Common Puppy Diseases – Whole Dog Magazine

The words “puppy parvovirus” and “puppy distemper” strike fear into the hearts of dog lovers everywhere. Both of these puppy diseases have a high mortality rate but are fortunately preventable with proper vaccinations.

Canine parvovirus, or “parvovirus,” causes gastrointestinal decay. Puppies infected with parvovirus will develop severe vomiting and diarrhea, which has a characteristic foul odor. (Once you smell it, you’ll never forget the smell of parvodiarrhea; it’s diagnostic.) Parvo puppies become dehydrated rapidly and have little backup to compensate for the loss of incoming nutrients. Although puppies infected with parvovirus can be rescued, many will die despite extensive and expensive supportive care, including immune serum and intravenous (IV) fluids.

Symptoms of canine distemper in puppies vary. Discharge from the eyes, coughing, vomiting, diarrhea, and perhaps convulsions or seizures may all be signs that your puppy has distemper. While these symptoms are associated with many diseases, canine distemper is one of the few diseases where all of these symptoms can be seen in a single puppy. As with parvovirus, there is no clear treatment. This is supportive care. Unfortunately, puppies who survive this may be left with residual damage, such as recurring seizures.

The most frustrating thing about parvovirus and canine distemper is that both potentially fatal diseases are preventable with a proper vaccination program. Vaccination of puppies is difficult due to the presence of maternal antibodies. Mom’s excellent protection may interfere with the puppy’s production of its own protective antibodies, which is why puppy vaccinations must be done at the right time.

If you’re lucky, your puppy’s breeder will create a nomogram. This information is used to calculate when maternal antibodies to parvovirus and canine distemper disappear based on the mother’s own titers. This way you will know when it is time to start the vaccination series for your puppy. Parvovirus may appear as early as 6 weeks of age only if the sow is unresponsive, or you can wait until 12 weeks of age for the first of a series of two. Without understanding these conditions, most protocols recommend starting injections when the puppy is 8 weeks old, with additional injections at 12 weeks and 16 weeks.

Dent cough in puppies is a little more complicated. Many different pathogens can cause canine cough syndrome. These viruses include the benign parainfluenza virus, Bordetella, and the dangerous canine influenza virus. While distemper and parvovirus are fairly common, puppies need to be exposed to a coughing or sick dog to get a cough. Which vaccines are appropriate for your puppy depends on its potential exposure. The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) has a cool link that can help you determine the correct vaccinations for your puppy.

For milder cases of puppy litter, symptomatic treatment is usually all that is needed. Often, your puppy sounds worse than he feels. However, if pneumonia develops, the situation can become more serious. At that time, antibiotics for secondary bacteria, fluids to maintain hydration, and possibly a period of time in an oxygen cage may be needed.

Leptospirosis in puppies is uncommon unless your puppy is frequently exposed to water sources frequented by wildlife or pests, such as urban rodents. Sniffing infected urine is also a possible point of infection. If your puppy does have leptospirosis, it is very serious and may cause permanent damage to his kidneys and/or liver. The first symptoms are usually fever, pain, and reluctance to move, often accompanied by vomiting or diarrhea. Treatment is with antibiotics, usually along with fluid therapy.

Leptospirosis is not considered a core vaccine (core vaccines are those recommended for all dogs), but your veterinarian can advise you on the risks in your area based on your puppy’s lifestyle.

Most importantly, a sound vaccination schedule can protect your puppy from the most serious common diseases among puppies. Work with your veterinarian to establish the right schedule for your puppy.