 14 weeks.
  • Repeat at 16 – 18 weeks (optional).
  • Repeat at 1 year.


  • Give first dose at 20 weeks or older, as allowable by law.
  • Repeat at 1 year (use Rabies, killed 3-year product and give 3-4 weeks apart from distemper/parvovirus booster).

“Other vaccines such as those for kennel cough complex, leptospirosis, and Lyme disease can be considered depending upon the area the puppy lives in and his risk factors for exposure,” says Dodds. “However, these ‘non-core’ vaccines should not be administered at the same time as the ‘core’ vaccines, since giving ‘vaccine cocktails’ increases the risk factor for side-effects.”

It is common for puppies to develop intestinal parasites such as roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, and tapeworms. Puppies can contract parasites in a number of ways, including through the placenta of an infected mother while they are still in the womb. They can also ingest them by eating soil, fecal matter, or fleas. Certain parasites, such as hookworms, can even pass through the puppy’s paw pads and travel to his intestines.

As part of new born puppy care, all puppies should be dewormed. Although some people claim that deworming should begin as young as 2 weeks old, “unless the puppy is clearly parasitized with a big potbelly, you do not need to start so young,” says Dodds. She advises initiating treatment at 6 weeks old and repeating at 9 weeks. Puppies at increased risk should also receive treatment at 12 weeks with a follow-up fecal check at 4 – 6 months.

Unless there is severe infestation, Dodds recommends a gentle dewormer such as pyrantel pamoate [available under the brands Nemex ® and Strongid –T ® by Pfizer and generic formulations]. If the puppy’s fecal test shows significant worm infestation after 9 weeks of age, stronger dewormers such as fenbendazole [sold as the brands Panacur® and Safe-Guard® by Hoechst as well as generic formulations] can be administered.

Deworming products should only be used as prescribed by a veterinarian. “Do not use over-the-counter dewormers such as those sold at the popular superstores or from feed stores,” says Hoskins.

Fleas and ticks
Fleas and ticks are more than just a nuisance. They live by feeding off of the blood of mammals and can cause numerous health problems for the host. If bitten, some dogs can suffer from allergic dermatitis, a reaction to the chemical compounds in the flea’s saliva. Fleas can also cause anemia and spread tapeworms. Ticks can also harbor and transmit disease, including Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Ehrlichiosis, Anaplasmosis, and Babesiosis. This is the last thing you or your puppy needs during his new born puppy care.

Protecting puppies from fleas and ticks is a necessity to keep them healthy. The issue is balancing effective flea and tick control with your dog’s safety. Monthly spot-on flea and tick treatments [those that come in a tube or a vial and are squeezed onto a certain spot on the body] are popular options. However, puppy parents should be careful which products they use, as some contain toxic chemicals that can pose severe acute [immediate] and chronic [long-term] health risks including, in rare instances, death. Avoid products that contain the harshest insecticides, such as organophosphates, pyrethroids and carbamates.

“Topical, spot-on treatments are the best choice to protect against fleas and ticks, but they should only be used under the supervision of a veterinarian,” says Dodds. “Never use over-the-counter products, as these contain the most harmful toxins. Also, avoid ‘one-product-kills-all’ treatments, since they are more likely to cause reactions than single-ingredient preparations.”

With some simple precautions, many flea and tick problems that accompany new born puppy care can be avoided without the use of chemicals.

  • Bathe your puppy frequently.
  • Keep grass raked and cut short.
  • Regularly comb your puppy with a special fine-tooth flea comb.
  • Frequently wash pet bedding in hot water.

Spaying and neutering
Spaying and neutering offer many benefits, including:

  • Elimination of unwanted litters
  • Greatly decreased risk of developing mammary cancer later in life for females spayed before the first heat
  • Reduced risk of prostate abnormalities such as benign prostate enlargement and prostatitis in neutered males
  • Elimination of testicular tumors in neutered males
  • Decreased incidence of roaming in males
  • Neutered males are less likely to mount humans or other animals
  • Reduction in undesirable behaviors in males and females due to the mating cycle.

Although many veterinarians in the United States recommend that elective spay/neuter be performed at 6 – 9 months of age, studies reveal that dogs spayed and neutered at 7 weeks of age exhibit faster anesthetic recovery than those spayed and neutered at 7 months of age. To decrease the risk of urinary incontinence in females, delaying spaying until at least three months of age may be beneficial.

As you plan your new born puppy care program, remember that you don't have to make decisions alone.

“It’s vital to form a close relationship with a veterinarian you trust and respect,” says Dodds. “This person should become your partner in creating a wellness program for your puppy that will follow him for the rest of his life.”

I hope you enjoyed our article on new born puppy care. For an at-a-glance health care time-line for your puppy's first-year, check out our newborn puppy care guide.

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