Happy ‘n’ healthy

When we bring home a pup… we are bringing home a friend, a companion, a reliable and trustworthy member of the family. Hence, finding a healthy pup is important. Here are a few insights for adopting a healthy puppy.

Case files…

It’s been years since young Scamp died on a gloomy day, but the memory of the Spaniel Cocker pup with Sharmila and her family is still fresh. Scamp was just two months, in a few days, the young pup suffered from a kind of fever which subsided immediately after medication. But his ailment continued as it was detected as canine parvovirus. Scamp succumbed to the dreaded disease, leaving everyone including Sharmila’s daughter Shaynaya who was just seven years old then, into unbearable grief. “I couldn’t bear the sorrow that my daughter was into when Scamp passed away so untimely,” shared Sharmila. After one year, two new tiny balls of fur came into Sharmila’s family, today the duo have become full grown adults named Jack (Golden Retriever) and Cody (Spaniel Cocker).

Similar views are shared by Anjali Kumar from Faridabad who never believed that their Spaniel Cocker would succumb to illness. “It was sad and I still feel the pain of losing my little angel who was so adorable,” said Anjali. The little one developed a kind of cold for a few days. The vet tried his best to save him, but destiny had predestined something else! “I was totally dumfounded,” recalled Anjali. She has just adopted another Spaniel Cocker and hopes everything will be fine.
Many pet parents, who have gone through these phases, know how painful it is to see the poor pup wilt away. What went wrong? Why did not these puppies bloom? It is either because the pup was too young for adoption or he was not healthy? Are these puppies from a puppy mill? Are their parents not vaccinated?…etc.

The right age to adopt puppies is around 6-12 weeks, as this is the period of socialisation of the puppy. The best way to win the puppies or adult dog’s confidence is by brushing their coat regularly. Their emotional quotient and bonding with the pet parent increase with brushing.

Information from the breeder/pet shop…

  • The foremost thing will be to have a look at the parents as this will help you to know the temperament and size your pup may attain. You must ask for the parents’ pedigree and health card. The pedigree will help you to rule out some common genetic problems like hip dysplasia, dumbness and blindness. The growth of a puppy is a triangle with Genetics, Nutrition and Environment.
  • If the mother is vaccinated regularly, the pups will be protected against major diseases at least till eight weeks through maternal anti-bodies transferred to them transplacentally and through milk.
  • You should ask if the puppies were on mother’s milk which transfers a lot of anti-bodies to them.
  • The diet of the puppy is a must as it is recommended to continue the same diet and schedule for few days. The puppies need at least 3-7 days to adjust to a new diet. The changeover has to be in phased manner.
  • The date of birth will help you to decide the course of treatment, vaccination and training.
  • Do collect the pedigree certificate of the puppy.

Puppy is in good health…

  • The best indicator of good health will be his body weight, coat condition which are the mirror of health.

Puppy care at home…

  • Before you buy a puppy consult a vet to know the type of dog who suits your requirement. There are breeds specific for a particular purpose like watch dogs, friendly dogs, guide dogs…select the breed accordingly.
  • Make a list of things your puppy needs like food, bedding, bowl, comb, etc and buy them before hand.
  • Try to create an environment which is similar to the one which he was staying. This will reduce the separation anxiety.
  • You can pick a towel smeared with the mother odour which will boost the puppy.
  • Try to be at home for at least 4-7 days till the puppy adjusts to the change in routine.
  • If you have picked up a pup less than three weeks, you need to bottle feed and then stroke the private area to defecate and pass urine.

Meet the vet…

  • Please take an appointment before you pick up the pup.
  • He will check up if the pup is carrying any diseases mainly ecto and endo parasites.
  • He can check if he has any congenital problems viz. bite problems, cleft palate, undescended testicle, patellar luxation, cardiac murmurs, eye sight, hearing or any other breed predisposing diseases so that you can inform the breeder.

Health signs to look out for…

Fever, reluctant to eat, diarrhea, vomiting, nasal discharge, lethargic, not playing or responding to your call, frequent urination, constipation, abnormal coloured stools (black, mucus). Any of these or in combination can be an indicator of minor or major illness and needs a vet to check the puppy. Some puppies start retching if they have choked themselves. They start salivating profusely if they are bitten by insects or have licked some poison (especially after a medicated bath for ectoparasites). If they have chewed on a live wire they will be in a state of shock. The history is very important as the vet can diagnose at the earliest rather than depending on tests.

Canine parvo virus…

It’s basically a virus which targets and multiplies in fast multiplying cells which is the gastrointestinal tract. If the puppy is very young (less than three months), it can also target the heart as it is also a developing organ. As the mortality is very high it is best to prevent them by vaccinating the mother. The symptoms vary from high fever, dull, inappetance, vomiting, salivating, diarrhea which is foul smelling (rotten egg) with mucus and blood. One needs to take him to the vet as some bacterial infection can also cause same symptoms. Here history of mother’s vaccination will help in differential diagnosis. Now a days, we have kits to diagnose easily and quickly.
–Dr BV Srikanth,
Prakruthi Veterinary Hospital, Bengaluru

Before bringing the pup home…

Ensure the breeder should be genuine. It should not be puppy mill. The breeder should be able to tell you both the pros and cons of the breed. Right age for puppy to adopt is after 60 days of birth that is 8 weeks…till that they should get mother’s milk to increase immunity. Ask for vaccination of both parents and their overall health (if they have any problem like hip dysplasia or heart problem or any genetic disease), their deworming status and breed papers from the breeder or pet shop. When you approach puppy, he should be active and bright eyed. In male pup, see both testicles are there or not. A good breeder or rescue group will have no issue if you wish to have your vet to examine the animal before bringing him home.

At home…

The first two weeks of pup adoption are crucial. Common diseases in this period include gastroenteritis caused by virus, fever and skin problems like puppy mange. Sudden food change can trigger stomach upset; besides separation anxiety can also be seen.

The vaccine schedule for puppies is usually 6, 9 and 12 weeks with the first rabies booster being at 16 weeks. We can deworm regularly to avoid internal parasite infestation and dusting with mild medicated powder to help them getting rid of ticks, fleas and lice.
Till their vaccination course is complete, do not take them out for a stroll on road. There are test kits available to detect parvovirus and distemper virus infections which are non-invasive–your vet can advice you about the same.
–Dr Geeta Parab, MVSc,
Pluto Pet Clinic, Mumbai

Here’s how you can ensure that you are adopting a healthy puppy

–by Dr SP Gautam

The right age…

The right age of puppy for adoption is 30 to 45 days, however in exceptional cases, this can be extended up to 90 days.

First things first….

It is very important that the puppy is adopted from a reputed breeder or pet shop. Here’s a checklist for what to ask them:

  • Before adopting/buying a puppy from breeder/pet shop, see that the place from where we are picking up the puppy is genuine, reputed and reliable. Don’t buy from a stranger. It is better to buy a puppy from a registered kennel.
  • Insist on seeing the parents.
  • It is better if the puppy is registered with Kennel Club of India (KCI) or with any other reputed kennel club.
  • Obtain registration certificate from the seller. If he promises to supply it in a few days or week, then wait for the certificate.
  • If the age of puppy is more than 30 days, then ensure that he has been given the Parvo Vaccine shot. Ask for a certificate from a registered vet.
  • Enquire about the eating habits of the puppy, what kind of food is being given to the puppy and its frequency.
  • Also ensure that the puppy has been dewormed at the age of 15 to 20 days.
  • All vaccination and deworming records should be available.
  • Also ask about illness, if any.

Ensuring puppy is healthy…

Once you know the breeder or pet shop is genuine, look at the pups. Here’s how to find a healthy one:

  • A healthy pup will look attractive and active.
  • Ribs and pelvic point should not be prominent and skinny.
  • The buccal cavity/ oral cavity/mouth cavity of the pup should be pink.
  • There should not be any natural discharge from nostrils or eyes.
  • The ears should be clean pinkish in appearance from inside. There should be no discharge.
  • If possible, see the consistency of the stool, it should not be loose or watery.
  • The joints of legs should not be enlarged or swollen and legs should be almost straight.
  • Hair coat should give a lustrous look. Move your hand in the opposite direction of hair coat and look for any ectoparasites like ticks, etc.
  • Check if the puppy walks in a normal way… check for lameness or any other defect.
  • Put a little food before him, see if he eats or not.

Meet the parents…

Whether the puppy is registered or not, you must insist to see the parents of the puppy, as puppy will always acquire the characters from his parents. After seeing the parents, you become sure that the puppy which you are adopting shall grow as per his parents. If the mother is real, then definitely she will like to lick her puppy and simultaneously the puppy will also try to suck the nipples. In this way, you will be doubly sure about the genuineness of your puppy.

Meet the vet…

Once you have selected your bundle of joy, it is time to meet the vet.

  • Before taking a puppy home you must visit your nearest known vet.
  • Show him the puppy first and ask whether the puppy in question is true to his breed, healthy and is disease free.
  • Show him the papers you have collected from the breeder/shop, including the registration certificate, vaccination and deworming records.
  • Feeding schedule should be collected from the vet for that particular breed.
  • Ask about the tonics/medicines which are to be given.
  • Enquire about his bedding and clothing, especially if the weather is cool.
  • Your vet will advise you about vaccination and deworming schedule, follow it strictly.
  • Ask for the bathing and brushing/combing schedule as well.
  • Ask for the habits of natural calls and how to house-train him.

The first two weeks of adoption…

As expected, the first two weeks of adoption are crucial for you and the pup. Here are the common diseases/complications faced by young puppies during this time:

  • If the puppy is from a vaccinated mother, then the puppy generally does not get any contagious disease up to the age of four weeks.
  • If the mother is unvaccinated, then there are chances of getting Canine Parvo virus infection which is most common and fatal in puppy.
  • Digestive disorder due to infected food or over-feeding is also very common.
  • If the weather is cool and the puppy is not kept well protected, he may develop cold/temperature which decreases the immunity and further causes complications.
  • If the weather is warm and humid and puppy is not kept in a clean environment, he may develop tick infestation and skin infection on the body which may prove fatal.
  • Eating of foreign particles like chappal, clothes, papers, terracotta items, sand from lawn, etc are common problems if proper feeding and medicines are not given in time.
  • If your puppy starts vomiting or develops loose motions, consult your vet immediately.

Taking care…

We can protect the puppies from the common diseases in the early age by simple ways like:

  • Regular vaccination and deworming as per advise of your vet.
  • Regular and balanced food.
  • Protection from weather.
  • Maintenance of good hygiene.
  • Unless the vaccination schedule is completed, don’t let him mix with other puppies and keep away from stray dogs.

Health signs to look out for…

Here are some basic symptoms that show that puppy is suffering from something:

  • The pup is not eating
  • Loose/ watery/ bloody motion.
  • Vomiting.
  • Excessive salivation, dullness, laziness,
  • Not responding to your call.
  • Thickening of joints especially of legs, bending of leg bones.
  • Some discharge from eyes and ears.
  • Hair coat becomes rough.

If all these factors are kept in mind, puppy adoption will become easy and you would be blessed with a healthy and happy pup. Happy puppy parenting!

(Dr SP Gautam of Enn Kay Pet Clinic, Gurgaon is president of SPCA Gurgaon and member (Co-Opted) Animal Welfare Board of India).

“The right age for puppy adoption is 45 days after birth. It is very important to take the certificate and health status of the male and female dogs from the breeder or the pet shop. It is better to take your veterinarian along so that he can examine the puppy and help you select a healthy pup. Once the pup is home, rear him with affection and provide him hygienic food and water. Some of the common diseases faced by young puppies in the first two weeks of adoption include worm infestation, parvo, distemper and leptospirosis, etc but we can prevent these by vaccination and deworming. Watch out for poor appetite, vomiting, foul smelling diarrhea and the puppy being dull. For canine parvo virus, vet will examine the fecal material and do ELISA test. ”
–Dr M Chandrasekar,
Madras Veterinary College, Chennai