Basic Health Care For Your New Puppy
By: Kathryn Krueger, DVM
You just obtained a new puppy from the Kitsap Humane Society, a pet store or breeder. What vaccinations are necessary to maintain the health of the new addition to your family? Does your puppy have worms and can you get worms from him/her?
Your puppy is a baby animal whose immune system is not as developed as an adult dog’s immune system. This means that it needs to be protected from contagious diseases. Your puppy is protected by antibodies found in the mother’s milk during the time it is nursing (from birth to six weeks). At six weeks of age, it is important for you to bring your puppy to your veterinarian so that proper health care can be implemented.
At this time your veterinarian will want to check for fecal parasites. Over 90% of puppies are born with round worms and these can be transmitted to humans. Children are especially at risk, as the larval forms of these parasites can be ingested and migrate to the eyes (Ocular larval migrans) or brain. There are other parasites that are found in the gastrointestinal tract of dogs that are dangerous to dogs and humans as well. These can be diagnosed and treated at your local veterinarian’s office.
As your puppy’s immune system is developing, you should limit your puppy’s exposure to places frequented by dogs that may be carrying disease (including dog parks, RV parks, pet stores, and beaches) until the entire puppy vaccination series has been completed.
Core vaccinations for puppies should begin at 6 weeks. If you have a puppy older than 6 weeks, it is imperative to start the vaccinations as soon as possible. Vaccinations should then continue at three-week intervals until your puppy is 4 months old. These are some of the preventable dangers for young puppies:
-Parvovirus is one of the more common and devastating diseases in this area. Signs of this deadly disease include lethargy, vomiting, bloody diarrhea and severe dehydration. Even with the best veterinary care ie: intensive care including IV fluids and antibiotics, the survival rate is variable. Breeds that are considered a greater risk for contracting the virus include Rottweilers, Dobermans, Pitt Bulls, and Labrador retrievers.
-Distemper is a virus with many different signs. Your puppy may have upper respiratory signs like coughing, sneezing, white to green discharge from the nose and/or eyes, diarrhea, vomiting, seizures, etc. Distemper is transmitted via aerosol. It can be found in all body secretions.
-Infectious Canine Hepatitis (Adenovirus) is a virus that can initially cause respiratory signs followed by vomiting and bloody diarrhea. This virus can also cause acute death without clinical signs. Any dog that hasn’t been vaccinated can harbor and shed this virus and may not show clinical signs, making unvaccinated animals at risk for contracting the virus. There are vaccines on the market that can cause a worrisome but harmless bluish-colored clouding of the cornea. For this reason, and many others, it is recommended that your veterinarian vaccinate your puppy.
-Parainfluenza is a virus that is part of the kennel cough syndrome that can cause coughing and ocular and nasal discharge.
-Leptospirosis is a zoonotic bacteria (meaning that humans are susceptible to contracting the disease) that is shed in the urine of affected animals. It can cause liver damage and kidney failure.
-Rabies virus vaccination is imperative for the health and safety of your pet and your family. Rabies is an invariably fatal disease if left untreated in all species of mammals including humans. The rabies virus particles are found in the saliva of an infected animal and may be transmitted via a bite or contamination (saliva contact with an eye or broken skin). Even if your dog rarely goes outside and is under supervision at all times, the possibility that a wild animal may come in contact with your pet still exists. The only way to definitively diagnose rabies is to remove the head of the animal and send it in to a diagnostic lab (please do NOT attempt this at home!).
Non-Core Vaccinations include Bordetella. Bordetella bronchiseptica, in combination with other bacteria and viruses, can cause the disease complex commonly called “kennel cough”. It is characterized by a productive (you may see green/yellow discharge coughed from the lungs), “honking” persistent cough. The decision to vaccinate should be one made with you and your veterinarian based on the degree of risk your puppy encounters. If your puppy came from a shelter, is frequently groomed, participates in dog shows, or spends time at a boarding facility, he/she is at a greater risk for contacting the complex. Kennel cough complex has high morbidity (very contagious) and low mortality (rarely fatal).
There are numerous reasons for performing routine surgical procedures Ovariohysterectomy (spay) or Orchidectomy (neuter) to sterilize your puppy. One of the most important concerns includes unwanted pregnancies. It is apparent that our society has an overabundance of unwanted pets as many animals are euthanized every year. Spaying and neutering can also prevent individual health concerns. A female puppy spayed before her first estrus (heat) cycle has a 99.5% reduction in the occurence of mammary tumors. A spayed female has virtually no chance for ovarian cancer, as the ovaries and uterus are removed during the procedure. She will also not be at risk for contracting pyometra, a potentially serious infection of her reproductive tract. Neutering a male puppy can completely eliminate the incidence of testicular tumors and reduce the risk of prostate cancer. Talk to your veterinarian about post- surgery pain management.
It is also important to educate your puppy to prevent behavioral problems before they get out of hand. Behavioral issues are the most common reason for euthanasia in this country, many of which can be prevented if caught early enough with the help of a skilled behavioral specialist.
Fleas are common on the Kitsap Peninsula. Even if you never see a flea on your pet, this does not mean that an itchy puppy isn’t suffering from flea bites. Your veterinarian can prescribe medications to prevent/ treat these parasites. Fleas can carry Yersinia pestis (the plague) in some parts of the country and commonly transmit tapeworms.
We hope this has been a helpful reminder on health care for your new puppy. Please see your veterinarian for any questions you may have regarding this matter.