A Healthy Start for Your Puppy
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The length and quality of your puppy’s life will be influenced by three factors: genetics, including the inheritance of resistance to disease; nutrition; and care, including vaccinations and worming, warm, comfortable housing, exercise, protection from temperature extremes and effective management of any stressful situation. The puppy’s genetic potential is determined at the time of conception. Providing proper nutrition and care are factors you can control.
Needed Immunization During the first one to three days of its nursing period, a puppy receives antibodies in its mother’s milk called colostrum. By weaning, at six to eight weeks of age, this natural immunity will begin to disappear. Consequently at eight to 20 weeks of age, a puppy is susceptible to a number of diseases. At this time, the puppy’s immune system should be stimulated to provide its own antibodies. This is why vaccination programs are initiated shortly, after weaning. A vaccination program for your puppy should be worked out by your veterinarian.
Vaccinations to help safeguard your puppy’s health are available for the following common and serious diseases: Rabies is a disease of the central nervous system, usually transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal. On rare occasions the disease may be transmitted by the contact of virus-laden saliva with broken skin. Airborne infections may also occur in confined areas such as bat caves. All warm-blooded animals are susceptible to rabies and some may serve as natural reservoirs of the virus. Among these are the skunk, fox and raccoon as well as bats.
Early symptoms may include fever, listlessness or altered behavior. Late in the course of the disease, paralysis, muscle tremors, convulsions and death follow. Since rabies is usually fatal and can be transmitted to man, most states have laws requiring dogs to be vaccinated for rabies.
Parvovirus and Coronavirus can affect dogs of all ages, but they are particularly devastating to puppies. Immediate treatment for these diseases by a veterinarian is essential.
Parvovirus is a common and deadly viral infection. Fever, vomiting, depression, severe diarrhea and dehydration can accompany the infection. In some instances, death can occur rapidly, at times, in a matter of hours. In other cases, the course can be severe, but more protracted. Puppies under five months of age are most severely affected, but death can occur in any age group. The virus can also cause a fatal heart disease, myocarditis, in very young puppies.
Coronavirus is a highly contagious viral infection of the gastrointestinal tract. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, fever and dehydration. Transmission of these viruses occurs from dog to dog via contact with infected feces, or it can also be carried by shoes, clothing, carrying crates, food, water bowls and other objects. Follow your veterinarian’s advice on a vaccination program for these diseases.
Important warning: Because canine parvovirus can survive many weeks on contaminated surfaces, great caution should be taken in placing puppies where parvovirus infection has occurred. It is advisable to introduce only puppies that have been vaccinated and then only after thorough disinfection of the premises.
Canine distemper is a virus that affects the central nervous system. Early warning signs may include fever, lack of appetite, mild drainage from the eyes, lethargy or depression. These early signs may be followed by severe discharge from the eyes and nose, severe diarrhea, pneumonia or convulsions.
The distemper virus can be carried from one dog to another or transmitted through contact from a contaminated environment. Generally distemper virus spreads as an airborne infection. Consequently, vaccination is the only effective control. Hepatitis is a virus that affects the liver. It is most severe with puppies, but dogs of all ages are susceptible. Early signs of hepatitis are similar to those of distemper: fever, loss of appetite, depression, vomiting and diarrhea. Other symptoms include a discharge from the eyes or nose, uncontrolled bleeding, skin bruises or pain when the abdomen is pressed. A vaccination program planned by your veterinarian will control the disease.
Canine cough, popularly referred to as "kennel cough," primarily affects dogs living in close proximity, such as in a kennel or shelter. It is highly contagious, attacks the respiratory system, and causes mild or no fever, nasal discharge and a dry, hacking cough. In severe form, kennel cough can cause a loss of appetite, lethargy and a moist and persistent cough, together with nose and eye discharges. Complications such as pneumonia may also occur. Veterinary treatment is required.
Numerous organisms have been implicated as causes. It is possible for your veterinarian to vaccinate for three of the common components of this cough. The three vaccines are parainfluenza, canine bordetella, and adenovirus-2.
Leptospirosis is an acute infectious disease that spreads through contact with the saliva, urine or nasal secretions of infected animals. The early symptoms include fever, muscle pain, dehydration, shock, loss of appetite and vomiting. Within a day or two of the onset of the first symptoms, the temperature will drop sharply, breathing will be labored and stiffness, particularly in the hind legs, may be observed. For control, a vaccination program must be followed.
Internal parasites are commonly called worms. Most internal parasites live in the dog’s intestines where they feed and reproduce. All puppies should be examined by a veterinarian for internal parasites. Your veterinarian can detect the presence of most worms by examining your puppy’s feces.
Some parasites, such as hookworms and roundworms, can be transmitted from the mother to the puppies before birth or during nursing.
Canine heartworm disease is among the most serious health hazards affecting dogs of all ages. Mosquitoes serve as an intermediate host to carry the heartworm larvae from infected to uninfected dogs. The larvae invade the dog’s body through a mosquito bite and work their way to the dog’s heart and nearby blood vessels. Symptoms include coughing, labored breathing, lack of stamina, weight loss and, if left untreated, death.
Heartworm is easy to prevent. In areas where dogs are exposed to mosquitoes year-around, preventive medication must be given year-around, on a daily or monthly basis, depending on the medication chosen. If the mosquito problem is seasonal, medication should begin at the start of the mosquito season and continue well after the season. Even if the mosquito problem is seasonal, veterinarians may recommend year-around treatment.
Spraying for insect control and draining mosquito breeding grounds will also help reduce the incidence of canine heartworm. Hookworms are among the most dangerous of all the intestinal parasites, especially in puppies. They attach themselves to the intestinal wall of the infected puppy and suck blood, causing severe anemia which sometimes can be fatal. Signs of hookworm infection include lethargy, poor appetite, anemia and black tarry stools which may contain blood.
Roundworm, a thin, spaghetti-like parasite up to five inches long, is probably the most common intestinal parasite of young dogs. Puppies are infected by way of the placenta before birth. After birth, the puppy can become infected by larvae in the mother’s milk. In the small intestine, roundworms compete with the puppy for nutrients, resulting in stunted growth and poor health. Roundworms often make a puppy look "pot-bellies". Other signs include diarrhea, poor hair coat, listlessness and poor growth.
Microscopic examination of fecal matter is needed to diagnose roundworms and hookworms. Your veterinarian can prescribe appropriate medication and a schedule to follow to prevent re-infection.
Whipworm infection can become severe before any noticeable symptoms appear. As the infection progresses, symptoms include diarrhea, abdominal pain, nervousness, weight loss and anemia. Usually these problems are expected in puppies over three months old. Untreated severe whipworm infections may occasionally be fatal.
Tapeworms can be transmitted by fleas, rodents or rabbits which may be eaten by dogs. A mild tapeworm infection may go unnoticed. Signs of a more severe tapeworm infection include abdominal discomfort, lethargy and diarrhea alternating with constipation.
There are numerous species of tapeworm. Different tapeworm species require different medications. Consequently, veterinarian’s diagnosis and instructions for administering dewormer are important.