Newborn puppies acquire immunities against many diseases by nursing from their mother.
During the first two days of life, a puppy that nurses take in the colostrum that is present in the milk that is first produced. The antibodies that are passed in the colostrum are vital to the puppy’s health and well being.
These antibodies prevent the puppy from being infected by diseases like Canine Distemper and Parvovirus. These same antibodies are also the reason veterinarians suggest vaccinations to be given after six weeks of age.
For dogs and many other mammals as well, the immunity given by the colostrum loses its effect sometime around the fifth week of age. Unfortunately, this is also the time when most puppies are placed into their new homes and exposed to a variety of new environments.
It is highly recommended that new puppies visit a veterinarian as soon as possible. The veterinarian will then educate the owner on the needs of the new puppy, look for congenital defects as well as look for signs of parasitic or viral infections. If all looks well, the puppy is then started on what is commonly called its “puppy shots.”
These puppy shots are also called “five in one” or DHLP-P vaccinations because they are a combination vaccine that will immunize against five very common but potentially deadly diseases.
The “D” part of the vaccine is for Canine Distemper, a highly contagious and usually fatal disease. It is caused by the paramyxovirus and is transmitted by a healthy dog coming into contact with the discharge from the eyes or nose of an infected dog. It is also suspected that the Distemper virus can live in the soil from six months up to a year.
The first signs of Distemper can be a simple loss of appetite or a slight, dry cough. Another common sign of the disease is a thick yellow or green discharge from the eyes and/or nose. Vomiting and/or diarrhea, as well as an increase in temperature, are also possible signs. There are some cases where these symptoms appear and then disappear with nothing else happening until suddenly neurological symptoms appear.
The neurological symptoms will often start with just a twitching, shivering, or even a “chewing gum” like activity. These mild activities will often turn into full seizures that is a horrendous sight to see. The convulsions will at first be sporadic and then progress to non-stop, screaming types of seizures. Eventually, the seizures will become so bad the heart stops or the respiratory system fails.
Unlike many of the canine diseases, Canine Distemper is not species-specific. Dogs, wolves, coyotes, ferrets, and raccoons are all at risk to its deadly power.
Canine Hepatitis Virus:
Canine Hepatitis is the second disease covered by the DHLP-P vaccine. It also is a highly contagious disease and can be spread by contact with contaminated saliva, urine, or stool from an infected dog. The virus itself affects the dog’s abdominal organs including the liver.
Signs of infection include but are not limited to an increased temperature as well as discharges from the eyes, mouth and/or nose. Sometimes the eyes will actually become red or the dog will hump his back and try to rub on the floor to relieve the pain. As the disease progresses, the animal becomes lethargic, stops eating, and often becomes comatose.
Within six to ten days the infected dog will usually die or makes a quick recovery. For those few dogs that do survive the infection, a temporary opacity of the eyes appears.
Leptospirosis is a serious bacterial disease that is spread through contact with urine from an infected dog and certain strains can be transmitted to humans.
The disease itself causes the dogs to become lethargic and weak. Some of the other symptoms include abdominal pain, increase in water intake as well as a marked increase of urination. Some will form painful sores in the mouth, on the gums and tongue. The tongue may also form a thick, brownish coating. Other symptoms may include bloody diarrhea, vomiting, and a change in the color of the whites of the eyes.
Due to the extensive damage caused to the digestive tract, liver, and kidneys, leptospirosis is often fatal. For those who do survive, recovery is very slow.
Canine parainfluenza is a viral disease that is a contributor to the problem of tracheobronchitis in dogs. The common name for tracheobronchitis is “kennel cough” and it must be noted that the parainfluenza virus is not the only one that can cause the disorder. A separate “Bordetella” vaccination can be given against the bacterial cause of kennel cough, “Bordatella Bronchiseptica.
Parainfluenza and all forms of kennel cough are highly contagious. They can be transmitted by nose to nose contact or sharing of dishes between a healthy dog and an infected dog. It can also be contagious by becoming airborne.
The basic symptoms of parainfluenza are a low-grade rise in temperature, usually around 102 –103F and an ongoing, deep sounding, hacking cough. This cough can be apparent during the day but owners most often take notice of it during the quiet evening hours. Most of the dogs appear healthy other than the cough but its continuation for weeks on end can wear the dog and the owner down.
Veterinarians will usually prescribe a form of antibiotic to offset the chance of a secondary infection and some type of medication to end the spasmodic coughing spells. He or she will also sometimes recommend over the counter, human cough medications. It is important to check with your veterinarian to see which ones are safe for the dog.
Dogs infected with any version of kennel cough should be kept totally isolated from other dogs and in a warm, humid environment. Many owners find the bathroom or laundry room a perfect “hospital room” for their pets.
The final part of the DHLP-P combination is a vaccine for Canine Parvovirus.
Parvo is a relatively recent disease. Its first reported cases occurred in 1978 and proceeded to lay waste to large numbers of the canine population.
Parvo is a highly contagious viral disease that can be spread in a number of ways. Contact with the feces or vomit of an infected dog is the source of the infection but tracing it back to the contagious dog can be extremely hard to do.
A puppy can come into an environment in which a contagious dog was in up to six months previously. Strays can spread it by sniffing with another dog through the fence. In 1978, humans were and still are one of the main carriers of the disease. Dog breeders at that time were often wiped out as entire litters as well as their adult dogs became infected with the disease as would-be buyers would go to several different sites looking for a puppy. These buyers would come into contact with an infected dog and carry the disease to each stopping place along the way on their hands, clothes or even shoes.
Today, parvovirus normally attacks a younger dog’s rapidly reproducing cells in the bone marrow, lymph nodes, heart and gastrointestinal tract. With infection, the disease will often take one of two forms: the diarrheal and the cardiac form.
The diarrheal or “enteric” parvovirus comes with a sudden onset, vomiting and bloody diarrhea, lethargy, lack of appetite as well as an increase in temperature. Puppies not treated for the disease will often dehydrate and die quickly. The estimated mortality rate for untreated puppies is approximately 80-85%. This rate is slightly higher in Rottweillers and Dobermans due to a prevalence of the blood clotting dysfunction called “Von Willebrand's disease.”
When parvovirus takes its cardiac or myocardial form, it can cause congestive heart failure even in those puppies that survive the disease. Congestive heart failure in itself will cause the premature death of the puppy.
A veterinarian who suspects parvovirus may run a series of different tests to prove the infection. One of the oldest and most reliable tests is to simply do a white cell count. A marked decrease in these cells is a good sign of parvovirus being present. There are also tests that can be run on a small stool sample, which most veterinarians can run in office with results given within ten to fifteen minutes. If the test shows positive for the disease, the owner then has to decide on a course of action. The preferred course is an extended hospital stay, IV fluids given through out the day, medications given to slow the gastrointestinal tract, and antibiotics to prevent secondary infections. The cost of these treatments is high and only the owner can decide if they can afford to proceed and it must be remembered that even with the best of veterinary care, there is no guarantee that the dog will survive.
Those puppies that have had one or two in the recommended schedule of vaccines will often have an advantage over those without in actual chances of recovery.
The build-up an immunity against parvo and all the other diseases, veterinarians recommended vaccination schedule is a loading dose at six weeks, a follow up four weeks later, and another given four weeks after that. Six months after the last DHLP-P is given, a follow-up parvo vaccination is given and then the vaccines go to an annual injection that is usually given with the law required Rabies shot.
The vaccines are fairly inexpensive and can be gotten not only through a veterinarian but also through feed and even some drug stores. They are injected under the skin with few puppies having reactions.
All puppies and dogs deserve the basic preventative care necessary to keep them safe from communicable diseases and with the variety of available options open to the owner, there is no reason for the pet’s neglect.