Illnesses in Puppies to Look Out For

Updated: February 26, 2024

Young and vulnerable, that's what puppies are. Your pup may be full of energy but did you know he's more at risk of contracting illnesses? As a pet parent, a sick puppy can be very disheartening since his immune system is not yet fully developed. 

We will identify various illnesses in puppies to look out for, the symptoms, along with management tips and prevention methods. 

Parasites in the Intestines

Puppies get hookworms, roundworms, and other intestinal parasites. They can get these parasites from their mother's milk, or from their surroundings (since puppies are curious creatures and they love to lick everything they come across!).

Intestinal parasites in dogs can cause gastrointestinal upset and loose stool in your pup. To avoid this, your puppy should be wormed starting from two weeks after birth then constantly every two weeks until he is twelve weeks old. After this stage, he can be wormed monthly.

Symptoms of intestinal parasites in puppies may include:

  • Vomiting
  • Extreme salivation 
  • Behaviors like eating grass, or licking floors
  • Sudden loss or decrease in appetite
  • Flatulence
  • Regular gurgling noises from the stomach

If severe, symptoms may include:

  • Presence of blood and intestinal parasites, like worms, may be seen in your dog's poop
  • Visible symptoms of dehydration

It is important to note that dehydration may not be resolved by providing water alone. Dogs need electrolytes and vitamins to retain fluids. If you suspect your dog is dehydrated, take them to the vet immediately. 

The best way to avoid parasites is to deworm your dog on a fixed schedule. Puppies should start two-weeks after birth, then routinely every two weeks until they are 12 weeks old. After 12 weeks, they can be treated monthly, or every 2-3 months depending on their diet and environment. 

You may also provide your puppy with probiotics, to help manage any digestive upset. Probiotic SoftSupps® are probiotic chews for dogs that contain 5.5 billion CFU, targeting gut health and digestion. 

Canine distemper

Canine distemper is a viral disease that affects many animals in the wild, including dogs.

The distemper virus affects your pup's lymph nodes, respiratory, gastrointestinal and nervous systems and can be deadly. The distemper virus can be transmitted through air, like sneezing or coughing, or by direct contact with an already infected animal. The virus can also be transmitted through shared equipment such as food and water bowls. 

"Canine distemper virus affects the lymph nodes, respiratory, gastrointestinal and nervous systems."

Clinical signs of canine distemper are:

  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Yellow discharge from the eyes, nose, or both
  • Severe coughing 

If severe, symptoms may include: 

  • Seizures
  • Neurological signs 

There is no known cure for canine distemper but to reduce the severeness of the symptoms that comes with it (vomiting, fever, diarrhea, seizures, paralysis, etc), you can have your pup vaccinated as early as six weeks old, then on the ninth and twelfth week or as directed by your veterinarian. After this, your dog must have canine distemper booster vaccines yearly.


Parvovirus in dogs, or Parvo, is a highly contagious and deadly viral illness that greatly affects them. The virus can be in two different forms. It can be intestinal that causes vomiting, bloody stool & urine, loss of appetite and lethargy. It can also be cardiac where it attacks the heart muscles, causing death.

It can be caused by direct contact with an infected animal or indirectly through feces and saliva.

Like canine distemper, there is still no known cure for canine parvovirus but infections have been reduced and lessened greatly through early and updated vaccinations in puppies.

Kennel cough

Kennel cough is easily acquired by your pup because it is an airborne virus. You'll know if your pup has this because kennel cough symptoms are easily detectable.

Symptoms of kennel cough include:

  • Cough
  • Gagging, or gagging sounds
  • Loss of appetite
  • Feeling weak, or lethargic
  • Cold symptoms

Kennel cough will run for ten to fourteen days and will eventually go away but, if not treated immediately after that time frame, it can lead to pneumonia. Kennel cough vaccines help lessen the symptoms and strengthens your dog's immune system to fight off viruses that cause it.


Leptospirosis in dogs is a bacterial disease acquired when the mucous membranes, or skin of any wound, comes in contact with infected pee, pee-contaminated soil, water, food, or bedding; through a bite from an infected animal; by ingesting infected tissues or carcasses; and rarely, through breeding. 

Symptoms of leptospirosis include:

  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Muscle tenderness
  • Painful inflammation within, or around, the eyes
  • Jaundice, or yellowing of skin and mucous membranes
  • Severe lung disease
  • Difficulty breathing

Depending on the severity of the infection in your dog, an antibiotic treatment plan is advised.

Fleas and Ticks

Fleas and ticks disturb you and your furbaby. They are never fun, and can be extremely difficult to get rid of, especially once there is an infestation. 

Itching and red bite-spots are the most common signs your furbaby may have fleas or ticks. 

Fleas and ticks carry numerous diseases like Ehrlichiosis, Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and Tick Paralysis.

To avoid an infestation, always keep your lawn, and home, clean. Long grass and heavily wooded areas are optimal for fleas and ticks. It is also best to come up with efficient methods for flea and tick prevention. These methods may include:

  • Identify flea and tick season
  • Natural remedies, like apple cider vinegar, can be added to your puppy's diet 
  • Research, and routinely apply, tick repellant as needed

Vaccinations are your strongest defense against illnesses in puppies but vaccines don’t necessarily mean your pup will be never get affected by the disease anymore, but it does lead to milder symptoms.

Always remember, there are ways to prevent and care for these diseases to ease your mind about losing your pup or worrying too much and forgetting about all the positive things that come with a having a puppy!

"Kennel cough will run for ten to fourteen days and will eventually go away but if not treated immediately after that time frame, it can lead to pneumonia."