Once your puppy is safely home and settled in, the next step is to ensure that he or she stays healthy and happy. Keeping a German Shepherd puppy healthy requires attention and understanding of basic canine health and nutrition. Thankfully, most German Shepherd puppies, when provided with good quality food, regular veterinarian visits, vaccinations, good grooming, and proper exercise will have few health problems.
German Shepherd puppies will require more frequent feedings up to about six to eight months of age. It is recommended that puppies younger than four months of age be fed four smaller meals a day, and puppies from four to eight months of age are fed three times per day. After eight months of age, it is important to still monitor food intake and to reduce meals twice a day. The food should be provided to German Shepherd puppies for 10 to 20 minutes and then removed from the area. This not only encourages them to eat when food is provided, but it also assists in house training. German Shepherd puppies should generally not be allowed free access to food, as they will often over-eat, which can lead to difficulties in potty training and not to mention obesity.
Puppy food should always be of high quality, premium, and dry puppy food. Be sure to buy your puppy dry food, as it has additional nutrients and protein that growing German Shepherd puppies need. Be sure to read the label and look for the first items listed to be meat, fish meal or whole grains. Avoid foods that have high levels of cornmeal or meat by-products as the first ingredients. While these foods will be less costly, they are large “filler foods” which will lead to lower levels of nutrition and more waste output during the day. Wet foods may not have the correct nutritional balance and may also cause digestive problems in German Shepherd puppies. It is also difficult to measure wet foods based on protein and caloric content and can lead to puppies either not getting enough food or getting too much food. Carefully control the amount of food that your German Shepherd puppy eats, measuring the food and feeding only recommended portions, based on his or her weight. Do not allow a German Shepherd puppy to eat until they are full, rather feed dry food to specifications. If you are unsure of how to measure the food, or what the correct portion is, check with your vet or ask the breeder.
German Shepherd puppies should not eat human food. Buying commercially prepared dog cookies, or making some of your own, is a better idea to provide a little treat for the puppy. Remember that a German Shepherd should never receive more than 5% of their total food intake, per day, as treats. Feeding too many treats per day will lead to overweight puppies that don’t eat their balanced food and would rather fill up on treats. Many human foods can actually be a potential hazard to your German Shepherd puppy, even resulting in death. Human foods that must be kept from German Shepherds include:
- Human vitamins, especially those with iron
- Onions and garlic
- Some nuts including walnuts and macadamia nuts
- Raw fish
- Raw Pork
- Raw chicken
German Shepherd puppies should be monitored carefully if they are chewing on a bone. Only feed knuckle or joint bones and remove the bone if it starts to splinter or becomes small enough to be swallowed or the puppy may attempt to swallow the bone.
VACCINATIONS AND VET VISITS
It is always a good idea to take your new German Shepherd puppy to the vet as soon as possible, ideally before you even bring it home the first day. Bring the vaccination records from the breeder or owner and if possible the name of the vet that originally vaccinated and treated the litter. Generally, puppies will be vaccinated at six to seven weeks of age with a single combination vaccine that includes distemper, hepatitis, parvovirus, parainfluenza, and coronavirus. This vaccination will be repeated at 9, 12, and 16 weeks of age. In some areas, a Lyme vaccine may be started at 16 weeks that requires a booster shot in two weeks. At about 12 to 16 weeks of age, a rabies shot will be given with a booster shot to follow as indicated by the veterinarian.
At the first visit, the vet will take your puppy’s temperature, as well as ask for a stool sample. Before the first visit, collect a fresh stool sample in a plastic bag to bring to the vets. The vet will check the fecal material for worms and will then treat the puppy as needed. Over-the-counter worm medicines are not effective, whereas the worming treatment the vet uses will be highly effective. The vet may either provide you with a follow-up dose to be given in 10 days or may request that you bring your puppy back. The follow-up dosage is provided to kill any parasitic eggs that may be in the puppy’s system. Small white rice like granules around the anus or on the hairs around the bottom are usually the only signs of large roundworms you may see. Small roundworms, hookworms, or pinworms cannot be seen without microscopic examination. Tapeworms can be life-threatening to any puppy and require vet treatment to eliminate the parasite.
The vet will also check your puppy’s heart and lung function with a stethoscope. Weighing and measuring your puppy will also be completed. Ask the vet any questions you may have about feeding or caring for a German Shepherd puppy. Be sure to get your puppy to the vet for all follow-up booster vaccinations or treatments. Vaccinations not only keep your German Shepherd puppy healthy but also prevent the spread of any contagious diseases within the dog population. Since rabies and other diseases may be transmitted between species, it is important to ensure that all puppies are vaccinated as required.