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Info & Advice


This page is dedicated to what we believe might be of interest for you and your pet. In-depth articles packed with useful information & practical tips for your companion animals. 

Puppy - Caring for your puppy

Firstly, if you have a back yard, get it fenced so that the pup can play safely without wandering away into the path of a car. Organise a kennel or safe place where the pup can sleep. Lining it with newspaper and an old jersey, blanket or sheepskin will help to comfort her/him.

During the first few weeks your pup will need lots of sleep, four meals a day and frequent trips to a chosen toilet spot. S/he is just a baby and should never be handled roughly.


Pups have different feeding needs to adult dogs. Young pups often double their weight each month so they require a higher protein diet to build their body. They are forming the bones and joints which need to last their whole life so the correct levels and balance of vitamins and minerals, such as calcium and phosphorous, is important. They use a lot of energy for their size and only have small stomachs so they need energy-dense food in several small meals each day.

How often should I feed my pup?
Less than 3 months old - 4 meals per day
3 – 6 months old - 3 meals a day
6 – 12 months old - 2 meals a day
Over 1 year old - 1 meal a day

What should I feed my pup?
There are now a lot of foods available designed especially for pups. If you mainly use good commercial brands of puppy food, especially for the first 12 months, you can be confident that your pup will get a balanced diet.

Pups which will mature to be the size of a Labrador or bigger are called ‘Large Breed dogs’ and have some special needs. These bigger dogs are often more at risk of bone and joint problems than smaller breeds. To help their bones and joints form properly, it is worthwhile using food designed for them and called ‘Large Breed Growth’.

Biscuits are fine for pups, so long as water is available. They can be softened with warm water if necessary. If you would prefer to do home-cooking for your pup, contact us for a balanced recipe and advice.

What about feeding bones?
There are many opinions on whether or not to feed bones. Large, raw bones are great to keep active pups occupied but there is a high risk of damage to teeth. Whole bones are safer than cut bones. Never feed cooked bones – they are much harder to digest and can cause blockages and constipation. Brisket bones are softer and carry less risk of dental fractures but if you want to avoid any chance of fractured teeth and their associated problems don’t feed any bones!
Many studies have shown no advantage to dental health from feeding bones
There are a number of safe dental chews available e.g. rawhide strips, dentastix, pigs’ ears or vegedent chews.

Remember that any sheep or goat meat needs to be cooked, or frozen for 7 days, before feeding to dogs, and offal must be cooked. [This is to kill Hydatids, Sheep Measles, and tapeworms].

Does my pup need Supplements?
If you use foods which state that they are a ‘complete, balanced food’ as the main part of your pup’s diet, you will not need to give her/him supplements. Feel free to check with us if you want to use a supplement as some can be harmful to growing pups.

If you are feeding a home-made diet, you will need to ensure that it is balanced, especially for calcium by using a supplement such as ‘Calci-pup’ or ‘Bone-Gro’. Too much calcium can do as much harm as too little, so check with us if you are unsure as to how much you should give.

How much should I feed?
Most pups will self-regulate their feeding and you can let them eat as much as they want at meal-times. Remove uneaten food after 5 minutes. If your pup gorges itself on ad-lib feeding, follow the guidelines on the packet of a good commercial brand until you get a feel for the appropriate meal size. Judge this by monitoring your pup’s body condition – the amount of fat covering its ribs is a good place to check. Contact us if you have any concerns.


All pups get worms from their mother before they are born so it is important to worm them regularly. Worms can cause ill health, poor growth, anaemia, and diarrhoea in dogs. They can also cause abdomenal pain and, very occasionally, blindness in people who accidentally ingest the worm eggs. Remind the family that they need to wash their hands before eating after handling the dog.

We recommend that pups are wormed every 2 weeks from 2 weeks old until 12 weeks old and then monthly until they are 6 months old. Adult dogs need wormed 3-4 times a year. Weigh your pup so that you know how many pills it needs. If you are unsure of which worm pill to use ask us for advice.


Avoid bathing young pups as they can get cold very easily. If washing is necessary, use warm water, towel dry and keep her/him warm until s/he is properly dry. Use dog shampoo - not your shampoo as this may give her/him a rash.


The amount of exercise that a puppy needs is determined by its size, breed and age. Puppies love exploring and attention. You need time at least twice each day to exercise and play with it, for example, take it for a walk or play in the back yard chasing a ball or a stick.

A lot of behaviour problems in dogs such as barking continuously, destroying things, and digging up the lawn, can be the result of boredom. There is a wide range of toys available for entertaining pups. One of these, the ‘Kong’ is very popular with animal behaviour experts. It is a hollow cone of hard rubber which you can stuff with various foods from leftover meat to cream cheese and, like an old marrow bone, it will keep a pup occupied for ages!


Socialising: The attitude a dog has to humans is mostly formed before it is four months old. Encourage your puppy to be relaxed and comfortable with adults and children. Even if it will be a guard dog, do not encourage aggressive behaviour at this stage. Handle it all over and practise looking in its mouth – you can watch the new front teeth come through in the 4 thmonth and the new fangs at 6 months old. This is a good time to introduce tooth brushing.

Introduce your pup to a variety of places, things and experiences – for example, let it realise that the vacuum cleaner is not scary, and that people in sunglasses are fine. Be careful not to make a fuss over her/him if s/he is nervous about something – just give her/him time to quietly realise that the situation is OK, otherwise you will be rewarding nervous behaviour. [Until 2 weeks after your final puppy vaccination, be careful to stay away from places where unvaccinated dogs may have been].


Your pup is likely to want to go to the toilet within ½ an hour of having a meal and after each nap. Take it outside at these times, and every couple of hours, and before going to bed. Go to the same spot, stay with it, and allow it 5-10 minutes time. Advert breaks on TV are ideal! Praise for good results. Never scold for mistakes inside but if you catch the pup in the act take it outside immediately to show her/him where you want her/him to go.


You can start obedience training from about 8 weeks old but use rewards for good behaviour and minimise punishment. Young pups have short attention spans and poor memories so be patient and don’t expect too much. Ask us about Puppy Classes in the area.

Once your dog is 6 months old you can take her/him to Obedience Classes. These are an excellent way for your pup to learn to behave even with the distraction of other dogs.


Vaccinations can be given to help protect your pup against:
PARVO – a virus that causes vomiting and diarrhoea. This is common and often fatal for pups.
DISTEMPER – a virus that causes runny eyes and nose, convulsions and often death.
HEPATITIS – a virus that attacks the dog’s liver.
KENNEL COUGH – a contagious cough of dogs.
LEPTOSPIROSIS – a severe liver and kidney disease spread by brown rats

Most pups are first vaccinated at 8 weeks and have their booster vaccination once they are over 12 weeks old. Vaccination can be started at 6 weeks to give extra protection.

If your pup develops vomiting and/or diarrhoea, doesn’t want to eat and is extra sleepy, contact us promptly. This could still be Parvo as the full immunity is not reached until 2 weeks after the 12 week vaccination.

At the 12 week vaccination we will give you a choice of different vaccination programs to suit your pup once it is an adult. Some of the vaccines no longer need to be given each year. However we recommend that you bring your dog for an Annual Health Check each year so that we can check her/him for any developing health problems, discuss any pet-care issues that are relevant to your pet, and inform you of new products or information that may help your pet.


We generally recommend that bitches are spayed at 5- 6 months of age. This avoids unwanted pregnancies and reduces the risk of mammary gland cancer and uterine infections.

It is a myth that she will be a better dog if she has pups – and there are far too many unwanted pups put to sleep each year. She may tend to put on weight more easily, but only if you overfeed her.

Male dogs are generally castrated at 5-6 months of age. This helps prevent them from wandering and reduces aggressive or sexual behaviour. Castration also helps reduce male dogs from having problems with their prostate gland when older.

We will give you a Desexing Certificate and the Council will give you a rebate on the next Registration fee.


All dogs must be registered with the Far North District Council once they are 3 months old. You will then be given a registration tag to put on her/his collar. You must re-register each year. This is a legal requirement but also means that your dog can be identified and returned to you if it goes missing.

All dogs being registered for the first time must be microchipped. We often do this at vaccination or it can be delayed until desexing as you have a 2 month period to provide the Council with a certificate.

We hope the above information gives you some handy tips on caring for your pup. We look forward to continuing to help you keep your pup healthy and happy for a long time!! If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact us.

From the Team at Bay of Islands Veterinary Services

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