5 Common Illnesses In Puppies To Watch Out For

by Lila Batiari, DVM
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5 Common Illnesses In Puppies To Watch Out For
Parvovirus, canine distemper, and kennel cough are just some of the most common illnesses affecting puppies. Learn how to recognize the symptoms of these ailments and what to do if your dog gets sick.

Welcoming a new puppy to your family is very exciting, but it’s not all playtime and cuddles. There are a few common illnesses in puppies that might affect your new four-legged friend. Fortunately, most puppy illnesses are completely preventable — but if sickness does occur, the sooner you detect and respond to the red flags, the better.

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In this post, we’ll help you recognize the most common symptoms of puppy illness and show you what steps to take if your four-legged friend falls ill.

Use the links below to jump ahead to information on puppy illnesses:

What are common illnesses in puppies?

Parvovirus

Parvo in puppies is a highly contagious virus that can be contracted from contact with contaminated feces. Common symptoms include vomiting, decreased appetite, and bloody diarrhea.

Puppies with parvovirus need to be treated by a veterinarian. They will be given IV fluids to stop them from becoming dehydrated, as well as medication to help control vomiting. The cost to treat parvo in puppies is often quite expensive, ranging between $500 and $2,000 for diagnosis and prescription medication, and can be much costlier if hospitalization is required.

The good news is that parvovirus can be avoided by following a puppy vaccine schedule recommended by your vet. An animal is not fully vaccinated until they receive three sets of vaccines, every three to four weeks until they are 16 weeks old. Until then, it’s very important to avoid public areas, such as beaches and parks, because parvovirus can live in soil for up to five years.

puppy illness

Kennel cough

Kennel cough in dogs can occur at any age but puppies are at greater risk due to their weakened immunity. The disease is part bacteria and part virus, resulting in a persistent dry, ‘goose honk’ cough that can lead to pneumonia if left untreated. Treatment will depend on the severity of the symptoms, but usually requires antibiotics to kill Bordetella, the bacteria responsible for kennel cough. The viral portion will require supportive care, including fluids, nutrition, TLC, and time.

Treatment for kennel cough in puppies usually ranges between $75 and $200. If your pet needs X-rays and lab work, you can expect to pay an additional $200 to $500, and if they develop pneumonia or require hospitalization, the total cost can add up to over $1,000 depending on the length of the stay.

There is a kennel cough puppy vaccine, and it’s highly recommended for puppies that are in frequent contact with other dogs.

Distemper

Canine distemper is a highly contagious disease that affects dogs and other animals such as raccoons and ferrets. Infected puppies will develop discharge from their eyes, nasal discharge, fever, coughing, decreased appetite, vomiting, and lethargy. In very serious cases they become neurological and experience twitches before seizing.

There is no cure for distemper and the disease has a very high mortality rate. Treatment typically consists of supportive care and efforts to control vomiting and diarrhea, combat dehydration, and prevent secondary infections. The cost to treat canine distemper can range between $500 and $2,000 or even more, depending on the length of the hospitalization. A combination vaccine protecting puppies against distemper, adenovirus, and parvo is available.

Coccidia

Coccidia is a parasite that affects the gastrointestinal tract. It’s usually found in standing water and puppies can contract it by drinking from a contaminated water source. Symptoms of coccidosis include bloody stool, dehydration, diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal distress, and it may be fatal in severe cases.

To treat coccidia in puppies, your vet might prescribe a course of antibiotic therapy typically administered for five to 25 days. Treatment for coccidiosis costs under $400, including a physical exam, fecal exam, prescription diet, and medication. There’s no vaccine for Coccidia but you can prevent this puppy illness by making sure they only drink from trusted water sources.

Diarrhea

If your puppy is suffering from diarrhea, the first thing to rule out is common puppy parasites. Coccidia and giardia are the two most common causes of diarrhea in puppies, but other internal parasites include tapeworms, hookworms, and roundworms. If your veterinarian diagnoses a parasitic infection, they will likely recommend a puppy dewormer that allows them to pass the parasites through the stool.

If parasites are not the cause of diarrhea, your puppy likely got into some unsafe food for dogs. In most cases, what they’ve consumed will pass naturally by using upset stomach remedies for dogs and making sure they stay hydrated.

However, if your puppy’s diarrhea persists for more than 24 hours, take them to the vet. Your veterinarian will screen for other symptoms of puppy illness that could indicate a more serious disease, such as parvo, and will likely prescribe medication such as metronidazole to make the stool more firm. They might also administer fluids intravenously.

The cost of diagnosis and treatment for this puppy illness depends on the underlying cause. If the diarrhea is caused by an intestinal parasite, the cost of a fecal test and deworming medicine averages between $50 and $150 depending on the dog's size and severity of the infection.

sick puppy

What are the signs of a sick puppy?

When it comes to health problems, puppies aren’t the best at communicating if there is something wrong with them. For this reason, it is very important to be able to spot the warning signs and how a puppy might appear or behave if they are ill.

The most common signs that a puppy is sick include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy
  • Decreased appetite
  • Dizziness
  • Excessive scratching or licking
  • Whimpering more than usual

If you notice that your pet is exhibiting any of these symptoms, be sure to get in touch with your vet as soon as possible. The vet will examine your puppy, determine the problem, and inform you about the best treatment options.

Preventing and preparing for puppy illness

Due to the fact that their immune systems are not fully developed, puppies are highly prone to a number of illnesses. Accidents and injuries in puppies are also unfortunately common. Enrolling your puppy in pet insurance is a great way to financially prepare for those unexpected vet visits that can cost several hundred or several thousand dollars.

Pet insurance reimburses you for the money you spend on vet bills out-of-pocket, and many providers also offer wellness coverage that offset the cost of preventive pet care, including vaccinations and parasite prevention.

Protect Your Puppy with Pet Insurance Is Pet Insurance Worth It?


Key Takeaways

  • There are several common illnesses in puppies to look out for, including parvovirus, canine distemper, coccidia, kennel cough, and intestinal parasites.
  • The most common signs that your puppy is sick include vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, reduced appetite, etc.
  • Staying up-to-date with the vaccines and being able to recognize the symptoms of these common illnesses can help prevent your pup from getting seriously ill.
  • Pet insurance can help you save money on unexpected veterinary bills and ensure that you are able to provide the best medical care possible for your beloved puppy.

Veterinarian Lila Batiari

About the author

Lila Batiari, DVM

Small Animal Relief Veterinarian -

Lila Batiari, DVM is a relief veterinarian located in San Diego, California. She has a special interest in nutrition, pain management, and surgery! Dr. Batiari enjoys working with Pawlicy Advisor to help others avoid everyday situations that some of her clientele experience. She realizes that expensive vet bills for treatment costs could be much easier for patients with pet insurance.

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