Puppies 101: The Two Most Threatening Puppy Illnesses


For true dog lovers, our love of the creatures grows early and grows fast. There are few things more endearing or soul-capturing than a small, fluffy, and endlessly happy puppy. While dog ownership is very much about having the cutest puppy in the world and showing it off to everyone you know, it is of course also much more than that. Committing to raising and caring for a puppy is a huge responsibility. Dog ownership is a step in life that should not be taken lightly. While running out and getting the first adorable puppy you see can be very tempting (trust me), it is important that you do your research and evaluate your lifestyle to make sure that a dog really fits into the equation at that time.

When I was in college, my suitemate was obsessed with the idea of getting a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppy for our dorm room. Now, of course, having pets that required more than a fish bowl and fish food in the dorm was not allowed. But, more importantly, my suitemate was in no way ready or responsible enough to own and care for a puppy. The second she moved off campus her senior year of college, she adopted a purebred Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. The puppy was adorable and very sweet. Tragically, the puppy became very ill only a few days after she brought him home and later died of Parvo. My suitemate was devastated and shocked. Though the vet explained that the puppy likely already had Parvo before she brought him home, the disease was a shock to her and she quickly realized just how underprepared she was for a puppy. Before making the important decision of adopting a dog, be sure to educate yourself on the two most common and deadly health threats that puppies encounter.


Distemper is a viral dog disease that is so dangerous in part because of how contagious it is. Though distemper is one of the viruses that veterinarians vaccine against in puppies, cases of distemper still occur fairly often. This virus affects the respiratory system, gastrointestinal system, and nervous system of a dog. The American Veterinary Medical Association lists canine distemper as the greatest disease threat to dogs. The virus is deadly to 80 percent of puppies that contract it and 50 percent of adult dogs. The three part vaccination against the disease is very effective and is considered one of the four core vaccinations every puppy should receive. Furthermore, a distemper vaccination booster should be given every two to three years.


Parvo is another extremely devastating disease that primarily affects young puppies. Puppies are more commonly affected by these threatening diseases became their immune systems have not yet fully developed. The Parvovirus attacks a dog’s intestinal tract, white blood cells, and heart. What makes Parvo so dangerous is how quickly the virus moves. It is extraordinarily contagious and can cause death if untreated within 48 to 72 hours. The disease presents most commonly with extreme diarrhea and vomiting, but can also include depression and loss of appetite. Parvo is most commonly passed from one dog to another through contaminated feces, but can also be carried on the paws and fur. This contaminates the dog’s living space and any objects that he comes in contact with. The Parvo vaccination can protect puppies from the disease, but is a series of four injections over the course of several weeks.