Common Health Issues

There are quite a few very common ailments and emergency situations that can crop up with a new (or even existing!) pet. It’s important to be able to recognize them for what they are and have some idea on what to do about them.

Especially in the case of a new puppy, their immune systems are not fully developed and they can contract most anything if you expose them to everything and anything. Some things they can contract simply from environmental and dietary changes. Both can create stress that has a profound effect on an immature immune system.

  1. Kennel Cough – Don’t panic! This is essentially a cold. It will start with some sneezing, a little coughing, a runny nose, etc. They can pick it up so easily it can be frustrating even when you are doing everything right (i.e. not exposing them to too many outside influences). Adult dogs with very healthy immune systems can usually work through this without antibiotics but puppies almost always need a little help. In the case of puppies, we always recommend having your vet check them out. Don’t wait on this or you could potentially be dealing with a case of pneumoina. One other thing to consider is the fact that Kennel Cough is highly contagious. If you have other pets, try to keep them separate from the infected one. Having said all that, this is really very common. Don’t worry, your buddy will be okay!
  2. Mange – Again, don’t panic! The important thing here is to recognize what it is and take your pup into the vet for treatment. Some people see a small spot and automatically dismiss it as a “hotspot” that will go away. Well no, without proper treatment, it may not go away. It is important with mange that you help strenghten their immune system. A healthy diet is key here! Raw if possible but at the very least grain free. You can also add probiotics and other supplements to help boost the immune system. In a mild case, most vets won’t treat it with anything other than a monthly topical and an antimicrobial bath. In severe cases, the treatment is usual oral ivermectin. Toxic stuff but it works.Important to note: There are two types of mange, Demodectic Mange and Sarcoptic Mange. The main thing to remember here is that Sarcoptic Mange is contagious to other animals and even people.
  3. Parvo – This is considered an emergency situation that warrants a trip to the vet ASAP. This is a highly fatal viral disease. Parvo is a virus that attacks the lining of the digestive system. Puppies are especially prone to it because they have immature immune systems. Some symptoms of parvo include: diarrhea, vomiting and lethargy. Usually they stop eating and develop a bloody, foul-smelling, liquid stool. Please do not think this will clear up on its own. It will not and the chances of your puppy/dog dying are very high. You must get to the vet ASAP and start some course of treatment.I will not sugarcoat it, treatment can be expensive, but there are options. The best of course is dedicated hospital treatment where they can remain on fluids and receive round the clock care from the veterinarians and veterinary staff. This is the most expensive option but if you truly want your puppy to live, it’s the option your puppy will stand the best chance with. Secondary to that is being admitted to your vet for the same type of care. The only difference here is that most vets do not have someone present overnight. The last option is taking all the necessary materials and taking care of your puppy on your own at home. This will include subcutaneous fluids you will have to administer yourself with a catheter, antibiotics, anti-nausea meds, the whole nine yards. This is still a better option than not doing anything and hoping it will go away.If you are under financial distress and cannot do anything, you can contact local rescue groups to see if they can help or you can apply for care credit, there are a few things you can attempt to do to help your pup. However, do not do NOTHING or your puppy will likely die. Also, if you can get your pup through this crisis, please remember that this virus can live a LONG time in your environment. There are steps you can take to decontaminate but do not risk it by bringing another puppy in your home for at least 6 months. Now, the bright side of things. Puppies that have been fully vaccinated have some protection from this. It’s not that they are completely immune to it but they stand a much better chance of never contracting it if they have been fully vaccinated against it. Please make sure wherever you adopt or acquire your puppy from, ask them to show you PROOF that the puppy has been vaccinated.
  4. Blockages – This is considered an emergency situation that warrants a trip to the vet ASAP. Let’s face it, they are dogs and they will get into things. As much as we try to puppy/dog proof the house, they will find the one thing you didn’t pick up to chew up and swallow. Many times they will pass this with no problem aside from some minor diarrhea. In some cases though, it becomes a very serious problem very quickly. Dogs that have an intestinal blockage (something lodged in there somewhere) have one or more of the following symptoms: vomiting (very foul smelling), diarrhea, and lethargy. If your animal is exhibiting one or more of these signs, please do not dismiss it. It definitely warrants a trip to the vet. Even though the item still may pass through, your vet will at least want to do x-rays to see what you are dealing with. Hopefully, it’s something that will pass on its own, no harm no foul. If it does not pass, surgery will be required. Time is of the essence here because if your dog has a blockage that requires surgery, they can go downhill very fast. Don’t think to yourself “I’ll make an appointment and get him in tomorrow if he’s still throwing up” because you may wake up to find your faithful companion no longer living.Surgery will be expensive and if you cannot afford a $1,200 surgery ($4,000+ in the case of an emergency room visit), I think it would be safe to say here that prevention is critical.
  5. Worms – These yucky little things are unavoidable! The even more frustrating part is you can deworm your puppy a bunch of times only to end up with worms anyway! Nasty little buggers.

We are providing some important information on worms because all pups/dogs deal with them at some point in life, no matter what you do to prevent them!

How Parasites Are Acquired

  • Ingestion of eggs. Most infections are acquired by ingestion of microscopic eggs. This occurs when a dog licks areas where other dogs have defecated, like yards, parks or grass.
  • At birth. Many puppies are born with intestinal parasites (usually roundworms) that have been passed from the mother, where the parasite was in an encysted, quiet state.
  • From intermediate host. Tapeworms are transmitted by an intermediate host when a dog swallows a flea or eats a rabbit.

It should be emphasized that some parasites – especially roundworms and hookworms can also affect people, especially children. For that reason, it is essential to prevent intestinal parasites in our pets and to treat any resultant infection.

Parasitic diseases range from trivial to fatal disease. Parasites can cause severe disease in immature puppies, sick or debilitated pets, or in pets with a suppressed immune system. Younger pets often get acute disease (vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, and anemia) whereas older pets get chronic disease such as intermittent diarrhea.

Most common worms:

  1. Tapeworm: Segments of tapeworms can be seen; they may appear as rectangular segments moving around the anal area of the animal, or as white rice-like or cucumber seed-like segments around the anus. Tapeworms get their name because they are thin and flat, like strips of tape. Unlike the smooth-bodied roundworms, hookworms, and whipworms, tapeworms’ bodies are actually made up of joined segments. Dogs and cats become infected with tapeworms when they eat infected fleas or lice. They can also get certain types of tapeworms by eating infected rodents.
  2. Roundworm: Roundworms (ascarids) are several inches long, look like spaghetti, and may occasionally be seen in the stool or vomit of an infected pet; usually, though, you will not see them. When present in large numbers, the puppies and kittens often have a potbelly and dry, scaly hair coat.
  3. Hookworm: Hookworms and whipworms are very small and virtually impossible to see in the stool or vomit. Hookworms are the second most common intestinal parasites found in dogs, but they are less commonly found in cats. Your pet can become infected when larvae penetrate the animal’s skin or the lining of the mouth. An infected female dog can pass the infection to her puppies through her milk, but this does not occur in cats.
  4. Whipworm: Hookworms and whipworms are very small and virtually impossible to see in the stool or vomit. Most common in adult animals – especially those housed in groups or kennels. These worms get their name from their whip-like shape. Animals with whipworms pass the infection along to other animals when the worm eggs develop into larvae and are passed in their feces (droppings). Your pet can pick up the infection by eating infected soil or licking their contaminated fur or paws.

So basically, except for tapeworms, the best way to diagnose worms in a pet is to have a fecal exam performed by your veterinarian. In a fecal exam, they look for the microscopic eggs of the worms. Eggs may not always be present in the stool, even though a pet has worms. This is why regular deworming is performed even though evidence of worms may not be present. Fecal exams should still be performed regularly to detect the presence of species of parasitic worms, which may not be killed by our usual wormers.

Regular deworming is recommended by the American Association of Veterinary Parasitologists (AAVP), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC).