Tips on Choosing a Healthy Puppy

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Thinking about adding a new puppy to your family? No matter where he comes from (shelter, rescue group, breeder, friend…or a posting on the Starbuck’s bulletin board) there are a few basic indicators of good health to look for in a puppy. Think carefully if you find yourself falling for the “underdog”…the shy, sad looking puppy that’s getting trampled by his more rambunctious littermates. Are you ready for the financial and time commitments that come with a dog who may have chronic health issues or exhibits fearful behavior?

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Here are some things to look for in a new puppy:

Eyes, Ears, Nose

The eyes should have no inflammation, discharge, or tear stains. It’s OK if you can see the third eyelid as long as it’s not swollen. Take a look (and sniff) at the ears to make sure they are clean and have no bad odor. Watch the puppy for ear scratching and head shaking; he should also be fine with you touching them. You can also clap your hands to check for deafness. The nose should be moist and cool. Make sure the nostrils are open and clear of mucus.

Teeth and Gums

Check the puppy’s bite to make sure his upper and lower teeth fit together properly (note that some breeds with short noses will have lower teeth that overlap the upper teeth). Look for healthy pink gums; although some pigmented spots on the gums are normal.

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Coat and Skin

Make sure the fur has no thinning or bald patches. Check for dry flakes of skin in the fur and run your hands over the puppy to feel for scaly patches or lumps. The puppy should be free of signs of external parasites.

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Legs and Belly

The legs should be straight and the feet should not be splayed out. Watch the puppy walk to check for limping. Have your vet check the kneecaps to make sure they don’t slip. Your vet can also feel for well-formed joints, especially in large breed puppies. The belly should not be swollen and should not have an umbilical hernia bump at the belly button.