Want to know the first two thoughts of a new puppy owner?  I got a new puppy!  Now, what do I do?

Let the staff of the Unicoi County Animal Shelter help you get started with the safety of your new pet, and then you and your puppy will be off and running to a great life together.

Our advice on Pet-Proofing Your Home

  • Store any toxic cleaners and/or chemicals out of your pet’s reach
  • Limit access to plants that are dangerous to dogs: For example, poinsettias, azaleas, rhododendrons, dumbcane, Japanese yew, oleander, and English ivy.
  • Store breakable items out of the way.
  • Hide or cover electrical cords so he won’t chew on them.
  • Keep kid’s toys off the floor, since some parts may be small enough for your puppy or dog to swallow.
  • Use a cover and/or protective fencing around a pool or hot tub.

Taking Care of Your New Pup

Congratulations on your new puppy! It is so important to learn as much as you can about your new puppy before he grows up. We have provided a little information for you to help you take care of him.


Take your puppy to a local veterinarian. Let the veterinarian take a look at him, administer the correct shots, and so on.
If you cannot get to a vet right away, examine your puppy. Know every part of him, so if there were a change you would notice it.

Self Examine

Take a look at them inside and make sure they are clear of debris. If you notice black, coffee-grain looking yuck in his ear, then your puppy most likely has ear mites. This is very common if your puppy has been around other dogs. They are microscopic and cannot be seen with the naked eye. You cannot buy over-the-counter medicine to treat ear mites. If you do see mite medicine in the pet store, read it and it will probably say it “prevents” ear mites. At this point, your puppy already has ear mites, so it is imperative that you schedule an appointment with your vet for treatment.


Look at his eyes to make sure they are clear. If they have discharge, then there could be a sign of an eye infection or upper respiratory infection.


Next, look inside his mouth and notice his baby teeth. The baby teeth will fall out around 4 months of age and he’ll start to get new adult teeth.  By the age of 6 months, the baby teeth should have all fallen out and been replaced with adult teeth. If there are still some baby teeth left behind, your veterinarian will be able to remove them. It is very important to remove the baby teeth as it can cause problems later on.

-Brushing your puppies teeth is also important in keeping them clean. If you start while he’s young, he won’t mind having his teeth brushed regularly. You can find special finger toothbrushes made for this purpose. DO NOT use human toothpaste as it can cause ulcers in the stomach since they tend to swallow it. There is special pet toothpaste with flavors dogs love.


Move on down to the feet. This is a very important part because if you don’t practice this part, you may end up having problems later on. You want your puppy to feel comfortable with you touching his feet and toes. As he gets older and is not familiar with you touching his feet, he’ll tend to pull away when you try to inspect them. Some dogs will even bite you if you touch their feet. Massage his feet every day. He does not mind it as a puppy.


As far as trimming his toenails, you can use just ordinary fingernail clippers. Just take the very tips off. On some puppies, they have clear nails on the end. They are just like our nails. When it starts to get pink, there is a vein that you will nip if you clip it. If you accidentally cut into the vein, it is a little painful, but you can apply either corn starch or flour to the tip to stop it from bleeding. Most puppies have 5 toenails. The fifth one is on the inside, lower down on his foot. This tends to be overlooked and the nail can curl around into the skin and cause painful foot problems. You should probably trim his nails about every 3-4 weeks. But the most important thing is to keep touching his feet as he will get used to it when he is older. When he gets to be about 85 pounds, you definitely won’t want to wrestle with him just to trim his nails!


Bathing is important not just to keep him smelling nice but to also limit the bacteria in his skin. Dogs can get a bacterial infection of the skin and need antibiotics to treat the infection. Bathing him every other week or at least 1-2 times a month decreases the risk of infection.


Choosing a dog is also very important. Expensive dog foods can better, such as Science Diet, Iams, or Eukanuba. Although these foods may be a little expensive, they have fewer fillers in them so they actually tend to eat less of it. With cheaper dog foods, manufacturers add filler to “fill them up” instead of nutrients and dogs will have to eat more of this food to make up the nutrients they are missing. Diet is a key ingredient to healthy, shiny fur.

He may enjoy the canned food a lot but can have problems with his teeth later on. Canned food tends to stick to his teeth, causing more tartar buildup, which later on, will require more dental work. With dental work, your dog is actually put under anesthesia and his teeth are cleaned. Dry food actually helps scrape the tartar off the teeth, so they can actually go through their life with fewer teeth cleanings.


Heartworms get into the bloodstream and eventually live in the heart and lungs. Heartworms are carried by mosquitoes.  Since all it takes is one bite, your dog is at risk even if he/she lives indoors. Heartworms can be prevented with Heartworm Preventative. A veterinarian prescription is required in order to purchase the medicine. It comes in many different forms: a chewable beef tablet administered once a month, a flavored pill (in case of beef allergy), a topical liquid, and a 6-month shot. Heartworms can be treated but it is very costly, and hard on your dog, similar to the side effects that chemotherapy has in humans. Death is a risk during treatments.

An internal parasite is a type of worm that can be found in the stool. These are much different than heartworms and can be picked up from other dogs or just from the ground. Some puppies are born with parasites that the mother has passed on to them. Their bellies tend to appear bloated. Most of the common worms and parasites that are found in puppies are Hookworms, Roundworms, Coccidia, and a few others.

Spaying & Neutering

Unless you are a reputable breeder, spaying and neutering is something that should always be done as soon as your puppy is of age. Every year, thousands of dogs and cats are euthanized because nobody wants them and there is just no room for them.

Every time a female goes into heat, her risk of breast cancer increases. With her very first time heat, her risk of breast cancer rises to 8%. With her second time heat, her risk jumps to 25% and increases exponentially with every heat. The risk is so high, that there isn’t much argument to abstain from spaying.

Unneutered male dogs, the risk for prostate cancer is high. If you have him neutered before he begins to raise his leg, then he won’t learn to lift his leg when urinating. By timing this, you don’t have to be embarrassed when you take your dog out in public, or to the vet’s office. The general level of aggression will decrease in a neutered dog as well.


These are just the basics in caring for your dog, but first and foremost, you MUST have your new puppy checked out at the veterinarian. But if you have any questions about your new puppy, please e-mail us at unicoicountyanimalshelter@gmail.com and we will try to answer questions.