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Planning puppy viewings: Hygiene and good practice
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Planning puppy viewings: Hygiene and good practice

Dogs
Health & Safety

If you have made the decision to buy a new puppy, you will probably visit several litters of pups offered for sale by different breeders to find the right one, and you may have to wait some time until you find the perfect puppy at the right time.

This might mean that over the course of a couple of weeks or months you’ll plan several trips to visit litters, or you may think about dedicating a whole day to puppy viewings and going to see two or more litters within that time as part of your decision-making process.

When viewing any litter, it is important to practice good hygiene and ensure that you take steps to avoid cross-contamination between the pups’ home and the outside world. If you are going to view more than one litter within a day, this is especially important because the risks increase when you handle multiple dogs from different environments in this way.

Many breeders consider it courteous for puppy buyers to advise them if they will be viewing several litters on the same day, and some may prefer that you visit on another day when you won’t have come into contact with other pups and strange dogs first. However, as long as you are vigilant about good hygiene and bear in mind the fact that young pups prior to vaccination are more vulnerable and act accordingly, any risk should be minimised and no greater than it would be if you only visited one litter.

Lots of prospective puppy buyers already have one or more dogs that they will handle prior to viewing a litter, or will come into contact with other dogs throughout the day – so whether you’re visiting several litters or just one, understanding why pups are more vulnerable, how people from the outside world can bring risks into their homes, and how to reduce them is important.

In this article we will explain why young puppies require extra vigilance when it comes to preventing disease transmission, and how to ensure that you practice good hygiene to keep the litters that you view safe. Read on to learn more.

Why are young puppies more vulnerable to disease?

When puppies are first born they haven’t had time to build up their own immune systems, but they still receive a level of protection from their dam’s immune system via the antibodies within the dam’s milk. Over the pups’ first few weeks of life, their own immune systems begin to develop, but they remain more vulnerable than adult dogs.

This is why puppies cannot be taken outside or introduced to unknown dogs before they have received their initial vaccinations and undergone the necessary waiting period to enable them to take effect. There are quite a number of contagious canine health conditions that can be found in the UK, and some of them are serious and can even be fatal, particularly in young puppies.

However, because vaccination is highly effective at protecting dogs, many first-time puppy buyers and even current dog owners aren’t fully aware of the risk of disease – or how vulnerable young puppies are to contracting contagious health conditions because of their low level of natural immunity.

Fleas, worms and other parasites are also highly contagious between dogs, again, particularly puppies.

Dog-to-dog transmission is perhaps the main way that diseases pass from dog to dog, but it is not the only one; many canine health conditions like parvovirus, which is very serious and has a very high mortality rate among puppies, can survive in the environment for weeks or even months without a host, and can still infect other dogs.

This means that if you have come into contact with a dog that carries a contagious health condition (even if the dog in question seems perfectly fine) or something else that is hosting a disease, it is entirely possible to unwittingly transmit it to another dog; potentially a vulnerable puppy.

How can puppy viewers pose a risk to younger pups?

Other dogs and even things in the environment can transmit viral, bacterial and fungal health conditions to pups, even if that contact isn’t direct. If you visit a breeder and your skin or clothes are carrying an unwanted passenger – or even the soles of your shoes – there is a small but nonetheless notable risk of you passing it on to the litter.

If you have already visited another litter (or more than one litter) on a day that you go to see another breeder, you’ll have come into contact with several more dogs, environments and chances to pass on illnesses than you otherwise would.

Any litter of puppies offered for sale should be healthy, and kept within a hygienic, safe environment that protects not just the litter, but any other dogs that people seeing the litter come into contact with afterwards, but you cannot necessarily tell for sure if this is the case.

This means that some breeders won’t want you to view their litter if you have already visited others, although by practicing good hygiene when viewing and handling litters, you should be able to minimise any theoretical risk.

Good hygiene when viewing litters

  • Always wash your hands and arms thoroughly with soap and hot water (or a specific handwash provided by the breeder, if offered) before and after touching or handling any of the puppies or dogs present.
  • Offer to take off your shoes when you reach the breeder’s premises, and don’t be surprised if you are asked to take off your shoes or use plastic hygiene covers over them.
  • Respect the breeder’s wishes if they ask you to wear a plastic apron or take any other specified steps when you visit the premises to reduce the risk to the litter, such as using hand sanitisers when directed.
  • Be open and honest if the breeder asks you any questions about your plans for viewing litters, other dogs you might have handled, and any other risks.
  • If you know or suspect that you may have been in the home of a dog that is unwell – even if it was not a pup in the litter you viewed and you never touched the dog in question – do not visit any other litters on the same day, and take care over your own handwashing protocols and laundering your clothes.
  • Avoid viewing litters of very young puppies – certainly those under a month old, as the younger the pup, the more vulnerable they will be. Few breeders will permit viewings of litters aged under 6-8 weeks old, in the best interests of the pups.
  • If you already own a dog, ensure that they are up to date with their vaccinations and flea treatment and worming protocols before you visit a litter.

Understanding the heightened vulnerability of young puppies and how good hygiene can protect them from disease is simply good practice for anyone planning to buy a puppy – and ensuring that you don’t compromise the health of a litter is a responsibility that any prospective puppy buyer should take very seriously.

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