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Health of Your Puppy

When considering the idea of bringing home a puppy, you must also consider their health and how you will take care of them. You should ask friends about the vet they use for their pets and get recommendations to see if they are happy with their choice. The best thing to do is to plan a checkup of your new puppy within 8 hours of bringing him home. A vet will check your puppy's weight, height, temperature and skin for any problems. The vet will also thoroughly examine the puppy's eyes, ears, teeth and abdomen and look for any genetic or physical abnormalities.

Your veterinarian will also begin a series of puppy vaccinations to prevent disease. Common diseases that can be prevented are:

  • Canine Coronavirus - A disease that attacks the intestines, making the puppy weak and sickly. Vomiting, depression, loss of appetite, and diarrhea may be symptoms of this illness. Vaccinations can prevent this disease in your puppy.
  • Canine Distemper - A very serious and contagious disease that attacks the gastrointestinal and respiratory systems and sometimes the nervous system as well. Currently there is no medication available to kill distemper in infected dogs. Prevention with vaccinations is the best option.
  • Kennel Cough - A quickly spreading disease, especially in boarded dogs that creates a dry, hacking cough and can cause complications as severe as pneumonia.
  • Canine Parvovirus - A serious, contagious disease that affects the gastrointestinal system. This virus is generally in the stool of infected dogs. If your puppy steps in infected feces on a walk, then later licks his paw, he could get this disease. Symptoms lead to dehydration and can be fatal. Vaccinations will help prevent this disease.
  • Infectious Hepatitis - A contagious disease from a virus that infects the lining of the blood vessels, liver and kidneys. (It is not the same as the hepatitis that affects people. Dogs that have contracted this disease may become lethargic, have a high fever, loss of appetite, bloody stool, vomiting, and collapse. The vaccination is included in the DHPP shot (distemper, hepatitis, parainfluenza, parvovirus).
  • Leptospirosis - This disease is caused from bacteria that attacks the liver and kidneys. It comes from contact with the urine of infected animals. Contaminated water can trigger this disease. Symptoms are similar to other diseases listed above, but also include jaundiced eyes (the whites of the eyes turning yellow). The vaccine used for this disease is added to the DHPP vaccination (DHLPP).
  • Lyme Disease - Ticks spread lyme disease, an ailment that mainly affects the joints of the body. Dogs may have a fever, have sudden lameness or painful joints, become weak and lethargic and lose weight. Antibiotics and an optional vaccine is available to help prevent the disease.
  • Rabies - This deadly disease is easily preventable with a series of rabies vaccines. Rabies is caused by a virus spread usually from wild animals and attacks the nervous system. Your puppy should be vaccinated at three months of age, with booster shots given as one or three-year vaccinations. 

Prevention of disease is the best treatment. Make sure you take the necessary steps recommended by your veterinarian to keep your puppy healthy.

Exercise & Activities

All puppies need some exercise and activity. Of course, the best exercise activity is taking your puppy for a simple walk. Most puppies love to play fetch or chase after balls or even play with tugging ropes. Even if you don't provide much, your puppy will find activity to keep him busy. As he grows, you may want to enter the world of competitive sports that include jumping, obstacle courses, catching flying discs or even racing. Athletic sports can be a challenge for your dog. Make sure he is in fit shape if you decide to enter into that world. As your puppy grows older, he may like to jog with you, go on hiking and camping as your companion, or even enjoy a swim. Puppies are adaptable to almost any activity as long as proper training and care are involved.


Although you expect your puppy to live a long, healthy life, emergencies can happen. A little preparation can save your puppy's life. First of all, know where your closest animal emergency hospital is for after hours or weekends when your veterinarian's office is not open! Always rush your puppy to an emergency hospital is he is having trouble breathing, he is continually vomiting, convulsing, whimpering in pain, or unconscious. Keep trouble items out reach that could cause poisoning or injuries to prevent some of these emergencies.

Other Issues

  • Allergies - Allergies are becoming increasingly more common for puppies and older dogs alike. Allergies are triggered by several things: fleas or biting insects, inhaling pollen, molds or other antigens, food or drugs. Your puppy may react to one or more of these antigens. It may be difficult at first to tell what is the cause. You will have to be patient and work with your vet in determining the cause. Some allergies cause skin reactions, such as itching, swelling or difficulty breathing. Your veterinarian will help determine the best treatments.
  • Internal Parasites - The most common internal parasites include heartworms, hookworms, roundworms, tapeworms and whipworms. Heartworms are from the bite of infected mosquitoes and can be fatal. Your vet can check for this worm through a blood sample. Treatment is usually in the form of liquid or a pill administered to the puppy for a period of time. Hookworms generally show up in warm, humid climates. They can cause weakness and anemia. Treatment is generally medication. Roundworms can be passed to a puppy through the mother's placenta before birth, through mother's milk or by ingesting worms eggs in the soil. Roundworms are very common and usually treated by the vet early in his life. Tapeworms can be caught by swallowing fleas that have eating tapeworm eggs. Tapeworms can cause some abdominal pain and anal itching. Whipworms living in the small intestines and are difficult to detect than other worms. They can cause severe diarrhea, anemia and weight loss. All the parasites can be easily treated when the puppy is young by the vet deworming him beginning at his first checkup.
  • Fleas - Fleas can be a frustrating problem because they can spread onto humans, into carpets, furniture and bedding. Itching is the most prevalent problem with fleas, but with a severe infestation, they can cause anemia or even death. Talk to your vet about the best treatment for your pet and how to rid your home of fleas before they take over.
  • Ticks are carriers of disease, including Lyme disease, to both animals and humans. They tend to live in weedy, wooded or grassy areas outdoors. Ticks can be difficult to remove because they bury their head under the skin. The best way to remove a tick is to grab it by it's body and pull outward slowly, steady and firm, with the head attached. Drop it in a gar with rubbing alcohol to kill it. 
  • Dental Issues - Just like with humans, puppies and dogs can have dental problems if their teeth are not cared for. Gingivitis - tartar - builds up around the teeth and causes bad breath, swollen or bleeding gums and loose teeth. Products such as dry biscuits and Flossy Bone ropes, specially designed to help remove plaque and tartar, can help clean the teeth of your puppy and keep him healthy.

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