Puppies are fragile little things, and can be at risk of injuries and diseases because they don't yet know the world round them, but also because their immune system is not yet strong.
Because it is helpless during these critical months, preventing these ailments is largely your responsibility. Therefore, if you want to keep your puppy healthy and happy, familiarizing yourself with the most common ailments in advance can be the best thing you can do for him.
To help you get acquainted with what it takes to keep your puppy in good shape - I've compiled a list of the most common FAQs and answers about puppy health.
1. Distemper - The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) calls this disease the "greatest single threat to the world's dog population". Unvaccinated dogs from four months to four years old are at the greatest risk.
It is caused by a viral infection spread through saliva, urine, feces, even through inhalation of droplets from sneezes and coughs.
Symptoms include vomiting, red eyes, shivering, fever, weight loss, nose discharge, loss of appetite and energy, thickened footpads, and seizures.
There is no specific treatment for this, and many dogs don't survive infection. This is why prevention is a much better option. Make sure your puppy gets vaccinated, and keep its surroundings as clean as possible to prevent infection.
2. Diarrhea - This is extremely common among puppies that are just starting to eat solid foods. Be aware, though, that it may also be a symptom of a more serious problem, such as a viral infection.
Make it a habit to check your dog's feces regularly, and bring your pet to the vet at the first sign of an abnormality, such as bloody stools, or if diarrhea persists for longer than 3 days.
3. Constipation - Another very common problem for puppies. You can prevent this by ensuring your puppy always has fresh drinking water and enough physical activity.
Feed him a natural diet; if you wish, you can also add some fiber to his diet, in the form of a teaspoon of ground flaxseed.
However, if you notice that your puppy has particular difficulty doing a poo, or if doing so seems painful, have a vet check him immediately for a possible intestinal blockage. If you leave constipation untreated, your puppy may suffer intoxication because of waste back-up.
4. Vomiting - This is a normal occurrence when a puppy has eaten too much or too quickly. And that can happen often, as puppies don't have an internal trigger system that alerts them when they are full. Prevent over-eating by feeding him the right amount. And make sure you always have fresh water for him to drink.
If your puppy shows distress or pain after vomiting, however, bring it to the vet right away. It might be a symptom of poisoning. Chronic vomiting and loss of appetite (for more than 24 hours), on the other hand, may arise from worm infestation or infectious illnesses.
5. Ear mites - If your puppy is always scratching its ears or shaking its head, check the inside of its ears. If it smells or contains brown wax, this may be due to ear mites. This condition is very contagious and may lead to outer ear infection and even hearing loss. Give your puppy some Vitamin C to combat the infection, clean its ears, and consult with a vet for proper treatment.
6. Parvo - This virus is another extremely contagious condition which typically affects puppies that are being weaned. It can cause serious cardiac and intestinal problems. Symptoms usually include extreme lethargy, agitation, loss of appetite, restlessness, and fever. Parvo often leads to death if not treated, so take your puppy to the vet immediately if you see these symptoms.
7. Scabies - Also known as sarcoptic mange, this skin condition results in hair loss and brown lesions and can make your puppy extremely irritated and agitated. Scabies are highly contagious and can even infect people, so be careful when handling your puppy if you think it has this condition. Bring it to the vet for appropriate treatment.
8. Cough - Hacking cough or kennel cough is caused by a bacterial or viral infection. This can be treated with commercial medicines or herbal home remedies. If coughing is chronic, however, it may be a sign of a more serious disease, such as heartworm. If your puppy continues coughing for more than a week, consult with your vet.
9. Fleas and ticks - These parasites feed on your puppy's blood, causing itching and extreme discomfort, and potentially spreading illnesses such as Lyme Disease.
Fortunately, there are many sprays, topical medications and shampoos that can help remove these pests from your dog. Make sure your puppy is over the minimum age (usually 8 to 10 weeks) before using these products. Once you've eliminated all parasites, put your pet on flea and tick prevention medication to avoid this problem in the future.
10. Heartworm - These parasites live in your dog's bloodstream and are transmitted through mosquito bites. They can cause severe damage to the heart, lungs and liver, typically causing death due to heart failure.
Worse, they are usually undetectable until your dog is already ill with the disease. Treating this illness usually involves costly and powerful medicines, and sometimes actual heart surgery. Prevention is far more desirable. Make sure your dog is on a heartworm preventive medication by 8 weeks of age.
It should be given once a month during peak mosquito season, without fail. Consult with your vet for the brand that will suit your puppy best.
As you can see, these common problems are best addressed by early detection, preparation and prevention. Keep your pet's vaccinations updated and always be on the lookout for any possible symptoms. Learn to understand your puppy's predisposition, and that way you'll be able to notice any difference in his condition - to ensure early detection. This way, you'll ensure a long, happy and healthy life for your puppy.