Owning a puppy requires constant attention, and lots of TLC. Like us humans, they need to be taken care of or else they'll suffer from mild to more serious health problems.
Taking your pup to your vet for regular check-ups is your best bet to avoiding serious puppy health problems. But it is also crucial for you to develop a keen eye for his usual predisposition - so that if and when something's not right - you will be able to spot the tell-tale signs and take action accordingly.
It might sound like a hard job to have to keep an eye on your puppy all the time - but it is easier than you think. Once you've been by his side for a week or two, you will get to know and love him, and you will instinctively understand if his health is not the way it should be.
I have put together a checklist below, to help you spot some of the most common puppy health problems. You should take your puppy to the vet if:
- His eyes are lifeless.
- Pus is oozing out of his eyes, it would signify a more serious eye problem that the vet needs to diagnose.
- His ears are dirty. They should be clean, because this might cause severe ear infection in the future.
- His nose is not moist. If it's dry, your dog might have bacterial infection. If it's too wet, your dog might be experiencing the early stages of flu. Beware of this one though, his nose might just be temporarily dry in which case nothing's wrong. Always look at this one in context - is he eating as he used to, is he more miserable than usual, is he hotter than usual and so on...
- His coat is dull. This may not seem like much of a worry, but it may be a signal for insufficient diet. So you should speak to your vet to see if that's the cause. If dryness is combined with gravely dirt or dandruff, your puppy may have flea problems, or skin problems - either way it's best you let the vet decide.
- His mouth has cuts or is swollen. A swollen tooth is the usual cause, which can be really, really painful for any dog. But also - it's likely he's chewed on something and cut himself, or he may have been in a fight. Either way if the wound is bleeding you should take him to the vet to make sure the appropriate steps are taken so as not to cause any unnecessary infection - and of course to allow the wound to heal properly.
- He has low appetite - this is by far the one symptom that I've learned to take seriously. Dogs love food generally - so if you see he's not eating as much, this is almost always a sign of a health problem in your puppy. But don't panic - it may just be the heat too.
If you suspect the heat has nothing to do with it, and you pup has not eaten in the last 12 to 24 hours you must take him to your vet. He'll decide what to do from there. Beware that if you leave it for too long after 24 hrs, you may cause serious damage to his digestive system and other internal organs through dehydration and malnutrition. Puppies are like babies - very fragile in the beginning.
- He vomits regularly - dogs are not like cats in the respect that they throw up fur balls. So if your puppy vomits 2-3 times in a row, or regularly - like once a day, this may be a sign of a digestive health problem, or that something's wrong with his food. Either way - best you take him to Mr. Vet...
- He coughs - a regular cough should alert you that somethings not right - again the best solution is to take him to the vet.
So how do you prevent health problems from even becoming a problem in the first place?
Here are a few easy to follow, basic tips on keeping your puppy's health problem free:
- Fleas - De-flea your puppy regularly. Wether you deside to use drops, injections or a collar is up to you, but make sure you keep up with the expiration dates.
Fleas hide a multitude of ailments for your puppy. They can cause severe skin problems, they can carry diseases, not to mention that they are very irritating for your pup, and can cause havok with your home if an infestation sets in. Luckily keeping them under control is just about keeping up with the treatments. If you're unsure of which treatment is best for your environment and your pup - consult your vet.
- Ticks - Ticks are more dangerous than fleas, but are less common (depending on where you live). They are also very preventable with treatments like anti-tic drops, collars, and sprays. Apart from the treatments, you should also regularly check your puppy's coat and skin for any bumps or lumps that are unusual. A daily run of your fingers through his coat should enable you to spot anything unusual - check it as you find it to ensure that if it is a tic - you can take it out and treat the wound immediately.
Tics carry a lot of diseases - some of them can be lethal to your furry friend. Make sure you speak to your vet about the proper way to remove them, because ticks have a head that tends to stay behind in your puppy's skin and can cause infection and inflammation.
You may find that in summer you see more of them than in winter. If you do - make sure to up the precautions you take. Always consult your vet before you do that to make sure the dosage is right for your puppy.
- Worms - Worms are part and parcel of a dog's life. Puppies in particular love to explore and muck around in durt. They also love to eat poo - nasty - but true. Your vet will advise you of the proper deworming schedule and treatment, when you take your puppy to him the first time around.
It sounds nasty, but like fleas, if you keep up wth the treatments, you most likely will never experience a problem. However, if worms are left untreated, they could cause severe discomfort to your dog and in extreme cases death.
- Grooming & General Health - well, it should go without saying, but I have to mention this just to complete the checklist. Depending on your dog breed and its coat, you should be brushing your puppy at least once every 2-3 days (every day if he has a long coat). This will prevent his fur from becoming matted. It will stimulate the oils in his skin, resulting in a healthy shiny coat. It will also enable you to keep an eye on any other skin problems and flea or tic infestations.
Just like you wash your face in the morning, you should make sure his eyes are clean every day. Have some dog wipes handy for this.
Make sure you trim his nails regularly if the breed requires it. And generally make sure he's properly fed, well exercised, and entertained daily. If at all unsure of how to take good care of your puppy's health - your vet will be able to advise you extensively.
Overall you will have no problem avoiding most of the common puppy health problems, if you follow my checklist above. Remember to always look at symptoms in context of the bigger picture of your puppy's health. Love him and treat him well, and he'll respond with endless hours of joy and love. And if in doubt - your vet is always at hand to advise you.