Perfect Puppy Care Book – Chapter 7 – Puppy Health Care (Part 7)
Chapter 7 – Puppy Health Care (Part 7)
Internal parasites work from within. Your puppy usually ingests these parasites, which then attack from the inside.
Giardia is a protozoan that can be ingested from drinking from contaminated streams, puddles, or other sources. Adult dogs don’t always show symptoms, but young puppies are vulnerable. Symptoms include large amounts of watery stools, and weight loss may occur. Treatment includes veterinarian-prescribed medication.
Heartworm is a serious and deadly disease. They are a threat in every state (except Alaska), as well as in other countries. All dogs are susceptible. Thankfully, it’s also preventable.
Your puppy can get heartworms after being bitten by a mosquito. The mosquito drinks the blood of an infected animal and ingests the young heartworms, which are called microfilariae. In the mosquito, the microfilaria go through three larval stages. The mosquito then transfers the infective third stage larvae to its other victims, such as your puppy. In about one week, the third-stage larvae molt into fourth-stage larvae. As they grow, they move through a dog’s body and end up in the heart and blood vessels, where they continue to grow. (Female heartworms can grow up to 14 inches (35.6 cm) long!) After a while, the worms cause damage to the heart and blood vessels, which leads to heart disease, severe lung disease, and damage to other organs. Depending on where the heartworms are, they can cause vessels to clot, liver failure, spontaneous bleeding, and death.
In the early stages of heartworm infestation, your puppy may show no symptoms at all. This is why the vet takes a blood sample from your dog during each annual exam—he wants to try to catch the disease early. As the disease develops, symptoms include coughing, loss of appetite, lethargy, and difficulty breathing. You also may notice your puppy getting tired after just a little bit of exertion. With severe infestations, a dog’s ribs will start to show prominently.
The best way to deal with heartworms is to prevent them from infecting your puppy. Talk with your veterinarian about the best treatment, and be sure to administer it faithfully. The most common treatment comes in the form of a pill that you give to your puppy each month. Some liquid treatments also are available, which you apply to your puppy’s shoulder blades.
Always weigh your growing puppy before giving her the dose. Some puppies may rapidly outgrow the dose that they received the month before, which will still leave them susceptible to heartworms.
For example, if your pill is good for dogs up to 30 pounds (13.6 kg) but your puppy now weighs more than this, the pill may not work as effectively. Treatment for heartworms is serious and requires veterinary care. Some veterinarians have the skills, training, and equipment to surgically remove adult heartworms, but this usually is reserved for severe infestations. Drugs are a more common choice.
The first goal of treatment is to kill the adult worms in your puppy’s body and then any microfilariae that may be present. Your dog may have to be hospitalized, because the drugs used to kill heartworms can be very toxic to your puppy. When you bring her home after treatment, ensure that she gets complete rest. This means that you probably will have to crate her for several weeks, only taking her out for potty breaks. Should she be too active, there is a chance that dead heartworms could suddenly dislodge and block vessels in the lungs. Heartworms are a very serious matter.
Hookworms are especially prevalent in warm, humid areas of the country. They are small and thin, and measure about 1/2 inch long. They latch onto the mucus lining of a puppy’s small intestine and suck blood and tissue, which causes serious blood loss and malnutrition. Hookworms can directly penetrate the skin, usually through the paw pads. Most puppies get these parasites from their mothers.
Symptoms include bloody, dark diarrhea, weight loss, pale mucous membranes from anemia, and weakness. However, adult dogs may not even show symptoms. Very young puppies need immediate veterinary care.
Treatment involves medication from your veterinarian. Because puppies commonly get hookworms from their mothers, they will have several dewormings during their early veterinary examinations. Some heartworm preventive medications also prevent the growth of hookworms.
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