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The Ultimate Guide

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When to Take Your Puppy to The Vet

Be Aware of Your Puppy's Health

Portrait Of Dog In Vets Office
Steven G. Smith / EyeEm / Getty Images

Whether this is your first puppy or your tenth puppy, it is important to know when it is time to take your puppy to the veterinarian! Be sure to understand what behavior is normal for a puppy so that you know when your puppy’s health has deviated from the norm!

Let me start by saying that I am not a veterinarian! You should not take any veterinary advice from me or from anyone who does not have the title Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (D.V.M.) attached to her name. Even very experienced breeders, trainers, groomers or pet sitters are not qualified to give you veterinary advice! You are wise to seek your veterinarian’s advice if one of us tells you that in our experience we do not think something is ‘normal’. The information in this article was given to me by Darcy Schofil D.V.M. and Alison Williams D.V.M of Cahaba Mountain Brook Animal Clinic. You can trust their advice!

Here are examples of when to call the veterinarian. 

Before Using Human Medicine

Dr. Schofil advises you to resist the temptation to reach for human medicine to treat your puppy! She says that the dosage is very different for a puppy than for a human. Common medicines that we take are dangerous for your puppy to take. She says to avoid giving your puppy Tylenol, Advil, ibuprofen, and other similar medication as your puppy does not tolerate these drugs like you do. She says that while you need Benadryl and Milk of Magnesia in your puppy’s first aid kit, check with your veterinarian for the proper dose before giving it to your puppy! She also advises you to refrain from giving your puppy medications that are ‘left over’ from a previous prescription unless your veterinarian advises you to. For example, giving your puppy eye drops prescribed for conjunctivitis might make an injured eye worse. It is always best to consult your veterinarian before giving your puppy any medication.

Non-Weight Bearing Limping Issues

Your puppy is susceptible to the same injuries that you are! Dr. Schofil says that if you notice your puppy limping, determine if she bears any weight on the affected leg. A non-weight-bearing limp is a reason to seek immediate veterinary attention. She says that if your puppy is putting some weight on her leg to restrict her activity for 24 hours. Contact your veterinarian if the limp persists longer than 24 hours.

Coughing, Sneezing or Breathing Issues

Persistent coughing or sneezing is a reason to call the vet. Dr. Schofil reminds us to notice any signs of difficulty in breathing. An allergic reaction can cause swelling around the nose and mouth resulting in trouble breathing. Brachycephalic or ‘flat-faced’ breeds are more likely to experience distress than longer nose breeds. It is important to discuss what is normal for your puppy with your veterinarian when it comes to breathing!

Changes in Appearance or Behavior 

Take the time to teach your puppy to accept handling and gentle restraint. The puppy that trusts you to examine her makes it easier to discover potential issues. Dr. Schofil suggests that as you practice gentle handling that you be aware of these symptoms:

  • Unusual smell
  • Excessive scratching
  • Lumps or bumps
  • Sudden aggression that may indicate pain
  • Redness in the eyes
  • Frequent shaking of her head

It is very important to notice symptoms early, as this speeds up your puppy’s response to treatment.

Changes in Appetite 

It is important to feed your puppy on a schedule. This allows you to notice immediately if she stops eating. Keeping the bowl full can prevent you from knowing if your puppy is experiencing a loss of appetite. Dr. Schofil suggests that if a loss of appetite persists for longer than 12 hours it is time to call your veterinarian.

She also advises to pay attention to other symptoms as combinations of symptoms will require faster veterinary intervention. For example, skipping a meal but remaining energetic and playful is very different from skipping a meal and being lethargic. Dr. Schofil says this is particularly true when your puppy is experience vomiting and/or diarrhea. If your puppy is energetic and playful you can wait 24 hours before taking her to the vet. If she is lethargic, weak, or painful, then you consider vomiting and diarrhea as an emergency!

Changes in Bathroom Habits 

Dr. Williams advises you to monitor your puppy’s bathroom habits. Call your vet if you notice worms in your pup’s stool. It is important for you to know how many bowel movements your puppy typically has in a day. Two to three is typically considered ‘normal’. Also be aware of how much water your puppy drinks and how frequently she urinates. Being aware of what is normal for your puppy alerts you to potential issues when the pattern changes.

When in Doubt, Call the Vet

Dr. Williams and Dr. Schofil advise you that when you are in doubt about your puppy’s health, to contact your veterinarian! It is far better to overreact than to under-react. They urge you to take out health insurance for your puppy. They both remind you to trust veterinary websites and advice, instead of well-meaning people who are not veterinarians!