Canine Distemper: Causes, Symptoms, and Prevention


As soon as you bring a new pup into your life they become a top priority, and it’s up to you to learn about the canine diseases that can compromise their health and wellness. It’s especially critical to learn about highly contractible and often fatal illnesses like distemper.

What is distemper in dogs?

Distemper is a severe and often deadly viral infection that affects dogs as well as  ferrets and wild animals like foxes, skunks and raccoons. Along with parvovirus, it’s one of the most serious diseases your dog can contract. Canines of any age can get it, but puppies are particularly susceptible. The signs of distemper in older dogs are the same as in young dogs.

What causes distemper in dogs?

The cause of distemper in dogs is the paramyxovirus. This type of virus is also responsible for several other deadly animal diseases, including virulent Newcastle disease in birds and rinderpest in cattle. It typically attacks the respiratory system, but some paramyxoviruses attack the nervous system and even the reproductive system. Distemper is one of the few paramyxoviruses for which there is a vaccine.

Is distemper in dogs contagious?

Yes, it is highly contagious. Transmission of distemper in dogs can happen through direct contact with an infected animal, including from mothers to unborn puppies through the placenta. Distemper is also airborne, so when an infected dog barks or sneezes, the disease can quickly spread onto surrounding surfaces where it can be picked up—or it can be directly transmitted through the air. Wildlife can also transmit distemper to dogs.

When a dog has distemper, they can shed the virus and be contagious for months, even if they aren’t showing symptoms. Fortunately, the virus that causes distemper in dogs doesn’t last long once it’s in the environment and is easy to kill using regular disinfectants.

What are the early distemper symptoms in dogs?

Many people think of neurological distemper in dogs when they think of this illness. The initial symptoms, however, are usually more like allergies—watery or pus-filled eyes and nasal discharge. Dogs often lose their appetite, become lethargic and start running a fever. Your dog may cough, experience diarrhea or vomit. Most of these symptoms appear three to six days after infection. Getting treatment for distemper in dogs as early as possible is vital. Seek veterinary services as soon as you notice symptoms.

What other diseases look like distemper in dogs?

The symptoms of neurological distemper in dogs can be frightening and may seem specific to this disease. However, there are a few other illnesses that have similar symptoms to distemper in dogs.

Canine hepatitis, similarly to distemper, causes discharge from the eyes and nose. Leptospirosis can cause shivering and muscle tenderness, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever causes muscle pain and swelling, which can be mistaken for distemper symptoms in dogs. Lead poisoning has perhaps the most similar symptoms to distemper, and includes uncoordinated walking, tremors and seizures. Your vet will be able to tell you more about what symptoms like these can mean for your pup.

How is distemper diagnosed?

When you take your dog to the vet for any of the above symptoms, you’ll be asked questions about their medical history, vaccination history and any other clinical signs. If the disease has progressed and your dog is displaying severe distemper symptoms, your veterinarian will likely suspect it immediately.

The next step is usually a diagnostic test using a swab from the eye or nose. Blood tests are also utilized in certain cases.

How does distemper progress?

Distemper eventually causes inflammation of the brain and spinal cord. This causes the particularly worrying symptoms of neurological distemper in dogs, which includes circling, head tilts, paralysis, twitching and seizures.

As distemper in dogs progresses, it can cause hyperkeratosis, or “hard pad” symptoms in the nose and paw pads. Essentially, the skin thickens and hardens and can cause discomfort. Secondary infections of the lungs and gastrointestinal tract are also common because distemper compromises the immune system.

What is the prognosis for distemper in dogs?

Distemper in dogs is often fatal. Some estimates project that it is fatal for 50% of adult dogs and 80% of puppies. The survival rate, however, often depends on the particular virus strain, the care your dog receives and the strength of their immune system. This is another reason distemper is so deadly to puppies—their immune systems aren’t as developed as those of adult dogs.

Some dogs won’t ever progress to the neurological stage, and their symptoms may resolve in as little as a week. Other dogs may show signs for weeks or months.

Are there long-term effects of distemper in dogs?

If the distemper progresses to the neurological stage, there can be long-term effects. Your dog may develop permanent twitches or tremors, have recurring seizures or even lose their eyesight. Sometimes these effects don’t appear until the dog is middle-aged or older.

How do you treat distemper in dogs?

There is currently no cure for distemper. Treatment for distemper in dogs involves managing symptoms to help prevent a fatality. Your dog will need to be separated from other dogs to prevent transmission and will likely need to be hospitalized  to receive proper care.

Your vet may recommend medications to help control vomiting and diarrhea, minimize neurologic symptoms and keep your pet hydrated. There are no antibiotics for distemper in dogs, although they may be used to treat secondary infections, an often essential part of treatment.

Can you prevent distemper?

Preventing canine distemper is relatively straightforward. Get your pup vaccinated. Because the prognosis for distemper in dogs is so poor, vaccination is one of the best preventive measures you can take for them. The distemper vaccine is part of the DHPP shot, which stands for distemper, hepatitis, parainfluenza and parvovirus. It’s given in three rounds, and puppies can receive their first round as young as 6 to 8 weeks and be fully vaccinated by 16 to 18 weeks.

Until they are fully vaccinated, keep your puppy away from unknown dogs and wildlife as well as day cares, dog parks, kennels and other places where dogs gather. Read our guide, “Pet Vaccinations: Common Questions Answered by Our Trusted Veterinarian” for more information on vaccinations.

How long is the distemper vaccine good for in dogs?

After the first round of three shots, puppies will typically need a booster shot after a year. Adult dogs should receive a DHPP booster every three years. The vaccine is very effective in preventing distemper, but you should not take your puppy out and about until they are fully vaccinated. Also keep in mind that the DHPP vaccine covers multiple diseases, so even if your pup has had distemper, they should still get the booster every three years.

Are there side effects of the distemper vaccine?

Like any vaccine, the vaccine for distemper in dogs may have side effects, including lethargy, loss of appetite, fever and swelling around the injection site. Some puppies may have an allergic reaction that can take up to 24 hours to show signs, so continuously monitor your dog after they receive a vaccination. Side effects are rare, and because distemper in dogs causes such severe health problems, the vaccine is recommended in most cases.

The bottom line is that transmission of distemper in dogs can occur easily, and this disease is often deadly with acute symptoms. On the other hand, preventing canine distemper is relatively easy and will typically cost far less than treating the disease.

Book an appointment at one of our upcoming Vetco Clinics to prevent distemper in your pet. Click the button below to find a date and time that works for you.

Blog used with permission from Vetco

What to Know About Dog Anxiety

Blog used with permission from Honest Paws



People can experience a range of anxiety symptoms – from a nervous heart flutter to a full-on panic attack. Having anxiety is one of the many ways dogs are like their pet parents. Just like us, their nervousness is normally nothing to worry about. It’s quite understandable that your pup may be a bit anxious when meeting people for the first time, or encountering a new situation.

With a little reassurance, your pooch will often quickly calm down. However, if dog anxiety is not addressed properly, or if there’s some underlying trauma at play, your pet’s anxiety could become a serious matter that takes time and energy to remedy. Read on to find out what you need to know about anxiety in dogs and how to help your pooch overcome this problem.

What is Anxiety in Dogs?



Basically, having anxiety is about being fearful or worried about something. It’s a natural emotion that helps alert us to danger, but it can be problematic in other circumstances. Dogs are pack animals and view their human family members part of their pack.

They feel safe with others around so it’s not unexpected that feelings of anxiety will surface when they’re left alone. This is called separation anxiety and is one of the typical forms of anxiety in dogs.

Our canines do best when they know what to expect. Therefore, anxiety may also become an issue if they’re dealing with a significant change in their environment, or too many changes at once. This means there can be a variety of reasons why your fur baby has developed anxiety.

Causes of Anxiety in Dogs

Some dogs have a generally calm disposition and will be less bothered by particular events than other canines might. Having said that, there are a number of common causes of anxiety in dogs. Keep in mind that there may be more than one reason for your pet’s anxiety.


Many dogs will become anxious when they hear loud noises like thunder. Interestingly, dogs can sense a drop in barometric pressure so they may disappear when they know there’s a storm coming. You might find your pooch cowering in the bathtub or under a bed in this circumstance. Other loud noises, like fireworks, will produce the same reaction.


Being in a crowd can be anxiety-provoking for your pooch. That’s because they don’t know what to expect in this environment. Crowds can be noisy and confining. This qualifies as an unfamiliar situation where, in your dog’s mind, anything can happen. Your pup may also worry about being separated from you.


Is your dog anxious when they’re around new people or other dogs? There may be a traumatic event in their past that’s affecting their behavior.

Maybe your dog has been rescued and the full extent of their history is unknown. Canines who aren’t socialized properly may have anxiety around other dogs and humans. They’re often simply not used to being with anyone else aside from their family members.


Despite the photos you see of dogs enjoying the breeze with their heads out the car window, not all dogs like car rides. It may cause anxiety in some dogs since they don’t know where they’re going – it could be a visit to the vet or to the boarding kennel.

Perhaps they’ve had a bad experience such as being confined in an uncomfortable space in the vehicle, or arriving at a destination that caused them anxiety.

Dog Anxiety Symptoms

Certainly, each dog is an individual and they’re apt to show different symptoms of anxiety. You may also see several of the following signs together.

In addition, some cases of anxiety will be more severe than others. And, symptoms that appear only once or twice could suggest that Rover or Rosie just didn’t get enough exercise or mental stimulation that day.

If behaviors persist or escalate to more destruction or aggression, you’re likely dealing with a case of anxiety that needs to be resolved. Plus, you don’t want your fur baby to injure themselves or others with their actions.


Here’s a list of dog anxiety symptoms to look out for:

  • Aggression
  • Barking
  • Compulsive or repetitive behavior
  • Depression
  • Destroying things
  • Drooling excessively
  • Ears back
  • Escaping or trying to
  • Panting
  • Pacing
  • Refusing food
  • Restlessness
  • Tail tucked in
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Urinating or defecating inside
  • Whining


Treatment Options for Dog Anxiety

Before you embark on using any treatment, it’s a good move to rule out the possibility that an underlying medical issue is causing your dog’s symptoms. Enlist the assistance of your vet to make sure your doggo is healthy. If the investigation suggests that your pup has anxiety, your veterinarian can assist you to put together an appropriate treatment plan.

This may include medications as well as some of the ideas below. Most successful plans of action will involve a number of different methods, all focused on encouraging your dog to relax. Here are some things your vet may suggest.


More and more, pet owners are discovering the benefits of CBD oil for dogs to reduce anxiety. This natural compound found in the hemp plant is extracted and made into a selection of safe pet oils and treats. If you are unfamiliar with CBD, check out this useful guide. Honest Paws CBD products are sold at all Best Friends Pet Hotel locations. The Calm line is design to help with anxiety.



There are things you can do to desensitize your dog to triggers that raise their anxiety level. For instance, if Snoopy or Stella shows signs of worry when you prepare to leave the house, pick up your keys and grab your bag like you’re heading out then put everything back again.

You can try desensitizing your canine friend to loud sounds by making quieter sounds and gradually moving up to louder sounds. As your pet gets used to these triggers, they’ll find them less anxiety-provoking.

Counter Conditioning

Counter conditioning builds on desensitization by training your doggo to judge stressors as a positive thing rather than a matter to be anxious about. Essentially, you offer your dog something good when their anxiety is triggered.

This could mean that whenever they hear thunder you give them a treat. If they have separation anxiety, when you leave the house put a food puzzle out for them to enjoy while you’re away. Your canine will start to anticipate getting something nice when these stressors happen.


Taking your dog’s mind off whatever is causing them distress is a good move. You might try getting their attention with a treat, food puzzle, a toy, or engaging them in doing a few tricks.

The key is to have your pooch focus on something else and not on whatever is causing their anxious thoughts. Make an effort to pick a distraction that is sure to please them and mix things up as often as you have to in order to keep their attention.

Music Therapy

Some dogs enjoy a little background noise so that they don’t feel alone. Soothing music can also help calm your pooch. Would you believe that there are actually audio tracks available specifically for canines? Try a few selections and see what your pet responds to best.

Touch and Massage

You know the favorite places on your pup’s body where they enjoy your touch. Maybe an ear rub is what they respond to or they really like a back scratch. Think about how touch relaxes them. Use this to combat their anxiety and kick it up a notch with a nice doggie massage.


There may be an advantage to hiring a professional dog trainer to encourage your pup to get over their anxiety. This is especially true if your pooch is showing aggression when under stress.

Look up any Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists (CAAB or ACAAB) in your area to see what services they have available. This is another instance where your veterinarian may be able to advise you.

 Safety and Comfort

All dogs need comfortable safe places where they can relax and nap undisturbed. A soft pet bed and a favorite blanket can be used to bring their stress level down.

You can even buy heated pads for them to lie on to provide more comfort. Encourage your dog with praise and the odd treat when you see them taking a break in their safe space.

They’ll quickly begin to associate this with feeling protected and understand that it’s somewhere to soothe themselves when feeling anxious. A crate can also provide safety and comfort if it’s used this way.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you treat a dog with anxiety?

Treating dog anxiety usually involves a number of different methods such as CBD oil, counter conditioning, distraction, music therapy and more.

What are signs of anxiety in dogs?

Symptoms of dog anxiety run the gamut from changes in body language involving the ears and tail to behaviors such as whining and urinating inside.

How can I calm my dog’s anxiety naturally?

Offering nutritional supplements, providing exercise and mental stimulation, and socializing your dog are a few things you can try.


Why Does My Pet’s Breath Smell?

Dental health guidance provided by Dr. Sharon Davis, DVM

dog, vet, dental health, teeth cleaning

If you find that your dog or cat’s breath smells, it may be time to take the utmost care of your pet’s dental health.

Dental health: how important is it really?

Periodontal disease can lead to bacteria getting into your pet’s blood stream through their inflamed gums. These bacteria can wreck havoc on the body. They go to heart valves causing endocarditis and heart murmurs as well as travel to other organs seeding infection throughout the body.

Diseased teeth can lead to tooth root abscess and even infection in the jaw bone that can get so bad it can weaken the jaw bone enough to cause a fracture. All these things can be prevented with proper dental care.

Do you think it’s important now?


Check out your pet’s teeth. If any of the following applies, your pet likely has dental disease.

1) You see brown build up on the teeth. Don’t forget to check the back teeth.

2) The gums bleed if you touch them with a cotton tip where the tooth touches the gum.

3) You touch one or more of your pet’s teeth and they move.

4) Your pet’s chew toy has spots of blood on it after chewing on it.

5) Your pet picks up a toy and drops it or doesn’t chew on the toys like before.

6) Your pet shy’s away from his head being petted when he used to enjoy it before.

7) Your pet’s breath can clear the room.

If you recognize any of these symptoms in your pet, have your pet examined by your veterinarian.


If your pet has mild dental tartar, you may be able to get away with just brushing the teeth with a pet approved toothpaste on a routine basis, but eventually almost all pets require a professional dental cleaning – just as you require professional dental cleanings.

If your pet already has evidence of dental disease and gingivitis, your pet requires a professional dental cleaning, or as veterinarians like to call it: a comprehensive oral health assessment and treatment (COHAT for short).

The sooner you get this done, the healthier your pet will be long term, and there will be decreased likelihood of needing extractions.

It is not a one and done for the life of your pet. Dental cleanings need to be done on a regular basis. The frequency depends on your pets breed, genetics, chewing habits and at-home care.

dog, teeth brushing

Brushing your pet’s teeth is easier if you start when they are young. Get them used to having your fingers in their mouth, lifting their lips and opening their mouths.

Brushing can be done with a special long handled dog toothbrush, a human tooth brush, a special designed finger cap brush or even just a piece of gauze wrapped around your finger. What you use will depend upon you and the size of your pet. It is important however to only uses specialized pet toothpaste as human toothpaste is harmful to your pet.

For a DIY pet toothpaste recipe that you can make and use at home, watch this “how to” video from Best Friends Pet Hotel:

Listen to the advice of the professionals and veterinarians to tell you when it is a time for a professional cleaning.

cat, dental health, teeth brushing

In small breed dogs it can be as early as one year of age or as late as 6 years of age in a large breed dog. Cats may require their first cleaning anywhere from 1 year to 8 years; a lot depends on their chewing habits, underlying medical conditions, and at-home care. The most important factor is: don’t wait until your pet is experiencing pain, infection and complications to get it done. It is important to be proactive with dental care. Your pet will thank you.


pet grooming, groomer, dog
Your local Best Friends Pet Hotel offers professional teeth brushing as part of our grooming services. Visit our Grooming webpage to learn more and book an appointment. Or call your local center with any questions.

vet care, vet clinic, vaccinations, Vetco, Best Friends pet Hotel
To learn more about veterinary care and monthly vet clinics (in partnership with Vetco) at SELECT local Best Friends Pet Hotel locations, visit our Vet Care webpage. Or call your local center with any questions.

What, How & Why of Microchipping

dog lost in woods, microchip

It happens! Your cat gets outside and runs off or your dog squeezes out of his collar and heads for the woods.

You try to catch them, but they are too fast and too determined. After calling and searching, your stomach becomes knotted up hoping for a safe return. While you can’t always prevent your pet from getting lost, you can increase the chances that you will be reunited with microchipping. When your dog is microchipped they are twice as likely to be returned home and your cat is more than 20 times more likely!

If your pet is not currently microchipped, learn more about the process and book an appointment at your local Vetco clinic to chip your pet.

What is a microchip?

microchip, dog, cat

A Microchip is an implant, about the size of a grain of rice, put under your pet’s skin. It is encoded with a unique number that is linked to all of your contact information in a secure database.

Why is microchipping important?

One in three pets will become lost at some point in their lives, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). One of the best ways to help ensure that you and your dog or cat will be reunited, if they get lost, is to make sure you have a microchip.

How is the microchip put in my pet?

microchip implanted, injection, dog, veterinarian

Implanting the device is actually a very simple process and can easily be done during a Vetco clinic appointment. It doesn’t even require anesthesia!

Using a hypodermic needle, similar to the kind that is used to give vaccines, the licensed Vetco veterinarian “injects” the microchip under your pet’s skin (usually between the shoulder blades). Your pet may feel a moment of discomfort but a little moment of ‘ouch’ is far better than being separated from you forever.

How does the microchip work if my pet gets lost?

Let’s say your pet goes exploring without your permission. Maybe their collar gets snagged and comes off, so they no longer have their ID. Your pet then gets picked up and dropped off at a shelter or local vet’s office, where they’re scanned for a microchip. The scan reveals your pet’s identification number and its associated registry. The vet or shelter contacts the registry, who reaches out to you to tell you where to find your pet.
That’s why it is so crucial that you register your pet’s microchip. The chip itself only transmits an ID number. It’s up to you and your vet’s office to connect that ID number to your personal information so the registry can reach you if your pet gets lost.

Do I need to microchip my pet if they wear a collar?

Yes. Collars can get loose and come off when a pet gets lost, especially if they wear a breakaway collar. Additionally, the engraving on ID tags can wear down over time, making it difficult for anyone to read them. Microchips and a collar with an ID tag are not mutually exclusive—your pet needs both.

Does the microchip track my pet’s location?

A microchip is not a GPS tracker and will not tell you where to find your pet if they get lost. A GPS microchip would need to be powered and charged making it difficult to maintain.


microchipping, cat, home

What should I do if my pet has a microchip from a previous home?

If you think your pet may already have a microchip from a previous pet parent, ask one of the Vetco vets to scan for the microchip. The vet can give you the microchip’s ID number and registry information. You’ll then need to contact the registry to change your pet’s contact information.

Is it possible for a microchip to fall out?

Within 24 hours of being microchipped, your pet’s tissue will bond to the chip, which usually prevents it from moving around. In rare cases the chip may migrate under the skin, but it will not fall out.

veterinarian checking chip under pet's / dog's skin

Once my pet is microchipped is there any maintenance?

Your pet’s microchip should last throughout their life and not require any maintenance. The only things you need to do are register the microchip and update your account whenever you move or get a new phone number. That is the very best way to help ensure your dog or cat is reunited with you if they ever go missing.

Is it expensive to have my pet microchipped?

Vetco clinic licensed veterinarian with dog

The cost of microchipping is minimal compared to the lifetime protection that you are giving your pet. When you purchase a microchip at a Vetco Clinic, you receive the following FREE Pet Protection Services from 24PetWatch:

  • The ability to report a lost or found pet online anytime at
  • A complimentary basic online profile with your contact information and the ability to update your contact information online
  • Timely and convenient automated lost-pet service calls and emails


Book your Vetco clinic appointment today at Best Friends Pet Hotel, and get your pet microchipped!



Pet Vaccinations: Common Questions Answered by Our Trusted Veterinarian

Answers to commonly asked questions regarding pet vaccinations provided by Dr. Sharon Davis, DVM

pet vaccination

In 2020, Best Friends Pet Hotel began offering monthly vet clinics (in partnership with Vetco) at our locations nationwide – as part of our ongoing mission to offer our pets and pet parents the most robust, premium pet care services around.

Since the start of our vet clinics, we’ve been receiving many important questions regarding pet vaccinations. So we decided to create this helpful resource for our pet parents by asking our trusted Veterinarian Consultant, Dr. Sharon Davis, DVM, for her expert answers and advice to your most commonly asked questions:


1. Why are vaccinations so important?

Vaccinations protect your pet and other pets against diseases, many of which are life threatening. It is much less expensive to vaccinate your pet than it would be to treat them if they got ill. It can prevent unneeded suffering for your pet and your family. Some vaccines are required by law, like the rabies vaccine. There are also viruses that can be transmitted to people if your unvaccinated pet were to contract it.


2. How do vaccines work?

Vaccines work by exposing the immune system to certain components of the unwanted virus. This lets the immune system gear up and produce antibodies against the virus. This is not instantaneous and it does take a few weeks for the body to produce these antibodies. Later if your pet is exposed to the virus, your pet’s immune system will recognize the virus and send those antibodies out to neutralize it before it can invade the cells and cause disease.


vet cat vaccination

3. What annual vaccinations do you recommend to pet parents?

Vaccinations that are recommended depend on you and your pet’s life style. Does your pet board? Do you go for walks in the woods? Do you live in a high rise apartment and your dog only uses potty pads in the house? Is your pet a hunting dog? Your veterinarian is there to help guide you in which vaccinations are important for your pet based on its life style.


4. How often should I vaccinate my pet?

Vaccination frequency depends on manufacturer recommendations, state laws, and pet’s lifestyle. As your pet ages, life style may change that it may no longer need a vaccine it used to get. State laws change as well. Some states require yearly rabies vaccines , others every three years. Your veterinarian is there to help you decide what is needed for your pet and your circumstances.


5. What happens if I miss a vaccination?

Missing a vaccination makes your pet vulnerable to contracting the disease you are trying to prevent. It is important for your pet’s health to stay current on vaccinations. Depending on the amount of time that has lapsed, there are some vaccinations that will require you to restart the series in order to properly protect your pet. Your veterinarian will be able to assist you in what your pet needs.


6. How do I know if my cat or dog is having a bad reaction to a vaccine?

A vaccine reaction can happen with any vaccine at any time, but is usually most common when receiving a new vaccination. It is important to monitor your pet for any facial swelling, hives, vomiting, diarrhea or difficulty breathing. If these were to occur you should seek veterinary care immediately.


7. Are there recommendations for puppies or kittens as it relates to vaccines?

Puppies or kittens receive some passive immunity from their mother through the placenta and the colostrum when they are born. This passive immunity will wane with time, this is why it is important the puppies and kittens get a series of vaccines to boost their own immature immune systems as the passive immunity they received from their mother wanes. Which vaccines are needed will depend on your puppy or kitten’s life style.

puppies kittens


8. As it relates to finding a place to vaccinate my pet, what types of things should I look for?

It is important to look for a place that not only vaccinates your pet but also examines them. There are certain times when pets present with medical conditions that make vaccinating them not in their best interest at that time. These medical conditions should be corrected prior to your pet receiving a vaccination. Go to a place you trust. A place that you can feel comfortable being able to communicate your questions to the staff.

Best Friends Pet Hotel and Vetco vet clinic
Monthly Vetco vet clinic at Best Friends Pet Hotel


vet care, vet clinic, vaccinations, Vetco, Best Friends pet Hotel
To learn more about veterinary care and monthly vet clinics (in partnership with Vetco) at your local Best Friends Pet Hotel, visit our Vet Care webpage. Or call your local center with any additional questions.

Puppy 101: A Quick-Start Guide to Caring for Your New Puppy

new puppy

Bringing home a new puppy is an exciting, but sometimes overwhelming experience. Whether this is your first puppy or it’s been a while since you’ve had a pup, we’d like to help by answering the most common questions and offering tips to ensure you give your new pet the best care possible.


What do I feed my puppy?

puppy food

There are many choices out there in dog food, so it can be tough to feel confident you’ve found the right food to nourish your puppy. For starters, it’s important that you feed a high-quality food that is specially formulated for growing puppies. This food will have higher protein and fat levels, added DHA and EPA, and other vitamins and nutrients (such as calcium), all perfectly balanced to provide proper nutrition during growth.

Puppies’ nutritional needs change quickly as they grow, so be sure to revisit the amount you’re feeding frequently to make sure your pup is getting the proper amount for their growth stage. If you have a large breed puppy, like a lab or a golden retriever, you’ll want to avoid overfeeding, as this can cause issues with bone development as your pup grows.

Your puppy’s food will be complete and balanced, providing all the nutrients he or she needs in the correct proportions. While it might be tempting, you should avoid switching between foods or feeding table scraps because these can lead to a very picky eater in the future! Plus, some people foods can cause stomach upset and some can even be toxic. If you do give your puppy a little something on the side, we recommend these treats and other foods make up less than 10% of a pet’s daily food intake. And If you must switch your puppy’s food, be sure to gradually change the foods over two weeks to avoid an upset stomach.


When should I transition from a puppy formula to an adult food?


Our recommendation is that your pup should stay on puppy food until they are full grown, but know that “full grown” varies significantly depending on the breed. Many are done growing and can change to adult food by a year old, but some large breed puppies, such as Great Danes, will continue to grow for up to two years!


How do I set my puppy up for potty training success?

puppy potty training

Potty training is a much happier adventure for all involved when you make the experience positive by encouraging your pup when it succeeds rather than scolding when it has accidents. Puppies are still developing the muscles they need to hold their urine for the first 12 weeks, so you’ll need to take them out frequently and praise them when they go outside. Eating usually stimulates movement through their system, so you should take them out within 20 minutes after mealtime. It’s also a good idea to take your puppy out after sleeping, drinking, and playing. And always try to give a verbal cue such as “go potty” that the puppy can catch on to, along with plenty of praise as soon as they have gone.

Always keep your puppy in your sight while potty training to foster success. This is easier said than done, we know. So if you find that your puppy has had an accident and urinated or pooped inside, do not punish them after the fact. The puppy will only understand why you are upset if you actually catch him or her in the act. If you do catch your puppy going in the house, immediately interrupt the behavior with a verbal “no,” and take him or her quickly outdoors to finish. Be sure to offer plenty of praise when he or she goes outside.

Any time you’re not able to supervise your puppy, he or she should be kept in a crate. Puppies become comfortable and consider the crate their safe place to rest. They are also less likely to go to the bathroom in their crate as long as it’s not too big. For optimal success, you should allow your puppy to go to the bathroom before putting him or her in and as soon as they come out of the crate. Short periods of time in the crate will help your puppy learn to hold off until an appropriate potty time is offered. Another benefit of crating your puppy is that it prevents them from chewing on or eating things in the house while you’re not looking.

Remember that puppies often make mistakes during potty training, so do your best to keep up the positivity! If training seems to be really off course, it’s always good to check with your vet to rule out medical causes for the challenges. A professional trainer can also help smooth out the process if issues persist.


What can I expect from visits to the vet?

puppy vet clinic

You should schedule a vet visit as soon as possible after getting a new puppy and do whatever you can to make every vet visit as low-stress as possible. Be sure to give plenty of praise (and treats!) to make each visit a positive experience. This will help your puppy see the vet as a normal outing rather than an unpleasant experience as they grow older.

The vet will give your puppy a physical exam to look for any problems he or she may have been born with (such as hernias, luxating patellas, soft spots on their head, heart murmurs, etc.) or any other medical issues. In addition, your vet will deworm your puppy and get you started on a proper vaccination schedule. You’ll also want to talk about having your puppy spayed or neutered at the appropriate age.

Vaccinations are a proactive way to protect and support your puppy’s immune system from exposure to new diseases. Your veterinarian will create a plan for your puppy based on your unique lifestyle and routines, but they usually start vaccines around 6  to 8 weeks of age and booster them every 2 to 3 weeks until they’re 16 weeks old. It’s important to follow your vet’s plan as getting all recommended boosters in with the correct intervals will ensure your puppy is fully protected. Some vaccines are considered core vaccines (rabies, distemper combo vaccine) and are given to almost all puppies. There are other non-core vaccines (bordetella, lyme, lepto, influenza) that are given based on an individual puppy’s chance of future exposure. This often depends on where you live and what your puppy will be in contact with, both in the environment and from other dogs. For example, does your puppy spend almost all of their time inside or do they go to dog parks or a groomer? Will you take them for a hike in the woods every weekend? Your vet will also likely start your puppy on a heartworm preventative and possibly a flea and tick preventative regimen.

Because they are so little, puppies can get sick quickly. Watch for any diarrhea, vomiting, weakness, lethargy, sneezing, coughing, discharge from the eyes or nose, fever, decreased appetite, limping, or general changes in health or behavior. Contact your vet right away if you notice any of these.
Always remember that your vet is your ally, and you both want the best for your puppy. If you have questions about something or if you miss a vaccine booster or dose of preventative medication, be sure to check in with your vet. They will be happy to get you back on track.


Time for training!

puppies playing

It’s important to socialize puppies with people and dogs, but be careful about who you introduce your puppy to until they’ve gotten all of their puppy vaccines at 16 weeks. Until then, it’s best to keep your puppy in a fenced-in yard and only let them interact with fully-vaccinated dogs. You’ll want to avoid places where other dogs frequent (such as dog parks and pet stores), and carry them in and out of vet clinics to help reduce their exposure to diseases.

Puppy classes are strongly encouraged for training and socialization, and reputable classes will require that all puppies be up-to-date on vaccines. These classes are great for both you and your puppy, and they will foster a positive long-term relationship by teaching you how to communicate and interact with each other.

Your puppy will lose its baby teeth and get adult teeth throughout its first eight months. Chewing and biting is a normal play behavior between puppies, and it provides relief to pesky teething pain. You can teach your puppy that biting you is inappropriate using a high-pitched sound to mimic the noises puppies use with each other when playtime gets too rough. Immediately give your puppy a toy to play with and praise them for playing with the toy.


Brushing up on grooming tips

puppy grooming

Now is the perfect time to get your puppy comfortable with things they will encounter in the future, such as vet visits, nail trims, ear cleaning, and brushing their coat and teeth, so they will not be afraid of these things as an adult dog. Trimming nails can be done at home, but ask your vet to show you how.  Cutting them too short can cause a bit of pain and bleeding, and it might make them wary of nail trims in the future. It’s also great to get your puppy used to daily tooth brushing. Dental disease can be detrimental to the body later in life, so keeping the teeth clean is a great way to keep them healthy. You can use a regular toothbrush or a finger brush, but be sure to use toothpaste specially made for dogs because human toothpaste is toxic to pets.

Puppies can be messy, but we only recommend giving a full bath every two weeks if possible. More frequent baths can dry out the skin. Between baths, you can spot wash your puppy as needed. It’s important to use a shampoo that’s made for dogs because the pH of their skin is different than that of people, so our soaps and shampoos can dry out or irritate their skin.


Anything else I should know? I’m a bit overwhelmed!

puppy beagle

Exercise, plenty of toys, and playing are important to keep your puppy’s mind stimulated. Gradually introduce exercise (but don’t overdo it) and keep a close eye on your puppy when it’s playing with toys. Remove any strings or small parts that can come off the toy, as they can cause choking or blockages in the intestines if swallowed. Always supervise your puppy if he or she is playing with plush toys. Their sharp little teeth can cut through and get the stuffing and squeakers out easily, and these can be hazardous when swallowed.

Most important of all, enjoy your puppy! Take lots of pictures to look back on later. They don’t stay small for long, and there’s nothing better than puppy kisses to brighten any day.


Best Friends Pet Hotel – Puppy Wellness Resources:

Puppy Play Group

Give your puppy a strong foundation for life! At our Puppy Play Group sessions, your puppy gets to play in a supervised pack environment that teaches them proper socialization, manners and play skills to prepare them for adulthood.

Click here to learn more about Puppy Play Group and to book a reservation.


Puppy Nutrition

We are proud to have partnered with Freely® – our Exclusive Nutrition Partner – to offer pet food recipes (for puppies and beyond) that are made with limited, purposeful ingredients.

Click here to learn more about Freely.


Puppy Grooming

Whether you need a quick shampoo or “the works, our expert groomers will make your furry friend fabulous. Each appointment includes a free consultation to discuss your pup’s personal grooming needs. Bonus: First time puppies receive a discounted bath for only $10 and a discounted bath and haircut for only $20!

Click here to learn more about grooming and to book a reservation.


Vet Clinics

In conjunction with Vetco, we offer vaccination and wellness services, monthly, in almost all of our convenient locations.

Click here to learn more about our vet care, see our upcoming clinic dates and locations, and to make a reservation.



Blog Post Source:



New Family Addition: Pet Introductions Made Easy

By Christine A. Bournias

adopted dog with family

Contemplating A New Addition To The Family? ​

You’re thinking about bringing a new pet into your family.

You saw a photo of a puppy online and you just have to have him. Besides, you’re at home more—and you’re “bored.”

Not so fast. Take a breath. Think it through.

Animals are adorable and cuddly. But, are you ​really​ ready for a new addition to your family? Ask yourself: Is ​now​ a good time for one more responsibility? It’s much better to regard your decision ​before​ you make up your mind based on cuteness alone.

Sometimes love is not enough. Neither is cute. What you want and what you need are two separate things.

Okay, okay. Yes. You’re ready for a new pet!

You Decided To Adopt A Pet. Now What?​

The local shelter is “emptying” the shelter, and you heard it’s an ideal time to adopt an animal.
With ​current animal considerations and almost the entire world under government regulation ​to self isolate, you’re convinced that a new pet for your family will be a good move to occupy your time—and home.

●   Consider your lifestyle outside of self isolation
●   Think long term
●   Inspect your current environment
●   Avoid making rash decisions based on emotions alone
●   Discuss pet responsibility with your family

pet mom kissing adopted dog pug mix

​Welcome To Your New Home. Be A Good Boy. ​

Congratulations! You decided to bring a new member into your household.

Love wins, but there’s more to owning a pet than love. This cute ​little​ bundle of fluff is a live breathable creature that will grow up and be a ​large​ breathable creature that needs you from day one.

Tiny kittens transform into grown cats. And puppies get big. Therefore, you must know how to love animals ​and​ be committed to their entire life as they sprout up.

young girl with adopted cat

Pet Introductions: It’s Not Easy. But, It’s Not Impossible. ​

When you haven’t been used to having a ​best friend at home, you might be rusty on what it takes to properly care for your new pet.

Perhaps you already have a houseful of humans to care for, or you have many other pets running around your home.

Do you currently have an older cat that rules the house? Are there young children or senior citizens living with you? Expecting a baby? Or teenage girls? Can you handle a whimpering pup, or could you commit to rescuing a special needs kitten instead? Maybe working with a senior dog is suited for your family?

How will all these moving parts meld together with your existing family? ​


Be Smart About Your New Family Pet Additions ​

Whether your new member of the family is a dog—or cat—you want to prepare your household and accommodate your home for your pet’s arrival.

1. Are you ready to take on the responsibility that comes with caring for a pet?
2. Is your entire family and living situation suitable for bringing in a new family member?
3. Most importantly, is your budget aligned to care for your pet properly?

Getting a new pet requires responsibility and hard work. In order to be a successful Pet Parent, your pet requires from you rigor, discipline, financial commitment, and a lifetime of devotion.

​Pet Parent Success Takes Planning. And Patience. ​

A new pet. It’s not as simple as it seems. But, with a little guidance and lots of patience, you can become a pro. We’re here to help:

​3 Simple Tips Before You Introduce A New Pet Into Your Family ​ ​


1. Avoid Rash Decisions

Is Your Entire Family Ready For A New Pet? ​

If you base your new pet decision based on emotion alone, you may be in for a big surprise.

Do your homework and don’t make reckless decisions at the expense of an animal’s life. Quick decisions can lead to trouble. You may not be able to provide the ideal home for your new pet—or worse, you could find yourself having to relinquish a pet if you simply can’t care for them properly.

You wouldn’t relinquish your human child, why would it be any different with your fur kid?

Your new puppy is a forever commitment, not a pair of shoes.

Please explore all options if a new pet is a good fit ​before​ the final adoption or purchasing process.

​Still A Good Time To Get A New Pet? ​

While certain breeders and animal shelters have a return policy in place, a new pet shouldn’t be temporary. You can’t try out your new pet for size, reassuring yourself that you can always take them back if they’re not perfect.

Their paws may track in mud on your new flooring, their barking might be persistent, and their excited tail may knock over a few family heirlooms when it wags.

Think about a ​forever​ home for your best friend.

family deciding, adopting dog

Get Agreement From Your Family To Add A Pet ​

Please be certain that both you and your family can provide a suitable environment for your new furry friend. It takes commitment from the ​entire​ family.

The whole family needs to be on-board from the get-go.

It’s a tough decision ​not​ to get a new pet, but not as tough as it would be if you discover that each member of your family is not committed to caring for your pet.

“When I adopted Louie, he displayed many challenging behaviors that made me question my decision to adopt him. I learned quickly that I had two choices to make; 1) to keep him and 2) to love him. My family had to be on-board with that decision as well. A large part of loving Louie was having him (and me), my grandchildren, and Louie’s alpha pups properly trained.” —Danise DiStasi, Author ​Love Like Louie

A new pet is not a toy.

Be smart about your pet decision. Just because you’re working from home doesn’t mean you’re not busy working. Pets require more than a bowl of kibble and minimal attention every once in a while.

All pets are loving, breathable beings, and deserve a forever home with a lifetime commitment. Make sure they fit in well within your current situation and overall lifestyle.


teenage boy with adopted dog

2. Do Your Research

Take action ​now​ on what kind of animal you would like to care for. Research dog and cat breeds ahead of time to determine temperament and common traits.

Dog breeds ​​aren’t created equal. Determine the kind of animal you would like, and study the breed at great lengths to understand common tendencies and behaviors. This research will help in determining if a new pet will align with your lifestyle and household.

Know your family.

A household with grown teenage boys or a family with an infant are two (2) completely different circumstances. Newborns require around the clock care, young children become restless, and teenagers get bored easily.

Consider your current family arrangement and talk with your family to gauge commitment on time investment for a pet.

Together, take a vow to invest time with your new furry family member.

Are you always on the go? Or, are you more of a couch potato? Do you want to purchase a pet? Or, do you have room in your heart and home to adopt? Regardless, do your homework on the animal.

These initial questions will guide you to the appropriate breed. ​

Pet Adoption ​

Adoption is not for everybody, but if it’s for you, be cautious of organizations that give away animals or try to ‘empty’ their facility in a short amount of time with little to no adoption cost per animal.

Instead, look for organizations that focus on ​keeping​ those animals in forever homes.

It’s important to find a rescue organization that’s in business for the betterment of the animal. Make sure they’re not just keeping their doors open for money only. Avoid risky organizations that are merely trying to clear out their cages fast.

It’s a good sign if the shelter or rescue organization asks you what you’re doing for the next 10-14 years of your life to determine your commitment and responsibility level. You’ll know right away if the organization is in it for the animal. And if you’re not sure, consult a pet professional or experienced rescuer for sound advice.


If a rescue organization requires strict background checks, welcome the scrutiny. You’ll know they have the best interest of the animal if they take time to ask you for personal references. Look for organizations that conduct home checks and thorough lifestyle interviews.


Rescuing a pet is more than a huge decision. It’s for their lifetime.

A new pet is a forever decision, not a fleeting moment. With fur kids, you’re responsible for every single decision of their life—from the time your eyes meet behind cage bars, to the time you’re cradling them in your arms and they’re taking their last breath.

You’re their whole world. You owe it to your new pet to be theirs. ​


Pet Purchase & Purebred ​

You may have your heart set on a ​​certain breed. If you choose a reputable breeder for your new puppy, be mindful of your puppy’s health and their parent bloodline. Research the ideal time to separate a puppy from his mother and littermates, and become familiar with the various ​​stages of a dog’s life​.​

big dog kissing little dog

If you’re looking for a particular kind of pet, remember that there are many accommodating purebred rescue organizations to choose from.


Remember, not all pets are a good fit. Period.


Save the heartbreak. If you’re not ready to be a pet caregiver, please reconsider your decision until either your commitment level, lifestyle, and/or environment changes to a life with a pet. Better to know now than to make unfortunate adjustments later. Getting a new pet when you’re not ready will make NOBODY happy. You and your new pet deserve more.


Sometimes a human family and a dog just don’t connect well with one another. It happens.

A Chihuahua is much different than a Great Dane. Not all breeds are consistent within the breed either. Every pet is unique—even within the same breed. But, researching common denominators before you make the leap of adding a new addition to your family is critical.


adopted dog licking young girl's face in yard

“Dogs.They come into our lives to teach us something. Your pet picks you, not the other way around.” —​ Unknown


​Regular Medical Health Check Ups Are A Must ​

Medical health exams are critical throughout the entire life of your pet, particularly during the initial stages of bringing your new pet into your home. Keep up with check-ups and consult a ​trusted Veterinarian ​​for the best care for your new fur family member. Plan out your costs to care for your pet’s ​​vaccinations ​​ahead of time.

veterinarian with adopted cat

Pet essentials, pet health insurance, quality pet food, pet products, and pet extras all cost money. Providing a safe environment for your dog to roam and romp is vital for mental stimulation and physical activity. Playing fetch or walking your dog all require your time.


dog dressed as vet with white coat and stethoscope

Other considerations include ​​grooming, Doggy Day Camp, and ​boarding with stay and play ​options. In addition, many ​reputable pet care organizations ​​conduct careful assessments for size and temperament. Most will provide one to one care for pets that need individual attention and don’t fair well in a group setting.

Consider Existing Household Pets ​

Slow and steady is the key. If you have specific questions, consult a pet professional first. ​

Dogs And Dogs ​

Pets that have been at your home longest usually will try to establish their territory. Think like a dog. It’s all about dominance and pecking order, so introductions need to be slow and intentional.

two dogs kissing on leashes

Two dogs can definitely be company, but make sure you are deliberate in your approach. Introduce a new pet on neutral turf first and conduct walk-bys.



Dogs want to please us. We need to show them how.


Book a tour of the facility. Schedule an interview for your pet to see if daycare is a good option for your family.

Dog professionals will look at your dog’s size and temperament to determine the best Doggy Day Camp options. Most established pet care facilities practice strict safety measures and will require pet vaccines. As a bonus, many also provide attractive offers to new guests​.


dog professional walking adopted dog on leash for advanced tips to learn how to add a new member to your existing fur family and unique situation. Make sure you make a concentrated effort to put a ​​training plan ​​in place for your dog.

Cats And Dogs ​

If a dog and cat didn’t grow up together, it can be challenging to meld the two lives. They’re different species, with different needs. Ask your ​pet expert professional ​for additional consultation.

adopted cat and dog in backyard

Provide an exercise outlet for your pet. Take time for playtime. Make time to rest. There are innovative ways to keep your pet occupied and entertained when you’re ​at home ​too.

3. Be Deliberate.

Go slow and steady with introductions with your family. ​

New Babies ​

When coming home from the hospital, greet the family pet first. Kids are unpredictable. So are dogs. If you have a new baby home, allow your new pet to sniff items of your baby (like a bib or cap) before you enter the house. Your sense of smell is intense and a ​dog’s nose tells a whole story about how they see the world. ​

NEVER leave a baby unattended. Even the gentlest, tamest dog can be provoked by sudden movements like a child reaching over its head or grabbing its tail or ears. Unprovoked and unpredictable bites happen when people aren’t paying attention to BOTH the child and the pet. Pet owners are held accountable for undesirable and dangerous actions.

Consult a professional Dog Trainer or Dog Behaviorist to get ready for your pet’s (or baby’s) big arrival.

adopted dog meeting baby

Share pet responsibility with the family. Allow each member of the family to share in the responsibility of feeding, walking, and playtime. Those proactive actions will strengthen your bond and promote desired behavior and good habits. Hand feed kibble every once in a while will earn your pet’s trust. But remember to ​​allow your dog to be their own dog ​from time to time.


​Introduction Tips Can Make New Pet Additions A Breeze ​

“Love depends on how we view others…The characteristics of a loving person are patience, kindness, truthfulness, and trustworthiness.” —​ ​ ​Danise DiStasi, Author ​

woman holding dog against cheek, yellow background

  • Know why love is important. Be there at the beginning of their life. Be there until the end of their life. When the time comes, help your pet cross over that ‘rainbow bridge.’ Recognize ​how and when to let go.

pet dad high diving new adopted dog on couch

​Final New Pet Addition Thoughts ​

Just because the dog in the window is cute, doesn’t mean that they’re right for your family.

Take the time to make a careful decision for their ​forever​ home. Love is not enough. Commitment is a lifetime and not a fleeting moment. Keep your new pet happy and comfortable during their entire life. No shortcuts, do it well.

We’ll be here to assist you throughout your pet’s entire life journey.

adopted dog snuggling with cat


About The Author:

Christine A. Bournias resides in Michigan with her 2-pack; two new beautiful adopted miracles. As her “Angelwriter”, Nicodemus (1997-2010) is the wisdom behind the stories she shares. Christine champions the magnitude of building the bond between a dog and their person(s) by means of respectful communication and enduring admiration.