In our first Puppy Steps blog, we talked about the Top 10 Tips for New Puppy Parents. The second and third blogs in our series gearing up to National Puppy Day on March 23rd will focus on a puppy’s first vet visit and vaccines.
Ideally, your vet would like to see your puppy within the first 48 hours of his arrival to your house. That way, any major congenital abnormalities can be identified. Many breeders and shelters have a return stipulation in your contract that may expire. While the last thing you want to have to do is return a puppy, it’s better to do so before you and he have bonded.
During the physical exam, your veterinarian will check your pup’s eyes and ears, look in his mouth and check his teeth, listen to his heart, palpate his belly, and check to see if his testicles have dropped yet. If they haven’t, don’t worry - he still has plenty of time! Obviously, we leave this part out if your new puppy is a female.
Depending on your puppy’s age at his first visit, he may or may not get vaccines. We’ll talk about that more in the next blog. But no matter what his age, he will likely be dewormed at his first visit. Intestinal parasites pose a major health risk to all puppies, and some of them can be transmitted to humans. Let’s take a look at the major players.
There are several ways your puppy can contract roundworms, but most of the time it is transmitted to the puppy during embryonic development or from nursing an infected mother. Consuming roundworm eggs in the environment or consuming infected prey animals are additional ways that roundworms can be contracted. They are a common cause of diarrhea and vomiting, and if severe they can cause intestinal obstruction. The eggs are easily found on a routine fecal exam, and they are easily treated with oral dewormers. Roundworms can be transmitted to humans, where they cause ocular lesions that can lead to blindness.
Hookworms are also transmitted to puppies from a previously infected mother during nursing. Hookworms are particularly dangerous to puppies because they attach to the intestinal wall and feed on the puppy’s blood. They are such voracious bloodsuckers that they can cause anemia. Infected pups can be pale and weak and may or may not have diarrhea. Like roundworms, hookworm eggs are readily found on routine fecal exams and are easily treated. And like roundworms, hookworms can be transmitted to humans, causing itchy skin lesions.
Whipworms are transmitted by soil contaminated with eggs. Once ingested, they live in the large intestine, where they attach to the intestinal wall and feed on the host’s blood. They usually do not account for enough blood loss to cause anemia, but they can cause chronic bloody diarrhea, which will make for an unthrifty puppy. Once eggs contaminate the environment, they will continue to be viable for years, making whipworms very difficult to cure.
Coccidia are single celled organisms, not worms. They are transmitted through the fecal-oral route and are the cause of watery diarrhea. In a young puppy, this can cause severe dehydration and can be life threatening. Because it is not a worm, Coccidia is not susceptible to treatment with oral deworming agents. If your puppy tests positive for Coccidia, an oral medication will be sent home with you to give daily. This will maintain low numbers of coccidia while your puppy mounts an appropriate immune response to deal with the infection himself.
Stay tuned for the next blog, where we’ll cover what vaccines your puppy will be getting and when.