Puppyhood sicknesses

What to keep an eye on


Getting a puppy should be a happy time: after all, you’re getting a new, very cute family member. Unfortunately, this happy time may be marred by the shadow of illness. Puppies’ immune systems aren’t as strong as those of adult dogs, who have had time to develop an immune system and also have the benefits of vaccination helping them. This means that puppies are more at risk of getting sick than adult dogs.

Keep in mind that with appropriate care and advice from your vet, your puppy can avoid most, or maybe even all, of these conditions. Here are some of the most common illnesses that can affect puppies.


Parvo is one of the most dreaded canine illnesses, and with good reason. Parvo is often fatal for the afflicted dog. This virus is highly contagious, and is transmitted by contact with infected dogs, faeces or a contaminated surface (such as the ground). It is contracted orally, and moves into the bloodstream. From the bloodstream, the virus attacks the intestine or the heart. An infected puppy will usually be lethargic, with vomiting and/or often bloody and bad-smelling diarrhoea. If you notice these symptoms, get to the vet at once. Your puppy might pull through with intensive (but expensive) treatment. Fortunately, Parvo can be prevented. Parvo is included in the normal set of vaccines received at 6 to 8 weeks old, with a booster a few weeks later. Until your puppy is vaccinated, keep them inside for the time being.


There are all sort of internal and external parasites that can infect dogs (and humans too!): Giardia, Heartworm, Coccidia, Fleas, Ticks, Worms, and so on. You can purchase suitable medicines to get rid of and prevent the major parasites: ticks, fleas, and worms. If your puppy contracts a nastier parasite like Giardia, you’ll need to go to your vet for tests and a formal diagnosis in order to receive proper treatment.


Caused by the Canine Distemper Virus, this disease is spread through inhalation and contact with sick animals’ faeces and bodily fluids. Puppies, especially sickly ones from puppy mills, can easily be infected with the virus. Less than a week after contracting it, the virus will spread rapidly around the dog’s body. Affected dogs are feverish, with a clear discharge coming from their nose and eyes. After a week, the discharge becomes thicker, yellow, and crusty, and the dog will develop other symptoms as the virus attacks the brain and spinal cord. The dog also develops sores on the abdomen, and the paw pads become hardened; hence the other name for distemper “Hard Pad”. There is no cure for distemper; some dogs are lucky and will survive if they receive veterinary care in time, but many dogs die. With this disease, once again prevention is key. There is a vaccine for Canine Distemper, and your puppy can be vaccinated as young as 6 to 8 weeks old., generally followed by a booster a few weeks later.

Kennel Cough

Kennel Cough is a very contagious respirator disease. Dogs often catch it when staying at boarding kennels, dog parks, dog shows, or any area with a large number of dogs. It’s caused by the bacteria Bordetella bronchiseptica and Canine Para-Influenza Virus, and causes a dry, honking cough that gets worse with exercise. Having Kennel Cough also puts your pup at a higher risk of catching another infection, since Kennel Cough lowers their defences to disease. Mild cases of Kennel Cough will get better with time, but the disease can be serious. Puppies, with their undeveloped immune systems, are more at risk than most dogs, and can get seriously ill. Kennel Cough can mostly be prevented with a vaccine; this vaccine doesn’t provide total protection, but does reduce the risk significantly. Depending on the dog’s age and particular circumstances, they might not need a vaccine unless they are going into “risky” places crowded with dogs, such as dog shows or boarding kennels.

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