Canine Health

The basics of canine health are proper feeding, adequate exercise, yearly vaccinations, and your own awareness of your pet”s behavior. Sudden behavior changes are usually a sign that your dog should visit the veterinarian. Remember, you know your puppy better than anyone else and if you think something”s wrong, chances are that you”re right.

You don”t need to know every variety of canine health problem. That”s why you have a vet. Knowing the signs of common illnesses, however, will help you spot dog health difficulties in their early stages.

Puppy Vaccinations

Puppy vaccines are necessary to protect your puppy against a number of lethal diseases. Unvaccinated puppies that contract parvovirus or canine distemper have high mortality rates. Your vet will administer a number of vaccinations during the first four months of your dog”s life, so expect to make about four trips to the clinic during this time.

Puppies bought from reputable breeders have usually had at least their first round of vaccinations. However, don”t assume that this is the case. Always ask if the dog you want to buy has had any vaccinations.


Distemper is a common killer of unvaccinated puppies. The virus is often spread through the air, but is also present in body excretions. Symptoms include diarrhea, coughing, a runny nose, fever, loss of appetite and eye inflammation. Vaccination is the best defense against this killer disease.


Parvovirus affects young dogs with immature immune systems more often than adult dogs. The disease attacks the intestinal tract of dogs. Related to feline distemper, parvovirus is a tenacious virus that can survive for months in the environment. Warning signs include diarrhea, blood in the stools, and depression. Left untreated, the disease has a high death rate. Fortunately, vaccinations help protect against this virus.

Parasites: Ear Mites And Tapeworms

Canines can suffer from a number of parasites. Ear mitestiny white mites nearly invisible to the naked eyeare common unwanted guests. If you find thick black wax or coffee grounds-like crust in your dog”s ears, chances are he has ear mites. An infected dog may shake his head or scratch his ears constantly. Your vet can provide special eardrops that kill the mites and help remove the built-up wax.


Tapeworms are intestinal parasites that often afflict canines, especially young dogs that have had flea infestations. Fleas eat tapeworm eggs. When the dog grooms, he ingests fleas and anything in the flea”s body. Once in the puppy”s intestines, the tapeworms hatch. The worms are flat and segmented. Each segment contains eggs. Segments and egg cases can be seen in an infected dog”s stool and resemble uncooked grains of rice or sesame seeds. Regular de-worming and a flea control program help to minimize tapeworm infection.


Heartworm is a disease common in dogs throughout most of the United States. It is caused by a worm called Dirofilaria immitis. The worms primarily live in the heart and large blood vessels. Female worms range from nine to sixteen inches in length while males are about half that size. Due to their length, the worms may interfere with the operation of the heart. If enough worms are present in the body, blood vessels may be clogged.

The most common sign of heartworm infection is coughing and rapid breathing. If caught early enough, medication is available to kill the worms. Preventive medications can be used to avoid infestation or re-infestation.


Ringworm is not actually a worm at all: It is a fungus that can infect your dog”s skin. Young animals are more susceptible to ringworm than adult animals. Scaly, circular patches usually develop on the skin and your pet may also experience hair loss in affected areas. These patches are often red around the circle”s edges. Ringworm is treated with a variety of disinfecting shampoos or topical applications.