Routine Healthcare for Dogs
Dogs should be vaccinated against potentially fatal diseases, and receive regular preventive treatments for parasites such as fleas and worms. Dogs should also be regularly groomed and checked daily for signs of illness.
Vaccination is the only prevention for dogs against fatal diseases such as parvovirus, distemper and hepatitis. Talk to your veterinarian regarding appropriate vaccination schedules. Viruses can spread within the dog population as quickly as the human cold spreads from person to person.
Dogs can be vaccinated from 6 weeks of age for protection against:
This disease is highly contagious and in more than 80% of cases, fatal. This virus attacks the intestines, causing blood stained diarrhoea, vomiting with severe abdominal pain and weakness. Immediate veterinary attention is required as the disease can progress extremely quickly (ie. in the space of 24 hours) and is usually fatal unless treated aggressively early in the course of this disease. In very young puppies, the virus can invade the heart muscles, causing difficulties in breathing and death within a few hours.
It is not necessary to have contact with other dogs for this disease to spread to your dog. This virus is so persistent in the ground over many years that the environment around an infected dog needs to be cleaned with potent disinfectants to prevent spread to other dogs. Outbreaks occur regularly throughout Australia - especially in summer.
A highly contagious disease which spreads to unvaccinated dogs of any age. However, canine hepatitis is more severe when dogs younger than 2 years become infected. Symptoms include high fever, depression and acute abdominal pain and death can occur within 24-36 hours. Dogs that recover may develop long term liver and kidney problems and can act as carriers spreading this disease to other dogs for many months. Ideally all dogs that come on to or travel off your property should be fully vaccinated.
This disease is extremely contagious to all dogs of any age and often fatal. Symptoms can include coughing and sneezing, nasal and eye discharge and depression. Muscle tremors, fits and paralysis can occur later in this disease. As the virus attacks the nervous system the recovery rates even with treatment can be low and recovered dogs may have permanent brain damage.
Caused by several highly infectious diseases, this illness is spread wherever dogs congregate such as dog parks and boarding kennels. Affected dogs have a dry hacking cough that persists for weeks and can result in pneumonia. Vaccines are available including those that are given intra-nasally and act to directly protect for this disease within a week. However, yearly boosters are required.
In short, as a minimum guideline all dogs should visit your local veterinarian once a year and the appropriate vaccine cover can be selected during a routine health check. Worming can be planned for the year along with other parasite protection.
Parasites – fleas and worms
Dogs should be given regular treatments to prevent them from suffering from fleas and worms.
Dogs can carry intestinal worms such as Roundworm, Whipworm, Hookworm and Tapeworm. Dogs are infected via uncooked meat, rodents and also through the skin, from larvae on grass (whipworm), or from fleas. Even ingestion of material in contact with the ground can be enough to cause infection. Dogs with worms may show tell- tale signs - poor or dull coat, anaemia (pale gums), diarrhoea, pot-bellied appearance, weight loss and tail skidding. You may see white segments or worms in the droppings.
Fortunately, you can stop worms cycling in your dogs with regular worm treatments. Ask your vet for advice about which worming products to use and how often to use them. Note that worms can also be harmful to dog owners, which is another reason why it's important to prevent them. For more information, see the page on zoonoses – from animals to humans.
Fleas can cause itching, chewing and licking. The skin may become red and inflamed. You might see fleas on your dog, or you might see small dark flecks (flea 'dirt') in the fur and on the skin.
If your dog has fleas it's important to treat the house, your dog and all other pets in the household. Your vet can recommend safe and effective products to use.
Heartworm is a very different disease from intestinal worms and is poorly understood by dog owners. Mosquitos spread this blood borne parasite so a dog can be infected without leaving the property. Heartworm is a parasite which attaches itself to arteries in the heart causing heart and lung disease and eventually, death.
Heartworm is difficult and costly to treat. Wherever there are mosquitos there exists the possibility of heartworm disease for your dog. There are many different types of heartworm preventions ranging from daily tablets to monthly tablets or "spot on's" and yearly injections. Your local veterinarian will offer the most appropriate treatment for this parasite for dogs living in your region.
All dogs need regular grooming, but long-haired dogs need more coat care than short-haired dogs.
A long-haired dog should be combed and brushed once a day while a dog with short hair will usually only need brushing twice a week. Get a brush and comb that are suited to the hair type of your dog. Some dogs with 'wool' type coats, that grow continuously, will also require regular clipping.
Checking for signs of ill health
You should check your dog each day for any signs of illness. These might include the following:
- Sickness or diarrhoea
- Significant weight change (in either direction) over a short period
- Loss of appetite
- Drinking much more or less than normal
- Lack of energy/sleeping more than usual
- Unusual swellings
- Skin conditions
- Unusual bleeding
- Signs of pain, such as sensitivity to touch
- Runny eyes or nose
- Changes in behaviour
If you are worried about the health of your dog, contact your local vet.