Puppy Care – Health & Safety

Your puppy relies on you to keep it healthy and out of harm’s way. Like children, puppies are curious and will get into all sorts of trouble if left on their own. A puppy owner’s job is to teach the puppy what is safe to do and what is not, which is usually done through the use of basic commands, praise and punishment. It is also important to take your puppy to the veterinarian and follow the schedule for vaccinations and other procedures as recommended. Making sure the puppy stays healthy should be a priority for any new puppy owner.

Stick Out Your Tongue and Say “Woof”

Puppies can go through a range of different health problems as they grow up, although thankfully most puppies remain fairly healthy during their first year and beyond. Remember not to expose your puppy to other puppies and dogs unless you know for sure they are healthy and have been vaccinated.  Even then it is best to wait until your own puppy has had all its shots first. Yet there are some diseases and disorders that can occur, with some being more common in puppies like kennel cough or intestinal upsets. As they mature, other problems like obesity, which can be helped with diet and exercise, and hip dysplasia and luxating patellas, which usually need surgery, may develop, especially in some specific breeds of dogs. Find out all you can about what health issues may be common to the breed of dog your considering before making the choice to get that breed.

Cover Your Mouth When You Cough

If there is one thing that any kennel, pet store, or breeding facility hates to hear is that a puppy in their place has kennel cough. It is incredibly contagious, and puppies are more susceptible to it than older dogs because vaccinations against it may not have been given or completed yet for this particular disease. In most cases, the puppy will have a nasty cough and may appear to be gagging at times. They may also have signs like someone would when they have a cold like sneezing, runny nose and irritated eyes. Owners will notice the cough getting worse whenever the puppy runs around or exerts itself in some way. It is important to take the puppy to the vet. If the condition gets worse, it could develop into pneumonia which can be life threatening. But in most cases, some cough suppressant may be prescribed and the condition will go away with time.

No Snacking Between Meals

Obesity is a serious problem among our pets and one that should not be taken lightly. A dog that is overweight is putting more strain on its heart, lungs, liver and legs. All this can lead to problems with heart disease, diabetes, and orthopedic disorders in the hips, shoulders, knees, and so on. If you believe your older puppy or dog is starting to get overweight, talk to a veterinarian to make sure the weight increase is not due to any health issues like a hyperactive thyroid. If all is well, then find out what can be done, preferably before the dog becomes being obese. Usually a change in diet with food that has less calories is recommended along with regular exercise. Dogs that are overweight their whole lives will never be as healthy or live as long as those that are not, so be sure that your dog stays at the correct weight all of its life. You can win the respect of your puppy with discipline and affection more than you can with treats.

Know What You’re Getting Into

Two orthopedic disorders that can be common in some canine breeds are hip dysplasia and luxating patellas. Both cause lameness and, over time, arthritis in the hip or knee if left untreated. For hip dysplasia, the problem is that the head of the femur does not fit properly inside the hip joint. Symptoms for dogs can include walking with a rolling gait, having trouble climbing stairs or jumping up, and avoiding any type of exercise. In mild cases, this lameness can be helped with anti-inflammatory drugs and light exercise along with weight loss if needed, but in serious cases surgery must be done to correct the problem. Breeds that are especially susceptible to hip dysplasia are larger breeds like Golden Retrievers, Labradors, German Shepherds, and Rottweilers.

A luxating patella causes pain and discomfort because the patella (knee cap) does not stay in place and keeps shifting to the side. Some dogs may be seen to kick out with the condition to put the patella back in place, along with lameness in the leg. This condition can occur in any dog breed, and may be brought about with a leg injury. Larger breeds tend to get this condition more than smaller ones, with Great Danes, Irish Wolfhounds, and Saint Bernard’s being especially susceptible.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

Canines can be very stoic, so as a dog owner you need to be aware of your canine’s health, take them to a vet on a regular basis and watch for any signs of change or distress. Even a change in behavior can signify that there is a health issue. Never hesitate to call your vet if you believe something is wrong with your pet. There are no dumb questions, and anyone who works in the pet or vet field will always be glad to help any way they can to be sure your pet stays healthy and active.

Don’t Talk with Your Mouth Full

Puppies don’t have hands, but they certainly have a mouth that they will use on anything they encounter. Therefore it is important not to let the puppy run around any areas that have not been “puppy-proofed” first. It can only take them a moment to drink up something that can be extremely dangerous like antifreeze, which tastes wonderful to them, or insecticides. All chemicals and medications need to be put in a safe spot. Puppies will also happily swallow anything they can get their mouth around. In some cases the object will simply pass through their digestive system with no ill effects, but at other times a trip to the veterinarian or emergency room will be in order.

I Think I’m Going to Be Sick

It is probably one of the most common ailments that veterinarians see in puppies is some sort of stomach upset. Vomiting and diarrhea can be caused by many things, including a bacterial or viral infection, or it can be caused from something they ate. This is why it is so important not to let a new puppy have run of the house, especially if there are children in the home who may not understand the dangers of leaving things on the floor that the puppy might ingest. If a puppy is vomiting, has diarrhea, or both, call the veterinarian right away and follow their instructions carefully. If possible, be able to tell your vet what the puppy ate so they can decide what is the best method of treating the puppy. If your puppy is sick when the vet is closed, and your vet does not have any after hour care, call the emergency clinic in your area right away. Because puppies are small, they can dehydrate very quickly, so a quick response is very important.

Getting Hot Under the Collar

Another unfortunate condition that can happen quickly to your puppy, or dog for that matter, is heat stroke. We have all heard how dangerous it is to leave any pet in a car on a hot day. But the problem is that it doesn’t have to be that hot for a puppy or dog to show signs that it is overheated. In fact, any day that is 75 degrees or higher can be dangerous, and if on top of that the windows are rolled up, and the puppy has not had enough to drink that day, it can all add up to a disaster. It can only take a few minutes. If it is a warm day, leave your puppy at home and don’t take any chances. If a puppy or dog is in an outdoor area, be sure that they can get out of the sun and has plenty of fresh water to drink. Symptoms of canines that are having a problem with heat are excessive panting and tiredness, followed by seizures. If untreated, it could ultimately lead to death. If you find your puppy or dog suffering from heat stroke, place them in a cool water bath, put rubbing alcohol on the pads of their feet, and bring them to a vet right away!

Sit Up and Beg

Teaching your puppy to respond to basic commands is an important device in keeping the puppy out of trouble. If a puppy suddenly gets off the leash and starts running like mad for a busy street, the only way to save your pet may be to use a command like, “Come”, “Stop!” or “Sit – Stay”. These commands are also important for a puppy to understand if it gets away from you anywhere so it doesn’t get lost. “Drop it” can also be an important command when the puppy has taken something it shouldn’t. Most puppies will also understand quickly what, “No,” means when said in an angry tone, although you should never yell at the puppy, or worse hit them, as that might make your pet fear you. Take puppy classes or hire a trainer right from the start so you will know how to properly work with your puppy to keep them out of trouble. Puppies can be very smart, and tricky, but they do prefer to please you and get praised rather than get into trouble and be ignored or receive an angry “No” from their owner. But puppies do not think like people do, so it is best to learn from a class or a trainer how puppies can understand and learn what is good behavior and what will put them in the “doghouse”!