FAQ: Health Care Basics
Looking for more information on day to day life with your dog?
Regardless of whether you plan to breed your dog, it is good to plan on spaying or neutering your dog, because often it is advisable to do so to avoid or treat health problems in older age.
Intact (unspayed) bitches have an increased risk of mammary (breast) cancer which can be countered by doing a tummy-rub exam on your girl monthly, and removing any tumors while they're smaller than a pea. Bitches can also get uterine infections so we usually spay them once they are done showing and breeding.
Intact (unneutered) dogs can have prostate or testicular disease, which often resolves with neutering.
We recommend neutering and spaying after your dog reaches adulthood (over 1-2 years) and before they are a senior (8-10 years).
What vaccines should my dog receive?
In general, we recommend following the AAHA guidelines (click here to read).
Importantly, we recommend you follow your veterinarian's recommendations.
The southeastern United States is generally a 'high risk' area for infectious disease and parasites. There is likely to be a series of Distemper-parvo combination vaccines starting at 6-8 weeks old, repeated every 2-4 weeks, until 4-5 months old. In addition, there will be a Rabies vaccine at about 4 months old, a kennel cough vaccine anytime over 2 months old, and if your pet is at risk, a series for influenza, leptospirosis, and rattlesnake venom.
If your pet is going to compete, show, or otherwise intermingle with other dogs, I recommend bordetella and influenza vaccines.
What about parasite control? (Flea and heartworm prevention? Worms?)
In the southeastern United States, parasite control should be used year-round.
Heartworm prevention is available as monthly pills or a 6 or 12 month injection.
Flea control comes as monthly pills, monthly topical drops, or a 3 month (chewable) pill. Most flea collars are not very effective; Seresto is better than most.
Most heartworm prevention pills also have ingredients that treat intestinal worms.
Your pet should be screened for heartworms (blood sample) and intestinal worms (stool sample) every 6-12 months.
Talk to your veterinarian about which option(s) are right for your pet.
What dangers should we avoid?
Before you bring your pet home, make sure the house and yard are ready: a sturdy fence (or a leash-walking plan), cabinet locks where cleaners are stored, and storing easily damaged or swallowed items out of reach.
Check your yard for common excessively dangerous plants like sago palms (click here for ASPCA searchable list of toxic plants), and have them removed.
Ensure you don't have artificially sweetened products with xylitol - particularly easily misplaced items like chewing gum - within reach of your pets. We recommend not allowing any xylitol or chewing gum in the house.
You probably already know not to give your dog chocolate, but don't forget that grapes and raisins can be dangerous, too. Click here for the ASPCA's toxic table foods list.
Make sure you have a plan for riding in the car. Travel or airline carriers are sufficient for young puppies; adults should ideally ride in crash-tested crates. We use the Ruffland Intermediate Crate and Ruffland Large Crate. If you like metal crates, TNC makes standard sized and great custom crates. Pets need to stay safely confined in cars - you wouldn't carry a child without a carseat or seat belt, don't carry a pet without a crate.
Dalmatians' pink skin can sunburn. This can lead to skin cancer. If your dog likes to lay in the sun, monitor their skin for flat or raised, dark red or purple spots. These spots may be skin cancer. They are most common on the lightly-haired areas of the belly and genitals, but can occur anywhere on the head or body. Check your dog every month or so, and remove any masses (and get them biopsied) if you find any suspicious spots. This form of cancer is easily cured if removed while still small. It is common on male dogs' genitals, so don't forget to check there if you have a boy.
Should I spay or neuter? If so, at what age?