Everything You Want To Know About Your New Puppy…


This wonderful, fast-changing stage in your dog’s life is exciting and requires a lot of attention, first from the puppy’s mother and then from you, their new parent. There is a lot to learn and enjoy in this Puppy Stage!

From Mother to New Parents 

Most veterinarians agree that eight weeks of age is the soonest a puppy should move from their mother and litter to their new family.

Some breeders like to keep their puppies with their litters for a bit longer, sometimes up to 12 weeks. Puppies adopted from shelters are often much older than 12 weeks. But eight weeks is the youngest age to expect when you are eagerly planning for the day you can bring your new family member home.

Your First Vet Visit

And just as you are eager to bring your puppy home, our vets here at Harmony Animal Hospital are eager to meet your new family member and start them down the path of a long and healthy life. Upon acquiring your new puppy, a visit to our vet should be a top priority. Your Harmony vet will want to cover everything from nutritional needs, vaccinations, social development, dental care, and lots more. It is a good idea to schedule your first appointment before you even bring your puppy home so that your new furry family member is registered in our office in case you have any urgent needs and have to come in suddenly.

We look forward to seeing you and your new family member soon after your puppy arrives home!

Puppy Preventive Care

Taking care of a puppy does take preparation and ongoing care. You’ll want to consider their needs, including regular checkups to help manage and promote good health; vaccinations; blood tests; flea, tick, and heartworm protection; and training.

Health Insurance for Your Puppy

Now is the time to consider health insurance for your puppy. With dogs living longer than ever, you want to ensure you will have the resources to treat conditions throughout all their life stages. Here at Harmony Animal Hospital, we want to be able to provide the best services possible at all times. But cost can be an important variable when treatments are expensive. Having pet insurance can be the difference for some families. At Harmony Animal Hospital, we understand that every patient’s circumstances are unique. In most cases, however, pets benefit directly from pet parents taking out insurance to cover veterinary bills. But like medical and health insurance for people, pet insurance policies are complicated.  

Puppy Checkups

Nose-to-tail exams are how we get to know your puppy. A typical exam includes:

  • Any signs of discharge from the nose, which could indicate something as simple as a cold or a more serious issue, such as an upper respiratory infection or even distemper.
  • Any eye discharge (which could be a sign of an infection) or a dull eye appearance. Dull eyes are often a sign of illness, parasites, or even stress.
  • The health of the teeth, gums, and oral cavity. Dental tartar buildup, gingivitis, and halitosis (bad breath) are all indications for recommending a more thorough oral evaluation under anesthesia (scheduled at a later date). This includes performing a complete oral health and treating all oral problems, as unresolved oral disease leads to chronic pain, infection, and a compromised immune system for your pet. We will also take a look at the color of the gums. Pale gums can indicate anemia and the presence of parasites.
  • Check for inflammation, infection, pain, or other abnormalities inside the ears.
  • The condition of the skin: check for any lumps, cuts, or bumps on the body. Dull or patchy hair/skin can indicate your pet is sick. Crust or scabs may indicate a yeast or bacterial infection. We also check for parasites on the skin, including ticks, fleas, and lice.
  • Orthopedic exam checking for signs of pain, arthritis, stiffness, joint swelling, and muscle atrophy.
  • Neurologic exam checking for evidence of nerve issues or brain disease. Also check the neck, spine, and tail for pain or swelling.
  • Lymph nodes that are swollen can be an indication of a more serious illness, such as infection, inflammation, or cancer.
  • Auscultation of the heart and lungs to listen for evidence of heart disease and wheezes, crackles, or fluid in the lungs.
  • Palpation of the abdomen to feel the internal organs for enlargement, masses, or other abnormalities.
  • An overall assessment of their weight, nutrition, and lifestyle.

During the complete physical exam, if anything abnormal or unusual is detected, further tests such as ear cytology, eye testing, blood work, urinalysis, x-rays, or ultrasound might be necessary to determine if additional testing or treatment is needed.

First Year Vaccines

Puppies need several rounds of vaccinations during their first year. Your Harmony Animal Hospital vet will outline the purpose of each vaccine and when those vaccines need to be administered. We will take the time to discuss which vaccinations are essential and which might be optional for your dog. At Harmony, we have a carefully considered and researched vaccine philosophy with your pet’s best interest at its core. It is a good idea to read our philosophy before your first appointment so that your Harmony vet can move right into the specifics of each vaccine with you.

COHAT and Dental Care

Excellent dental care is vital to your dog’s health, and good dental habits need to start during the puppy stage. Your dog’s mouth is the gateway to their health. Therefore, we are passionate about the importance of dental care here at Harmony Animal Hospital.

Between 6 months and 12 months of age, we recommend the first Complete Oral Health Assessment and Treatment (COHAT), which includes Full Mouth Series Dental X-rays. This provides an oral status baseline. We can then determine if there are any immediate issues to address or potential issues to monitor as your pet grows. It is optimal to do this in conjunction with your pet’s spay or neuter unless you are delaying either for reasons you and your vet have discussed.

Along with vaccinations, our extensive dental services are perhaps the most important services we can provide your dog throughout their life to keep them as healthy as possible. Without proper attention, dogs can show signs of gum disease as early as age four or even as early as age 1 in some small-breed dogs. 

At your first puppy appointment, your Harmony vet will explain everything you need to know about brushing your puppy’s teeth with a special toothbrush, dog chews, diet, and more to help you keep the teeth of your puppy, and soon-to-be dog, as healthy and as strong as possible. Click on our dental page and dental videos for tips on toys, brushing technique, treats, broken teeth, and more.  

Certain Breeds Are Prone to Oral Health Issues

Toy and small breed dogs; brachycephalic smooshy-faced breeds such as Persian Cats, English Bulldogs, French Bulldogs, Pugs, and Boston Terriers; and certain other breeds like Greyhounds and Dachshunds are particularly prone to dental problems. This first professional complete dental evaluation while under anesthesia is important for all dogs and cats, but especially for high-risk breeds prone to significant dental issues.

Spaying and Neutering

Sometime around the five-month period, you’ll want to consider spaying or neutering your puppy.

If you never want your dog to reproduce, you will want to plan to have your puppy spayed or neutered. Spaying is the removal of a female’s ovaries and uterus. Neutering is the removal of a male’s testicles. Your Harmony vet will talk with you about the right time to spay or neuter your particular dog, as the timing can vary by sex and species, in addition to other considerations. Our vets are cautious about making sure your particular puppy is mature enough for the procedure. For example, we want to make sure we are not interfering with your puppy’s growth plates, something that is important for joint health down the road.

Spay and neutering surgeries at Harmony Animal Hospital are handled very differently from many other clinics:

  • Treat only one dog at a time, giving each patient individualized attention. 
  • Take great care to make sure that your puppy is as comfortable as possible.
  • Provide the best anesthesiology.
  • Use the latest technologies.
  • Provide wound closing with a laser treatment.
  • Use warming blankets for the recovery period.

At Harmony, we have three goals when spaying or neutering your dog:

  1. Safety
  2. Pain management, and
  3. Communication

Here is our exceptional spaying and neutering promise.

Learn more about our extensive preventive and wellness services here.  

Annual Blood Tests

An annual puppy checkup might include a complete blood panel. This blood test checks many internal organs, such as the health of your pet’s kidneys, liver, and pancreas. It also looks at platelets, as well as red and white blood cells, since these can point to the presence of an infection, anemia, or other problems. The test can also check blood sugar for diabetes and other body functions such as electrolytes.

Ideally, blood tests should be done every year and always prior to anesthesia to establish a baseline of normal for your pet and to check for subtle changes that can indicate an early problem way before you start seeing abnormal signs. Blood panels can also be performed only when we suspect there might be a problem or in preparation for an anesthetic procedure.

It’s important to keep in mind that the vet’s annual or bi-annual pet checkups are not meant to replace proper home care. That means you should get used to touching, examining, and monitoring your pet regularly to check for any changes in their routines or their body. If you notice any abnormality or any signs of discomfort or pain, don’t wait until the next checkup to bring it up; schedule an appointment right away.

Fleas and Ticks on Puppies

Fleas are annoying little creatures who can cause some serious problems for your pet! Skin infections, itchiness, anemia, and tapeworms, just to name a few! When dealing with fleas, it is important to understand the flea life cycle. Adult fleas lay eggs, which roll off your pet and into the environment (carpets, beds, furniture, etc). The larvae hatch out of these eggs, molt a few times, and then form pupae. These pupae cannot be penetrated by any flea product on the market. Stimulated by warmth, motion, and/or pressure, the adult fleas emerge from these pupae, jump back on your pet(s), and the cycle starts over.

The adult fleas you see compose only 5% of the entire flea population! The entire life cycle must be treated to prevent more fleas from infesting your pet.

Ticks are very prevalent in this area, particularly during the summer months. Ticks can carry a variety of diseases, including rocky mountain spotted fever, ehrlichiosis, lyme, and anaplasmosis.

At Harmony, we recommend year-round flea prevention and tick protection as indicated. We will recommend one or a combination of the following products based on your pet’s lifestyle and needs, which can be ordered through our online pharmacy, VetSource, and delivered monthly (Note: No oral products treat ticks).

  • Trifexis: Parasite protection for fleas, heartworms, and intestinal parasites (May cause vomiting)
  • Advantage Multi: Heartworm prevention and flea protection in a convenient monthly topical application.
  • Comfortis: Once-a-month oral flea treatment for dogs.
  • Vectra or Vectra 3D: a once-a-month topical that treats ticks in dogs.

Heartworm Disease and Puppies

vetsource_buttonHeartworms are a deadly parasite spread through the bite of mosquitoes. They are found in all 50 states and are especially prevalent in the southeast. So it is critical to have year-round preventative medication. Unlike flea and tick topicals that can be paused during winter, heartworm prevention is required all year.

What happens with this disease? Heartworms affect your pet by damaging the heart, lungs, surrounding tissues, and blood vessels. Symptoms of infection include coughing, lethargy, exercise intolerance, weakness, collapse, and even death.

But you can easily prevent infection with monthly oral or topical medications.

Here are the products we recommend, and you can order them through our online pharmacy, VetSource, for monthly delivery.

  • Advantage Multi: Advantage Multi is applied topically once a month. This product prevents heartworms and fleas.
  • Trifexis: Parasite protection for fleas, heartworms and intestinal parasites (May cause vomiting)
  • Heartgard: Heartworm prevention in real-beef chewable that dogs love

Over-the-Counter Medications and Your Puppy

You may recognize that some of the medications your Veterinarian prescribed for your puppy are the same for people. In some instances, the same is true for over-the-counter medications. Some of the more commonly used over-the-counter medications include antihistamines and anti-diarrhea medications. While these drugs can be administered to your pet safely and effectively upon your veterinarian’s advice, they can have dangerous side effects if dosed incorrectly.

Over-the-counter analgesics such as baby aspirin and buffered aspirin have been used in dogs in the past; however, those medications can cause gastrointestinal upset, even gastric ulcers, and are not as effective as some other pain relievers for dogs. To be safe, always consult your Veterinarian before administering ANY non-prescription medication to your pet.

Top Human Medicines that Poison Pets

ASPCA Poison Control: Your best resource for any animal poison-related emergency, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. If you think that your pet may have ingested a potentially poisonous substance, call (888) 426-4435. A $65 consultation fee may be applied to your credit card.

Poisonous Plants

If you haven’t had a puppy before, you may not be aware that some ordinary house plants are poisonous to dogs. Fortunately, you can learn about them easily by reviewing this toxic plant list by the ASPCA.

Puppy Wellness

Feeding & Nutrition: From Nursing to Food

Puppies slowly switch from nursing with their mother to eating food. This occurs around 3 to 4 weeks of age. Ideally, puppies should be completely switched over from milk to food by the time they are 7 to 8 weeks of age. Your Harmony vet will inform you at your first appointment about the best nutritional food sources and brands, when to move from wet to dry foods, what a good eating schedule looks like, the importance of excluding or limiting human foods, as well as other important nutritional do’s and don’ts.

Your puppy will need more daily feedings at first, but those will decrease with time.

Number of Food Feedings by Month

The number of feedings your puppy needs per day changes as your puppy gets older.

  • 2 to 3 months old: 4 times a day
  • 3 to 6 months old: 3 times a day
  • 6 months old to 1 year old (up to 24 months in larger breeds): 2 times a day


Puppies need a lot of sleep! Expect your puppy to sleep 18-20 hours a day until they are about 12 weeks. At three months, they will start to sleep fewer hours as they move towards an average of 12-14 hrs during their adult stage. Provide a soft bed in a quiet corner of your home or a cage that provides a sense of security for both you and your puppy.


Puppy wellness must include socializing your puppy. Socializing your new puppy is a vital aspect of pet ownership if you want to ensure that your dog grows up to be a well-adjusted canine citizen. Dogs who miss out on this aspect of basic training are more likely to reach adulthood with problems such as fearfulness, avoidance, and aggressive behavior.

The most important time to socialize your puppy is during the first three months of his (or her) life, according to the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB). During this period, a puppy’s sociability outweighs his fear, and he is more likely to adapt to meeting new people and animals and having new experiences.

At this age, your puppy’s health is protected to a degree by her first set of vaccinations and the antibodies she gets from her mother. To minimize the risk of contracting diseases, however, it is best to socialize in a controlled environment, such as a puppy class or a play date with friendly, vaccinated adult dogs and older puppies you are familiar with. We do not recommend dog parks at this stage.


cover of sophia yin's book perfect puppy in 7 days

 Sophia Yin’s book Perfect Puppy in 7 Days

There are a lot of skills and do’s and don’ts to teach your puppy during the puppy stage–everything from chewing and biting, social skills, leash walking, barking, and using a crate.

One of our favorite books here at Harmony Animal Hospital that we recommend to our Harmony families is Perfect Puppy in Seven Days:  How to Start Your Puppy off Right by Sophia Yin.  

Harmony also highly recommends a consult with “Sit Means Sit,” an instructional program that has its practice here at Harmony Animal Hospital. During this class, you will learn basic training techniques to make your puppy learn properly and efficiently, but with fun along the way.

House Training 

As soon as your puppy is weaned from their mother, you can start house training.  However, some experts say that between 12-16 weeks is the most opportune time as it marks the period when your puppy has enough body control of their bladder and bowels to begin holding and waiting.  Be patient. House training is a process and takes time. Your puppy is still developing and gaining control of his body. House training is about consistency, positive reinforcement, and patience while you work to instill good habits and build a loving relationship along the way.

Tips for House Training 

  • Experts recommend limiting the space your puppy uses until they are fully trained.
  • Be sure to take your puppy out at the first signs they need to go.
  • Keep a regular feeding schedule and remove access to food between meals.
  • Take your puppy out first thing in the morning and every 30 – 60 minutes. 
  • Always take your puppy outside after meals and when they wake from a nap. 
  • Make sure your puppy goes out last thing at night. 
  • Walk to the same spot each time as the scent will prompt them.
  • Stay with them outside at all times, at least until they are house trained.
  • When a walk has been productive, be sure to give praise and/or treats as a reward.

Signs That Your Puppy Needs to Eliminate

Whining, barking, sniffing, circling, and scratching at the door are signs your puppy needs to go. It is time to take him outside right away.

Potty Training: Do’s and Don’ts

  • Never punish your puppy for having an accident. You do not want your puppy to fear you.
  • If you find evidence of an accident after the fact, do not react angrily by yelling or rubbing their nose in it. Puppies aren’t intellectually capable of connecting your anger with their accident.
  • When accidents occur, clean the accidents up with an enzymatic cleanser instead of an ammonia-based cleaner to minimize odors that might attract the puppy back to this same spot in the house.
  • If you catch your puppy peeing or pooping in the house, say “no,” firmly and take them outside by calling them or taking them gently by the collar. When they have gone outside, praise and reward them. 
  • You may need to stay outside longer wit