To ensure the puppy is strong enough and old enough to maintain good health, it is important to make sure the puppy is at least eight to twelve weeks old. At this point in the puppy’s life, the puppy should have already gotten the first round of vaccines. There should be no reason why the puppy should not be able to eat solid foods in place of the mother’s milk.
Without further inspection a puppy can appear completely healthy with the first impression. This is the reason why it is important to take the time to actually exam each puppy thoroughly. A buyer should inspect the puppy in every part of the body. A careful decision should not be made before conducting this step.
First inspect the puppy’s head. The eyes should be dry and clear of discharge. The nose should be cold and wet. Puppies should not have consistent sneezing. Certain breeds will have nostrils that collapses with every breath that is not wanted. These can be found in breeds like Pugs and Pekingese.
The puppy should bite down properly. A puppy having an over or under bite may be signs of future dental problems and passing on these puppies should be taken into consideration. Buyers should be sure that the puppy’s gums are not pale but pink. Pale gums can be a sign of Anemia that is caused by a parasitic infection.
If the skull is carefully, physically inspected and a soft spot is felt that is not a good sign. This is an indication that the fontanel is open. This is not a good choice as it could be Hydrocephalus.
A puppy’s eyes should be bright and dry. If the eyes have moisture on them, then the future owner should also look for rolling eyelids, conjunctivitis, or extra eyelashes. The puppy’s pupils should look normal and have no signs of congenital cataracts. These sign could be visible lines, or white spots on the eyes. Another sign of disease would be if the Haw or third eyelid is swollen or inflamed.
As for puppy’s ears, they should be standing up straight if the breed permits it. Sometimes the breed may not show standing ears until they are four to six months old. Signs of a skin disease on the tips of the ear could be bare spots, and crust. The tips of the ears should be furry and clear of any scabs. The inside should be clear of built up wax or bad smells. If they are this can be an indication of a case of ear mites. If the dog shows sensitivity to touch of the ears, or if they keep shaking their head this is also an indication of a problem as it can be an ear infection inside the ear.
The puppy’s chest should be felt to check the heart. If it is especially vibrant, this could be a sign of congenital heart defects of some sort. The puppy should not have laboring breathing. The chest should also be flat without any denting. This can be a sign of an airway obstruction.
The coat of the puppy should be shiny. The color markings should be correct according to the breed. Long haired breeds may be soft and fluffy without shine and in that case it is acceptable. If there are any visible balding or dry and scaly patches the puppy may be infected with some kind of skin fungus. If the puppy consistently scratches that may indicate the puppy has a case of a flea problem.
The puppy’s form and structure should also be examined. If the puppy’s legs are bowed in any area or they have flat feet these are signs of a structural flaw. Weakness in the puppy’s pasterns or wrists, spread toes, or rearing toes are also signs of arthritic or joint problems. There are not many bone diseases that are visible on puppies under four months old. Such bone diseases could be Canine Hip Dysplasia and Patella Luxation. For breeds that are prone to these diseases, it is important for breeders to test the sire or dam by the GDC, OFA, or PennHIP for certification that certain diseases are not present for the dam or sire of the puppy.
The gait on a puppy should be smooth. Limp or faltering gait may just be a result of a sprain or a hurt paw pad. A vet or experienced breeder may examine the patella at a young age.