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Your puppy is brand new and you want to protect him. The best thing you can do is to feed him a healthy, balanced diet, says Dr. Jim Dobies, a veterinarian with South Point Pet Hospital in Charlotte, N.C., and a member of the North Carolina Veterinary Medical Association.
“If you do, you’re giving your puppy’s immune system the best chance to fight off infection, he says. “He is in better shape to fight off illness and recover.”
But you can’t protect your baby pooch from everything. Here are six common illnesses he could catch in his first year of life.
1. Parvovirus (Parvo)
This highly contagious virus attacks puppies aged between 12 weeks and up to 3 years. Transmitted through bodily secretions, parvovirus is easily passed on, though most dogs are vaccinated against it starting at six to eight weeks, then again every three weeks until they are four months old (or until your veterinarian recommends).
Symptoms: Parvo in dogs starts with a fever, and at this point puppies are probably very contagious (to other dogs, not humans). “After a few days, they will experience vomiting and bloody diarrhea and become dehydrated and weak,” says Dr. Dobies.
Treatment: Vaccinate against parvovirus! If you haven’t, hospitalization is the best route, where your puppy will be given IV fluids and sometimes antibiotics to prevent sepsis, which can be fatal.
Recovery time: Three to seven days. Puppies with parvo are usually hospitalized for three to four days then go home with medications.
The vaccination against distemper is quite effective. The first vaccination takes place at six to eight weeks, and again after 9 weeks, “and when puppies have had one or two vaccines they are immune,” says Dr. Dobies. Consult your veterinarian for the best course of action for your dog concerning the distemper vaccine.
Symptoms: “This can really be an ugly disease,” he says. It shows in two ways: Initially distemper in dogs typically appears as an upper respiratory disease with sneezing and eye discharge. Then it can develop into pneumonia or can lead to neurological problems such as a fatal encephalopathy (brain damage).
Distemper in dogs is frequently misdiagnosed because owners think their puppy has a cold “so by the time we see them they have tons of discharge from their nose and eyes and have high fever. They are also depressed,” Dr. Dobies says.
Treatment: Seek medical attention for distemper in dogs. This usually involves inpatient supportive care.
Recovery time: It can take weeks to recover from canine distemper and pets usually go home from the hospital with respiratory medications.
The bad news about canine distemper is if your puppy survives it, the disease can lie dormant and break out again when she’s older. At that point she has an even worse prognosis because the disease can lead to neurological problems such as seizures.