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Vaccinations and Wellness Care       Illness        Safety

Disclaimer - I am not a vet. This section is provided as general information so that you have the right questions to discuss with your vet, not so that you have all the answers. The information I have provided is information that I believe to be true after having researched it. Read it, think about it,  talk to your vet about it - research it further if you'd like - and then make your own well informed decisions.  

Vaccinations & Wellness Care - Puppies are given a series of vaccination shots between the ages of 6 and 16 weeks. The number of shots and the frequency may depend on how old the dog is when she begins the series.

Vaccinations and vaccination schedules vary somewhat from vet to vet in the same area and vary in different parts of the country based on what diseases are common to the area. Some vets routinely vaccinate for diseases that others consider to be optional. Vaccinations come in quite a variety of combinations and different vets use different ones.

Generally speaking the puppy will be inoculated against distemper, adenovirus type 2(and hepatitis), parainfluenza, and parvovirus in each shot. Some vets will include Leptospirosis and Coronavirus in some or all of the shots. Vaccinations for Bordetellosis, Lyme disease and Giardia are also available. Your vet may or may not recommend these.

In the south it is important to keep puppies and dogs on heartworm medication year round. Heartworm medication is only available by prescription (which means I can't get it for you and you can't buy it yourself). I would not use a non-prescription heartworm medication even if one exists because the risk is too great. Since there are no immediate symptoms for heartworm you will not know if the medication is working. For this reason it seems sensible to me to get the best.

Our vet recommends a series of 4 shots given at 6, 9, 12 and 16 weeks of age. Heartworm medication will be begun at 9 weeks (with no initial test necessary).

I will provide the first shot for each puppy at 6 weeks and the second shot if the puppy is with me at 9 weeks of age. The brand I use is Duramune Max 5 which addresses Distemper, adenovirus type 2(and hepatitis), parainfluenza, and parvovirus.

A Rabies vaccination is legally required in all areas I'm aware of. The age at which the first shot is given and the frequency that it is required may vary. Historically rabies shots were required annually. There are now some vets that provide a 2 or 3 year shot and states that allow this. Your vet will advise you.

Rabies vaccinations are only available by prescription. Recently I have heard of these vaccinations being ordered by non-vets online. This may or may not protect your pet from rabies but it does NOT comply with the law. A rabies shot is cheap so why risk breaking the law and having your dog confiscated for a few dollars?

"Horry County Code of Ordinances, section 4-21 states that every owner of a pet will have its pet inoculated against rabies each year…by a licensed graduate veterinarianand be issued a certificate for each pet stating the name and address of the owner; the name, breed, color, markings, age and sex of the animal…and furnish a serially numbered metal license tag…and shall at all times be attached to a collar or harness worn by the pet for which the certificate and tag has been issued. The owner shall have a valid certificate of rabies immunization readily available for inspection by competent authority at all times. Citations will be issued for failure to vaccinate an animal and allowing animals to run at large. The fine for each offense is a minimum of $225."
 - Quoted  from http://www.horrycounty.org/newsrelease/nr-072502a.html

At the first vet visit all new puppies should be given a fecal exam. This will determine if there are certain parasites that need to be treated. We test (& treat if necessary) the Dam before she is bred and she is wormed during and after pregnancy. The puppies are wormed at 2, 4, 6 and 8 weeks of age. Even after all of this it is possible to have a parasite present in a fecal exam that needs to be treated. Generally the treatment is inexpensive and the parasite is not dangerous (although could become a danger to the puppy if not treated).

If you are relying on your vet to recommend the proper inoculations for your pets be sure to tell her (or him) when you are planning to travel with your pet. Due to the prevalence of different diseases in different parts of the country the vet may recommend a vaccination that she would not routinely give.

Our vet is Dr. Jessica Armitage of the Waccamaw Regional Veterinary Center which is located at 1214 Pine Street in Conway. The phone number is 248.2752. Everyone in this office is great but that's not the only reason for going there. WRVC offers a FREE first visit. Ask about it when you make your appointment. There are other good vets and there may even be others who offer a free visit but since WRVC takes care of all your puppy's relatives (mainly Mom & Dad) Dr Armitage is familiar with the family. It's what you'd want for your human family and it's what we recommend for our canine family.

A Word About Worms

Worms are gross but a little info is important. There are a variety intestinal worms that dogs can (and do) get, round worm, hookworm and tape worm among them. Although if left untreated these could become a problem they are not generally. You will know that your dog has one of these worms because you will see it in her stool, see her "scooting" and have her tested,  take her to the vet for diarrhea and find out that a worm or parasite was the cause, or it may just be found in a routine fecal exam. Treatment for this type of worm (and related parasites) is generally a one-time affair that is inexpensive with a follow-up fecal test to ensure that the worm or parasite is gone. Only tape worms and round worms are visible to the eye.

Heartworm IS NOT in the category mentioned above. There are no symptoms for heartworm for up to 3 years by which time your dog may be very ill and will need expensive and dangerous treatment. Untreated heartworms are FATAL. Heartworms are not intestinal. They live (and breed) in the dog's heart. Due to weather conditions in the South, Southern dogs need to be on heartworm prevention year-round.

If your dog misses a heartworm pill (or shot) the vet may require another test before prescribing continued preventive medication. It is important, less expensive and safer for your dog if you pay close attention to the schedule of heartworm medication and testing.

Ringworm - Ringworm is not a worm. It is a fungus. The name is an old fashioned one that relates to appearance of the skin lesions it causes. They are circular - like a ring. I have never known a dog that had ringworm but I have known cats that have. It is highly contagious between dogs, cats AND humans.  Any skin condition that develops on your dog should be treated as quickly as possible because if your dog can reach it she will dedicate herself to making it worse. We have never ::: knocking wood:::  had any skin problems with any of our poodles.

Another Disgusting Topic:  I'm not sure where on the site to put this but if you've already gotten through reading about worms I may as well put the other most disgusting topic here. It's Poop Eating, officially known as coprophagia. It is common for puppies to eat cat poop if they have access to it and it is not uncommon for them to eat their own or other dog's poop. Although it will probably make you gag it is not terribly unhealthy in and of itself. Most puppies outgrow it but who can wait for that?! The greatest danger is in picking up diseases as most diseases - and the worst ones - are spread by fecal matter. If the pup is eating it's own poop, while still disgusting, it's probably not a health hazard. 


Put cat litter boxes on a platform or shelf that puppies can't reach. Use "Deter" or "Forbid". Both are products that will make poop taste bad to the pup when she eats it. (That sentence could keep you thinking for days...How do they test that? What could possibly taste bad if poop tastes good? But, I digress.) Deter is a tablet. Forbid is powdered and is sprinkled on food.

Remove poop from your puppy's litter box as soon as possible and keep her away from any dog poop when you're out walking. (The "off" command is great for this.)

See more health info under Grooming: Eyes, Ears & Teeth

A La Carte Wellness Care

Veterinary care can get expensive even for healthy animals. I have heard of many animals lately who are not getting the necessary shots, preventives, etc. due to the cost. Let's take a look at the minimum wellness needs of a dog (after the first year) and the alternatives available. There are many areas that offer rabies and other clinics at a low cost. In Horry County our vet as well as many others offer these clinics in April. The clinic offers protection against Rabies, Distemper, Parainfluenza, Adenovirus2 and Parvovirus for approx. $20 (This was the price in 2003.)

For an additional (low) fee the dog may also be given a "Proheart" shot. This can be done without prior heartworm testing if the dog has been on continuous heartworm medication.  The shot is good for six months after which time you will need to take the dog to the office for the second bi-annual shot at the regular price.

The Horry County Human Society provides some low cost veterinary services for those who meet their income guidelines. Maximum income for a single or married person with no dependents is $25,000 at this writing and $30,000 annually for a married or single person with dependents. (They don't count the dogs as dependents.) They provide annual shots including rabies, heartworm tests and spaying/neutering. Call them for more detailed information at 448.9151

There is no reason that you can't take your pet to different clinic's, vets or the Humane Society for different services offered at the price that suits you - it is infinitely better than skipping the necessary shots etc. because they are too expensive - but if you do this you will have to make good decisions about what your dog needs (and when) and you will have to be clear on exactly what service, vaccination or medication was provided. You will need to keep accurate records and take them to the next vet, clinic, etc. with you.

If you do this, be very explicit when taking your pet on a "normal" vet visit. If you take an animal to a vet for  "annual shots" the vet will provide whatever their protocol for annual shots calls for which may not be what you really had in mind whereas when you leave the management of your pet's care to the vet you will know that the vet is providing what she thinks is best and you will not need to be as well informed (although I always recommend being informed, thinking and asking questions).

Keep in mind that while monetary considerations play a part in your decisions it is very nice to have a "family doctor" who knows you. (I don't even like going to offices - veterinary or human -  where different doctors might be assigned to me on different days.) This might be especially important if your pet gets any serious illness.

Pet Insurance is relatively new (or newly popular) and is a great idea.  I believe it is relatively inexpensive and can save you a bundle. Ask the vet about it.

Spaying & Neutering  - All pets should be spayed or neutered - generally around 6 months of age. It is important to have this done not only to keep down the number of unwanted animals but for the health of your pet. Females especially will be spared many potential health problems by spaying.


Poodles are at risk for ear infections if the ears are not kept free of hair. This is done by "plucking the hair" out of the ears. (The how-to is in the grooming section.) There are a few vets who will tell you not to remove the hair from the ears unless there is a problem. Most vets and any poodle owner will tell you that if the hair is not removed there WILL BE a problem.

There are two types of common ear infections. One is bacterial the other is yeast. The vet must determine which type of infection exists before treating it. Antibiotics do not cure yeast infections (in fact, as most women know, they can create them).

Improperly treated ear infections can cause permanent ear damage. You will know if your dog has an ear infection because she will be swiping or rubbing at her ear. Bad smelling ears are also an indication.

Hair grows pretty quickly in a poodle's ears. All the puppy's have had their ears plucked before they leave here and you'd be amazed at the amount of hair that comes out of a young pup's ears.

Keep the ears clean and the hair out of them and your dog will most likely never have an ear infection.


Many years ago when I began raising farm animals the farmer next door gave me the best (and most basic) piece of animal husbandry information I've ever gotten. He said, "You've got liquid and solids going in one end and coming out the other. As long as that's happening normally you don't have much to worry about."

While that may be an over simplification it is the first thing to consider. Rarely have I had a sick animal whose sickness didn't show up in it's digestive system.

If your dog is not eating or not drinking, take it to the vet. Dogs love to eat. Some dogs drink very little but if you are used to how much your dog eats and drinks you'll know when there's a change and it will be worth checking out.

Although it may sound gross, check the dog's poop. You'll notice when walking your dog that it's poop usually looks pretty much the same: same color, same consistency. This is a good thing. If the color or consistency change when the diet hasn't it's a sign. Watch the next poop more closely to see if it returns to normal. If the dog shows any other indications of being sick, take it to the vet.

You can be alerted to many problems that afflict dogs by the difference in their stool and there are afflictions that can be diagnosed from a stool sample.  Worms and other parasites can be responsible for diarrhea. Poisoning can cause bloody diarrhea (which looks more tarry and black than blood red). These are just a couple of examples and it's never a big mistake to take a dog to the vet when it has diarrhea. The younger or older or less healthy a dog is the faster it will dehydrate and dehydration is dangerous. I always keep a bottle of Pedialyte on hand to replace a dog's water at the first sign of diarrhea (and I make sure she drinks some of it) but I won't let diarrhea continue past the end of business hours (the vet's) without a visit to the vet.

Many areas don't have vets that are open on nights and weekends. At the first sign that a dog may not be well, check the date and time. If it's Friday at 4 PM, go to the vet right away. If it's Sunday afternoon and you're not sure the problem is serious you might want to wait until Monday morning.  You have to consider the possible consequences against the cost of emergency care. Although none of us want to have a lot of unexpected expenses most of us would wish we had spent the money if it could have saved the dog.


Never assume that because something is sold for dogs it is healthy or safe for dogs!

Electrical & Phone Wires - Puppies love to chew and wires always attract them which is very dangerous not to mention annoying.

Toys - Some toys are not safe for some dogs. Light rubber toys (as sold for human babies) are sometimes chewed and eaten by some dogs. We use this type of toy for puppies but they should be watched. Some dogs will never chew them up. Dogs who do should have them removed.  Some dogs will chew plastic eyes from stuffed animals and then pick out all the stuffing through the hole. The eyes they remove could be a choking hazard and the stuffing is a mess.

Baby Gates - We use baby gates all over the house. You should be aware that a large toy or small miniature poodle IS CAPABLE of jumping a baby gate. I've seen dogs get over a baby gate that I couldn't believe could do it and I've seen Great Danes restrained by baby gates because they believe them to be restraints. Generally if dog has been around baby gates since puppyhood it will not attempt to go over them. I rely on the baby gates all the time but if there were a life-threatening person, animal or thing on the other side of the gate I would not.

Christmas Trees offer loads of fun things that puppies can get into trouble with: wires, glass ornaments to break and get cut on, low branches to tug and presents to shred the paper on. 

Car restraints & Car seats - These little dogs will fly off a car seat if you brake suddenly. See the Travel section for car travel tips.

Dogs riding in cars should never have their heads out the window. If you ever rode a motorcycle you know that a bug at 50 MPH feels like a rock on the face and can injure an eye. Wind is bad for the ears.

Puppies go for jewelry. All of the puppies (and dogs too) love to chew on my bangle bracelets. They also love to chew on hair and nuzzle your neck. If you have pierced ears be aware that they may nibble on or bite at your earrings which could be more dangerous for your ears than for the puppy.

Standing water - If your pup is plays in your yard be very careful about any containers that could hold water. Standing/stagnant water is the perfect place for dogs to pick up Giardia. Giardia is a bacterial infection that will make your dog desperately ill and will give her diarrhea that will not only scare you to death but will be very hard to clean from carpets.


Chocolate is poisonous to dogs and some types are more dangerous than others. Never feed chocolate to a puppy or a dog.

Antifreeze is extremely poisonous and it has a sweet taste that animals like.

Household chemicals - Some dogs are pretty good at opening cabinets. Be sure that household chemicals are stored where pups can't get to them.

Houseplants - Puppies and dogs don't usually eat plants but it's not unheard of for them to. Many houseplants are poisonous. (Puppies are more likely to dig in pots than to eat the plants. If you have a digger the easiest solution is to buy some landscaping rocks at Lowe's or Home Depot and put a layer of them over the dirt in the pot. If the dogs can't readily get to the dirt they will usually leave it alone.)


Revised: 05/27/05.
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