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With a litter or two on the ground, a breeder’s hands are full of cleaning, weighing, handling, and much more. Having so much to do, it can be hard to catch the beginning stages of a sick puppy. Despite extensive research, firsttime owners may not know the warning signs of certain illnesses and how a sick puppy might look or behave. AKC Pet Insurance has put together a quick checklist to help breeders and their new puppy owners catch the signs of illness early. 

  • Lethargy

While puppies do need a significant amount of sleep, doing nothing but sleeping is a concern. After the first few weeks, if a puppy isn’t engaging in play with littermates or curious about exploring the world, they may not be feeling their best. A puppy who just lounges around and lacks enthusiasm should be examined further to ensure they aren’t starting to show symptoms of being sick. 

  • Coat & Skin 

Check puppies daily by running your hands over their bodies to confirm there are no ticks, fleas, insects or wounds. Puppies can be clumsy and are still learning how to play safely with others. Accidents such as scratches and scrapes can occur that may need attention. If a puppy’s coat loses its luster or becomes patchy, a visit to the veterinarian is in order. 

  • Appetite 

Puppies eat a lot! Big life changes, such as a puppy moving to his new home, may cause a temporary lapse in appetite, but once he’s settled, he should be happy to chow downWhile the amount and type of food that a puppy should eat changes based on age, if a puppy isn’t eating as much as usual or is having trouble keeping food down (vomiting), it’s time to visit your veterinarian.  

  • Ears 

If a puppy is scratching or rubbing his ears, shaking his head, or you notice a foul odor coming from his ears, he may have an ear infection. While adult dogs generally experience ear infections due to bacteria and yeast growth, ear infections in puppies are more typically due to mites. If you suspect an ear infection in a puppy, visit your vet who will do an examination, clean out the ears, and recommend a medicated ear cleaning solution for your use at home.  

  • Eyes 

A puppy’s eyes should be clear and free of goop. There are several eye conditions that can cause issues, such as pink eye and dry eye. If a puppy is squinting, excessively blinking, pawing at his eyes or has discharge, you should visit the vet right away.  

  • Diarrhea

Since puppies are known for eating things they shouldn’t, puppy diarrhea is, unfortunately, a common symptom of varying issues. Reasons a puppy may have diarrhea include diet change, bacterial infection, viral infection, ingestion of foreign bodies, parasites, or stress. A puppy with diarrhea should be observed, and the vet should be called. You can explain any additional symptoms to the vet, and he can tell you if the puppy should be brought in for a visit.  

  • Weight 

Many breeders track the weight of puppies at minimum through the first two weeks of life. Ensure that puppies are steadily gaining weight and receiving proper nourishment. This is the best way to help them become strong enough to fight off illness. Once a puppy heads home, new owners can track weight by teaching their puppy to sit or stand on a scale or by understanding body condition scoring. Losing weight and reduced interest in eating is another concern. In this case, the puppy may be sick and should be taken to the vet right away.  

  • Behavior

As the caretaker of a litter or an individual puppy, you should know the routines of your dogs. Be aware when behavior deviates from normal. A puppy who usually is bright and active when handled might suddenly become quiet and nonreactive if they’re feeling sick. If a puppy suddenly becomes more vocal, with increased whining or whimpering, he may be trying to let you know that something is wrong.  

Avoid A Sick Puppy By Keeping Dogs Healthy 

Recognizing the signs of a sick puppy can help ensure action is taken before any illness becomes worse. Breeders should encourage new owners to activate their AKC Pet Insurance 30-Day Certificate, which comes as a benefit of a dog’s AKC registration. The 30-Day certificate provides accident and illness pet insurance coverage for 30 days after activation and can help in the event of unexpected illnesses such as ear infections, cherry eye, and much more. 

Have a non-urgent medical question? AKC Vetline is a live, 24/7 service staffed by licensed veterinary staff and pet professionals. Get unlimited access to answers about your pet’s health and wellness whenever and wherever you need it from a source you know you can trust.

If you have any questions please don't hesitate to contact us at enewsletter@akc.org
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