7 Common Puppy Diseases You Should Know

Common Puppy Diseases

The Spruce / Madelyn Goodnight

As much as you don't like to think about it, there are a few common puppy diseases that may strike your new little friend. When puppies get sick, it comes on quicker and takes them longer to get well than it does for adult dogs. That's why it's important to be able to recognize the signs and symptoms 

When you know what to look for in a puppy's behavior you will have a better idea of what to do. Some things are an emergency while others may be able to wait until tomorrow before you call the vet.

  • 01 of 07


    Sad puppy
    Image Copr. Life On White/Getty Images

    Parvovirus (commonly known as Parvo) most often affects young dogs that have not been vaccinated at all or have not completed their puppy vaccine series. Vaccination is the best way to prevent Parvo. Parvovirus is transmitted through dog-to-dog contact, infected feces, and contaminated surfaces in the environment. For this reason, it is recommended that unvaccinated dogs avoid walking on public streets or socializing with dogs of unknown vaccine status. Unfortunately, Parvo can be a very serious illness if contracted, and can be fatal.

    The symptoms of Parvo include bloody diarrhea, vomiting, lethargy, and a loss of appetite. It's caused by a virus and sick puppies need to be seen by a vet as soon as possible so it can be treated with the right medications. It's likely that the puppy may need to be hospitalized as well. All breeds are at risk, but a few breeds that might be predisposed to Parvo include the Rottweiler, Doberman pinscher, and American Pit Bull Terrier.

  • 02 of 07


    Distemper in puppy

    Nicole Tozier / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

    Distemper also affects young puppies and other unvaccinated dogs. This virus is transmitted through airborne particles, contaminated surfaces in the environment, or contact with infected wildlife. It is a preventable disease if dogs are vaccinated appropriately but can be devastating if they get infected. This is another reason that dogs who have not completed their vaccine series should avoid contact with large groups of dogs as well as walking in public places. Sadly most cases are fatal and those that do recover may suffer permanent neurological damage.

    Symptoms of Distemper include yellow-colored diarrhea, discharge from the eyes and nose, trouble breathing, weakness, neurologic signs and lethargy. Puppies may also have seizures or seem weaker or less coordinated than normal. Unfortunately, Distemper is often fatal, and prompt veterinary care should be sought.

  • 03 of 07

    Kennel Cough

    Labs standing behind fence
    Image Copr. China Photos/Getty Images

    Kennel cough is characterized by an aggravating honking cough and owners often describe it as sounding like something is 'stuck in their dog's throat'. It is caused by the bacteria Bordetella bronchiseptica and spreads through airborne particles. It's highly contagious and often contracted from highly populated dog areas like dog shows, kennels or even boarding your puppy during vacations. For this reason, most boarding facilities, groomers, and doggy daycares require dogs to be vaccinated against Kennel Cough to prevent outbreaks.

    In most cases, if your dog gets Kennel Cough, the disease improves with supportive care. It can be difficult to distinguish from other respiratory diseases sometimes, so it is important to get any cough checked out by your veterinarian. If you suspect your dog has Kennel Cough, keep them away from other dogs and contact your veterinarian. Cough suppressants may be prescribed in severe cases to control persistent nonproductive coughing. Antibiotics are usually not needed except in severe cases. Most cases will resolve within a week or 10 days.

  • 04 of 07


    Sick puppy
    Lumenphoto/Getty Images

    Vomiting can be a sign of many different illnesses. In a puppy, this may be more serious since they are smaller and more at risk for dehydration and low blood sugar. If your dog vomits, always contact your veterinarian and do not wait if they advise you to come in.

    The causes of vomiting vary greatly from infections to parasites to intestinal blockages from eating foreign objects to systemic or congenital diseases. It can even happen if a dog eats too fast or gets motion sickness. Regardless, always reach out to your veterinarian who can help you determine what to do.

    Continue to 5 of 7 below.
  • 05 of 07


    Labrador Puppy
    Stefan Cristian Cioata/Getty Images 

    Puppy diarrhea can be a symptom of serious disease but can also be a simple, common ailment in puppies. Diarrhea has many causes including more serious viruses like Distemper and Parvo, along with more common causes such as intestinal worms, or just eating the wrong thing (like getting in the garbage).

    The key to knowing whether diarrhea is an emergency or not is to call your veterinarian. If a dog is acting normal and eating and drinking well, your vet may advise you on how to treat at home such as with a bland diet, in addition to submitting a fecal sample to check for intestinal parasites or worms. If a dog has decreased energy, poor appetite, or the diarrhea is not improving, then it is best to bring your pet in right away for an exam. You should also call the vet if your dog has any other symptoms like vomiting, abdominal pain, fever, loss of appetite, or lethargy.

  • 06 of 07


    Dog scratching ear
    Carol Yepes/Getty Images

    Fleas carry disease and are uncomfortable for your dog. They can even cause anemia in dogs with severe infestations. Flea prevention that is recommended by your veterinarian should be given to your pet year round to help protect your pet from fleas. This applies to dogs that are mostly indoor or outside alot.

    Scratching is the first sign that your puppy may have fleas. You'll also want to examine their fur for "flea dirt" which looks like black dandruff. If a dog is scratching excessively, best bring them in to the vet. Treating the environment in additional to treating each pet in the home is usually required to get rid of a flea infestation. All pets should be on a flea prevention as recommended by your veterinarian.

  • 07 of 07


    Yellow labrador puppy chasing feather in grass
    Andrew Hutchinson / Getty Images

    Ticks are parasites that not only suck blood but also spread diseases. This is another common parasite that can be a big problem and ticks do not differentiate between puppies and full-grown dogs.

    Using a tick prevention as recommended by your veterinarian is the best thing you can do to help prevent ticks from feeding on your dog and transmitting disease. It's a good idea to understand the life cycle of ticks, how to prevent them, vaccines that are available and ways to safely remove them from your puppy without exposing yourself to disease. If you live in an area with a lot of ticks or spend time in the woods with your dog, it is a good idea to learn how to check your dog daily for ticks. Ticks that are removed quickly are much less likely to transmit disease.

Article Sources
The Spruce Pets uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Canine Parvovirus. Merck Veterinary Manual

  2. Canine Distemper Overview. Merck Veterinary Manual

  3. Tracheobronchitis (Bronchitis) in Dogs. Merck Veterinary Manual

  4. Fleas of Dogs. Merck Veterinary Manual