John Fleming DVM

13037 S. 82nd Court
Palos Park, IL 60462


New Puppy Handout

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     This handout is a compilation of questions asked by new puppy owners over the years, as well as bits of information that we feel important to pass on. This handout will never be finished as new questions and knowledge constantly arise. Not everyone will agree with all that is in the handout but those points of disagreement lead to some interesting discussions. The following points are in no particular order. I would appreciate feedback, new questions, corrections, and typo and grammatical errors that need to be addressed! By the way, on our website we have a Pet Library where you can get answers to many questions.  As noted, this copy will always be in "draft" form. If you find an error or have a question or comment that you think would be helpful to a new dog owner, please feel free to let us know

     Consider purchasing a Martingale collar for your new puppy. There is no snap to unbuckle inadvertently and when the puppy pulls backward these collars snug down. This is a good, safe, style of collar. You can find them online or at Pet Supplies Plus on 159th Street and 94th Avenue in Orland Park. Most pet stores do not sell them for whatever reason.

     Make sure you have good ID tags on your dog’s collar. You can make them at Pet Supplies Plus, Petsmart or PetCo on 159th and Lagrange Road. You can make a tag with 4 lines per side. On one side put (1) your name, (2) your pet’s name, (3) “Big Reward” and (4) “On Special Meds”. On the back of the tag put 3 to 4 phone numbers. Anyone who finds your puppy will not want to go to a vet and spend money to find out what “special meds” your dog is on and will most likely opt for the “Big Reward”. Just a trick, but it might help you get your dog back.

     Microchip your pet. This is the biggest no-brainer in veterinary medicine. The technology is terrific. We have a hundred stories we could tell. Do not listen to people who say “it hurts, wait until your dog is neutered”. This is the worst advice I have ever heard. The microchip is inside a needle syringe needle and is given just like a vaccination injection. We microchip animals as young as 6 weeks of age.

     If you have never raised a puppy before you really should consider investing a small amount of time at puppy training classes. The foundation you lay while your dog is young will stay with him or her forever. Consider the Oak Lawn Park District puppy classes or Pawsatively Heaven in Chicago Ridge.

     Avoid macadamia nuts, they make a dog “drunk” but do not kill. Avoid grapes and raisins, these are toxic to the kidneys of some dogs. Avoid letting your dog eat anything with xylitol, the new artificial sweetener. Xylitol can be found in chewing gums, certain peanut butters and baking products. This product is highly toxic. One penny, minted in l983 or later, contains 2.5 grams of zinc which is toxic for a small dog. And for you all that also have cats, never, ever, give a cat Tylenol. Read labels.

     Always keep a fresh small bottle of hydrogen peroxide in your medicine cabinet, then when your pet eats something it shouldn’t have and the vet directs you to give peroxide, you won’t lose time driving to the drug store or running across the street hoping your neighbor is home and has peroxide.

     Many vets recommend giving heartworm preventative all year ‘round. There is nothing wrong with this. Many people, Dr. Fleming and many on our staff included, give their dogs heartworm preventative from May 1st to December 1st. The dose of medication given May 1st actually protects the dog backward to April 1st. I have never seen mosquitos in this area in April and rarely, if ever, in May. The dose of medication given December 1st protects the dog backwards for the month of November. I have never seen mosquitos in November around here. If you see mosquitoes in December then obviously give a pill Jan 1st.

     We consider the following vaccines to be core, or essential, vaccines: Distemper, Parvovirus, Leptospirosis, and Rabies. We consider Lyme vaccine to be non-core, its administration to be based upon the dog’s lifestyle. If the dog is never exposed to ticks then the vaccine is not necessary. It’s up to you to make sure there are no ticks around your dog. There are certain areas of Palos Park where we consider Lyme vaccine to be mandatory. If there is a reason to use tick preventative then there is a reason to vaccinate for Lyme disease. Flu vaccines are only recommended for high-risk dogs – dog day care centers, frequent use of dog parks, etc. To be properly immunized, both the old vaccine and the new vaccine each have to be administered twice.

     We recommend puppies be dewormed every 2 to 3 weeks until they are 16 weeks of age. So does the CDC.

     Consider neutering the female dog around 6 months of age, before her first heat. Our goal in doing so is to reduce the incidence of breast cancer as she ages. Neutering the male dog has recently been shown to not reduce the incidence of prostate cancer as we had previously thought. I now recommend not neutering the male dog unless his behavior dictates that he should be, i.e. aggression, excessive roaming, marking his territory in the house, etc. If you plan to neuter the male dog consider waiting until at least one year of age and to at least one and one-half years of age for very large dogs. This is to allow for more full bone development.

     "Table" food. Consider a variety of whole fresh foods. Raw meat and bones are not recommended. You must reduce the amount of dog food you feed to control the total calorie intake when you supplement with fresh and whole foods.Take a look at for help in making great homemade diets.

     Consider using Fromm's dog foods. This long-time company is in Mequon, Wisconsin (a suburb of Milwaukee) and services a number of Midwest states. However, it is a small enough company that when it comes to purchasing 500-pound canisters of the white powdered vitamin/mineral premix, which all very large pet food companies buy, Fromm's does not have to source from China. The nationwide dog food manufacturers have no choice but to buy from China because of the volume they need to buy. This is the reason we recommend Fromm's. It is a quality food and has nothing from China in it.

     Consider using a dog crate for house-training. Many people hang a bell on the inside of the (only) door that the pet will use to go out to pee and teach the pup to ring the bell.

     You can easily trim your dog’s nails at home. You have a lifetime of doing this chore so you might as well learn with us and start doing it at home. Most dogs hate nail trims so start them young; otherwise we, or someone else, will take your money every few months.

     Most dogs do not have to have their ears cleaned every week! We see a lot of people who over-clean their dog’s ears and irritate them to the point where infection occurs. You can wipe out your dog’s ears with a cotton ball or Kleenex. Most importantly, start to smell your dog’s ears now and learn what “normal” smells like. Put your nose right in the dog’s ear! You can pick up on an infection by the odor before we could ever see it with a scope. There are many good cleaners on the market; our general cleaner that we like is EpiOtic Advanced. This particular cleaner has something in it that makes it hard for bacteria to attach to the skin in the ear. Some old timers use a few drops of sweet oil (virgin olive oil) and have good luck with that as a cleaner.

     You should brush or comb your dog every day. If you have a snub-nose faced dog you should clean the area between the nose and eyes daily to prevent the typical foul odor and infection/inflammation. Optixcare products are good or just use tap water on a Kleenex. To make taking care of your dog more fun consider buying a grooming table off of Amazon. I got a very nice sturdy 30" model for about $39. I use it to comb them out, brush their teeth and clean their eyes.

     You should at least try to brush your dog’s teeth daily. Almost all dogs will come to enjoy this if you are persistent and use a good flavored product like CET (Virbac Company, Canine Enzymatic Toothpaste). This particular toothpaste contains an enzyme, that when left on the teeth after brushing, will continue to attack the plaque. Take up the water bowl for ½ hour after brushing. If you can’t, or won’t, brush your dog’s teeth at least put some of the paste on your thumb and forefinger and smear the paste on the teeth. This will help some.

     Most Americans allow their dogs to sleep in bed with them!    (-:

     Do not buy toys with a squeeker inside (hard to find!). Dogs are great at ripping that squeeker out and swallowing it. The plastic bladder-like squeekers like to lodge about ½ way down the intestines and require surgical removal. We’ve removed a bunch.

     Berber carpet can be dangerous if there is a one-inch strand sticking out. A puppy, or an adult for that matter, can pull that strand out and it will keep coming out. A long strand is easily pulled out, chewed off and swallowed and can obstruct the intestines and kill the dog. From personal experience I know this to be true. Dr. Stauffenburg removed 10 feet of it from my Molly's intestines when she was 8 months old.

     Dog parks are fine but be aware that any nice dog can bite your dog; We’ve all seen eyes damaged, and certainly many neck and body bites, so just be aware of how they are acting around each other. Don’t ever believe anyone who says his or her dog won't bite.

     We recommend giving your puppy fish oil for good brain development. Studies show the positive effects on learning in puppies. Continue this through life. There are many reasons to give fish oil daily (and to take it yourself). If you want more information let us know.

     Pet Sitters: Go to Fleming's Favorites and click on Petsitters.