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Most puppies thrive in their new homes, but regardless of all the love we provide, they can also fall ill with some common diseases.
Education and prevention are key to keeping puppies happy and healthy. This is why we have created an article describing some of the most common puppy illnesses and diseases.
The discussion will be focused on common puppy diseases that affect puppies like parvovirus, distemper, gastrointestinal parasites, and others that can make puppies sick.
We will review transmission, treatment, and prevention of common puppy illnesses so pet owners can be well-educated and hopefully prevent their pets from falling ill.
Despite access to vaccination, parvovirus is one of the most common puppy illnesses and is a lethal disease in puppies. It is passed through the feces of infected animals and transmitted to puppies due to their lack of immunity. The highly contagious disease attacks the gastrointestinal tract and immune system of infected puppies.
parvo Infected dogs will develop vomiting, bloody diarrhea, weakness, dehydration, and can even die from the disease. They can develop fevers and secondary bacterial infections due to immunosuppression by the virus.
Veterinary intervention is key once symptoms appear. A sick puppy often must be hospitalized for supportive treatment with intravenous fluids, anti-nausea medication, and antibiotics. There is no cure for parvovirus making prevention so important.
Make sure your puppy is appropriately vaccinated and do not allow them access to public spaces until they have received all mandatory vaccines.
Puppies are susceptible to gastrointestinal parasites and many become infected via their mother. This occurs either before birth or through nursing. Puppies can also become infected if they live in an environment that has been contaminated by another infected dog.
The most common gastrointestinal parasites in puppies include hookworms, roundworms, giardia, and coccidia. Puppies should be dewormed routinely beginning at 2 weeks of age and every 2-3 weeks until they are about 3 months old.
Routine testing of the feces can screen for parasites and is recommended for all puppies.
Kennel cough is a condition caused by a variety of contagious bacterial and viral diseases. It is similar to the common cold in that it is extremely contagious, especially in puppies that are exposed to other animals.
The condition is often viral in origin and will resolve without medical treatment. Some causes of kennel cough can lead to secondary bacterial pneumonia and may require antibiotic therapy.
Prevention of kennel cough is recommended for puppies at risk and they should receive Bordetella and Influenza vaccines.
Puppies love to eat everything in sight, which is why they are so predisposed to ingesting foreign material that can cause serious gastrointestinal problems.
Eating non-digestible items can cause vomiting and diarrhea. It can also lead to a life-threatening obstruction that requires surgical intervention.
It is important to ensure your home is puppy-proof before welcoming the new addition. Keep all small items out of reach. As dog owners, do not allow access to toys that can be broken into small pieces or easily swallowed.
Puppies should be monitored indoors and outdoors at all times. If your puppy begins vomiting at home, contact your veterinarian right away. They will likely want to examine your puppy and perform x-rays to ensure there is no evidence of an obstruction of the gastrointestinal tract.
Strangles is another common puppy illness and it is a serious disease also known as juvenile cellulitis. This disease affects young puppies up to six months of age. It is characterized by swollen lymph nodes, swelling of the face, and pustules of the face, ears, and muzzle.
Your veterinarian will rule out other diseases such as mange or skin infections before treatment of strangles. Because this disease is immune-mediated, medications must be given to suppress the immune system.
Corticosteroids are often used for several weeks before being tapered. Secondary bacterial infections can also occur, so many puppies will be placed on antibiotic therapy as well. Most cases will fully resolve with appropriate treatment and supportive care.
Canine distemper is a highly contagious, lethal disease caused by a virus. This virus attacks the respiratory, gastrointestinal, and immune systems of infected puppies. The infectious disease is caused by airborne exposure from an infected animal.
The virus can also be spread via contaminated food, water bowls, and the environment. Puppies can also contract the virus from their mothers.
Any puppy that is not fully vaccinated is at risk of contracting the virus. Infected puppies can have discharge from their eyes, fever, nasal discharge, vomiting, and lethargy. The virus can attack the nervous system and cause abnormal neurological behavior and seizures. Laboratory testing is necessary for diagnosis.
There is no cure for distemper virus. Treatment is supportive care until the puppy’s body can combat the infection. Unfortunately, many puppies will die from the virus even with aggressive veterinary treatment. This is why prevention with appropriate vaccines is so important.
Puppies should not be allowed access to unvaccinated dogs or public places that could be contaminated.
Puppies should begin receiving vaccines at 6-8 weeks of age to help prevent common illnesses. Core vaccines include distemper virus, canine adenovirus, canine hepatitis, canine parainfluenza, parvovirus, and rabies.
Lifestyle/optional vaccines include influenza, bordetella, and Lyme vaccines.
Given the high prevalence of leptospirosis across the country, this vaccine is strongly recommended as well for all dogs.
Puppies should begin deworming at 2 weeks of age. They should be routinely dewormed every 2-3 weeks until 8-12 weeks of age. Consider deworming again at 6 months of age.
Routine fecal testing may be performed by your vet at any time to screen for gastrointestinal parasites and help guide treatment for your puppy.
Puppies should not be taken to public places like dog parks or camping sites until they are fully vaccinated at 14-16 weeks of age.
This will decrease the likelihood of them contracting contagious, preventable illnesses like parvovirus and distemper, or even less severe common puppy illnesses.