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Your First Dog


Dogs are omnivorous by nature; meaning that their 'ideal' diet consists of both meat and vegetable products.

Puppies have special requirements, which alter as the animal ages. Meeting these special requirements is important in achieving optimal growth potentials, and prevention of lifelong debilitating joint and limb conditions such as rickets and hip or elbow dysplasia. This is best achieved by feeding good quality AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) tested dog food brands. A range of different formulations of dog food are available; the food fed to your dog will depend on whether you have a growing pup, an active working dog, a house pet, an old age dog, or a pregnant or nursing bitch.

Feeding AAFCO approved balanced commercial diets ensures optimum levels of vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, fats and proteins are provided.

Special prescription or veterinary diets are also available for animals affected by conditions such as obesity, heart disease, bowel intolerances etc

Your local veterinary clinic provides the most up to date information about the ideal diet for your dog.



Protection from sickness and disease is important for the ongoing health and well-being of your dog

It is important to vaccinate against the most common contagious viral and bacterial diseases of dogs. These are canine parvovirus, canine distemper, infectious canine hepatitis, and kennel cough complex.

Canine Distemper
Nearly all dogs will be exposed at some time in their lives to distemper. Unvaccinated dogs initially develop a discharge from the eyes and nose, accompanied by coughing, vomiting and diarrhoea. On reaching the nervous system, the virus causes seizures, twitching, behavioural changes, paralysis, and death. Although dogs can, and do recover from distemper, they seldom return to normal. Dogs that survive may have permanent brain damage.  Vaccination is very effective at preventing Distemper.

Canine Parvovirus
Canine Parvovirus is a deadly disease causing a sudden onset of depression, vomiting and diarrhoea, and dehydration. Despite intensive treatment, many dogs infected with Parvovirus will die. The virus also may attack the heart muscle, resulting in sudden severe heart attacks, particularly in pups affected with the virus. Canine Parvovirus is spread in the faeces of affected dogs, and can survive for long periods in the environment. Vaccination is essential to prevent this disease.

Kennel Cough
Kennel Cough is a respiratory disease causing a dry hacking cough, loss of appetite, and lethargy. The disease is highly contagious, so it is recommended that all dogs attending shows, obedience clubs, boarding kennels etc are vaccinated against kennel cough.

Canine Hepatitis
Puppies are at the greatest risk from this disease. Symptoms include abdominal pain, diarrhoea, bleeding from the gut, intense thirst, jaundice and fever. Permanent kidney damage is common in dogs that recover. Vaccination is very effective at preventing this disease.

Dogs most at risk from these diseases are puppies and geriatric animals.

Vaccination programme and combination of cover, will vary slightly within geographical areas, so it is always worth consulting your local veterinarian.

Puppies generally require a series of three vaccinations in their first 4-5 months of life, often commencing at 6-8 weeks of age. The vaccination schedule outlined in your vaccination certificate should be strictly adhered to, to ensure maximum benefit and protection. Your puppy will not be fully protected until after the end of the vaccination course. For this reason, it is important for your puppy to avoid contact with unvaccinated dogs, and confined on your property as much as possible.

Following the puppy vaccination course, all dogs require an annual booster vaccination to maintain adequate protection.

Additional vaccine cover is available for Leptospirosis and Bordetella bronchiseptica. Discussion with your local veterinarian will determine if your dog needs protection from these organisms.


Parasite Control


Dogs can be affected by a number of different types of worms. The most common types are roundworms, whipworms, tapeworms, and hookworms.

Roundworms can cause symptoms of coughing, vomiting, diarrhoea or constipation, poor growth rate, dull coats and pot belly appearance. Puppies are born with roundworms passed from their mother during pregnancy. To reduce the number of worms passed on during pregnancy, the mother should be wormed prior to mating, prior to having the pups, and also while nursing the pups. Puppies should also be wormed regularly from 2-3 weeks of age. Consult your veterinarian for the most appropriate programme for your puppy.

Hookworms can cause severe illness in puppies and dogs, because they feed on blood, and can cause anaemia, weakness, and even death in severe infections. The hookworm is passed from the mothers milk to the puppy, and also from the ground. Regular worming is essential to control hookworm burdens.

Whipworms are generally found in dogs over 12 weeks of age, and they can cause intermittent bloody diarrhoea and scooting of the dogs anus along the ground.

Tapeworms (including Hydatids tapeworm) are found when dogs are fed uncooked sheep meat or offal. These worms cause little harm to the dog, but they are a serious health risk to humans.

Regular deworming needs to be performed throughout the dogs life to combat the ill effects of worm burdens.

Because puppies are most at risk from the ill effects of roundworms and hookworms, a wormer covering these two types of worms is used at two week intervals until the pup reaches 12 weeks of age.

Puppies older than 12 weeks of age are also at risk from whipworms as well, and monthly worming with a wormer that treats roundworms, hookworms and whipworms is recommended until 6 months of age.

All dogs over 6 months of age should be wormed with a broad spectrum wormer treating all worm types, including tapeworms, every 2-6 months, depending on the level of exposure, whether the dog is a farm animal, or a household pet. Your local veterinarian will be able to advise on the most appropriate frequency of worming for your dog.


Fleas are small brown wingless insects that feed on the blood of their host. Fleas and flea droppings may be seen on the skin and in the fur, most commonly about the base of the tail, the head, ears and neck.

Generally, fleas tend to be a seasonal problem; that is, during the warmer months of the year from spring to autumn. The female flea may lay several hundred eggs during this time. During warm conditions, it may take only 3 weeks for these eggs to hatch and develop into a new flea generation. During the colder months of winter, both flea eggs and young fleas remain dormant until spring, or more favourable conditions arrive, such as warm heated homes.

Adult fleas feed on the blood of dogs, cats and people, often causing an intense skin irritation due to their frequent bites. Some dogs develop an allergy to flea bites, causing severe itching, skin irritation, hair loss and skin infection.

Fleas can be controlled by a number of different methods, depending on your preferences, finances, and level of flea infestation.

It is important to combat fleas on the dog, as well as any other contact pets in the house. Options include topical liquid agents applied to the dog’s fur, oral flea fertility modifying drugs given in the food, collars, sprays and powders.

Products that provide continual long lasting protection are recommended. Your local veterinarian will be able to provide the best advice on the basis of seasonal exposure levels, and your current situation, including the number of pets in the household.



If you are not wishing to breed from your dog, he or she can be neutered at any age from 6 months of age onwards.

Castration of the male involves removal of both testicles, while spaying of the bitch involves removal of both ovaries and the uterus. In both cases, the operation is performed under general anaesthetic, and a short stay in the veterinary clinic for one or two days.

Castration of the male limits the urge to wander, and reduces aggression related to the male sex hormone testosterone.

Spaying of the female prevents her from coming into season, unwanted pregnancies, and may reduce the incidence of mammary cancer if performed in young dogs.



Dogs require daily exercise to maintain a healthy bodily state, heart function and muscle maintenance - not to mention a happy state of mind!

The level of exercise your dog requires will depend on its breed, natural activity level, the dogs function, age and any illness present.



Obesity, or excessive bodyweight is usually the result of overfeeding your dog, in combination with under-exercising. When a dog is fed food in excess of its daily energy requirements, the excess is stored as fat. This is detrimental to the health of a dog, placing strain on the heart, joints, respiratory system, and various internal organs.

Regular weighing is the best way of monitoring a dog’s weight, and is an integral part of assessing the response to a weight loss program. There are a number of nutritionally balanced diets designed to achieve weight loss in overweight dogs - your veterinarian will be able to advise you on the most appropriate quantity and type of diet to use for your dog if he or she is overweight.


Dental Care

Puppies are born with deciduous teeth which fall out as they are replaced with permanent adult teeth from 4-6 months of age. Some puppies will retain some of their deciduous teeth, and these should be removed, as they can trap food, and encourage gum and tooth root infections, and can damage the enamel surface of the permanent adult tooth growing alongside.

As dogs age, tooth and gum health often deteriorates due to an accumulation of plaque and tartar on the teeth about the gum margins. Tartar accumulation results in gum inflammation and infection, pain and discomfort, excessive dribbling, eventually progressing to tooth root infection, abscesses and tooth loss.

Regular dental checkups for dogs are recommended to assist in avoiding severe dental disease. Dental care biscuits may be fed as part of a dental care program including regular brushing of your dogs teeth, mouth washes or sprays, and descaling and polishing of the teeth to remove tartar.


Skin & Coat Care

Feeding a good quality balanced diet is an essential element in producing a healthy coat, aided by regular grooming to prevent matting or knotting of the coat.

A wide range of pet shampoos and coat and skin conditioners are available, including prescription remedies for specific skin diseases. Avoid using human shampoos, or shampooing your dog more frequently than once every 2-3 weeks, unless directed by your veterinarian.


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Copyright © 2001 Sunset Pet Supplies
Last modified: August 26, 2002