Vet Corner: A Short Course in Puppy Health

Vet Corner: A Short Course in Puppy health

by Sandra Black, DVM

Getting a new puppy? Let’s talk about how to keep him or her healthy…

First, consider the most common parasites that can affect puppies: hookworms, roundworms, whipworms, coccidia, giardia and heartworms on the inside; fleas, ticks and sarcoptic and demodectic mites on the outside.

  • Intestinal parasites rob your puppy of nutrition by attaching to the lining of the intestines and preventing absorption of nutrients and creating distress and diarrhea.
  • Heartworms are contracted by mosquito bites (that’s quite an interesting lifecycle!) and will cause heart and lung failure in adult dogs.
  • Fleas create a very itchy skin, and ticks can transmit several diseases, Lyme and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever to name a couple.
  • Sarcoptes is a mange mite that creates intense itching and subsequent sores on the skin and can be shared with other dogs and people.
  • Demodex is also a mite and can create hair loss, but is much less itchy and is not contagious.

Next, let’s think about the life-threatening viruses that commonly affect puppies: parvovirus and distemper virus.

  • Distemper is a disease that is, thankfully, not terribly common anymore. It will cause your puppy to have a pneumonia with a deep nasty cough or affect his or her nervous system, causing tremors, blindness and seizures. Treatment is usually not successful.
  • Parvovirus attacks the intestines, creating profound bloody diarrhea. Unfortunately, it is still too common in puppies. Parvovirus is shed in the feces and exists for a LONG time in the environment. Treatment for parvo is often successful, but it involves hospitalization and is very expensive.

Now that you know all of the nasty things that can infect or affect your new puppy, don’t panic! Vets have effective ways to keep all these monsters from hurting your new friend; just don’t delay. Days can make the difference between proactive preventative care (inexpensive) and reactive treatment (very expensive—and not always enough).

  • Vaccinations are extremely effective against distemper and parvo, but they must be given in a series as the puppy grows, every 4 weeks for at least three shots.
  • Dewormers come in a variety of forms (liquid, pills, topicals) and are effective if given correctly and in a timely manner.
  • A variety of flea and tick medications are also available to get rid of and keep the buggers off your pet.

Did I mention to not delay? Right. Get your puppy checked by your veterinarian as soon as possible. Talk to them about vaccinations, dewormers, heartworm preventatives, and flea/tick medications.

That’s it for my short course on puppy health. Wishing you a happy and healthy pet for years to come.

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