Resuming work after a week full of holidays is always tough...especially when there is no one to handle your work and that you have 134 e-mails to sort out! So as I started my day, I said to myself:"Sam...no appointments this evening at the vet clinic; go back home; try to find your way to the gym you signed up for and never go to"
Oh well...Panic call at around 16:00 hrs:Puppies staying off food; fever; whining a lot and losing body condition. When I asked him about the age of the animals and heard "about 4 month"; I immediately scheduled them for 18:00.
So all three of them sitting quietly on the exam table; me asking the usual questions about stools etc and taking temperatures. Until now, nothing alarming...as it is,no diarrhoea + no temperature = no infection; since that was their 3rd visit here they were behaving normally; wagging tails, licking my face and I got the usual: " Look how perky they seem now!!5 mins ago at home they were like dying!"
Abdominal palpation - Nothing!Gassy intestines but apart that" boring" palpation.Moving my way up, palpating throat and oral cavity check; Bingo!Swollen and inflamed gums;loose canines!
Oh Yeah! The age of 4-5 months is the red zone many puppies have to struggle through. This is the age when milk dentition are shed and the permanent teeth start to cut through. Oouuuch!Someone once said that dental pain is both physical and psychological...and this is sooooo true! Ok! This is in itself an unpleasant phase to go through but there is worse at that age.
At about 4 months of age,the puppy's body starts to deplete the protective immunoglobulins it got from its mother(in utero and through mother's milk).So now the animal becomes less and less protected against the various viruses that are in his environment. Thats about the age most pups develop Parvoviral infection (gastroenteritis) and die if not treated quickly. From that coincidence, evolved the myth that dogs lose their milk teeth, swallow them and have gastroenteritis and die!In fact, the dog's stomach is perfectly equipped to digest solid bones etc and a little 1 cm long canine tooth is no big deal.
At that same age, the rapidly growing body has ever-increasing demand for proteins, Calcium etc and deficiencies in these nutrients start to show up as deformities and atrophies.
So what to do to prepare your puppy for all these challenges? First things first...Never wean a puppy from its mum too early...all the precious maternal immunoprotectors will be decreased right from the start.Eight weeks seems to be a good age to take a puppy home.
Then,vaccinate your puppy before the maternal immunity wanes off. Studies have shown a sharp drop in these immunoglobulins as from 8-10 weeks. So first vaccination is recommended at the age of 2 - 2.5 months and the booster dose a month after. Thus by 4 months of age, your baby will be fully protected.
What about the pain associated with shedding of milk teeth then? Be ready for that and check your puppy's mouth often. Avoid tug-of-war playing; give soft foods to facilitate ingestion and if you see excessively swollen, red gums or loose teeth please contact your vet. Within 1-2 weeks with some mild pain killers this should be over.
So there you go! Being a puppy is not all fun and play...!!There is this dreadful age; when you want to chew on anything to ease that dental/gum pain; when you see your legs getting crooked because your owner is feeding you a diet poor in Calcium; when your body has to fight all these nasty viruses lurking around...just waiting to mess your bowels up!!
Challenges...challenges!It all depends on how informed and responsible owners are; how thorough your vet is and how prepared you were.
To all "young" vets reading this blog...when you hear "About 4 months" for a sick puppy put your "red alert" cap on, get the adrenaline flowing in your veins and be thorough in your assessment!
Puppy will come lick your face a month after!