Protecting your pooch from diseases

Puppies are hard to resist. Once you have got your new pooch home, it is vital to take care of his health-related issues. Dr. Deepa Katyal gives an overview of these important issues.

Protecting your puppy:

Love’s not enough. Your puppy needs a preventive health care program, too. Every new puppy faces a variety of parasites and infectious organisms as it grows. Some can pose a threat to humans too, so it’s important to take your puppy to your veterinarian as soon as you can. That way, your veterinarian may get your puppy started on a preventive health care plan that’s the foundation for a long, healthy life – and your family can enjoy your new member worry free. Here are some puppy health care topics you should discuss with your veterinarian.

Vaccination schedule:

Since puppies are curious and like to explore everything, they’re good candidates for exposure to infection. But your veterinarian can help protect them against a number of infectious organisms through a regular vaccination program. A puppy typically receives its first vaccination at 6 to 8 weeks of age, and vaccinations will continue throughout the dog’s life. Your veterinarian will set up your puppy’s vaccination schedule. In fact, taking your dog to “get his shots” on a regular basis is one of the easiest, most important ways you can protect your pet’s good health, because it also ensures that your veterinarian has the chance to examine your dog regularly to detect any problems before they become serious threats. In most cases, one should vaccinate for the following diseases: Rabies, Canine Distemper Virus, Canine Hepatitis Virus, Leptospirosis, Canine Parvovirus, Canine Parainfluenza Virus and Bordetella.

Rabies: a fatal disease

Rabies is a generally fatal viral disease that affects the central nervous system and can infect all warm-blooded animals. The disease is zoonotic, which means it can be transmitted to humans bitten by an infected animal. People exposed to rabies must undergo an immunisation regime. Canine Parvovirus (Parvo): an intestinal virus Parvo is an acute, potentially fatal disease of the gastrointestinal tract and, less commonly, the heart muscle. Although dogs of all ages are susceptible, puppies are more at risk. Signs include vomiting, bloody diarrhoea, fever and dehydration. Since these symptoms can indicate other diseases as well, the vet will confirm a diagnosis of parvoviral infection by examining the faeces.

Distemper:

Distemper is a highly contagious viral disease that affects a puppy’s skin, respiratory system, intestines, and brain and can cause transient fever, discharge from the nose and eyes, loss of appetite, hardening of footpads, nervous disorders and even death. It is not transmitted to people. Distemper is spread via tiny droplets in a dog’s breath and is so contagious among dogs that the disease is sometimes called the “Canine Plague.” Young puppies are at greatest risk of contracting distemper, though all unvaccinated dogs and dogs with suppressed immune systems are at risk.

Canine Coronavirus:

In most cases, Canine Coronavirus (CCV) is transmitted when dogs or puppies ingest the disease-causing organism following direct contact with infected animals or their faeces. Dogs of all ages and breeds are susceptible. CCV infection can range from very mild and barely noticeable to serious. Dogs infected with CCV may refuse food, seem lethargic, become dehydrated, and suffer from sudden-onset diarrhoea that can last from ten days to several weeks. CCV can occur at the same time as canine parvovirus, intensifying the dog’s illness and even causing death in puppies.

Internal parasites:

In addition to intestinal parasites such as hookworms and roundworms, puppies are also vulnerable to picking up whipworms, tapeworms and heartworms. Roundworm, hookworm, and whipworm infestations are prevented by once-monthly medication called Interceptor, which is also an excellent medication for prevention of infections with heartworms. Heartworm disease is almost always fatal and yet highly preventable. Tapeworms are prevented by preventing flea infestations.

Deworming:

Most puppies are born with worms (lactogenic route of transmission) and therefore should be dewormed by your veterinarian. Faecal examination is the microscopic examination of stools for parasites and may be done to confirm if there are worms or determine which worms are present. Puppies can pick up intestinal parasites from their environment. They can also get roundworms and hookworms from their mother before birth. For this reason – and because humans can potentially develop serious problems if exposed to immature forms of roundworm or hookworms – routine deworming all puppies several times between the ages of 6 and 12 weeks is important. A potbellied appearance of the abdomen is also an indication of worm overload.

External parasites:

The most common external parasites we encounter are fleas, with ticks being common in late winter/spring/early summer. There are a variety of flea control products available which are effective and safe depending on your puppy’s age. Flea control is a very complicated process, it is therefore best to consult a qualified veterinarian to tackle this problem. Ticks too are cause of health issues in canines as are responsible for various blood infection such as Ehrlichiosis, Babesiosis, Hepatozoonoses etc (Tick fever), it is therefore mandatory to pay necessary attention to pups with heavy infestation, loads of safe products including powders, sprays, drop on as well as deticking shampoos are available since most of them can cause toxicity, use of any deticking product should be used after veterinary consultation. It has been observed that ayurvedic or herbal products too viz. neem oil or leaf extract containing products are gaining popularity as a deticking agent.

Nutrition:

The energy requirements of a puppy, based on body weight, is nearly double that of an adult. The number of calories a 2-month-old puppy needs varies with his size, activity level and weight. Approximate calorie requirements for the different breed sizes are: 225 for toys; 400 for small breeds; 530 for medium; 990 for large; and 1220 for giant breed dogs. There is no set formula for how much to feed a puppy. Consider your pup’s age, weight, and activity level when deciding how much to feed. Weigh your puppy each week. As your puppy ages and his size increases, he will need more food each day. More active pups may burn more calories and require more food. The opposite is true for less active pups. Every brand of food has different nutrients, caloric densities and feeding recommendations. (Dr. Deepa Katyal, MVSc (Mumbai), MVSt (Australia) is a veterinary practitioner from Chembur, Mumbai. She is the CEO of K-9 Klub for dog lovers. She can be contacted at 9819742557.)

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