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By Dr. Caitlin O’Donoghue
Congratulations and welcome to the joys of pet parenthood! It’s an adorable time as well a stressful one as you navigate the woes of being a new pet parent. It’s recommended to bring your puppy or kitten home at 8 weeks old, as this is when they are switched over to solid food and have had time to interact with the rest of the litter. Sometimes, this is out of our control and we welcome pets into our home a little sooner than that. Here are some answers to questions you may have about what you should do during the first 8 weeks of their life!
As your puppy grows throughout its life, it will have different nutritional needs. If you have puppies or kittens under 6 weeks of age, please consult with your veterinarian regarding their specific nutritional needs. When you first bring your puppy or kitten home at 8 weeks there are often questions about what to feed them.
We recommend that you stick with what was sent home with your puppy or kitten while they are adjusting to their new home. If desired, you can then transition them to a new grain-inclusive puppy or kitten food as these will be formulated to meet their needs.
To begin the food transition, start by feeding 75% of their regular diet and 25% of the new food for a couple of days. Next increase the new food to 50% while decreasing their old food to 50%. Following that, feed 75% new food and 25% of their original diet. Finally, you can switch fully to their new chosen food! This process should be gradually completed over a week. Remember, different brands of food may have different calories, so it’s important once transitioned to check the back of the bag to ensure your puppy or kitten is getting the right amount of food.
At this age our little ones are still learning how to walk and get around. We want to avoid high impact or intense exercises such as jumping off furniture, excessive walks or play sessions. Puppies and kittens are at an important stage of developing - we want to ensure there is not added strain that may prevent them from developing properly.
Puppies or kittens at this age are not fully vaccinated, so we recommend keeping them off of walkways, grass, or outdoor areas as these can be a source of potentially harmful diseases. Light walking or toy play in a safe area is often enough at this stage.
Shelters, rescues, and reputable breeders should gently be starting the socialization process around the time puppies and kittens open their eyes and start to become mobile. When bringing your puppy or kitten home, it’s a great idea to ask what socialization has been done. This way you can find a good starting point that accommodates to their needs.
This often starts with introducing them to the texture of flooring or rugs, indoor grass patches, or even blankets. As a puppy or kitten becomes more active, you can start introducing everyday objects such as toys, new people including adults and children, and everyday sounds. By 8 weeks, it’s typically okay to start introducing them to puppy play groups! If you’re in the San Francisco area, check out our blog on puppy socials that have the Fuzzy stamp of approval!
While handling can fall under socializing your puppy or kitten, we feel that it deserves a spotlight of its own! Handling is something that your pet is going to experience throughout its life - at home, at the groomers, and at the veterinarian's office, of course. That’s why it’s recommended that body handling be started young to help creative positive experiences early. We want to avoid creating a negative association that will stick with your pet, as this can make future handling difficult for both parties involved. The goal is to make handling not just something that they tolerate, but something that predicts good things. Check out this instructional video for a step-by-step guide to ensure your pet develops positive associations with handling.
Puppies and kittens each have their own sets of species-appropriate vaccines that are given. Sometimes vaccine schedules can be a bit intimidating, but there’s no need to stress. While some start vaccinations at 6 weeks, this is often avoided as the puppies and kittens still have their maternal antibodies that may attack the vaccine. Vaccines are started at 8 weeks of age and are given every 3-4 weeks until they are 16 weeks of age. It’s important to note that it’s not the number of vaccines that a puppy or kitten is given, but the age at which they are administered that matters.
If you have any more specific questions about puppy or kitten care, get in touch with one of our Fuzzy vets. They can provide you with all the answers you need. Most importantly, enjoy these early weeks of life and savor the cuteness while you can!