What, where and when? But what is a puppy party?...
These are informal get-togethers for puppies and their owners. They are held at the surgery, usually on an evening and provide a valuable opportunity for puppies to socialise with other animals and people in a safe environment. At the Puppy Party, your puppy will learn how to mix with other dogs, strangers and generally have a fun filled time. Nurses will also be available to answer any queries you may have and demonstrate how to look after your puppy and what problems to look out for, so please call or ask at reception to find out when the next party will be.
Early socialisation of puppies - and the related process, early habituation - are the two single most important factors in ensuring a balanced and well-behaved adult dog. Therefore, a puppy needs to learn how to interact normally with adults, children, other dogs and pets, as well as become used to everyday noises such as household appliances, cars, the countryside and city (habituation).
For puppies, these `life experiences' start from birth and last until about 14 weeks of age. Anything a puppy experiences during this time will become part of its life. After that age, unfamiliar objects and experiences can cause a fearful response (sometimes extremely fearful) and could ultimately lead to aggression. Attending puppy classes will give you the opportunity to introduce your puppy to a new environment and lifestyles, allowing socialisation and habituation of your new pet in a safe, friendly environment.
What age is best?
We need to wait until at least a week after your pup's first injection, in order to minimise the risk of disease, this then can be the first step onto an ongoing socialisation programme. It is vital that your pup gets to meet other pups and strangers before 14 weeks of age as this is when the socialisation phase stops.
What is the Animal Welfare Act?
All good pet owners want to make sure that they provide their animal with everything they need, but until recently there was no legal obligation to do so. This all changed on Friday 6th April 2007 when the Animal Welfare Act (2006) came into effect. The Act states that all animal owners have a legal 'duty of care' to ensure the welfare of their pet. It identifies the five key needs of every animal:
- The need for a proper diet (including water)
- The need for somewhere suitable to live
- The need to be housed with, or apart from, other animals (as appropriate)
- The need to express their normal behaviour
- The need to be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease
While many pet owners already provide for these needs, anyone who fails to do so could be liable for a fine or even a prison sentence.
Socialisation - what is it?
Socialisation is the process by which puppies learn to relate to people and other animals. This means meeting and having pleasant encounters with as many adults, children, dogs (puppies + adults) and other animals as possible. It also involves becoming used to a wide range of events, environments and situations.
The sooner the better
The younger the puppy, the easier it is to socialise. This is because, as the puppy gets older, it becomes more cautious to new experiences. The early weeks are particularly important. During the early weeks a pup will approach anything and anybody, this changes as he or she reaches the age of 14 weeks. Therefore, it is vital that between 3 and 14 weeks of age) a puppy meets a wide variety of people and situations. Continuation of socialisation of puppies up until the age of 2 months' old will hopefully ensure a happy, well-adjusted dog.
Weaned puppies or kittens should be wormed every 2 weeks until 12 weeks of age. Then every month until 6 months of age when they can be treated as adults.
Worms are internal parasites which may or may not cause debility or disease in dogs. Worming (or treating these parasites) is an important issue in the dog because Toxocara canis is a very common roundworm in these animals and it can be passed to humans, with possibly quite serious consequences. Dogs are affected by many other types of worm including tapeworms, hookworms, whipworms and heartworms. The most common worms in dogs are the roundworm and the tapeworm. Roundworms are often about 10cm long, an off white colour and may be coiled. They cause the most severe problems in young puppies: signs include abdominal distension. vomiting, diarrhoea and debility. In adult dogs they cause few problems but will form cysts in the muscles which are activated when a bitch is pregnant to infect new pups. The most common roundworm in dogs is Toxocara canis which is zoonotic and causes Toxocariasis in humans which may result in epilepsy or blindness. Tapeworms may be up to 30cm in length. The whole worm is not often seen but the tapeworm segments may be noticed around the anal area or on the bedding. These segments are white in colour and look like grains of rice about 1 cm in length.
Tapeworms are passed to dogs by fleas or small prey mammals such as rabbits, they cannot be passed directly from one dog to another. Puppies are not often affected by tapeworms but they are a problem for adult dogs. They may sometimes cause irritation around the anus or diarrhoea in affected animals. All dogs should be treated for worms regularly whether you see signs of them or not. This is especially important in households with young children who are at most risk of catching worms from their pet! Most dogs should be wormed every three months with a product which ideally treats both types of worm. Speak to your vet about the best product for your pet. Puppies are very likely to be infected with Toxocara when they are born because they have been infected as a foetus from their mum. About 70% of pups will be infected in this way or from their mother's milk after birth. Worming is therefore essential in puppies and a suitable wormer should be given to puppies every 2 weeks from 4 weeks of age until they are 12 weeks' old. After this they should be treated every month until they are 6 months old. They can then be treated every 3 months, the same as an adult dog. If you actually see the roundworms in a puppy then they may have a very severe infestation and it would be wise to seek a veterinary consultation. Pregnant bitches should be wormed with a suitable product to help prevent the transmission of worms to their pups.
Fleas are a very common problem for owners of dogs. They breed at a terrific rate: a female flea can lay several hundred eggs every week after she has had her first feed of blood from your dog. The life-cycle of a flea lasts about 3 weeks and involves four different stages of development.
We all know that dogs get fleas from time to time and it is no reflection on the standards of hygiene in your home if your dog has this problem. Most dogs become itchy and spend extra time grooming or scratching if they have fleas. However some animals can develop an allergy to the flea bites and then the signs are more severe, including loss of hair, scabs and spots as well as the extra grooming activities described above. In either case, if fleas are the problem they will need to be treated promptly before a real infestation builds up in your home. Often owners of dogs with fleas will not see the fleas on their pet at all. A healthy adult dog will generally groom itself and in the process eat many adult fleas, therefore making it less likely that you will spot them moving about on your pet. In circumstances where the flea burden is very high or your dog is in less than optimal health, you may be more likely to see the fleas as small brown insects running about in your dog's fur. You are also more likely to see fleas if your dog is white or has patches of white fur as the dark colour of the fleas will show up more easily. If you are unsure about whether your pet has fleas try this simple test: Sit your pet on a sheet of white tissue or other absorbent paper. Vigorously rub the pet's coat or brush the fur to dislodge lose hair and dander etc. (Brushing or rubbing against the line of growth of the hairs will help). Move your pet away and examine the debris on the paper. If you see dark, comma-shaped material, gently wet it with a little water. If a ring of red (blood) coloured damp paper develops around the object you will know that it was the faeces of a flea and that your pet does have fleas.
A female flea lays eggs while she is on your pet, however these eggs quickly drop to the floor and get into your carpet or between boards of wooden floors etc. They will obviously be found in highest numbers where your pet spends most time, so favourite sleeping places will have a high number of eggs in the bedding. If the flea eggs are to hatch and survive, the conditions of temperature and humidity must be correct. Unfortunately our modern, comfortably warm houses are also ideal for fleas as well as humans. The eggs hatch into larvae which feed on organic debris such as those lovely blood-rich flea faeces of their parents. The larvae then pupate and form a cocoon in which they can develop and wait until conditions are correct for them to hatch. Up until now all the flea life-stages have taken place in your carpet and not on your pet. The pupae will hatch into adult fleas when they sense the vibration of animals moving nearby and carbon dioxide in the air from animals breathing. This ensures that they only hatch into adults when there is likely to be an animal nearby for them to jump onto and feed from. The adult flea does not live very long (about 20 days) but they breed prolifically in that time so a huge population of thousands of fleas can develop in a house within a few weeks of the arrival of a single female flea! Although fleas are the most frequent parasites to cause pruritus (itchiness) in dogs, there are a number of others which often cause problems. Ticks often cause localised itching and may also cause other problems since they are capable of spreading several diseases. For example, Lyme disease is spread by ticks. Granulomatous lesions may also form where a tick has bitten a dog.
Lice are seen less commonly than fleas or ticks. They may cause pruritus in dogs. Often the whole body is affected and some areas of inflammation and hair loss may be noticed. The lice themselves are only about 1mm in length and it is often easier to spot the eggs which are attached to the base of the hair shafts. The eggs are an off white colour and look a bit like dandruff or scurf, but they are stuck to the hair and will not come away from the shaft as dandruff would. Various mites may infect the skin of dogs. Cheyletiella is a mite which may cause intense itching, together with dandruff and scaling skin. It seems to particularly affect the back Ear mites in dogs are common especially in young animals. Sometimes the dog may show no signs of discomfort associated with these parasites but in other cases they will lead to otitis which is a painful inflammation of the ear. Otodectes cyanotis is the mite found in the ears of dogs and cats. These mites generally live along the surface of the ear canal but can occasionally be found on other parts of the body and in the general environment. The most common positions for them to be found other than the ear are the neck, rump and tail. Thick reddish brown crusts and scales will be seen in the ear when these mites are present.
Some dogs may have ear mites and show no signs of discomfort. However, other animals will become hypersensitive to them. They develop an allergic reaction to the mites, which results in an intense itching and discomfort. Because the ears become so itchy, the dog may scratch itself badly on the outer surface of the ear. Due to the irritation the dog may hold its ear down flat against its head and vigorous shaking of the head is common. If the ear is rubbed, the dog will often make scratching motions with its hind-legs.
The Pet Travel Scheme
The Pet Travel Scheme (PETS) is the system that allows pet dogs, cats and ferrets from certain countries to enter the UK without quarantine as long as they meet the rules. It also means that people in the UK can take their dogs, cats and ferrets to other European Union (EU) countries, and return with them to the UK. They can also, having taken their dogs, cats and ferrets to certain non-EU countries, bring them back to the UK without the need for quarantine. The rules are to keep the UK free from rabies and certain other diseases. Fact sheets available on DEFRA.