Puppy health issues and symptoms

Puppies are more susceptible to health problems than adult dogs due to their immature immune system.

Jack Russell Terrier puppy lying down in a dog bed

Common signs of illness

The following symptoms are potential indicators that your puppy may have an illness, if you spot any issues early it’s worth consulting your vet.

1. Eyes, mouth and nose

Symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, heavy panting or difficulty breathing can all be a sign of illness. Keep an eye out for bad breath, increased drooling, and dry, cloudy or red eyes.

2. Behaviour

You may notice lower activity levels in your puppy, or less interest in their usual activities. This may include increased sleep or other behavioural changes.

3. Skin changes

Pay close attention to any changes in your puppy's skin, such as dryness, lesions or redness.

4. Eating and digestion

Your puppy may exhibit reduced appetite or weight loss, digestive upsets or stools that contain blood, mucus, worms or undigested food. You may also notice excessive drinking or urinating.

5. Joint stiffness

Joint stiffness or difficulty getting up or climbing stairs can often be a sign of illness in puppies

Common puppy illnesses

Here, we look at some of the health issues and common illnesses your puppy might encounter in more detail.

Parasites are organisms that live on or inside your puppy and can also be transmitted to humans.
Fleas are the most common parasites found on puppies and cause itching, inflamed skin and even allergies. Ticks are another external parasite you’ll need to protect your puppy against. They latch onto a dog’s skin to suck their blood and can transmit diseases, including fatal ones.
When it comes to internal parasites, worms are the most common threat.
For both internal and external parasites, prevention is better than cure. And, as puppies are more sensitive to parasites, it’s important they have regular preventative treatments. Your vet can advise on the best approach for your puppy.

It’s quite common for puppies to get diarrhoea for a variety of reasons. It may range from one or two mild episodes that clear up quickly to severe gastric problems caused by a serious illness or blockage.
Common causes of diarrhoea in puppies include:
  • The stress of moving to a new home.
  • A new diet, especially if it’s introduced too quickly.
  • Eating something they shouldn’t such as house plants, rubbish, toys or dirt.
  • Parasites such as worms.
  • Infectious diseases such as parvovirus.

If your puppy has diarrhoea, it’s best to make a note of the date, time and consistency so you can monitor it and share the details with a vet. If it’s extreme or doesn’t clear within a day or two, always consult your vet.

Kennel cough is a very contagious respiratory disease. It passes from dog to dog via direct contact or shared objects such as food or water bowls. For this reason, it spreads particularly quickly in environments such as kennels, day care or dog shows.
The most common symptom is a harsh, dry cough that may be followed by retching. Other symptoms include a runny nose, sneezing and eye discharge. Younger puppies and dogs with weaker immune systems tend to have more severe cases of kennel cough, so check sure your puppy’s vaccinated against it.

Mange is a skin disease that causes severe itching and is highly contagious. It’s caused by mites that burrow under the skin’s surface and lay eggs to create more mites. Dog usually catch mange through direct contact or shared bedding with other dogs. But a less common type is passed from mother to puppy and flares up if the puppy’s immune system is weakened.
Symptoms of mange include intense scratching, skin rashes, hair loss and crusted skin, which can lead to secondary infections. Various treatments are available for mange from your vet, and it can usually be cleared within a month.

Parvovirus is a highly contagious, viral illness. It causes severe gastroenteritis, often leads to bleeding complications and can even be fatal.

Parvovirus symptoms in puppies include:
  • Diarrhoea (possibly with blood in it)
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Dehydration
  • Severe weight loss or anorexia
If you’re concerned your puppy may have parvovirus, consult a vet immediately. Also, be very careful with hygiene around their faeces – parvovirus can be spread by any person, animal or object that’s come into contact with an infected animal’s faeces.
The good news is, parvovirus can be vaccinated against, so make sure it’s included in your puppy’s vaccination programme.
English Setter standing black and white

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If you are concerned about your puppy's health, it is always advisable to consult a vet.

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Puppy health

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Puppy health
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