September 3, 2014
So, you just got a new puppy. Brought it home with a new collar, bed, bowls, the best food, a toy or two, smiles on everyone's faces. And now, he/she is sick! You've barely had time to bond with him (although it was love at first sight), and now, you are worried!
Just like a human newborn, newborn and infant puppies have weak immune systems. We vaccinate and vaccinate and vaccinate to strengthen their immunity. But, sometimes, they get sick. And because they are so tiny and helpless, even a little "bug" can be very serious.
There are a few symptoms to particularly watch for, though you should have your puppy examined any time you are concerned about her, whether her symptoms match this list or not.
1. Vomiting and/or Diarrhea: The two main concerns in puppies with these symptoms are intestinal parasites and parvo virus. It doesn't matter what your neighbor says, or your sister's cousin's friend who used to work at a vet clinic, or your puppy's breeder for that matter, get this kid to the doctor NOW! Parvo is curable. It's unpredictable; we can give the same treatment to 2 puppies on the same day, and have one success story, and lose the other. Overall, we tend to have very good success in our practice; we are aggressive in our therapy! But, even if your puppy does not have parvo, the symptoms of vomiting and diarrhea alone can be very serious. Dehydration happens very quickly in puppies. I cannot stress enough--take him to vet as soon as you know there is a problem!
2. Coughing: It is pretty common for dogs and puppies that have recently lived in a shelter or in a home with several dogs (such as a breeder), to develop a little respiratory infection. The symptoms can take a week or so to develop. It's best to have your pup evaluated for coughing. "Kennel Cough," or Tracheitis, can become miserable, but also can travel to the lower respiratory tract and cause pneumonia. Your puppy has a fragile immune system, and may not be able to fight off an infection. So, take her in if you hear her coughing. We can protect her if we catch it early.
3. Skin rashes: This is not usually an emergency, but is very common. Puppies often develop a little rash on their belly. Sometimes, it is itchy, sometimes it spreads, but typically can be cleared easily with medication. If you notice a rash, take him in for treatment.
4. Hair Loss: Again, not an emergency. But, depending on the cause, it can get much worse without proper treatment. Skin mites (mange), ringworm, etc might be to blame. Puppies' immature immune systems make them more susceptible to these infections. Bring her to the vet for hair loss.
5. Urinary symptoms: It may appear that your puppy is being stubborn about potty training, but it is possible that he/she has a reason for the problem. Urinary Tract Infection, excessive water drinking, etc can cause him to be unable to control his bladder. If your housebreaking efforts are unsuccessful, or if he was just getting the hang of it and is now regressing, have him evaluated for a problem.
So, what can you do to keep your puppy healthy? Of course, we cannot always protect against every possible bacteria or virus. But, we can protect them against parvo and several other serious diseases. As soon as you get a new puppy, go ahead and schedule a checkup for him with your vet. Besides a good exam, your vet can advise you on a vaccine protocol, deworming, and other preventative care measures. In general, we vaccinate puppies beginning at 6-8 weeks, and continue monthly until around 20 weeks of age. We often hear from clients that their breeder informed them the puppy has had "all his shots." Well, if your puppy is less than 5 months old, they likely need additional boosters!
Make sure you are working with a reputable breeder: one that is current with a veterinarian, and make sure that a veterinarian has given any vaccines your puppy received before adoption. If not, she will need immediate booster vaccines by a veterinarian.