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The day your new puppy moves in with you is probably going to be one of the happiest days of your life; a furry friend making its way around the room, sniffing every corner and looking up at you with those big and innocent eyes.
Perhaps you already have everything ready for your new family addition – a comfortable doggy bed to rest in, shiny steel bowls for food and water, a bag of the best dog food for young puppies and a basket packed with toys, and maybe you have been preparing yourself for the responsibility that comes with owning a dog?
It is natural to want to protect your puppy from the world, but unfortunately, puppies are prone to pick up several potentially life-threatening diseases, and it is important to know the symptoms, and how to prevent your pup from falling ill. Below are a few known puppy diseases:
One of the best-known puppy diseases is the much-feared Parvovirus. It is an autoimmune disease that is extremely contagious, and puppies can pick it up by doing something as simple as sniffing on the feces of an infected dog.
This is one of the reasons why it is so important to pick up after your dog because your dog could possibly be a carrier without being sick. For puppies, the best protection they can get is by being properly vaccinated, and the puppies of a vaccinated doggy mom will usually receive some protection from her milk.
Another issue with the Parvovirus is its ability to survive inside homes and on items and surfaces. If you have had a puppy with Parvovirus inside your house, it would be unwise to bring in a healthy (and especially unvaccinated) dog before the area has been properly sanitized. Use bleach to scrub the floors and throw away any dog toys and/or dog beds that can be spared, before making the decision to let a new dog move in.
If your dog would get Parvo, you have a much bigger chance of saving him or her if the disease is caught early. Any signs of reduced appetite, vomiting, lethargy or loose and even bloody stools should be brought to the attention of a veterinarian. The treatment depends on how advanced the disease is, but it may include antibiotics and other treatment methods.
Different types of intestinal parasites like hookworm and roundworm are very common in young puppies, and some get them already right after they are born. This is often due to the mother having worms and transmitting them to her puppies through the milk, and it isn’t usually a reason for concern.
Most responsible breeders make sure to deworm puppies shortly after they are born, and that will almost always solve the problem before it even causes symptoms.
Unexplained weight loss, a potbellied appearance, loose stools and a loss of appetite are all symptoms of worms and other intestinal parasites, so make sure you stay in close contact with your veterinarian, as they might want to deworm your puppy as a preventive measure, especially if your new dog has an unknown past (adopted dogs, stray dogs etc. etc.) or if it comes from a less responsible breeder.
Adult dogs are often dewormed every 6 months or so, but this may depend on the area you live in and what standard procedure is in your state or in your country.
A more serious parasite is the heartworm, which is known to infect dogs through mosquito bites. If a mosquito bites an infected dog and then goes on to bite your puppy – your puppy could end up with heartworm. Some areas in the United States will have dog owners give their dogs monthly preventive heartworm medication, and this is mainly because the condition can be very tricky to treat.
Before giving preventive heartworm medication, it is important to let a veterinarian examine and test your puppy, as these medications can be dangerous if given to an already infected dog.
The tricky thing with these parasites is that it takes 5-7 months for any symptoms to show, as the worms will need to grow before they start causing real trouble. By the time the infestation becomes obvious, it may unfortunately already be too late.
Heartworms gather in the heart- and lung region of the dog, as the name indicates, and can be deadly if left untreated or if they go undiscovered. The symptoms are similar to those of other internal parasites, with vomiting, weight loss, decreased appetite, and cough being some known signs.
Coccidia – another parasite known to cause gastronomic upset, vomiting, diarrhea and more in young dogs. The most common cause for infection is if the puppy has lived in dirty or otherwise unsanitary conditions early on in life, as young dogs are very receptive to bacteria and infections.
Many rescues from hoarding situations, puppy mills and from situations of abandonment carry this parasite, but it can easily be treated by a veterinarian, and how long the treatment will take and what medications the vet will administer depends on the overall health condition of your puppy.
Have you ever heard the coughs of a dog with kennel cough? It is often this dry deep-set cough that makes it sound almost as if your dog is about to choke, and it might sometimes be accompanied by vomiting and the dog spitting up.
It is extremely contagious and will easily spread in contained areas like doggy daycare centers, animal shelters and at the dog park, and in some ways, it resembles the cold us humans might come down with during certain times of the year.
An infected dog needs to be kept away from other dogs during the recovery (a veterinarian will propose a suitable treatment), and they should be made to rest with plenty of water available. Almost all dog owners are forced to deal with kennel cough at some point, and it is more common than what many dog lovers are aware of.
There is a vaccine to protect from kennel cough, but it is important to remember that the vaccine only lowers the risk of your dog contracting it and that it isn’t a case of guaranteed immunity. Also, your puppy could be a carrier even if not sick, so if you have met a dog with kennel cough – stay away from other dogs just in case.
Growing puppies need healthy and nutritional food, and they need to eat more than adult dogs to keep up with their growing bodies. For a puppy not to eat enough can lead to low blood sugar – hypoglycemia – which makes it essential to keep a close eye on your puppy’s eating habits. Some puppies can be picky and refuse the occasional meal, but there is also the issue of feeding low-quality dog food.
If you are giving your puppy dog food that isn’t nutritious enough, you might see him eating just fine, and still end up with hypoglycemia. Hypoglycemia has symptoms like lethargy and even seizures, and while it is extra common in dogs with diabetes – Hypoglycemia is something every dog can get if not eating properly.
This is one of the puppy diseases you don’t want your dog to be diagnosed with. It spreads with unvaccinated dogs and with wild raccoons, and the bad news is that it can be very dangerous if not caught and treated in time. Canine Distemper causes nerve damage, and you may notice your dog twitching in odd ways, seeming to have lost control of a part of the body, or even having seizures, and the condition also causes extreme weight loss.
Other symptoms are loss of appetite and a runny nose (which is not considered normal for dogs), and if you suspect your puppy has Canine Distemper – the veterinary clinic needs to be your next stop.
The biggest problem with Canine Distemper is that there are no treatments for the actual disease, there is no cure, and the only thing the vet can do is to provide general care with fluid to try and get your pup back on his feet. Many young puppies die from canine distemper, and this is why vaccinating your dogs is so important.
You may get lucky and an infected dog could recover, but they might suffer permanent nerve damage or worse. The vaccine for this condition is included in the regular puppy vaccines and in the yearly vaccines given to adult dogs, so take a trip to the vet if you are unsure if your dog’s vaccinations are up to date.
Vaccinating your puppy is not something you can postpone or think that you’ll do later, when you have time, because by then it might already be too late. Puppies are curious and they need to be taken out for socializing with unknown dogs and to new sites, but while this is essential for their mental and physical development – it can also propose a significant health risk if you haven’t vaccinated your baby dog.
Contact your local veterinarian already before you bring your puppy home, to make sure you know exactly when to come in, who to contact in the case of an emergency and how to get to the clinic. Few things are as good as proper preparation, so have a look at your options (especially if there are more than one veterinary clinic in town), compare and make an educated decision.
You will want to know where to go if something happens to your new fur friend, and your chosen veterinarian can also help you set up a plan for when to go have your dog’s vaccinations renewed.
Avoid taking your puppy out (other than in your own yard) unless your veterinarian has cleared him or her for contact with the outer world. This will happen once the puppy has all required puppy vaccines, to avoid having your furry friend come down with any of the above-mentioned diseases and health conditions.
Puppies are like children, and it is your responsibility to protect them to the best of your abilities, also as they grow older. This article is about diseases that could affect your puppy, but they could also affect an adult- and fully vaccinated dog, so be vigilant of any signs or changes in your dog’s behavior.
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