Integrative vet Dr Iris Ege highlights the main considerations in getting a puppy along with what to feed them and the routine measures to optimise their health you should consider implementing once they are home.

Look before you leap!

A new puppy is always exciting! If you are thinking about getting a puppy, please make sure you take the time to make an informed decision. In particular:

  • Does your lifestyle and the needs of the breed you are choosing match?
  • Unfortunately, fashionable breeds may be bred by people who simply want to make a profit and have scant regard for the welfare of the parents or their puppies. Despite Lucy’s Law which outlaws puppy farming, this element has increased over the last two or three years so please be extra careful in where you look for a puppy.
  • Make sure you see the puppy interacting with their mother and that both are happy and healthy looking.
  • Be aware that, for example, the “cute look” of breeds like the French Bulldog come with respiratory, spinal, and skin problems due to brachycephaly where the back of the head becomes flattened, causing the head to widen, and occasionally the forehead to bulge out.
  • If you are choosing a large breed, do you have enough space and will you be able to cope with the rising price of dog food?
  • Find out what the puppy is being fed so you can carefully wean them onto the food you choose.

Feeding your pup

There is no one size fits all when it comes to food and be aware that most advice is partial. The pet food industry wants to sell, vets have certain training at vet school and usually get their updates from the pet food industry and many dog nutritionists work, for example, for raw food brands.

There are many different types of food:

  • Dried can be kibble, mixer or cold-pressed.
  • Wet food comes in very different percentages of protein and other nutrients and is usually tinned or in trays.
  • Raw food can be homemade or prepared.
  • Home cooking.

It is commonly recommended to feed “complete and balanced” foods that meet pet food industry standards. But the requirements for this are rather meagre and “complementary feed only” feeds don’t even match those. Most research is paid for by the pet food industry. Some research relies on owner perception and it seems to show that the diet as a puppy is a major factor for the development of allergies. Feeding at least 20% of fresh food seems to reduce the likelihood of developing allergies1.

Most holistic vets recommend a nutritionally balanced species appropriate diet i.e. mimicking what a scavenging carnivore like the dog would eat in the wild. Getting the balance right is particularly important if you are preparing meals at home. Good sources of information about all types of dog food can be found in the useful links section below.


It should remembered that anti-parasitic drugs are likely to:

  • Adversely affect the environment
  • Have negative impacts on the dog’s microbiome
  • Make the detox systems of the body work harder
  • Contribute to the increasing problem of drug resistance

Drugs should be used responsibly to keep them working well when dealing with infestations and in high-risk situations. We recommend they are only used when there is an actual problem.

Parasites are a big problem for puppies, but the risks that come with treating them are underestimated as well. When you get a puppy, please make sure you know what worming and flea treatments have already been used including the dates so you can work out a plan for your individual puppy.

Most veterinary practices and pet shops advise to cover puppies for all eventualities and IF there is a suspicion (for example, from worm count results) that there are problems this can make sense.


Wormers DON’T prevent worms, they only treat existing infestations if present. If your puppy had a good upbringing and doesn’t show signs of parasites, have a look at a holistic View of Worms and Worming on the website for a low key minimal chemical approach.

Before resorting to wormers, it is best to do a faecal egg count. We recommend testing puppies more frequently than adult dogs. Our breeder protocol includes pooled samples from the litters at 2, 5 and 8 weeks of age. After that we usually recommend monthly testing for gastro-intestinal worms until the age of 6 months while our recommendations for lungworm depend on where you take your puppy once you get them home as some areas are at higher risk than others. Lungworm can be dangerous for pets, especially puppies exploring to see if things are edible! The risk depends on whether your animal eats snails especially in high- risk areas (for example South Wales and Worcestershire).

It’s also worth noting that herbs with anti-parasitical actions can be very harsh and well-tolerated herbal wormers in our experience won’t work if a significant burden is present.

Fleas and ticks

For our take on fleas please have a look at Bees, Birds and Best Friends and check out the tick blogs on the CAM4animals website. If you do have to use anti-parasitic drugs, please check how long to avoid water and make sure you always dispose of faeces responsibly as it will have effects on, for example, dung beetles.


Vaccination protocols are trying to minimise the risk to the puppy from Distemper, Hepatitis and Parvovirus along with Leptospirosis and Kennel Cough. The problem is that while antibodies from the mother are protecting the puppies, they inactivate the effectiveness of vaccines. If the mother is healthy and therefore giving her puppies adequate maternal antibody protection, it makes sense to give a first course of vaccination at around 12 weeks of age.

At this point, it should be noted that the recommendations of the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) differ quite a bit from what is recommended by vaccine manufacturers and what might be done in some practices in the UK. The WSAVA recommends:

  • The last Parvo vaccination to be given at 16 weeks
  • Titre testing (for DHP) is done after the initial course of vaccination

Most puppies are protected with the protocols used, but the gold standard is a titre test at 20 weeks of age and vaccinating against DHP thereafter ONLY if that isn’t positive anymore with the most common test interval being every 3 years.

How does titre testing work?

A tiny sample of blood is taken from the leg or the neck.  The test is a semiquantitative ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay). Tests are usually run “in house” with a special test kit where 12 samples are tested at the same time. The readout shows a number but that depends on how the test is calibrated; the final result is either “protected” or “not protected”. Though more expensive, you can also ask your vet to post samples direct to the lab.

You need to be aware that Leptospirosis IS considered a core vaccine by the British Veterinary Association (BVA) and can’t be tested for. Likewise, Kennel Cough is IS NOT a core vaccine and can’t be tested for either. Please also note, a titre is only suitable for animals that have been vaccinated at some stage in their past. 

Why is testing recommended?

Despite it not covering all the diseases that are commonly vaccinated against, a titre test is recommended because the likelihood of side effects from vaccinations increases with the number of diseases you vaccinate against at the same time. Please also note that small dogs are, on average, at higher risk than large dogs.

Furthermore, repeated antigenic challenge may cause hypersensitivity reactions which could cause harm. This effect is described as “over immunisation”. The importance of vaccines is stressed but with a caveat in papers such as Tizard et al.2 in which the abstract highlighted:

“The importance of adverse effects from vaccination must not be overstated. Vaccine benefits greatly exceed any risks from the procedure. Neither must they be minimized. Unnecessary vaccination must be discouraged. Hypersensitivity reactions to vaccine components are real and must be guarded against.

By doing regular titre testing, you can keep a track of what your puppy’s / dog’s immunity is like and minimise the risk of side effects giving you peace of mind.

A balanced discussion about vaccination is set out in Professor Michael J Day’s paper3.

Exercising puppies

Exercise for puppies is a highly debated topic in terms of how much, how often and what sort of exercise to do.

I have recently been on a CPD course with Professor Martin Fischer, co-author of the book “Dogs in Motion”. His team are currently doing research in how movement in puppies develops. This is crucial since:

“There is limited quantitative and physiological understanding of how bone growth is regulated in response to mechanical loading” (Villemure et al. 2009)4.

Recommendations for puppy exercise commonly given in the UK lack evidence to underpin the set “durations” given. A healthy amount of exercise is needed for bone development. But bear in mind that you looking at a puppy is more rewarding for the puppy than, for example, food. Thus it is very difficult to notice when the puppy starts struggling. If the musculature fatigues, then damage will be likely to happen. A brilliant tip is to check on your puppy with a mirror to avoid eye contact. And bear in mind, the puppy needs to be able to rest when tired and you won’t get much warning, it happens very quickly.

It is also important for puppies to experience different surfaces, go over little obstacles and to learn to handle gradients. Proprioception, the sense that informs the location, movement, and action of parts of the body, needs to develop in puppies.

Core stability slowly improves with appropriate exercise and helps protect joints and bones. Please be aware how little “bone” there is in a puppy, lots of structures are still purely connective tissue. With the correct amount of exercise, you can encourage growth of healthy bone. Both over and under exercising will have negative effects.

Puppy socialisation: what’s it really about

Rick van Eggermond MSc MAPDT VSPDT, Head Trainer and Behaviourist at All Positive Dog Services recommends the following.

All of the experiences that you expose your puppy to during their critical socialisation period (up to around four months) should contribute to them feeling happy, confident and secure. Puppies need to grow to understand that you aren’t going to put them in situations they cannot cope with. Remember – just because you know it is “safe” does not mean that your puppy feels that it is safe.

In particular, with new dogs and strange humans – quality over quantity matters. Do not over-expose your puppy to every dog and certainly don’t allow everyone to come and pet your puppy. It could lead to overwhelm. It’s better to find some trusted people who can be calm with your new puppy and get them to sit on the floor and allow the pup to introduce themselves in their own time.

Take a similar approach with other dogs. Invite trusted dogs who you know are good with puppies and can offer a nice safe way for your puppy to to practice polite meet and greets and successful play.

Find yourself a trainer whose aim is to create a positive relationship between you and your puppy and who uses reward, welfare and science based techniques.

There’s lots to think about for sure, but the joys of having a puppy and a forming close bond with them are immeasurable


  1. Hemida MBM, Salin S, Vuori KA, Moore R, Anturaniemi J, Rosendahl S, Barrouin-Melo SM, Hielm-
    Björkman A. Puppyhood diet as a factor in the development of owner-reported allergy/atopy skin
    signs in adult dogs in Finland. J Vet Intern Med. 2021 Sep; 35(5): 2374-2383.
  2. Tizard IR, Adverse consequences of vaccination. Vaccines for Veterinarians, 2021; 115-130.
  3. Day Michael J. Small animal vaccination: a practical guide for vets in the UK. In Practice, March 2017; (39): 110-118
  4. Villemure I, Stokes IA. Growth plate mechanics and mechanobiology. A survey of present understanding. J Biomech. 2009 Aug 25;42(12):1793-803

Useful Links

Find a vet at the British Association of Veterinary Herbalists website

All About Dog Food website

The Forever Dog book

Feeding Dogs book

A Holistic View of Worms and Worming blog

Fleas, Bees, Birds and Best Friends blog

Tick blogs

Peticide – blog looking at the environmental effects of chemical veterinary treatments as well as human and animal health considerations

Worming blogs

Titre Testing: Make An Informed Decision on Vaccinating your Westie Westies and Besties article

Dogs in Motion book

All Positive Dog Services

Choosing and Living With a New Puppy blog

The Canine Nervous System and its Role in Rehabilitation – blog explaining the proprioceptive system in dogs

Other blogs by Iris Ege The Use of Herbs in a Holistic Approach to Cancer and Holly – Labrador cross Collie

Article by Iris Ege, Dr med vet, MRCVS, Cert Vet Ac
Iris grew up on a smallholding in Germany.  She studied Veterinary Medicine in Germany and graduated in 2003, she trained in Wings® Animal-Kinesiology and did her Practitioner exam in Aug. 2007. This enables her to access other complementary therapy forms, especially for chronic cases.

Iris qualified in international acupuncture training with International Veterinary Acupuncture Society (IVAS) in 2013.  She covers the fields of Traditional as well as Western Acupuncture and Low-Level Laser Therapy. As a result of qualifying as a veterinary herbalist and becoming a member of the British Association of Veterinary herbalists, Iris enhances or sustains the effects of acupuncture with herbs as well. She combines the scientific approach to herbal medicine with holistic herbal knowledge.  She also has an interest in nutrition and is a member of the Raw Feeding Veterinary Society (RFVS).

Iris has worked in general practice not only treating pets and horse but also cattle and goats holistically with good results. Acupuncture has become her main interest and in October 2012 she left mixed practice to focus on alternative veterinary medicine founding A.P. Vet Ltd in January to facilitate the team approach for the benefit of her patients.

Disclaimer – Where blogs have been created by a guest author, CAM4Animals has reproduced this in good faith but cannot be held responsible for any inaccuracies of information in it or any use you make of this information

The veterinary Surgeon’s Act 1966 restricts the treatment of animals (usually other than your own*) by anyone other than a qualified vet. Always consult a veterinary surgeon if you are concerned about your animal’s health. *For full details visit the RCVS website