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America Against Breed Specific Legislation

Health Issues

  • Keeping your dog healthy
  • Common helath problems
  • Parasites
Keeping your Dog Healthy

Self Checkup
Note: Oily or smelly secretions on the skin, ears or eyes or deposits on the teeth are sign that the body is struggling to eliminate toxins.

Does the hair coat feel greasy? Is the skin color a normal gray-white or is it pink or red with inflammation? Do you see dandruff-like scales of dead skin among the hairs?
Use your fingers to brush the hair against the grain. Do you see numerous little black specks? These are the excreta of fleas.
Now smell your fingers. If the odor they picked up is rancid, rank, or fishy, it's a sign of poor health.
As you examine the eyes, check for matter in the corners. Pull down the lower eyelids so you can see the underside. Are the lids red inside or irritated on the edges?
Look into the ear holes. Do you see a lot of wax? Do the insides look oily? Sniff to check for offensive odor.
Inspect the gums for a red line on the gums along the roots of the teeth. To check the back teeth for that red line, raise the upper lip and push back the corners of the lips at the same time (It is not necessary to open the mouth).
Now check the teeth themselves, including the back ones. Are they gleaming white or coated with a brown deposit? Does the breath smell okay or are you overcome by it? Lastly, feel the backbone in the middle of the back and run your fingers back and forth (sideways) over it. Do you feel definite bones there? Is there a prominent ridge sticking up in the middle? If your answers to these questions are yes, your animal is much too thin.

Finding A Vet

Choosing a vet is one of the most important decisions of your dog's life. Here are some guidelines to make the process easier:

Ask other pet owners
Visit the vet with your pet. Call first to let them know you'll be arriving to check out the place. Bring some favorite treats and encourage the staff to feed her so your dog has fond memories of the visit.
Look around. Is it clean? Well-organized? Does it smell? If they let you tour the hospital that's a good sign.
Ask the doctor some questions. Where did he study? How long has he been practicing? Are there certain diseases he won't handle, does he have references for serious ailments or procedures?
Finally, trust your dog. Does her personality drastically change when there? If she's miserable, try a different doctor. If still miserable, you know it's likely the dog and not the doctor. Vaccination Schedule

6-8 Weeks:
Physical examination
First DHLPPC (Distemper, Leptospirosis, Hepatitis, Parainfluenza, Parvo virus, & Corona virus)
10-12 Weeks:
Physical examination
Kennel Cough Vaccination
14-16 Weeks:
Physical examination
Rabies Vaccination*
Physical examination
DHLPPC Booster
Kennel Cough Booster
Rabies Booster*
Deworming Rabies

Rabies is not only a threat to your pet but to you as well. A fatal, viral disease, rabies affects the brain and nerves. The main source of rabies comes from infected wildlife, such as foxes, raccoons, skunks, bats, and coyotes. Usually transmitted through bites from rabid animals, rabies also can be spread through contact with broken skin.

The most common sign of rabies is an unexplained change in behavior. A friendly pet may turn aggressive or act strangely, with no apparent cause. However, a wild animal may act tame and not be afraid when approached by people.

It is important to know that once a rabid animal starts to exhibit abnormal behavior, it will continue to do so. It may take two to six months before showing signs, but once it does, it is an irreversible process, and the animal will die in a matter of days. Today, no treatment for rabies exists. Not every animal (including humans) that comes in contact with a rabid animal will contact rabies.

If you think one of your animals may have rabies, be extremely careful and avoid all contact with it. Isolate the pet from other animals and humans and call your veterinarian immediately. The doctor will need to know whether your pet has been vaccinated. By law, you must report this disease in order to protect the public. Notify both your veterinarian and animal control.

-Self Checkup -- Richard H. Pitcairn and Susan Hubble Pitcairn, "Dr. Pitcairn's Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats," Rodale Press, 1995

-Finding a Vet -- Sarah Hodgeson, "Choosing, Training and Raising a Dog", Alpha Books, 1996

-Vaccination Schedule -- "Dog Vaccination Schedule", http://greenbriervet.com/newsletters/dogvaccine.htm

Common Health Problems

Heart Disease

If you are a dog owner, you will probably agree that your pet holds a special place in your heart. But you must remember that keeping your dog's heart healthy is one of your responsibilities.

When it comes to heart disease, regular visits to your veterinarian could mean the difference between life and premature death. Dog owners may not realize that their pets are susceptible to many forms of heart disease. In most cases, heart disease can be successfully managed with early detection and treatment.

What Is Heart Disease In Dogs?

Heart disease in dogs, as in people, can be either present at birth or acquired, often developing during middle age. Acquired heart disease is more common, affecting many older dogs.

Are There Different Types?

Yes, there are two common types of heart disease in dogs:

In one type, a dog's heart valves lose their ability to close properly, causing abnormal blood flow. In the other type, the muscular walls of a dog's heart become thinned and weakened.

Both types develop gradually over time and result in the same serious condition called heart failure.

Heart Failure

A major threat to your dog's health is heart failure. Of the dogs in the United States examined annually by a veterinarian, approximately 3.2 million have some form of acquired heart disease and may be in heart failure. Heart failure results from the heart's inability to pump blood at a rate required to meet the body's needs. While continuing to work harder to pump blood, further heart damage can occur.

What Are The Signs Of Heart Disease?

Although some of the early stages of heart failure in dogs have no visible signs, heart failure can be diagnosed through a clinical evaluation by a veterinarian. Dogs with mild to moderate heart failure typically experience heart enlargement, coughing, lethargy and difficulty breathing. Severe heart failure is characterized by difficulty breathing (even at rest), fainting, profound intolerance to exercise, loss of appetite and weight loss.

How Can I Diagnose Heart Disease?

Your veterinarian is your dog's healthcare expert. Regular veterinary visits are important for early detection of health problems.

Your veterinarian may ask you for specific information about your dog before performing a thorough physical examination. If indicated, blood and urine tests, X-rays, an EKG or other tests may be ordered. Regular testing is important for early detection of heart disease in dogs.

Can It Be Treated?

Yes. Although there is no cure for most heart disease in dogs, new treatments are available. Success of treatment depends on various factors, but early detection is always best. By following your veterinarian's recommendations, you can help your dog live a longer, more comfortable life.

Keeping Your Dog Healthy

In addition to safeguarding your dog's heart, there's a lot you can do to keep your dog happy and in top shape. Ensure that your dog gets a moderate amount of exercise on a regular basis and has a balanced diet. An obese dog may have a harder time staying healthy.

Heartworm Disease

The life cycle of the heartworm begins when an infected dog, carrying tiny immature heartworms (microfilariae) circulating in its blood, is bitten by a mosquito. The mosquito takes in microfilariae (larvae) when it feeds.

During the next two-three weeks, the larvae develop within the mosquito into the infective stage.

When the mosquito feeds again, it can transmit infective larvae to the healthy dog. The larvae penetrate the dog's skin and migrate through the tissues and develop over the next few months, eventually reaching the dog's heart.

Once in the dog's heart, the worms can grow to as long as 14 inches and cause significant damage to the heart, lungs and other vital organs. If left untreated, heartworm disease can result in death.

Most Common Places

Heartworms are most common in the coastal plain regions of the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico but they have spread to many other areas. The mature worms attack the right side of the heart and the pulmonary arteries.

In advanced cases congestive heart failure to the right side of the heart can occur. Chronic coughing, tiring easily and weight loss are all signs of infestation. Since mosquitoes carry this worm you can monitor your dog against these pests and in areas where the mosquito is present, daily oral medicine is a good prevention.

Can My Dog Get Heartworm Disease?

Yes. Your dog can get heartworm disease, whether he's an "outside" dog or even if he stays inside most of the time. Dogs get heartworm disease from mosquitoes. It is the female mosquito that bites and transmits the infection. Female mosquitoes are very tiny and can easily slip through cracks around windows, doors or screens. Every dog can be at risk, indoors or out.

Are Some Dogs More Susceptible Than Others?

Unfortunately, no dog, or breed of dog, is immune to heartworm disease. The mosquito that bites your dog could be carrying this common and deadly parasite. One bite from an infected mosquito is all it takes for your dog to become infected.


The only way to know for sure is to have your family veterinarian examine and test your dog. The procedure is quick and easy. But don't delay in calling your veterinarian to arrange for a heartworm test. If your dog gets heartworm disease, treatment can be dangerous for him and expensive for you.


Mosquitoes, the carriers of heartworm disease, can be found at varying times of the year depending on the climate. Ask your veterinarian when the best time is to have your dog tested.


If your veterinarian determines that your dog is free of heartworms, he or she will tell you how easy and convenient prevention can be. It's important to follow your veterinarian's instructions; if you don't, your dog could still be at risk. Remember, the first, most important step is to have your dog tested for heartworms.

Canine Distemper

Canine distemper virus may occur wherever there are dogs. It is the greatest single disease threat to the world's dog population. Younger dogs and puppies are the most susceptible to infection. Among puppies, the death rate from distemper often reaches 80%.

The disease also strikes older dogs, although much less frequently. Even if a dog does not die from the disease, its health may be permanently impaired. A bout with canine distemper can leave a dog's nervous system irreparably damaged, along with its sense of smell, hearing or sight. Partial or total paralysis is not uncommon, and other diseases - particularly pneumonia - frequently strike dogs already weakened by a distemper infection.

What Does Distemper Do?

Canine distemper is a highly contagious disease caused by a virus.

Canine distemper virus is most often transmitted through contact with respiratory secretions. Contact with the urine and fecal material of infected dogs can also result in infection.

The many signs of distemper are not always typical. For this reason, treatment may be delayed or neglected. The disease frequently brings about something like a severe cold. Most infected dogs have a fever and "stuffed up" head. Exposed animals may develop bronchitis, pneumonia and severe inflammation of the stomach and intestines.

Signs Of Distemper

The first signs of distemper an owner might notice are squinting, congestion of the eyes, and a discharge of pus from the eyes. Weight loss, coughing, vomiting, nasal discharge, and diarrhea are common. In later stages the virus frequently attacks the nervous system, bringing about partial or complete paralysis as well as "fits" or twitching. Dogs suffering from the disease are usually listless and have poor appetites.

Sometimes the signs may be very mild and perhaps go unrecognized, or the dog may have a slight fever for a couple of weeks. If pneumonia, intestinal inflammation or other problems develop, recovery takes much longer. Nervous problems often last many weeks after the animal has recovered from all other signs of infection. Occasionally the virus causes rapid growth of the tough keratin cells on the footpad, resulting in a hardened pad.

Distemper is so prevalent and the signs so varied that any sick young dog should be taken to a veterinarian for a definite diagnosis.

Prevention And Protection

Dogs that survive a natural infection usually develop sufficient immunity to protect them from distemper the rest of their lives. Many dogs - particularly pups - do not survive a naturally-acquired infection. The safest protection is vaccination.

Puppies born to dogs which are immune to distemper acquire a degree of natural immunity from nursing. This immunity is acquired through substances in the colostrum, which is the milk produced by the mother the first few days after giving birth. The degree of protection a pup receives varies in proportion to the amount of antibody its mother has, but the protection diminishes rapidly.

Your veterinarian can determine the most advantageous time to begin vaccination based upon his or her experience and the general health of your dog. Ask your veterinarian about a recommended vaccination schedule.

Canine Parvovirus (CPV)

Since 1978 dogs of all ages and breeds have been victims of a highly contagious viral disease that attacks the intestinal track, white blood cells, and in some cases the heart muscle. This disease, canine parvovirus (CPV) infection, has appeared worldwide. CPV infection is spread by dog-to-dog contact and has been diagnosed wherever dogs congregate, including dog shows, obedience trials, breeding and boarding kennels, pet shops, humane shelters, parks and playgrounds.

A dog that is confined to a house or yard and is rarely in contact with other dogs is far less likely to be exposed to the virus. CPV infection can only be transmitted to dogs and other canids, not to other types of animals or people, but animals and people can carry it to your dog.

The source of infection is fecal waste from infected dogs. Large amounts of the virus may be present in fecal material of infected dogs. The virus is resistant to extremes in environmental conditions and can survive for long periods. It is readily transmitted from place to place on the hair or feet of infected dogs or by contaminated cages, shoes, or other objects. Definitive information on other means of transmission, if any, is lacking.

Signs Of CPV Infection

The first signs of CPV infection are depression, loss of appetite, vomiting, and severe diarrhea. Rectal temperatures may be raised. These signs will most often appear 5-7 days after the dog is exposed to the virus. At the onset of illness, the feces will generally be light gray or yellow-gray. Sometimes, the first sign will be fluid feces streaked with blood.

Dogs may dehydrate rapidly due to vomiting and diarrhea. Some dogs may vomit repeatedly and have projectile and bloody diarrhea until they die. Others may have loose feces and recover without complications.

Most deaths occur within 48-72 hours following the onset of clinical signs. Pups suffer most with shock-like deaths, occurring as early as two days after the onset of illness. In the past, a high percentage of pups less than five months old and 2-3% of older dogs died from this disease. Now, due to widespread vaccination, these percentages have decreased dramatically.

Puppies, between weaning and six months of age are at increased risk of acquiring the disease. There appears to be a higher risk of severe disease in certain breeds (e.g. Rottweiller and Doberman Pinscher).

How Is CPV Infection Diagnosed And Treated?

A veterinarian will make the initial diagnosis based on clinical signs but only after considering other causes of vomiting and diarrhea. Evidence of rapid spread in a group of dogs is strongly suggestive of CPV infection and may be confirmed by testing feces for the virus.

Some tests may be available in your veterinarian's office. Your veterinarian may choose to send samples to an outside laboratory, however. There are no specific drugs that kill the virus in infected dogs.

Treatment of CPV infection, which should be started immediately, consists primarily of efforts to combat dehydration by replacing electrolyte and fluid losses, controlling vomiting and diarrhea, and preventing secondary infections with antibiotics. Sick dogs should be kept warm and be provided good nursing care.

Prevention And Protection

With a few exceptions, dogs of any age should be vaccinated to prevent CPV infection. Unless the actual immune status of a pup or litter is known, it is recommended that a series of vaccinations be given to provide adequate protection. Ask your veterinarian about a recommended vaccination schedule.

Proper cleaning and disinfection of kennels and other areas where dogs are housed is essential to control spread of the virus. Remember, the virus is capable of existing in the environment for many months unless the area is thoroughly cleaned. Sodium hypochlorite solution, such as one-quarter cup household bleach in 1 gallon of water, is an effective disinfectant.

An owner should not allow a dog to come in contact with fecal waste of other dogs when walking in a park or playground or along city streets. This is especially true until six months of age. Prompt and proper disposal of waste material is always advisable. Check lawns, sidewalks, and street gutters for fecal waste from neighborhood dogs, and urge friends to do the same.

If you are unsure whether this disease is affecting dogs in your community, check with a veterinarian. The risk of exposure can be reduced if you prevent your dog from contacting other dogs in areas where the incidence of CPV infection is alarmingly high.

Canine Bordetellosis (Kennel Cough)

Bordetellosis is caused by the bacterium Bordetella bronchiseptica which is present in the respiratory tracts of many animals. It is a primary cause of tracheobronchitis (kennel cough) which results in a severe chronic cough. In addition to the cough, some dogs develop a nasal discharge. Transmission most frequently occurs by contact with the nasal secretions of infected dogs.

Vaccination is usually accomplished by the use of a nasal spray. There are several effective schedules and methods for administering the vaccine. Your veterinarian will establish a schedule that is best for your dog.

Canine Parainfluenza (Respiratory)

Parainfluenza is caused by a virus which produces a mild respiratory tract infection. It is often associated with other respiratory tract viruses. In combination these viruses are usually transmitted by contact with the nasal secretions of infected dogs. The vaccine to protect against this disease may be combined with other vaccines to offer broader protection.

Canine Leptospirosis (Kidney)

Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that impairs renal (kidney) function and may result in kidney failure. Clinical signs include vomiting, impaired vision, and convulsions. The disease is transmitted by contact with the urine of infected animals or by contact with objects that have been contaminated with the urine of infected animals.

"Canine Illnesses and Diseases," 1996-2004.


A creature that lives off another animal is a parasite. They can feast on skin and blood or leach on inside, eating your dog's leftovers. If your dog itches one spot too much and starts to pull her hair out, she may get a hot spot (acute pyotraumatic dermatitis that is not due to a single underlying cause ). Go to the doctor immediately.


Fleas, lice, and mites are the most common external parasites found on the dog.


Fleas do not transmit disease from dog to another dog or from dog to human. But they are a pest that causes annoyance not just to the dog but the human companion and cat too. Its important to understand that defleaing just the dog is not sufficient to cure your flea situation. The flea lays its eggs in bedding grass, the dog's favorite piece of furniture, carpeting, and in your car, basically anywhere the dog goes.

The flea lays hundreds, possibly thousands of eggs and these eggs hatch in about 8-10 days. It is; therefore, important to deflea all these areas at the same time you deflea the dog.

There are excellent products on the market that can halt the eggs from hatching and many of these products are very long lasting. There are new products that need be applied only once monthly to the dog. The liquid is applied in one place on the dog's back and kills the flea eggs. Excellent results are being reported. It is only available through your vet.

The yard must be treated and there are biodegradable and non-toxic products that work well. Check with your veterinarian as well as your local pet shop. This process must be started in early spring in some parts of the U.S. and continued until fall.


The lice that are found on dogs are not the same lice found on humans. There is no threat from dog lice, as it is not interested in human blood. There are many varieties of lice, mostly all are specific to humans. The specific dog lice are Linognathus setosus and L. piliferus. Linognathus refers to the structure of the mouth; setosus refers to bristles and piliferus to hair.


The three types of mites found on dogs are:

Otodectes which is an ear mite,
Sarcoptic Mange which causes severe itching, thickening skin and odor, and
Follicular Mange which lives in the hair follicles and causes the hair to fall out, the skin to redden and eventually forms postules. You should always consult your veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment. Ticks

Ticks are most often found in wooded areas and beaches. These need to be removed from the dog by using tweezers or paper making sure to wear gloves as the ticks blood can contain organisms which can infect humans with dangerous disease.


Internal parasites are worms.


The common roundworm is found most often in puppies where they hatch in the intestines. If it is treated when the dog is young, rarely will a heavy infestation be found when the dog is older. These worms may be passed on occasion through the stool and look like thin spaghetti about 1-3 inches longs, whites, firm and sometimes coiled or curled.


Hookworms are also common in puppies but a dog of any age can be infected. This worm in a heavy infestation can cause death and it will usually attack a weak, sickly animal. Things to look for are weakness, anemia, and thin, mucous-like diarrhea possibly with blood. Call your vet if you see these symptoms.


Whipworms respond well to oral medicine. Symptoms may be on and off diarrhea, poor condition and the coat may seem dry and brittle.


Tapeworms are often found in the older dog. There are two species of this worm. One spends part of its cycle in the flea. When your dog eats a flea it becomes infected. The other spends part of its cycle in the rabbit or mouse. When the dog gets hold of and eats one of these animals it also becomes infected.

This worm attaches itself to the lining in the intestines and some segments will break off and come out with the stool. It is usually easy to identify this worm and a stool sample can be taken to your vet for confirmation. Oral medicine is very effective for this worm but only lasts on a temporary basis. Once a flea, rabbit, or mouse is ingested medicine is again required.


Coccidia lay their eggs in stools. Dogs become infected by eating other dogs stools. They are not from the worm family. They are protozoans that line the intestinal track causing loose, watery stools, bloating, vomiting and weight loss. Treatment is quick and easy.


Another protozoan, these water-loving creatures are found in most outdoor water sources and once ingested, they feast on the inner lining of the small intestine. This creates inflammation leading to loose stools, bloating and weight loss.

Dogs pick this up by drinking infected water or digesting the stools of other infected dogs so bring fresh water for your dog if you are picnicking by a pond. Treatment involves the use of a drug that can have side-effects over long-term use.

Sarah Hodgeson, "Choosing, Training and Raising a Dog", Alpha Books, 1996
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