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Puppy Care for a Healthy Start

Getting a new puppy is one of the most exciting moments in life. The decision to bring this little bundle home promises years of adventures and love ahead. So whilst it is easy to get caught up in that excitement, there are a few factors to consider when you go to see a litter for the first time.

When looking for your potential new pal it is worth considering their general health and well-being before you invest your time, money and love. Most pups will be rehomed at between 8 to 10 weeks old, earlier than this is not recommended. Ideally each new puppy will have had a vet check before you take them home with you. The sooner this is done the better, bonding with a cute puppy happens very quickly, if there are potentially costly underlying health concerns it is best to have these flagged early so you can make the decision if you want to take on this responsibility.

Selecting Your Pup

Knowing what to look for can help you to decide whether to select a pup from this litter or find one that has had the best start to life. When looking at a litter it is always best to see them with their mother in the environment into which they have been born and lived since birth. Have they been exposed to the normal sights, sounds and smells of a family home? Or have they been kept confined to a shed? This early exposure to family life will already have helped these pups to prepare for their future. If you can meet the mum and dad it should help you to assess their temperaments, this will be an insight to the temperament their offspring will likely inherit.

Know How To Choose A Healthy Pup

Once you are happy with the home and parents of this litter it is time to take a closer look at the puppies. Puppies should look well fed but without a pot belly, as a pot belly can indicate the presence of worms.


Look at their eyes to ensure they are free from any discharge, the whites of the eyes should be bright with no redness.


Ears should be clean with no redness or excessive discharge, these signs could indicate an ear infection or the presence of ear mites.


A quick look in their mouth to check there is no pain on opening their jaw, that their teeth, tongue and soft palate all look normal.

Belly Button 

Have a look at their belly button to ensure it does not bulge as this could indicate an umbilical hernia.


Look under and around their tail for evidence of worms or diarrhoea.


Check the coat for signs of fleas, more details of how to do this can be found in this blog. There should be no patches of sore skin or hair loss, or signs of constant itchiness, remember to have a look at the hair on their belly, ear and legs too.


The ideal puppy should be responsive and playful. Pups that are timid may become timid adults and may struggle with social situations. The super confident pups that charge at anyone new may be wilful in all areas of life, which could make them more difficult to train. Often pups have been chosen because of their gender, colour or cuteness prior to a visit but make sure you are happy with all aspects of their physical health and personality before making this big commitment.

What Information Do I Need From The Breeder?

Do not be afraid to quiz the breeder on what food the pup has been weaned onto, and what vaccinations and parasite prevention they and their mother have received. Any knowledgeable breeder will be eager to tell you how they have cared for these pups in their early stages.


It is always best to change your new pup onto the food you have selected for them slowly. If you can, purchase a week’s worth of the food the breeder had fed them, this will allow you ample time to slowly reduce the proportion of the old food and increase the new. Sudden diet changes can cause diarrhoea and vomiting in young animals as their guts take time to adapt to the change in nutrient balance.


Ask if your new pup has already been vaccinated. If they have it is best to return to the same vet for their second vaccine, or find another practice that stocks the same brand of vaccine so you do not need to restart their vaccination course.

Parasite control

Read our blog “What Flea and Worm Treatment Do I Need For My Puppy?” to ensure your new puppy, your family and your home stay protected against fleas and worms.

Golden Cockapoo puppy

Written by Lindsay Rose MA VetMB CertAVP CertVBM MRCVS

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