What are the most common problems in dogs? It’s frustrating and worrisome when your animals are sick or you’re faced with a difficult-to-treat issue. Problems like these are costly and take up a lot of your time. But did you know some of the most common health issues in dog kennels and animal shelters can be prevented? We put together a list of six common but preventable dog health problems, along with tips on how to stop them from ever happening again:
1. Parasites in Dogs
When you have a new litter of puppies, you want them to grow up strong and healthy. The last thing you want is parasites such as coccidia and giardia slowing their growth and suppressing their immune system. Parasite control in puppies begins with mom. The fewer parasites mom passes to the babies, the fewer we need to manage out of the babies.
Your goal is to assure these pesky parasites stay under control so the puppies get off to the best start possible. To accomplish that, good disinfection practices and developing a deworming protocol for mom are necessary. Understand your deworming schedule. The dewormer you use and when you use it, is more important than how much dewormer you give them! Late in her pregnancy a mom should undergo deworming and get a good bath prior to whelping. Fenbendazole used in an off-label protocol from day 42 of pregnancy to day 14 of lactation will prevent the migration of roundworms through the placentas and hookworms through the milk and into our fragile newborn pups. Males should be dewormed twice a year. When new dogs are introduced into your kennel, home or shelter, no matter what their history or age (unless they are pregnant), assume they have parasites and start the deworming process immediately.
2. Canine Respiratory Problems
It’s unsettling to hear your dog fight a vicious, honking cough. Upper respiratory problems in dogs like kennel cough tend to get worse at night, meaning an interrupted sleep for both you and your dog. Respiratory diseases are transmitted easily, so prevention through vaccination is the best control. Vaccines for preventing these diseases include canine Bordetella, parainfluenza, adenovirus, and canine influenza H3N8 and H8N2.
When it comes to groups of dogs that are housed together, proper ventilation is key to preventing respiratory problems. Since high exposure to the organism is required to cause an outbreak of coughing, your goal is to dilute the organism with more air, ensuring minimal exposure when an affected dog coughs. Keeping the air moving also helps prevent additional bacteria and viruses from becoming concentrated in the area and making the existing infections difficult to clear. Minimizing airborne irritants can reduce respiratory issues.
3. Heat Cycle Issues in Dogs
Irregular heats and few litters are frustrating. And in the winter months heat cycle issues seem to get worse. As the days get shorter, cycling often slows, but a 100 watt light or a fluorescent full spectrum light placed 10 feet from the kennel will usually prevent this issue. Dogs need about 14 hours of light a day, so supplementing their natural exposure with four hours of artificial light in the evenings should help prevent seasonal cycling.
A dietary deficiency can slow or stop a dog’s heat cycle; that’s where daily vitamins come into play. Eliminate dietary deficiencies as a possible cause before trying to trigger the ovary to cycle with hormones. Doc Roy’s® Daily Care works for large breeds and Breeder’s Edge® B Strong for small breeds. Feeding a diet rich in micronutrients to support healthy reproduction to both males and females is essential. The diets we recommend are Royal canin HT42d and Purina Sport 30/20. Avoid raw meat and grain-free diets. Another way to tell if a dietary deficiency is to blame is examine your dogs. If your females are overweight, that often is a sign they are lacking some nutrient or vitamin and overeat to compensate for this shortage.
4. Puppy Loss
You do everything you can for your puppies and there’s nothing worse than having a puppy born normal yet not breathing. In slow whelping, puppies are short of oxygen at birth, which contributes to dead or fading puppies. Fast-absorbing calcium such as Breeder’s Edge® Oral Cal Plus™ at the start of labor and anytime mom is slowing down helps labor and assures live births!
A slow whelp also causes mom to get tired and therefore when whelping is over, she’s too exhausted to care for her puppies. Getting babies on the ground in six to nine hours is the goal. Malnutrition that first week is preventable but that prevention starts before the babies are born. If we want mom birthing timely and having puppies that fight to live, we need adequate iron and prenatal vitamins such as Breeder’s Edge Oxy Mate. If they are born anemic, babies stay anemic and weak for six weeks.
5. Lactation Issues
You want to give each new puppy the best start at life so they need adequate colostrum. If mom is not lactating well it can be disheartening for you both that she cannot provide the nutrition her puppies need. Give mom the necessary prenatal and postnatal nutrition her body requires and help support milk production. Fenugreek and Chaste tree fruit are herbs that have been proven to reliably boost milk production. For moms that have had lactation issues in the past or before planned C-sections, using Breeder’s Edge® Oxy Momma™ seven days before her due date can get mom dripping milk at birth. No bottle feeding is the goal and it can be done! The prescription drug metoclopramide prescribed by your veterinarian can also aid in bringing in her milk, lightening your load on the need to supplemental feed.
The threat of diseases like parvo and brucellosis keeps anyone with dogs up at night. When it comes to parvo, 50 percent of prevention is giving the parvo vaccine early. When puppies reach six weeks of age, it is time to start parvo-only vaccines.
The other 50 percent of disease prevention is hygiene and disinfecting. First remove organic material such as feces and hair using a detergent. Using a penetrating disinfectant is a must. Bleach will sterilize the surface, but will not go through smeared feces or fat to get the virus underneath. Virkon® and OXINE® (with citric acid) are penetrating disinfectants and they are safe around young puppies. Bleach and quaternary ammonias are never safe for nursing babies.
To prevent brucellosis, test new additions with the Brucella and isolate them for four weeks. At this time, there is no FDA approved Brucella test that can be run at your veterinary clinic, so a reference lab should be used. Artificial insemination can also help prevent the risk of transferring the disease.
By vaccinating, testing, disinfecting and isolating, these devastating diseases can be managed and prevented so you can sleep well, without the worry. And don’t forget biosecurity!
Now it’s time to come up with a detailed plan on how to manage, control and stop these dog health problems for good. Our expertly trained Pet Care Pros are ready to support you in this next step. Give them a call at 800.786.4751. You can do this and Revival is here to assist!
Article originally written by Donald Bramlage, DVM, Revival’s Former Director of Veterinary Services.
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Written by: Marty Greer, DVM
Director of Veterinary Services
Marty Greer, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, has 40+ years’ experience in veterinary medicine, with special interests in canine reproduction and pediatrics. She received her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Iowa State University in 1981. She’s served as Revival’s Director of Veterinary Services since 2019. In 2023, Dr. Greer was named the Westminster Kennel Club Veterinarian of the Year.