Looking for a new puppy can be a daunting task.
There are more than 100 breeds to choose from, a wide range of shapes and sizes, and an array of personalities that could fit your lifestyle and living arrangements.
But the number one thing to think about when finding a new companion is health. Making sure a dog is healthy will ensure a happy future with your new pet and a good return on your investment if you are buying from a breeder.
Here are six tips for finding a healthy puppy:
1) Where to start:
The first thing to consider is whether or not you can handle a new addition to the family.
"Understand that it is a big responsibility," says Dr. Maria Oliveira, from the South Miami Animal Clinic. "Dogs, they're not just like a chair. Many people buy them and they don't think about where they live or if they have enough time to train them."
A well-trained dog will save time and money in the long run, she said. Plus, having the time to walk and play with a dog will keep it healthy well into the future.
2) Do your homework:
Do you want a purebred puppy or a mixed breed puppy? If you want a purebred dog, find out what kind of breed you are looking for, what the specific needs for that breed are and what ailments affect that breed.
Some breeds like English Bulldogs have various issues ranging from breathing problems and arthritis to skin and eye troubles. Other larger breeds, like Labradors, are prone to hip dysplaysia, which can cause paralysis or arthritis.
This would also be a good time to meet your potential new pup's parents. If you're buying from a breeder or a foster parent, check out the dog's family history. If the parents have health issues, there's a good chance the dog will too.
3) Where to look:
If you're buying from a breeder, make sure it's reputable, says Oliveira. The breeder should have a license, but that doesn't mean they are good or reliable. Check out their references and reach out to people that have bought dogs from that breeder to get feedback.
If you're adopting from a shelter, research its history and pay attention to how clean it is. Because of the high volume of animals at shelters, there's a likelihood more may get sick. Also look into the shelter's vaccination protocol – look for places that give dogs their vaccines as they come in and not just after they are adopted. This way, the dog will be protected during its stay at the shelter.
If you are adopting from a foster or rescue group, you will have a better idea of the dog's personality and medical history because foster groups tend to spend more time with the animals.
Avoid buying from stores, as many of these dogs come from puppy mills where dogs may be neglected and bred irresponsibly, according to Oliveira.
4) What to look for:
A dog's nose should be cool and moist; frequent sneezing or nasal discharge could be a sign of poor health, according to WebMD. The gums should be pink, the ears should be clean and the dog should be alert and playful. A dog that seems lethargic or depressed could have health issues.
5) Do a trial run:
Once you've found a puppy you like, the first thing you should do is take it to the vet. A vet can check for health problems that aren't immediately apparent like parasites or a hernia.
After you've gotten the OK from a vet, take your puppy for a test drive. Reliable breeders and foster networks will give new owners a couple of weeks to test out a new pet, giving it time to get used to a new environment. Reputable breeders will guarantee up to a few months without diseases.
6) What's next:
Keep up with regular visits to the vet. Make sure your new pet is up to date with vaccine and booster shots.
Getting pet insurance for a new puppy could also be a good idea, whether or not a dog has breed-related health issues. If a dog swallows a toy, for example, it could require an expensive procedure to remove it.
And finally, make sure your dog gets the right food, enough water and plenty of exercise.
For more resources on adopting puppies, click here.