Keeping Your Puppy Healthy

Puppy Care Guide: Keeping Your Puppy Healthy

Puppies bring us so much happiness, and you’ll do anything to keep your growing puppy healthy and happy. Starting your new puppy off on the right foot helps them develop into a healthy adult. Here’s what you need to know about your puppy’s health.

Puppy’s First Vet Visit

Just like you, your new puppy needs high-quality health care. Plan to take your puppy to the vet within three days after you bring them home to make sure they’re in good health.

If you don’t already have a family vet, ask a friend or your local humane society to recommend a veterinarian, or spend some time researching options in your area. Some factors to consider include specialty (you might find veterinarians who deal exclusively with the special problems of dogs and cats) and location (a drive across town during a future medical emergency could delay needed treatment).

Once you’ve found a vet, schedule an appointment. When you bring your puppy in for an initial examination, the veterinarian will likely:

  • Weigh your puppy and take their temperature
  • Perform a head-to-tail physical exam: inspect their skin and coat, feel their body for abnormalities and check their eyes, ears, nose, feet, mouth, heart and lungs
  • Perform a fecal exam to check for internal parasites
  • Schedule immunizations and vaccinations and advise you on the importance of spaying and neutering
  • Discuss your puppy’s history, plan how often your pet needs annual checkups and dental exams, and answer any questions you have about puppy care or dog ownership

Puppy Feeding Schedule

Puppies require a lot of energy to grow and play — and have small stomachs that limit how much food they can eat at one time. That’s why feeding your pup a specially formulated, highly digestible, nutrient-dense premium puppy food, like IAMS™ Puppy Dry Dog Food, is so important.

Your puppy’s age and breed size also affect what food they need. Our guide to selecting puppy food can help you find a high-quality food to meet your growing puppy’s unique needs.

healthy medium breed puppy sitting on wood floor eating IAMS puppy dry dog food from dog food bowl

How Many Meals Do Puppies Need Each Day?

With their little bellies, puppies need to eat multiple times per day. Our friends at Banfield Pet Hospital recommend that larger puppies be fed fewer times per day, while smaller breeds should be fed more frequently to reduce the potential for low blood sugar. Three to four meals per day is a good baseline, though toy breeds may need up to six meals per day for their first few months.

As your puppy grows, they’ll need fewer meals to keep them satisfied. Most adult dogs are content with breakfast and dinner. Learn more about how much to feed your dog, from puppy to senior.

How Much Water Does a Puppy Need?

Just as puppies eat more than adult dogs, they also need more water than their grownup counterparts. Hydration helps regulate your puppy’s body temperature and is important for a lot of metabolic processes.

Younger puppies that have been recently weaned may need up to 0.5 cups of water every few hours, while older puppies typically require 0.5–1.0 ounces of water per pound per day. That means a 10-pound puppy needs around 5 to 10 ounces of water each day, and more on especially active days.

Keep in mind that puppies still need plenty of water during housetraining — you don’t want restricted water access leading to behaviors like resource guarding later on. That said, it’s recommended to remove your puppy’s water bowl at the same time each night while housetraining them. Aim for an hour or two before bedtime, so you can take your puppy out one last time before lights-out.

Why Is My Puppy Not Eating?

If your puppy stops eating, it’s time to call the vet. Picky eating isn’t common for puppies. Lack of appetite can be a sign of a medical issue in growing puppies and can even be an emergency if they weigh less than five pounds. Your veterinarian can help determine why your pup isn’t interested in food.

healthy small breed puppy running on grass outside chasing a red ball

How Much Exercise Does a Puppy Need?

Energetic puppies love to play and bond with their owners. Just how much physical stimulation a puppy needs depends on their age, breed disposition and size. In general, aim for five minutes for every month of age, up to twice a day. This means a four-month-old puppy can get roughly 20 minutes of exercise up to twice per day.

Puppy exercise doesn’t need to be elaborate to be effective. Short walks (here’s what you need to know about leash training!) and play sessions a few times a day will keep your active puppy stimulated. Don’t overdo it — too much exercise can be detrimental to your puppy’s growth. Make sure your little buddy has plenty of recovery time and naps, too.

How Do You Know If You’ve Exercised Your Puppy Too Much?

If your new puppy shows signs of sore paw pads, stiff muscles, overheating or change in behavior (a usually energetic puppy being too tired for playtime, for example), it could mean they’ve gotten too much exercise. Over-exercised puppies could show no signs at all, however, and be at risk for developing joint issues later in life. No two puppies have the same exercise needs, so it’s smart to consult your vet with questions about exercising your growing puppy.

Your Puppy’s Schedule

How many hours a day should you spend with your new puppy? How long can a puppy be left alone? These are common (and important) puppy care questions, especially for new or young puppies.

When first bringing home a new puppy, plan to give them lots of your time and attention as they adjust to their new home and routine. Puppies up to 10 weeks old may need almost constant care due to their small bladders that will likely need relieved hourly. Dogs are social creatures at heart, but it’s also important to teach your pup how to be alone, so consider using some of your puppy bonding time getting them used to their crate while you’re still home.

As your puppy gets older, they won’t need quite as much supervision and can hold their bladders for longer periods of time. Generally, puppies can be alone one hour for each month they’ve been alive, up to six months (e.g., four months old = four hours alone at a time). Puppies older than six months (and adult dogs in general) shouldn’t go more than six to eight hours without the chance to relieve themselves.

The amount of time your older puppy requires with humans or other dogs each day will vary based on their unique needs, but a good rule of thumb is at least two hours of dedicated social time every day.

Puppy Skin and Coat Care

It’s a good idea to get your puppy used to being brushed, especially if your pup is a long-haired breed or known to shed. Try gently brushing your puppy for a few minutes each day, offering lots of pets and praise to make it an enjoyable experience.

Another way to help keep your puppy’s skin and coat healthy is through their diet — just another reason feeding your furry buddy a high-quality puppy food is so important!

Puppy Dental Care

When your puppy is between three and six months old, they’ll go through teething, or losing their puppy teeth. This is a normal part of puppyhood — though it may be startling to find a loose puppy tooth! Learn all about what to expect and how to soothe your teething puppy in our handy guide.

Getting your growing puppy used to dental care while they’re young is a great way to help keep their mouth healthy as an adult. Try flipping your puppy’s lip to check for brown tartar and bad breath, and get your little buddy familiar with a toothbrush and dog-safe toothpaste. Around your puppy’s first birthday, it’ll be time for their first dental exam at the vet — this will go much smoother if your pal is used to their mouth being touched!

Puppy care can be a lot of fun — and a lot of responsibility. By prioritizing your puppy’s health and development, you’re giving your new friend the best chance of growing into happy and healthy dog.