I think everyone remembers the day that they brought home their first puppy. And if they’re anything like me, they also remember obsessing over every little thing! He’s coughing, he’s throwing up, he looks “un-puppyish!” What are you going to do?
First off, stay calm. You’re just getting to know this little guy, and of course, you love him to distraction, and of course, every little thing is going to set you on your ear.
Relax. You might have a sick puppy, or you might not. In fact, most of the time, you will not.
Is He Really Sick?
You know, it’s not all black and white. And I know you’re obsessing, and watching every little bit of behavior. That’s fine; you’re a new mom or dad, and I would expect you to obsess. After all, your puppy isn’t exactly able to say, “Hey, human, I don’t feel good, but I’m not sure if this is something we should really worry about or something that we can just classify under ‘shit happens.’”
If you think something’s wrong, you’re just going to have to watch your puppy’s behavior.
That’s easier said than done, though. Puppies are often prone to strange behavior, and what you might think could be an illness might be nothing at all.
How often does your puppy do his business? How much does he sleep? How long does he play before he gets tired?
In other words, what’s normal? You need to look for the signs.
Once you get to know your puppy, the best way of determining if he’s ill is to look for signs that aren’t typical to your puppy. If something looks off, maybe it is, and maybe it’s time for a visit to the vet.
That said, though, even if you see signs that don’t look 100% right, you might still need to look a bit further.
Just as an example, consider vomiting. I know that when Janice and Leroy were puppies, the first time they did “barfies”, I panicked. I did it for no good reason, though. I automatically assumed that they had serious problems with their digestive tracts, and I assumed that those problems were life-threatening. I didn’t consider the fact that, sometimes, dogs puke.
It wasn’t a problem. Now, if the puking had been accompanied by loss of appetite, lethargy, a lot of licking or itching, whimpering, dizziness and other symptoms, I might have had reason to worry. But they were. Just. Puking.
I got my head all bent out of shape over nothing.
Look at the Other Signs
Before I got my knickers in a twist over a bit of vomiting, I should have looked deeper. As an example, if the vomiting had been accompanied by diarrhea, I might have expected a tapeworm. Or even something scarier. There are a lot of symptoms that can indicate a real problem with your puppy. Here are some.
Canine parvovirus is deadly. It’s very contagious, and usually, affects dogs up to three years of age. If your dog has parvo, you can expect that he will be hospitalized for several days. It will cause weakness, and extreme vomiting and diarrhea. It is often fatal.
Vaccinating your dog against parvo is pretty much essential and will ensure that your dog never contracts the disease.
This is another disease that is very preventable. All your dog needs is an inoculation. I’ve heard people say “Why should I have him inoculated? He’s never around other dogs!” The thing with distemper, though, is that it’s airborne. Your dog doesn’t need to be around another dog to get it. It can just come in on the air, land in your yard, and infect your dog. Please, inoculate.
This is another very common illness and another one that’s airborne. Your dog doesn’t have to be around other dogs to get kennel cough. If he does get it, though, it could quickly lead to pneumonia and it could be fatal. This is another disease that is very preventable by means of a vaccine from your veterinarian.
This is another disease that your dog can pick up very easily, this time, through urine from other dogs, or even from contaminated water. Symptoms can vary widely, ranging from sore muscles to diarrhea and even kidney failure.
Again, though, a vaccination is available.
Okay, now that I’ve told you the worst that can happen, let’s talk about the things that really aren’t all that bad. The thing is, most puppies are, at one time or another, going to develop vomiting or diarrhea. And all this means is that your puppy is vomiting or has diarrhea; it doesn’t’ mean anything else, and you don’t have to worry. So pull back, regroup, and settle down; it probably means nothing.
All dogs, at some point, barf or crap. You only need to worry when it becomes excessive. Persistent diarrhea or vomiting means that you need to go to the vet. A “one off” doesn’t.
The Final Word
Keep a cool head. The chances are that there’s not anything all that wrong with your puppy. He’s just little, and things are going to happen. Once he’s older, if the problems persist, then you might want to think about a visit to the vet. For now, though, don’t sweat it.
Just treat your puppy gently if you think he’s feeling a bit off. It will most likely pass.
If you’re really scared, though, a visit to the vet is okay. Most likely, you’ll be told that there’s nothing to worry about. Then you can go home and cuddle up with your little one, secure in the knowledge that he’s safe.
I’ve been there. I’ve panicked. And I’ve got through it. You will too.