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Puppy Dog Health Care

Puppy Dog Health By Janice Jones   |Last Updated 02-07-2020

You've chosen a breed, picked out a puppy, brought him home, now what?  Being a new puppy parent is like being a parent to a human baby.  There are so many things one must know, so many things to worry about, where do you start?

It can be overwhelming, but hopefully I can ease your mind and help you understand what you really need to know.

Shih Tzu puppy is sitting, facing the camera with a stethoscope around his neck.Puppy Dog Health Care

How Do I Keep My Puppy Healthy?

Preventive puppy care is so much easier and cheaper than dealing with illness and diseases, though we can't always prevent everything.  We can, however, avoid the obvious, manage the day-to-day hurdles, and anticipate potential problems before they become devastating catastrophes.

Keeping your puppy healthy means doing what you need to do to prevent problems and also caring for your puppy if he should get sick.  This is how this page is organized.

Preventative Puppy Dog Health

There are so many ways to keep our puppy healthy, but the big challenge is maintaining that optimal state of well-being.  Why, you might ask? 

Well, puppies will be puppies, and no matter how well you plan, care or supervise, puppies are going to get into trouble.  It is just in their nature. But before we throw our arms in the air and call defeat, lets see some of these preventative and how they can help.

Puppy Vaccinations and Well-Visits

Just like human babies need well-child visits to their pediatrician, puppies should also be checked out by your veterinarian.  During these well visits, your vet is going to check many of the major organ systems, run a fecal analysis and give a puppy shot or two.

Many potential problems can be detected during the initial puppy visit.  Your vet will check the puppies ears for infection or ear mites.

His nose will be assessed to assure he is breathing well with no discharge and that the nares (openings in the nose) are wide enough to allow adequate air flow.

Veterinarians also check the mouth and teeth as well as feel for open fontanels on top of the head. Some puppies have problems with teething, so it is appropriate to ask if you are worried.

New puppies eyes will be checked for potential juvenile cataracts and then the vet will move down the body to look for hernias, and listen for heart murmurs. 

Little boys will be checked for two descended testicles.  It is important for you to ask questions during this initial examination and point out anything thing unusual that you might notice including behaviors or health. If you are having problems such as housebreaking, or a puppy whose eating things he shouldn't eat, ask your vet during one of these visits.

Proper diet and nutrition is another area that veterinarians may want to address.  Again, be prepared with questions.

Your vet will advise about puppy vaccinations and will like test a stool sample for puppy worms.  If anything is found, he/she will prescribe a worming medicine for you to give your puppy.  

Puppy Dog Health is Dependent on Good Nutrition and Diet

One of the most critical ways you can enhance your puppy's health is through diet.  Excellent food means the difference between your puppy surviving and thriving. Puppy dog health depends on the choices you make.

Wherever you obtained your puppy, you were undoubtedly provided with a small food sample and instructed to keep the puppy on that food.

If the food you were given was a high quality brand with superior ingredients, it is very likely you should keep the puppy on the food, as long as he is tolerating it well.  If it was a cheap food with little in the way of good nutritional value, then a change to a better food should be considered.

Ask your vet's opinion about the type of food you are currently feeding and ask for recommendations if you feel your puppy might do better on a different type of food.

If you have your heart set on providing a homemade diet for your puppy, discuss this with your vet.  Home Cooked meals or homemade raw can be an excellent choice, but it does require that you provide a balanced nutrition plan.  Lack of some nutrients can result if not well researched and thought out.

Read more about puppy feeding, diet, and nutrition.

Puppy Parasites- Worms - Not Good for Puppy Dog Health

Many puppies have worms and these parasites are such a problem that most veterinary worming protocols recommend that breeders worm their puppies every two weeks beginning when the puppy is two weeks old.

Worms are also easy to pick up even if they did not acquire them while in the mother's uterus.  Checking for worms should be a part of every well vet visit, even if you don't suspect a problem.  Some dog worms can be passed to humans.

Preventative Heartworm Treatments

Heartworm preventative is usually begun on the first or second visit depending on the age of the puppy. Your vet will be the best resource when it comes to dosages, timing and length of preventative.  In some areas, heartworm preventative is given year round.

Spaying and Neutering at the Appropriate Age

Ask your vet when he/she recommend your puppy be spayed or neutered.  There is some differences of opinion on the timing. 

Neutering is the term used to describe castrating in male dogs.  Spaying is another name for a complete ovariohysterectomy in female dogs.  

If you do not plan to breed your puppy, the easiest way to avoid future heat cycles in females or possible problems in boys is to have them altered.  Learn more about spaying a female dog here.

Puppy Dog Health Depends on Staying Safe

One of the best ways you can protect your puppy's health is to supervise his movements so he doesn't get into something he shouldn't eat or ingest.  Puppy Proofing inside and outside of your home will eliminate many hazards but you can't avoid everything when you are out and about with your puppy.

One mistake that some puppy parents make is to keep the puppy confined inside the home until all of the vaccinations have been given.  This is not necessary and critical socialization opportunities are missed with this type of plan.

Far better is to educate yourself about potential problems such as poisonous plants and foods that dogs should not eat.

Common Puppy Dog Health Problems

Hopefully, your puppy will never have any problems, but chances are he might develop something before his first birthday.  Here are some of the most common problems that puppies seem to get.

Why is My Puppy Not Eating?

Healthy puppies have excellent appetite and will eat almost as much as an adult dog but what happens when a puppy loses his appetite.

Read more about why a puppy might not be eating.

Puppy Dog Health and Bladder Infections

Puppy bladder infections may be more common than we think and especially in small breed puppies. 

When you think about it, young puppies tend to drink more and consequently urinate more than adults. 

Their tiny pee spots may go undetected on a rug, so even the most caring owners may not recognize a puppy bladder or urinary tract infection in their new puppy. 

Learn more about puppy bladder infections.

Tiny Coccidia Can Impede Puppy Dog Health

Sometimes, puppy diarrhea is caused by this one-celled protozoan that would normally not cause an adult much trouble unless the adult was under stress. 

In puppies, though, it can cause diarrhea with mucus and even blood.  If your puppy has diarrhea, take a fresh stool sample to your vet to rule out a Coccidiosis Infection.

Constipation in Puppies

There is a good chance your puppy is constipated if he hasn't had a bowel movement for more than 24 hours. 

Your puppy's constipation problem could be as simple as a dietary indiscretion or a serious blockage or tumor. Learn more about constipation in small dog puppies.

Coughing in Puppies

The sound of a young puppy gagging or coughing is hard to listen to especially if you are a new dog owner. 

It sounds scary, and it is often hard to determine whether it is a symptom of an underlying disease or a puppy trying to clear congestion from his throat from something he just inhaled. If your puppy is coughing, you'll want to learn what is happening and what you should do.

Puppy Dog Health and Problems of Diarrhea

Not only is diarrhea in puppies a mess, it makes housebreaking nearly impossible.  But that is only half the story, the presence of diarrhea in puppies signify something is wrong.  Sometimes VERY wrong! 

It's best not to ignore diarrhea, especially if has been going on for more that 24 hours.  Plan to take a fecal sample to your vet to rule out intestinal worms.  Learn more about puppy poop and diarrhea in puppies.

Ear Infections

Red, stinky, dirt ears usually mean a dog ear infection is brewing and with it comes sensitivity, pain, and irritability. Most ear infections occur in older dogs, but some breeds are highly susceptible so I've included them here. 

If your small dog has been shaking his head, rubbing his ears against objects or scratching, then he might have an ear problem.

Fleas on Your Puppy

Dog Fleas may not be your puppy’s worst enemy, but it can cause much distress and even disease. When we think about external parasites on dogs, the first critters that come to mind are fleas, ticks and mites. Fleas can cause undue discomfort from the constant itching to the resulting skin infections.

Giardia, a Common Protozoan in Puppies

Giardia in dogs is another annoying parasite that can affect your puppy's health. 

This small protozoan, Giardia is not a worm, but a one-celled organism that is also capable of causing harm in many animals including people, although it’s not entirely clear how common the transmission is between dogs and people. 

Your Puppy Sneezing

One common symptom that alarms new owners of puppies is sneezing. It is particularly the case if the puppy appears to be repeatedly sneezing or showing other symptoms of illness. Sneezing should not be confused with reverse sneezing which is something else entirely.

Learn more about why your puppy is sneezing.

Ticks and Puppy Dog Health

Even though they may be small, dog ticks are external parasites that suck blood from your dog and you and can cause a variety of diseases including Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Lyme disease, and Ehrlichiosis. 

Learn more about how dogs get ticks and what you need to do to prevent the diseases they carry.

Umbilical Hernia

An umbilical hernia is the most common type of hernia found in the dogs.  This is a condition where there is a small opening in the abdomen wall area of the umbilicus allowing the possibility of contents from the abdomen to protrude.

If your puppy is diagnosed with an umbilical hernia, you'll want to learn more about what you should do.

About Janice (author and voice behind this site)

Having lived with dogs and cats most of her life, Janice served as a veterinary technician for ten years in Maryland and twelve years as a Shih Tzu dog breeder in Ohio.

Her education includes undergraduate degrees in Psychology with a minor in biology, Early Childhood Education, and Nursing, and a master's in Mental Health Counseling.

She is a lifelong learner, a dog lover, and passionate about the welfare of animals. Her favorite breed for over 50 years has been the Shih Tzu, but she has also lived with Poodles, Maltese, Yorkshire Terriers, Beagles, English Bulldogs, Carin Terriers, and a Cocker Spaniel.

When not writing, reading, and researching dog-related topics, she likes to spend time with her eight Shih Tzu dogs, husband, and family, as well as knitting and crocheting. She is also the voice behind Miracle Shih Tzu and Smart-Knit-Crocheting

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