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  1. puppies

Puppy Advice

Puppy Advice

Get proactive with our vets' puppy advice tips and puppy health and development guides.
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Common Diseases That Affect Puppies

Posted by Dr. Roth on March 30, 2022

Medical Advice
Wellness Care
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A new puppy is exciting for all pet parents. Unfortunately, that excitement can turn to stress if the new puppy becomes ill. During the first few months of a puppy’s life, they rely on their mother’s milk to provide them with antibodies to fight off diseases. Once puppies are weaned, they must rely on their own developing immune system. Here are a few conditions pet parents should be familiar with.

Common Diseases That Affect Puppy Health

Pet parents will need to take precautions to ensure their new puppy stays healthy. These include puppy vaccinations and parasite prevention. Knowing some of the most common diseases that affect puppies will also help pet parents make educated decisions about their puppy’s healthcare plan. 


Vets are frequently asked about how to treat puppy parasites. Puppies are susceptible to many types of parasites. The easiest to diagnose are external parasites such as fleas, ticks, and mites because the naked eye can see them. A monthly flea and tick preventative is the best way to protect a puppy against illnesses that result from these parasites.

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Puppies can also get internal parasites, especially in their gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Common GI parasites include:

  • Tapeworms

  • Roundworms

  • Hookworms

  • Giardia

  • Coccidia

Since puppies are highly susceptible to GI parasites, pet parents need to take them to the vet for regular deworming. Puppies should be dewormed every two weeks until they’re three months old, then monthly until they’re six months old.


Parvo is highly contagious and can quickly lead to death in a puppy. This virus can survive in some environments for up to a year, so it’s important pet parents take precautions to protect their puppy. This includes regularly disinfecting anything the puppy comes in contact with and washing their paws after they’ve been outside. 

The best way for pet parents to protect their puppies is by getting them vaccinated. The recommended puppy vaccine schedule for parvo is:

  • 6 weeks

  • 8 weeks

  • 12 weeks

Some vets recommend an additional booster at 14-16 weeks of age.


Another puppy vaccine is for canine distemper. This deadly disease attacks the puppy’s respiratory, nervous, and GI systems and is usually fatal. Distemper is an airborne virus, and it can affect wild animals. Signs of this disease are:

  • Watery eyes

  • Fever

  • Coughing

  • Lethargy

  • Vomiting

  • Head tilt

  • Muscle spasms

  • Seizures

  • Paralysis

  • Hardened paw pads

There’s no cure for distemper, and dogs that survive this disease usually have permanent neurological damage. 

Kennel Cough

Kennel cough — Respiratory Disease Complex — describes any disease that infects a dog’s trachea and bronchial tubes. The name kennel cough comes from the high occurrence of dogs and puppies that get sick after being housed with many other dogs in kennels. Many types of bacteria and viruses can cause kennel cough. 

Viral kennel cough usually clears up on its own in a week or two. Bacterial kennel cough can be treated with antibiotics. Severe cases may also need IV fluids.

Viral Hepatitis

Another virus pet parents should vaccinate their puppies against is infectious hepatitis. This virus is usually fatal to young puppies, and there’s no cure. Signs of viral hepatitis include:

  • Congestion

  • No appetite

  • Jaundice skin

  • Blindness

  • Apathy 

Dogs that recover from this disease can still be contagious for up to six months post-recovery.

Congenital Conditions

A congenital condition is something a puppy is born with and can be caused by genetics or environmental factors. Many congenital conditions can be fixed with corrective surgery, although pet parents might have to travel to a vet who can perform the surgery.

Common congenital conditions include:

  • Cleft palate

  • Umbilical hernia

  • Extra eyelid or entropion

  • Ectopic ureter

How Pet Parents Can Help

The easiest way to help keep puppies healthy is by following the puppy vaccination schedule and providing them with a clean environment. The following is a recommended puppy vaccine schedule:

  • 6-8 weeks: Distemper and parvovirus

  • 10-12 weeks: Distemper booster (DHPP), adenovirus, parainfluenza, and parvovirus booster

  • 16-18 weeks: DHPP boosters and rabies

  • 12-16 months: DHPP and rabies — repeat every year for dog health maintenance

Finally, pet parents should provide their puppy with high-quality food and lots of love and attention. Pet parents with additional questions about common puppy diseases can speak with a licensed vet with Fuzzy’s 24-Hour vet chat.

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