Five puppies cuddling and sitting in a basket

5 Common Puppy Health Problems to Watch For

Dr Amelia Bunker, Resident Veterinarian - Knose Pet Insurance

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Dr. Amelia Bunker

Dr. Amelia Bunker (BVSc), our resident veterinarian at Knose, blends her passion for animal care with her expertise in veterinary science. Her journey from mixed practice clinics to insurance expert motivates her dedication to animal welfare, both in her professional role and as a pet owner.

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Regular vet visits, vaccines, a healthy diet and physical activity can all help your puppy stay in good health. However, puppies can end up with one or more common health problems, even when they’re well-cared for. Keep these puppy health problems in mind, so you can make sure your pup gets proper care if needed.

Kennel Cough

Kennel cough is an infectious disease that causes respiratory problems in puppies. Viruses and bacteria can cause this illness to occur when puppies are exposed to them. Don’t let the name of this disease fool you. Puppies can end up with kennel cough even if they haven’t stayed in any kennels. Your puppy is at risk of catching these illness in any place where these viruses and bacteria are lurking. Consider having your puppy vaccinated for this disease to lower the risk of a serious infection.

  • Symptoms of Kennel Cough

Puppies that have kennel cough usually have a fever, a reduced appetite, and a lack of energy. As this illness gets worse, it can cause puppies to have a deep cough with or without phlegm. If you don’t have your puppy treated, kennel cough can turn into a severe case of pneumonia.

  • Treatment for Kennel Cough

Treatment for kennel cough depends on what is causing it. Bacterial infections require antibiotics, while viruses have to run their course. Your vet can provide information on what to give your puppy to ease symptoms. Overall, viral cases of kennel cough in puppies typically get better within two weeks.

Vomiting and Diarrhoea

Vomiting and diarrhoea can be common in puppies due to their inquisitive nature. They will eat, chew, or lick most common objects and this can lead to stomach upsets due to their developing gastrointestinal system. Vomiting and diarrhoea can also be signs of more serious disease, therefore it is important that you do not neglect the symptoms if they continue for too long.

  • Symptoms to Watch For

If your puppy is vomiting or has diarrhoea, you should watch for any other symptoms that occur. For example, a fever could be a sign of an illness that requires veterinary care. You should also watch for signs of dehydration, such as lethargy, sunken eyes, and excessive panting. Puppies showing signs of dehydration require immediate veterinary care.

  • Treatment for Vomiting and Diarrhoea

Offer your puppy water to help prevent dehydration from occurring. You can offer bland food that your veterinarian recommends if your puppy is able to hold these down without vomiting. Keep in mind that you should see your veterinarian if your puppy has been vomiting for over 12 hours or has been having diarrhoea for over 24 hours.  Additionally, if there are any signs of blood in the vomit or diarrhoea, you should see your veterinarian immediately.


Parvovirus typically occurs in young puppies under the age of 12 weeks and these are the most at risk, along with unvaccinated, older, or immunocompromised dogs. However, any aged dog can become infected. The disease is spread through exposure with an infected animal but also through the environment. The virus is highly contagious and resistant to factors such as heat and chemicals, therefore it is possible to remain in the environment for periods of up to one year. Parvovirus vaccinations are available for puppies, the first vaccination usually given at 6 weeks, but can be given as young as 4 weeks in high risk areas.

  • Symptoms of Parvovirus

Puppies that have been infected with parvovirus usually have a fever before any other symptoms occur. Within a few days, infected puppies start vomiting and having diarrhea. In some cases, puppies can have diarrhea with blood in it. Without prompt treatment, puppies with parvovirus can become dehydrated and seriously ill.

  • Treatment for Parvovirus

Puppies that have parvovirus often need to stay at a veterinary hospital while they recover from dehydration and other symptoms. These hospital stays involve staying in a quarantine ward and receiving IV fluids to help them become properly hydrated. Some puppies are also given antibiotics to reduce the risk of a life-threatening bacterial infection known as sepsis. With treatment, puppies with parvovirus typically get better within a week.


Distemper is a serious illness that can cause fatal problems, including pneumonia or brain damage. This viral disease also remains in puppies after they recover. Although it often stays dormant, it can end up causing seizures and other problems if it becomes active again. Puppies can get vaccinated against distemper to lower their risk of getting this disease.

  • Symptoms of Distemper

Distemper shows up as respiratory symptoms at first, which can resemble cold and flu symptoms, such as sneezing. Some dogs also have eye discharge, fever, and depression with this disease. Without treatment, complications can occur and be life-threatening

  • Treatment for Distemper

Puppies need prompt veterinary care for distemper, which often includes supportive care at a veterinary hospital. In some cases, puppies require weeks of care before being able to go home.

Have you just brought home a new pet and worried about health problems and parasites such as intestinal worms, heartworm, fleas, and ticks to watch out for? Subscribe to Knose and get useful information about how to best keep your dog healthy and happy.

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