SPCA New Zealand
Advice & welfare

Keeping your dog healthy

Desexing, vaccinations, parasite treatment and regular vet visits all play their part in keeping your dog or puppy healthy.

Download our full Dog and Puppy Care Brochure (PDF)


All SPCA dogs and puppies are desexed when you adopt them.

An un-spayed female dog can produce two litters of puppies a year. Some dogs can big litters, even 10 or more puppies in one litter. They create a lot of work, cost a vast amount of money to feed, and finding homes for them all is difficult, often impossible. Un-desexed male dogs make up the largest proportion of impounded dogs.

Please, if your dog or puppy is not already desexed, be a responsible dog owner and have your dog desexed as soon as the dog is old enough, usually this is done around 6 months of age but speak to your veterinarian about the best timing for your individual dog. Having your dog desexed will help to improve the dog’s health, and minimise aggressive behaviour and the tendency to roam. You will also help to alleviate the stray dog problem by preventing unwanted reproduction and reducing roaming behaviours.


Vaccinations against disease are critical throughout your dog’s life. Dogs and puppies adopted from the SPCA will have had initial core vaccinations and you will be given a health card recording them. Check this for the due date of future vaccinations and arrange these with your veterinarian.

Young puppies may not have completed the full course of all vaccinations when they are adopted (as they might be too young to have finished the full course), but we will alert you to this. Your puppy needs to be fully vaccinated before you take him/her off your property.

Vaccination for Leptospirosis

Leptospirosis (sometimes referred to as “Lepto”) is a bacterial infection which can cause serious illness in dogs, and can be a common infectious cause of acute renal (kidney) failure in dogs. Leptospirosis affects many animals, including humans.

Dogs are infected by contact with the urine of infected animals or water, soil or items that have been contaminated, through bite wounds and eating infected tissue. It can also, rarely, be transmitted through breeding and can also be passed through the placenta from a mother dog to her puppies.

The Leptospirosis is not a core canine vaccine and the SPCA does NOT routinely vaccinate against Leptospirosis due to our limited resources. However, we strongly encourage you to discuss this vaccine with your veterinarian.

Fleas and worm treatment

Fleas can cause your dog irritation and discomfort. Fleas can also spread to your home and family if not controlled. If your dog has fleas, he or she will usually be itching and scratching and you may see fleas or flea dirt in his/her coat. Some dogs may not itch or scratch, especially with small numbers of fleas, so it is important to check regularly for fleas and flea dirt in your dog’s coat.

Dogs can get intestinal worms which can cause malnutrition and anemia (especially in young puppies). Young puppies can even die from severe worm infestations. Some types of worms can also be spread to humans. Cleaning up your dog’s faeces and general good hygiene help prevent this but it is important that your dog is also given preventative worm treatment regularly.

It can be difficult to detect if your dog has worms, as many healthy adult dogs will show no signs. Puppies and debilitated older or sick dogs are more likely to show clinical signs such as tiredness, a dull coat, diarrhea, bloody stools, weight loss, a pot-bellied appearance or scooting their bottom along the ground.

Regular treatments will help keep your dog free of fleas and worms. Check your dog’s health card for treatment dates. You can get safe, effective flea and worm treatments from the SPCA or your veterinarian.

Skin issues

Skin issues are often caused by fleas, allergies and/or diet. Signs of skin problems include: itching, hair loss or thinning, bald patches, red skin, lumps/bumps in the skin and/or sores. It is important to seek veterinary advice if your dog has a skin problem, as there are many varied causes and treatments will only be effective if targeting the right problem.


Dogs can have a variety of problems with their mouth and teeth that may cause them pain, discomfort and/or difficulty eating; these include broken teeth, a buildup of tartar on their teeth, gum inflammation and tooth decay. Signs that there may be a problem include: smelly breath, obvious tartar on the teeth or gum inflammation, a broken tooth that you can see, and/or reduced appetite or difficulty eating (for example, the dog may drop food or appear reluctant to eat or uncomfortable when eating). Remember that many dogs can have very severe dental disease without showing obvious signs and while continuing to eat. It is important that you have your dog checked by your veterinarian at least once a year, one of the many things that the veterinarian will check at this visit are the dog’s teeth and mouth; this means that problems can be picked up early and addressed, which will save your dog from suffering. If you suspect there is a problem with your dog’s mouth or teeth, please take the dog to your veterinarian for a checkup as soon as possible because dental disease is very painful and can also cause other problems within the body.


It is quite common for dogs to suffer from ear inflammation and infection. There are many potential causes including ear mites, allergies, bacterial and yeast infections, trauma and foreign bodies. All of these conditions can be very irritating and/or painful. An ear problem may cause your dog to shake his/her head, carry the head at a different angle (usually angled down to the side of the affected ear) and may even have some loss of balance, the dog may scratch at the affected ear and there may be discharge, inflammation and a nasty smell from the ear. If you notice any of these clinical signs, please seek prompt veterinary treatment as ear problems are painful and can cause permanent ear damage.


Regular grooming is a good way to calmly interact with your dog and can also help you to detect health concerns (for example, you might notice a lump under the skin that should be checked). Even dogs with short coats need regular grooming, and most dogs need their nails clipped. It is good to start this from a young age so that the puppy becomes used to grooming and nail clipping and is not afraid or upset by it; this makes the process much easier!

Regular vet visits

Take your dog for a check-up at least once a year; this can help with early detection of problems. Contact your veterinarian promptly if you are concerned about the health of your dog. NEVER give a dog human medicine (For example, ibuprofen) as our medications can be harmful or even fatal to dogs.

Pet insurance

The SPCA highly recommends getting pet insurance to cover the costs of unexpected illnesses and emergencies. When your dog is sick or injured, it is a stressful time. Veterinary care can be expensive and you want what is best for your dog.

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