All puppies should be treated as though they do have worms, in order to avoid a missed diagnosis. Assuming that your dog has come from a responsible breeder, he should have been wormed from the age of 2-6 weeks (the earliest you will get your puppy is at 8 weeks of age – a puppy should not be separated from the dame prior to that time). Worming is usually done under the supervision of a vet, in order to determine the correct dosage, based upon your puppy’s weight. This process should be repeated several weeks later, at which time you may be responsible for the puppy’s medical care. While the first worming treatment kills off the adult worms, a second treatment is required to kill any that have hatched since the first treatment. If your puppy has a tight, swollen abdomen, this may be an indication of a worm problem, and you should have a vet check it out.
At 6 weeks of age, your puppy will receive its first basic vaccination. This will be taken care of by your breeder. Then, the puppy should be given up to three booster shots at three-week increments. This basic vaccination often includes vaccines for the following diseases:
Distemper – Canine Distemper is a contagious disease that was the leading cause of death in dogs prior to the discovery of the vaccine in the 60s . This disease is incurable, making it an even bigger threat to your puppy, as most infected puppies will not survive. Distemper can be transmitted in a number of ways, both by dogs and by other animals. Along with having the capability to be propagated by bodily fluids, it is also considered to be an airborne disease. Some symptoms of distemper may include fever, loss of appetite, coughing, trouble breathing, runny nose, diarrhea, inflammation of the eyes, and vomiting.
Leptospirosis – Leptospirosis is a contagious bacterial disease. Specifically, it is passed on through infected urine, or objects contaminated by infected urine. However, while the vaccine does exist, this disease typically affects older dogs and can have some nasty side effects. So, you may talk to your vet about the possibility of waiting until the dog is older before administering this vaccine.
Parvovirus – Parvo is a virus much like Crohn’s disease in humans. It targets the lining of the dog’s digestive tract, thereby preventing him from being able to absorb the liquids and nutrients his body needs. Because they have an underdeveloped immune system, puppies are particularly at risk for this disease. However, it is one of the most common diseases in dogs of all ages. Often times, Parvo will cause an animal to stop eating, and you will observe a bloody, watery stool that is characteristic of Parvo. You may also notice that your dog is lethargic, has diarrhea and vomiting, or has a fever. Parvo is transmitted through the fecal matter of an infected animal. Also, the virus can survive for a period of months in the ground below infected feces, and it is thus considered to be highly contagious. For this reason, young puppies should be limited in terms of their exposure to other animals and the outdoors until their vaccination schedules are complete. Also, it is important to know that adult dogs can carry the disease without an accompanying manifestation of symptoms.
Parainfluenza – Otherwise known as “kennel cough”, is a highly contagious airborne virus. It is often contracted in places with a high concentration of animals, such as a kennel or even a veterinarian’s office. Aside from a cough, the other main symptom of a kennel cough is a rising temperature. Due to the level of contagiousness of this disease, it is advised that infected animals be isolated in order to protect other animals that may come into contact with.
Rabies– By the time your dog reaches 5 or 6 months of age, most places require by law that it have a rabies vaccination. Because this disease can be transmitted to humans and other animals through the bite of an infected animal (bats being the most common host), it is a matter of public health and therefore closely regulated. While the symptoms of rabies may go undetectable for weeks, or even years, eventually an infected animal may experience pain, fatigue, fever, irritability and even hallucinations. This disease has an exceptionally high fatality rate.
It is still generally recommended that your dog receive yearly rabies vaccinations, but you can talk to your vet about the possibility of 3-year or longer intervals, as new drugs are available, and the incidence rate of rabies is not as high as it once was.
How Much Exposure?
As you can see, there are many risks for puppies. So, until he is fully vaccinated, your puppy should be kept away from other animals and the outdoors as much as possible. This includes spaces used by other animals, such as sidewalks, parks, and even the floor of your vet’s office. While it may be tempting to immediately take your new puppy out into the world, it is really recommended to refrain from doing so in order to protect him adequately and allow its immune system to develop.
Periodontal diseases are the most commonly occurring problem in dogs. While mild bad breath may be symptomatic of gum disease or infection, it also may be a sign that your puppy has a digestive problem. Always check your dog’s teeth, gums, and cheek walls for abnormalities, and consult your vet regularly. You can find more information on dental health in the next section.
Your Dog’s Teeth
Just like their owners, dogs need regular dental care. And, just like in human teeth, tartar buildup can cause your dog’s gums to become inflamed and swollen, and may even lead to possibly serious secondary infections and other health problems. For dogs between the ages of one and three years, a once-a-week brushing should be sufficient. However, dogs over the age of three require three brushings per week.
In order to brush your dog’s teeth, you should use a brush made especially for your pet. Also, never use toothpaste that is made for humans. A long-handled brush and enzyme toothpaste made just for dogs should do the trick. The long brush will enable you to reach your dog’s back teeth. As an alternative, you may choose to clean your puppy’s teeth by wiping them with cleaning pads which already have enzymes in them. Both products are readily available through your vet or through retail outlets near you or on the internet.
It is a good idea to check your dog’s ears regularly for dirt and buildup which, if left unchecked, may lead to infection. Any foul smell from your dog’s ear is an indication of infection and should be addressed immediately. Also, routine check-ups and cleaning will help keep the dog’s ears dry and free of otitis, or chronic inflammation. These cleanings are important to your dog’s overall level of hygiene (and ultimately his health). Cleaning can be done using a 50/50 mixture of distilled water and distilled vinegar, regular or organic apple cider variety, by placing a few drops in each ear canal and massaging gently. Then your dog will shake his head vigorously, which is a normal reaction.
Another problem common in dogs is ear mites. Ear mites are small parasites which may be visible in the form of dark brown debris. While treatment is available, it will only kill the adult mites. Therefore, like worming, the treatment regimen should be repeated 10 to 14 days after the initial treatment to kill any newly-matured mites. You should consult your vet if you think your dog has ear mites.
The most common cause of skin problems in dogs is allergies. In the case of mild skin irritation, you can take steps to clean the area with a mild shampoo. This can rid your dog of irritations, itching, and prevent the spread of bacteria. If the problem is confined to a small area, you may want to trim the hair around the area and apply a skin cream to relieve symptoms of irritation. As the skin begins to heal, it will appear pink and shiny, just as a healing scar would on your own body. You can expect this process to cause your dog to temporarily experience itching as a side effect of the healing. You may also want to consider putting a “satellite dish” around your pet’s neck to keep him from scratching his head area (if the irritation is on the head area). The use of hydrocortisone cream containing vitamins B and E may also help with more severe irritation. However, if you dog’s symptoms persist, you should seek your vet’s advice on what to do next.
Another common form of irritation is what is known as a “hot spot.” These are small, red, highly irritated moist spots on your dog’s skin, which may initially be brought on by a flea bite or a natural or chemical allergy. Often times, your dog will make this spot worse by licking, biting and scratching it. So, preventing your dog from further irritating a hot spot is the first step to getting rid of it. An itch-relieving spray or the placement of a satellite dish collar may help this problem. Again, if the problem recurs or persists, you should consult your vet.
The Struggle to Clip Nails
Most dogs will not require nail clippings, as their normal activity, such as running on sidewalks, will wear them down naturally. However, less active dogs may need your help to keep their nails trim, not just for aesthetic reasons, but also for good health, i.e. preventing overgrowth and curling which can lead to infection. In the event that you do have to clip your dog’s nails, he will likely fight it at first. In the case of smaller breed dogs, you can employ the use of human nail clippers. But, with larger dogs, you should use clippers made just for dogs, such as “guillotine” clippers. After a while, your pet will become used to this procedure, and he may even begin to enjoy the attention.
First, use treats to keep your dog focused and still as you hold on tight. Although there is no real pain associated, many dogs loathe being confined in this way. While it may be difficult to keep a firm grasp, it is vital that you do so, in order to prevent the dog from getting away or from jumping, which may cause an accident while clipping. It may be helpful to get a second person to help with this.
While holding your dog’s paw, use your fingers to spread apart his toes. You will then need to hold the base of the nail to stabilize it and bring it into view. In the beginning, just concentrate on clipping the very tip of the nail, so as to avoid possible injury. This way, not only do you get good practice, but your dog will get used to the procedure. Move from one toe to the next without letting go of the paw, and give constant verbal praise. This will help ease you both into this routine.
Dogs (and cats), unlike humans, have a vein and a nerve in the base of their nails. For this reason, it is very important not to cut too low on the nail, or you risk bleeding and incurring pain associated with hitting the nerve and blood vessel. In animals with light colored nails, it is relatively easy to visually distinguish between these two areas. However, as many dogs have black nails, it can be hard to see where this line is, and injury may occur. So, in the event that an accident does happen, it is important that you keep on hand a product to stop the bleeding. Kwikstop tm, carried by most pet stores, is an example of such a product. Simply dip the affected nail in the powder, and the bleeding should come to a halt.
With lots of practice with weekly or bi-monthly sessions, both you and your dog will get comfortable with this procedure. And, over time, you will be able to cut the nails shorter and shorter, eventually reaching a point where monthly clippings are sufficient to keep the nails at a manageable length.
It is important to know that bathing your dog frequently may actually be bad for his skin. In addition, most dogs are quite squeamish when it comes to the idea of a bath. So in the event that your dog, depending on the breed, is self-cleaning, he may not require regular bathing. However, if and when your dog does need a bath, there are some things you can do to ease this process. For one, a shower may be an easier method than a bath. It is also advised that you soak and rinse the coat several times before applying lather. If you do bathe the dog in a bathtub, you should place a non-slip mat in the bottom to increase the dog’s sense of security and to prevent him from slipping in a panicked state.
Assuming good weather, you may also want to try bathing your dog outside with a hose, and some dogs may actually find this more enjoyable.
There are a few other precautions that should be taken whenever your dog is bathed. For one, cotton balls should be placed in the ear to prevent water from getting inside. Even in small amounts, water in the ear canal can be detrimental to your dog’s ears. Also, your dog’s face should be cleaned with a washcloth, never with a direct spray onto the animal’s face or eyes. Be sure to use the washcloth to get in all the creases and folds of the dog’s face, particularly of concern with pug-nosed dogs. Also be sure to completely dry these creases after a bath, and even consider applying the lubricating cream. Don’t forget to remove the cotton balls!
If possible, you should use a shampoo formulated especially for dogs. If this is not available, the next best thing you can use is a mild baby shampoo or natural herbal shampoo. It is important to use a mild formula, as harsh soaps can irritate your dog’s skin. For long-haired dogs, you may choose to use a conditioner to help with tangles. If you cannot find a dog conditioner, you can again use a mild herbal formula for humans. This may also help prevent fleas and ticks.
After the dog is all lathered up, be sure to rinse very thoroughly, as any residue from the cleanser can irritate his skin. And again, be sure to avoid getting any soap or water in your dog’s eyes.
When you least expect it, your soaking wet dog will give a good shake which can soak you, as well as your bathroom. If you bathed him in the shower, most of this will stay inside the shower, instead of getting all over your bathroom. When you want to dry him off, you can prevent him from shaking by keeping a towel over him.
Dry your dog as much as possible with the towels. His first instinct is to run and find a good place to rub every inch of his body, so keep a good hold on him!
Many breeders recommend a final rinse made of 50/50 distilled water and organic apple cider vinegar. This may help prevent critters from penetrating the coat and may also help keep a healthier and shinier coat. It may also help keep allergens away.
Fleas and Ticks and Other Concerns
Fleas and ticks are a common and well-known problem associated with dogs, however, there is a wide range of good products on the market which makes it easy to treat these problems. The most effective way to treat fleas is to use BOTH an adulticide, which kills the adult fleas, and an IGR or insect growth regulator, which kills larvae and pupae. Your veterinarian is a great resource to help you assess which product most effectively fits your needs.
There are many new products available to your vet (many of which can be purchased at your local pet store or even online) which not only kill fleas but also slow their growth process. Most are monthly treatments, either in the form of a pill given orally or a liquid filled capsule which is squeezed onto your pet’s neck-area coat. These products may be useful in preventing infestation if you think your animal will be exposed to fleas and ticks, particularly in the high season. Fleas can also carry worms. Thus you may need to follow up any flea treatment with a de-wormer in order to prevent further complications.
While finding virtually anywhere, ticks most commonly live in densely wooded areas. They latch onto your pet firmly and survive on feeding on its blood.
While dogs, cats, and also humans are at risk for ticks, dogs are more likely to come into contact with them in the places in which they are most likely to collect. Late spring through early fall are times to watch your dog most closely for tick infestation.
Ticks are a threat to our pets and us in that they carry many forms of the disease, including Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Canine Ehrlichiosis, Ehrlichiosis in Humans, and Human Granulocytic Ehrlichiosis. By far the most common condition seen in our area is Tick Paralysis. Some dogs may be more sensitive to the toxin in the saliva of the tick, and this will cause the dog’s nervous system to become paralyzed, sometimes to the point that the animal cannot walk. This condition may be treatable, and recovery is relatively unremarkable.
While there are many products which claim to kill ticks, by far the most effective method for killing them is to remove them altogether using tweezers, or some other inexpensive tick removal device. It is of the utmost importance that you remove the ENTIRE parasite, as even the slightest remnants pose a great risk to your pet. If you are uncomfortable with this form of removal, you may consult your vet as to the effectiveness of the over-the-counter insecticides.