Canine Pests and Diseases

The flea is the dog's most common pest. Washing the dog with special soap can remove fleas. Flea-preventive collars are also available to protect dogs with thin coats. Flea collars, however, should not be used on short-haired, single-coated dogs--such as greyhounds, whippets, and pointers--because of skin irritation.

The tick poses a greater danger to the dog. This pest attaches itself to the dog's skin and sucks its blood. It also carries certain canine and human diseases. An owner can remove ticks from his dog by first dabbing alcohol on the infested area and then picking the parasites off with tweezers, making sure that the entire tick is removed.

Worms and other intestinal parasites often infest puppies. A puppy's fecal stools should be checked periodically for them. If worms are detected, take a sample of the infested stool to a veterinarian so that the type of parasite can be determined and the proper treatment rendered. Commercial deworming medicines should be avoided unless prescribed by a veterinarian.

A dog is obviously sick when it becomes listless and eats without enthusiasm. Its bowel movements may be irregular. It might also have pale, whitish gums and tongue, dull eyes, and a dry coat. A sick dog often runs a fever. A dog's temperature is best taken with a rectal thermometer. Normal body temperature of a dog is 101.5o F. A dog's pulse can be taken by pressing your finger against the blood vessel in the V formed where the undersides of the hind legs attach to the body. Normal pulse rate of a dog is between 75 and 100 beats per minute.

A dog can be infected by several viruses, including those that cause distemper, canine hepatitis, and rabies. A spirochete-caused ailment called leptospirosis is also common among dogs. Puppies should be vaccinated against each of these diseases. If any of them should arise, however, the suffering dog must be taken to a veterinarian for treatment.

Distemper affects the mucous membranes of the dog's respiratory tract. The symptoms resemble those of human influenza. Distemper causes the dog's temperature to rise two to three degrees above normal. Canine hepatitis affects the dog's liver and abdominal organs. It is marked by a fever as high as 105o F, thirst, diarrhea, and vomiting. A dog with hepatitis may hump its back and try to rub its belly against the floor to relieve the pain.

Rabies is a disease that can pass to humans who have been bitten by infected dogs. Rabies is almost always fatal when the virus gets to the brain. Brain inflammation causes the erratic behavior that is sometimes seen in a rabid dog. Leptospirosis is sometimes confused with hepatitis. However, leptospirosis is characterized by discolored and abnormal-smelling urine. At the onset of the disease, the dog's body temperature might soar as high as 105o F.

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