Puppy and dog health

Puppy and dog health

From registering to microchipping, vaccinating to worming and neutering to grooming – all you need to know to keep your four-legged friend in fine fettle.

In this section we’ll look at:
  • Creating the ideal health care for your puppy or dog
  • Registering your dog with a vet
  • Dog vaccinations
  • Parasites – fleas and worms
  • Neutering your dog
  • Health care
  • Pet insurance
  • Grooming
  • Microchipping
  • Pedigree Dog Health
  • Research

Creating the ideal health care for your puppy or dog

Creating the ideal health care for your puppy or dog

  • PDSA recommends that dogs are neutered, vaccinated, microchipped and insured. 
  • Do the research and take the appropriate actions in advance – such as health testing – if you wish to breed from your dog.
  • Register your dog with a vet and receive regular, safe and effective preventive treatments for fleas and worms. 
  • Check for signs of ill health every day.
  • Groom and care for their teeth regularly.
Registering your dog with a vet

Registering your dog with a vet

When you get a new dog, you should register with a local veterinary practice straight away. Make an appointment as soon as you can for a check-up. Your vet can then devise a care programme for your dog. Write a list of the questions you want to ask, so everything can be covered.
  • You can register your dog with a PDSA Pet Hospital, PDSA Pet Clinic or PDSA Pet Practice if you are eligible and live within a PDSA catchment area. 
  • You can apply for PDSA support through our PDSA Pet Treatment Fund if you are eligible but live outside a PDSA catchment area. 
  • Find out today if PDSA can help you by visiting our Eligibility page.
Dog vaccinations

Dog vaccinations

Dog vaccinations give protection for your dog and peace of mind for you. They protect your dog against diseases which can cause pain, distress and are often fatal. They also prevent diseases from being passed onto other animals.

How do vaccines protect your dog?

Vaccines contain a harmless form of the virus or bacterium that causes a particular disease. They stimulate your dog’s immune system in a safe way. If your dog then comes in to contact with the disease for real, its immune system “remembers” how it dealt with the vaccine, so it can fight the disease.

Your dog should receive a ‘primary’ vaccination course early in life, followed by ‘booster’ vaccinations throughout its life. 

The primary vaccination course

for dogs varies with the type of vaccine used. The first vaccine can sometimes be given as young as six weeks of age, but is usually given at 8 weeks, with the second usually given two to four weeks later.

Booster vaccinations are needed as the body’s immune response gradually fades over time. They are often given every year, depending on the vaccine.

Ask your vet when it is best to vaccinate your puppy or dog.

When can my puppy start to meet other animals?

Very soon. Puppies need to be vaccinated as soon as possible: your vet will advise you how long you then have to wait before it can start to mix with other animals. This socialisation of your puppy is essential for its normal development whilst it’s very young. See our ‘Puppies and Dogs: Behaviour’ section

Which diseases do vaccines protect against?

  • Canine distemper (‘hard pad’) 
  • Canine parvovirus
  • Infectious canine hepatitis
  • Kennel cough
  • Leptospirosis

Planning to take your dog abroad? You’ll need to arrange additional vaccinations and health checks. 


  • Give dogs regular treatments to stop them suffering from worms and fleas. 
  • Help your dog to help you. Protect your dog from worms as they can also harm dog owners.
  • Ask your vet for advice about which products to use and how often to use them.
  • Choose flea and worm treatments from veterinary practices or pharmacies as they are clinically proven to be safer and more effective than ‘over-the-counter’ versions bought from pet shops and supermarkets. 
  • Ask your vet about which products work and which ones don’t.

NEVER use a dog flea treatment on cats – this can be fatal.

How do I know if my dog’s got fleas?
Fleas can cause itching, chewing and licking. The skin may become red and inflamed. Fleas are also part of a tapeworm’s life cycle. You might see fleas on your dog – although this is quite uncommon. Or you might see small dark flecks – flea “dirt” – in the fur and on the skin. If you see any of these signs, take your dog to see your vet. 

I think my dog’s got fleas – what should I do?

  • Take your dog to see your vet. 
  • If your dog has fleas it’s important to treat your home, your dog and all your other pets. Ask your vet to recommend safe and effective products to use. 
  • Treat your home with an effective household spray after vacuuming. This helps kill flea larvae and eggs which can carry on living in places like carpets and rugs. 
  • Pay particular attention to areas where your dog spends time, as well as warm areas such as near to radiators. 

Don’t forget: as well as thinking about fleas, it is important that your dog follows the worming regime recommended by your vet.
Dog neutering
Health care

Health care

How do I know if my dog is ill?

You should check your dog each day for any signs of illness. These might include the following:
  • Sickness or diarrhoea
  • Significant weight change – either up or down – over a short period
  • Loss of appetite
  • Drinking much more or less than normal
  • Lack of energy/sleeping more than usual
  • Unusual swellings
  • Skin conditions
  • Limping
  • Coughing
  • Unusual bleeding
  • Signs of pain, such as sensitivity to touch
  • Runny eyes or nose

Be alert to any change in your dog’s behaviour as this could point to the possibility of illness.

If you are worried about the health of your dog, always contact your local veterinary practice.
Pet insurance

Pet insurance

At PDSA we recommend you take out pet insurance to save thousands of pounds should the worst happen. 

While most dog owners will have considered routine costs, such as vaccinations and worming, it is the out-of-the-ordinary expenses that can catch you out. 

You could spend thousands of pounds on treatment for a road accident. So taking out pet insurance helps you budget for the unexpected. Third-party insurance is included in most policies. This is essential to avoid large payments should your dog cause an accident.

Shop around for the best policy for you. There are plenty of organisations whose pet insurance has built-in third party insurance – including PDSA's own Pet Insurance.



  • All dogs need regular grooming. 
  • Long-haired dogs need more coat care than short-haired dogs.
  • Comb and brush a long-haired dog once a day.
  • Brush a short-haired dog twice a week. 
  • Buy a brush and comb that are suited to your dog’s hair type.

Pedigree dog health

Pedigree dog health

It’s understandably very upsetting for all dog owners when their dog develops health problems.  There are some breeds of dog that are more prone to certain health and medical conditions which can cause them pain and distress.  Owners often wish they had known what problems their breed was prone to have. 

If you’re thinking about getting a pedigree dog, or want to know more, visit our dog breeds pages where we’ve put together breed profiles about each breed of dog to help give you all the information you need.  These include their possible health problems with an explanation about each condition.  If you want more detailed information, your vet can discuss any concerns you have and give you more information.

Category Three Breeds

The Basset Hound, Bloodhound, Bulldog, Chow Chow, Dogue de Bordeaux, German Shepherd Dog, Mastiff, Neapolitan Mastiff, Pekingese, Pug, St. Bernard and Shar Pei are breeds of dog that have been highlighted as having visible conditions or conformational issues that can cause pain, discomfort or health issues due to exaggerations. This means that these breeds of dog have been bred over many years to look a certain way but that these changes to the way they look have started to cause them health problems.

Examples of these problems include entropion; when there is too much skin around the eyes the excess skin droops onto the eye, which rubs and causes eye problems, and brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome; when the nostrils and trachea of a dog are narrowed and the soft palate too long, leading to breathing problems.

Although some of these health problems are manageable, it has been identified that it’s in the best interests of the dog to try and selectively breed to decrease the characteristics which cause the health problems.  

If you’re thinking about buying one of these breeds of dog or breeding from a dog of these breeds visit our dog breeds pages where we’ve put together a breed profile about each of these breeds to help give you all the information you need including their possible health problems.

For more information about these ‘Category Three’ breeds of dog visit The Kennel Club

The type of conformation problems that, for example a judge would check when showing these breeds of dog include:

  • That they can breathe normally and have no signs of respiratory distress
  • They have no excessive amounts of loose skin on the face, head or body
  • That there is no evidence of current or ongoing skin disease, including in the skin folds
  • They have no abnormalities to the eyelids, their eyes are in a normal position and they can blink
  • They do not have an excessively heavy coat
  • That their ears are not excessively long
  • That their body and skin have adequate ground clearance
  • That they can walk normally, especially on their hind legs and their joints look normal
  • That their teeth bite together correctly and their lips are in a normal position over their teeth
  • That they do not have a nervous temperament
  • That they are not overweight

If you’re worried your dog could be displaying any of these problems, you want more information, or you’re planning to breed from your dog, you can discuss these potential health problems with your vet.



The PDSA Animal Wellbeing (PAW) Report

Since 2011, we’ve surveyed over  53,000 pet owners, veterinary professionals and children , giving us a huge insight into the wellbeing of pets in the UK. Here are the findings for dogs and their health care. 
You can read our full PAW Report here.


Although there have been general improvements across all aspects of preventive care amongst dogs, there are still many not having all their health needs met.Key findings from our most recent report: 

Millions of dogs are not getting the preventive care they need.

  • 10% of dogs – around 930,000 – haven’t been registered with a vet. The top reason given by dog owners for this was that they felt they could ‘just turn up’ at the vets (39%).
  • 29% of dogs are not neutered, equating to around 2.6 million. Main reasons given by owners for not neutering their dog are that they don’t believe in it (22%) or would like to breed (16%). 
  • A common factor for dogs not having had vaccinations (17% - around 1.5 million) include the dog “doesn’t come into contact with other animals”, or a belief that it is “not necessary”.
  • There’s been a steady increase in microchipping of pets since the first Report in 2011, and for dogs in particular.  83% of dog owners report that their dog has been microchipped, a marked increase from 70% in 2011.