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Puppies 101

01 Vaccines

All puppies and dogs need vaccines.  Vaccines “train” a dog’s immune system to recognize and fight off infectious diseases.  Vaccines can be divided into Core and Non-Core vaccines.  A Core Vaccine is a vaccine we feel all dogs should have while Non-Core vaccines are reserved for those dogs that are more likely to get exposed to certain infectious diseases.

02 Core Vaccines

Rabies is a viral disease of all mammals that attacks the central nervous system and is almost universally fatal.

Distemper is a wide-spread viral disease of dogs, racoons and other animals.  It causes respiratory, gastrointestinal and central nervous system disease.  Distemper is usually fatal.

Parvo Virus originally mutated from a cat virus (feline panleukopenia).  It is widespread, can quickly cause vomiting, diarrhea and severe dehydration.  A young pup can die within 24 hours once they become symptomatic with Parvo.

Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that can lead to liver and kidney disease.  Lepto can also be infectious to people.

Canine Adenovirus can cause liver and respiratory disease and can be fatal.  This vaccine is usually included with a Distemper Vaccine.

Parainfluenza is a mild respiratory disease in dogs.  This vaccine is also routinely given with Distemper Vaccines.

03 Non-Core Vaccines

Canine Bordetella or “Kennel-Cough” is a bacterial disease that can occur alone or in conjunction with distemper, adeno- virus type 2, or parainfluenza.  all dogs that will be boarded in a commercial kennel should be vaccincated for Kennel-Cough ideally 2 weeks prior to boarding.  The vaccines provides immunity for about 6 months.
Lyme Disease is a bacterial disease spread by ticks.  It is more common in some parts of the country than it is in Nebraska.

04 Vaccine Schedules

We typically start new puppies on a series of vaccines at 8 weeks of age and continue until the last vaccines are given at or just past 16 weeks of age.  Once the initial vaccines are completed, dogs receive booster vaccines annually (semi-annually for Kennel-Cough).

05 Parasites

Many puppies have intestinal parasites.  Some worms can be spread from a pup’s mother to the puppy early in life and others can be picked up in the environment.  Parasites are diagnosed by a microscopic exam of a pup’s feces.  This should be done 2 or 3 times during the first year of a puppies life and then annually for adult dogs.  If parasites are detected a  medication will be dispensed.  Some common intestinal parasites of dogs can also infect people.  Children are at the highest risk of infection.

Heartworms are another parasite of dogs (and occasionally cats).  This parasite is spread from one pet to another by way of mosquitoes.  When a mosquito bites an animal they can leave on their skin microscopic immature worms.  These larvae will follow the mosquito’s bite wound through the skin into the connective tissue where they migrate through the pet’s body while the worm matures, which takes about 6 months.  As the worms approach adulthood, they burrow their way into a blood vessel, travel to the heart and major arteries around the heart where they spend the rest of their lives.  If undetected, hertworms are likely to kill a dog.  If diagnosed, heartworms can be treated, but treatment can be very hard on dogs and is costly.

Heartworm prevention is the preferred way to deal with this parasite.  Young pups can be started on a prescription medication given monthly to prevent this disease.  Adult dogs should have a blood test prior to starting meds and then tested annually to ensure their health.  Most heartworm medications also treat some of the more common intestinal parasites.  Heartworm medications should be given 12 months a year.

Fleas and Ticks can be hit and miss from one year to the next.  Some years we see a lot of these external parasites and some years not too many.  For those people living on acreages and spending weekends camping, ticks will be a factor especially in spring and early summer.  Fleas tend to start out slow each spring and then build in numbers until the weather gets cold again.We have several options to treat as well as prevent flea and tick infestations.  Generally the products available from a veterinarian are stronger and safer than most over-the counter brands.  Ask us what is best for you and your pet.

06 Nutrition

There is an endless number of options of pet foods available.  Pet food is like most everything else…you get what you pay for.  As a minimum, use a well-known national brand pet food.  Avoid generic labels and store-brands.  Visit with us for specific recommendations  for your pet

07 Spaying & Neutering

Pet over-population is a huge problem in this country, millions of pets are euthanized annually for the lack of homes.  Any pet we don’t specifically plan to breed should be spayed or neutered.  Spaying female dogs also has health benefits.  By spaying a dog prior to their first heat cycle, that dog’s risk of breast cancer is reduced by 65%.  Breast tumors tend to be a common form of cancer in dogs; about half of all breast tumors tend to be malignant.  Also, female dogs that have not been spayed are at risk for a life-threatening bacterial disease of the uterus called a pyometra.  Spaying a dog eliminates this risk of disease.