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Traits of Healthy Puppies:
- A healthy puppy should be well proportioned.
- They should not be too skinny or have a distended belly (which could be malnourishment or roundworms).
- The eyes should be clear and bright.
- Have shiny, soft hair.
- Should have no bald or red spots and no fleas.
- They will have slight "puppy breath," with pink gums.
- Clean ears.
- Nose should be moist and clean, but with no sign of discharge.
- Aligned jaws with a correct bite.
- Has no coughing, wheezing or sneezing while breathing.
- Has correct movement (gait), with no signs of limping or lameness.
- Is not lethargic, but happy and playful, except when taking
What are coccidia?
Coccidia are small protozoa's (one-celled organisms) that multiply in the intestinal tracts of dogs and cats, most commonly in kittens and puppies less than six months of age, in adult animals whose immune system is suppressed or in animals who are stressed in other ways (e.g., change in ownership, other disease present).
In cats and dogs, most coccidia are of the genus called Isospora. Isospora canis and I. ohioensis are the species most often encountered in dogs; I. felis and I. rivolta are the most common in cats. Regardless of which species is present we generally refer to the disease as coccidiosis. As a puppy or kitten ages it tends to develop a natural immunity to the effects of coccidia. As an adult it may carry coccidia in its intestines, shed the cyst in the feces, but experience no ill effects.
How are coccidia transmitted?
A puppy or kitten is not born with the coccidia organisms in its intestine. However, once born, the puppy or kitten is frequently exposed to its mother's feces and if the mother is shedding the infective cysts in her feces then the young animals will likely ingest them and coccidia will develop within their intestines. Since young puppies and kittens, usually those less than six months of age, have no immunity to coccidia, the organisms reproduce in great numbers and parasitize the young animal's intestines. Oftentimes this has severe effects.
From exposure to the coccidia in feces to the onset of the illness is about 13 days. Most puppies and kittens who are ill from coccidia are, therefore, two weeks of age and older. Although most infections are the result of spread from the mother, this is not always the case. Any infected kitten or puppy is contagious to other puppies and kittens. In breeding facilities, shelters, animal hospitals, etc., it is wise to isolate those infected from those that are not.
What are the symptoms of coccidiosis?
The primary sign of an animal suffering with coccidiosis is diarrhea. The diarrhea may be mild to severe depending on the level of infection. Blood and mucous may be present, especially in advanced cases. Severely affected animals may also vomit, lose their appetite, become dehydrated, and in some instances, die from the disease.
Most infected kittens and puppies encountered by the authors are in the four to twelve week age group. The possibility of coccidiosis should always be considered when a loose stool or diarrhea is encountered in this age group. A microscopic fecal exam by a veterinarian will detect the cysts confirming a diagnosis.
What are the risks?
Although many cases are mild it is not uncommon to see severe, bloody diarrhea result in dehydration and even death. This is most common in animals who are ill or infected with other parasites, bacteria or viruses. Coccidiosis is very contagious, especially among young kittens and puppies. Entire kennels and catteries may become contaminated with puppies and kittens of many age groups simultaneously affected.
What is the treatment of coccidiosis?
It should be mentioned that stress plays a role in the development of coccidiosis. It is not uncommon for a seemingly healthy puppy or kitten to arrive at its new home and develop diarrhea several days later leading to a diagnosis of coccidia. If the puppy or kitten has been at the new home for less than thirteen days then it had coccidia before it arrived. Remember the incubation period (from exposure to illness) is about thirteen days. If the puppy or kitten has been with its new owner several weeks, then the exposure to coccidia most likely occurred after the animal arrived at the new home. The authors merely point this out as they have been involved in legal cases as to who was responsible for the cost of treatment, the breeder or new owner. Usually coccidia was present only to surface during the stressful period of the puppy or kitten adjusting to a new home.
Fortunately coccidiosis is treatable. Drugs such as sulfadimethoxine (Albon), trimethoprim-sulfadiazine (Tribrissen) and amprolium (Corid) have all been effective in the treatment and prevention of coccidia. Because these drugs do not kill the organisms, but rather inhibit their reproduction capabilities, elimination of coccidia from the intestine is not rapid. By stopping the ability of the protozoa to reproduce, time is allowed for the puppy's own immunity to develop and remove the organisms. Drug treatments of five or more days are usually required.
How is coccidiosis prevented or controlled?
Because coccidia is spread by the feces of carrier animals, it is very important to practice strict sanitation. All fecal material should be removed. Housing needs to be such that food and water cannot become contaminated with feces. Clean water should be provided at all times. Most disinfectants do not work well against coccidia; incineration of the feces, and steam cleaning, immersion in boiling water or a 10% ammonia solution are the best methods to kill coccidia. Coccidia can withstand freezing.
Cockroaches and flies can mechanically carry coccidia from one place to another. Mice and other animals can ingest the coccidia and when killed and eaten by a cat, for instance, can infect the cat. Therefore, insect and rodent control are very important in preventing coccidiosis.
The coccidia species of dogs and cats do not infect humans.
Giardia are single-celled protozoan organisms that live and thrive in the small intestine of dogs and cats. Infection caused by Giardia is known as 'Giardiasis'. Although the parasite is prevalent in all parts of the world, many facts about the disease, including the life cycle of Giardia is unknown. Veterinarians have not agreed on how to treat the disease but they do agree that though the infection of Giardia is common, the disease is rare.
Giardia in Dogs
A dog becomes infected by eating the cyst form of Giardia. The cyst opens in the small intestine and releases an active form of the parasite known as the trophozoites, which have flagella (hair like structures) that can move back and forward allowing the parasite to move around. These trophozoites attach themselves to the wall of the small intestine and reproduce by dividing into two. As time passes, the Giardia continues to multiply and slowly develop a wall around itself forming a cyst. Giardia cysts are passed in the feces of the dogs that contaminate the environment, water and infect other dogs and humans.
Symptoms of Giardia
The trophozoites that continue to multiply at an alarming rate begin to interfere with the absorption of food, nutrients damaging the intestinal lining and interfering with the digestion. The feces become light-colored, greasy, smelly and soft and in some cases the dog suffers from diarrhea that can be acute, chronic or intermittent. This occurs around the time when the cysts are shed. The animal will lose weight but the diet will remain constant. Additional symptoms include irritation of the large intestine which leads to straining and mucus in the feces. Increase in the eosinophils count and mild anemia is also seen.
Giardiasis is a very difficult disease to diagnose because the protozoa are very small and are not passed in every stool. Tests have to be conducted on serial samples (one stool sample everyday for three consecutive days) to detect the organism.
To detect the active form of the organism, a small amount of stool is mixed with water on a microscope slide and examined under high magnification. As these parasites have flagella, they can be seen moving around the slide. These are commonly seen in loose stools. Cysts can be found in stools that are firm. Special solutions are used to separate the stool and the cyst.
A special diagnostic test using the ELISA technology became available in 2004. A small fecal sample is used and the results are obtained in 8 minutes. These tests are considered to be more adequate when compared to a fecal examination.
Several treatments are available for Giardiasis, but some of them have not been approved by FDA for use in dogs. Antiparasitic drugs like Fenbendazole and Metronidazole can help control giardia and kill intestinal worms. However, these drugs can cause physical defects in a growing embryo and should not be given to pregnant animals. Hence, ensure that you consult the animal doctor before administering any drugs to your dog.
Once a dog passes the cyst in its stool, the cyst can survive for several weeks in wet and cold environment. Hence, lawns, parks, kennels and other areas where there is a possibility of finding dog feces can be a source of infection for the dog. Keeping your dog away from these places can be a very difficult task.
If you hear about cases of Giardiasis in your neighborhood, then you can take preventive measures and give them a course of anti parasitic medicines. Ensure that the kennel is clean and remove any organic matter that is present in and around the kennel. Further, cysts can stick to the fur and skin of the animals. Make sure the dog is bathed and cleaned thoroughly with a mild shampoo. Lastly, it is very important to remember that dogs can transfer the Giardia infection to humans. Ensure complete personal hygiene and wash yourself well after you clean the kennel. Use of gloves and boots is recommended.
I hope that this article has provided you with sufficient information to understand Giardia and its infection in dogs. If you suspect the disease in your pet, contact your veterinary doctor immediately.
Seasonal Flank Alopecia
Seasonal Flank Alopecia is also another hair lost which is common in boxers. Seasonal flank alopecia is exactly what it sounds like, though it helps to know that alopecia means hair loss. With seasonal flank alopecia, a dog loses hair in the flank area on a seasonal basis. Different dogs seem to choose different seasons to lose their hair (fall and spring are popular) and when the season changes the hair generally grows back. Sometimes a dog will skip a season only to lose hair again the next year. Most affected dogs are Boxers, Airedales, and English bulldogs, though numerous other breeds have been affected.
The hair loss is generally confined to the flanks (area just ahead of the rear legs) though sometimes the bridge of the nose is involved. The skin typically is darkly pigmented in the areas of hair loss. Both flanks are generally affected symmetrically and sometimes there is skin infection in the balding areas. Sometimes the hair re-grows in a different color than the original hair. Some dogs never re-grow their hair.
Why Does this Happen?
At this time no one knows why this occurs. It is felt to be a hormonal problem disrupting hair follicles.
Is there Treatment?
Melatonin, a natural biochemical that is important in the regulation of circadian (daily) rhythms, has been used successfully in many patients. In the U.S. this product is available over the counter as a dietary supplement. A more effective method seems to involve the use of melatonin implants under the skin, but they are not available in the U.S. Melatonin is sometimes used as a sleep aid in people and the only known side effect is drowsiness. Dosing regimens must be obtained from the veterinarian treating the dog in question.
Worm and Parasite Issues with the Boxer Dog
Parasite Prevention by Karla Spitzer
Parasites are a big issue in the basic health care arena, probably accounting for the majority of treatments that your boxer will receive in his life. There are a great many things that you can do to prevent parasites, and since some of these parasites can be transmitted to humans, you are wise to do whatever you can to prevent them.
External parasites live on the outside of your dog's body and use your boxer as their host. These include fleas, ticks, and mites.
Fleas are probably the first thing that many people think of when they think of dogs — that's how common they are. The good news is that fleas are relatively easy to get rid of; the bad news is that they're difficult to prevent.
The life cycle of a flea includes four stages — eggs, larvae, pupae or nymphs, and adults. The adult stage is most visible and irritating to the dog in the life of the flea. Most flea-control products concentrate on this cycle of the flea's life. The itchy truth of the matter is that while you can see adult fleas, what you don't see is the twenty to thirty batches of eggs that those fleas lay every day, most of which fall off as your boxer travels through the park, over your furniture, all around the house, and up and down the yard.
One of the easiest ways to decrease the probability of health problems in your dog is to keep him clean in all respects. Bathing him regularly and keeping his nails short and neat is a great start. Also be on the alert for any strange odors or signs of discomfort, as these may indicate infection, injury, or illness. Consult your vet if you notice any such symptoms.
Once these eggs have fallen off your boxer, they hatch into larvae in one to ten days. The larvae don't travel except to move away from bright lights. They feed on dead organic matter, including adult flea feces, for about seven days. Around this time, the larvae pupate into protective pupae and change into adult fleas. This takes only a few days, but an unhatched flea can wait inside the pupae for up to two years. Once hatched, the adult fleas must eat within a few days, so they find your boxer. A flea will not leave a host voluntarily. Grooming or bathing is the only way to dislodge it.
Treating fleas takes a multipronged approach. First, the environment needs to be treated as much as the dog. Vacuuming the area daily for about three weeks is a good idea, as is washing the dog's bedding and sleeping area. The most effective thing to do for the areas that cannot be washed or vacuumed is to spray with an insect growth regulator (IGR) and an insecticide to kill the adult fleas. Most IGRs are also effective against eggs and larvae. They mimic the flea's own hormones and stop the eggs from developing into larvae and then into pupae and fleas. While IGRs are generally effective for a few months, most insecticides are only effective for a few days, and they can be very toxic.
Additional things that you can do to repel fleas is to add a few drops (but a few drops only, as this can be toxic in excess) of pennyroyal, eucalyptus, or oil of rosemary to your boxer's bath. You can also supplement your boxer's food with raw, fresh garlic (minced or grated) and brewer's yeast, which will make his blood taste bad to a flea. You can confine your boxer to just one part of the house to limit the spread of fleas, and you can vacuum daily, putting insecticide in the vacuum cleaner bag to kill the fleas as soon as they are sucked up.
Be aware that flea collars and many flea bombs, while toxic to fleas, are also highly toxic to boxer puppies. So tread lightly with the chemicals. Remember, too, that if you've had an infestation of fleas, you will also probably have worms, as the two tend to go together.
While not as common as fleas, ticks are still everywhere in nature. They are most efficient at drinking the blood of their host, and they give dogs diseases like Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tick bite paralysis, and sometimes just a nasty infection from the bite site. They are controlled in much the same way as fleas, and many of the same products, insect growth regulators and insecticides, will work on both or either.
Ticks are most often found in wild areas, especially those that are hot and humid. They have a life expectancy of a week to about six months. They can't jump or fly, but they do crawl slowly. They usually get onto you or your boxer by pure luck — your boxer brushes up against something that they were on, and they latch on to the unsuspecting host.
Mites are microscopic little insects that take up permanent residence whenever they can. There are several different kinds of mites that the dog owner should be aware of, including Demodex mites, Cheyletiellosis mites, Sarcoptes mites, and ear mites (Otodectes cynotis).
Demodex mites: These are probably the most common mites found in dogs. They cause problems when present in larger than normal amounts. After they take up residence in the dog's hair follicles and sebaceous glands, the dog's hair falls out and leaves behind large unsightly patches of red skin. Sometimes called red or demodectic mange, this is generally a sign of a somewhat compromised immune system in the dog. It tends to be an inherited problem.
Cheyletiellosis mites: Also known as hook-mouthed mites, these are responsible for the walking dandruff kind of condition that affects dogs, cats, and rabbits. If the scaly, oily skin is left untreated, the mites are easily transmitted to other animals as well as to humans.
Sarcoptes mites: These cause the highly contagious sarcoptic mange, which is characterized by intense itching. In humans, they can result in scabies. The cycle of the Sarcoptes mite is about three weeks. Scabies is highly contagious and is readily transmitted to humans.
Ear mites (Otodectes cynotis): These affect the outer ear canal of your boxer, although they can affect other areas as well. Boxers with ear mites tend to shake their heads a lot or scratch at their ears. A dark-brown to black waxy discharge confirms the diagnosis of ear mites.
Infestation with any of these mites requires veterinary care. Treatment may also be necessary for any member of the family who has come in contact with the mites.
No discussion of dog health would be complete without a discussion of worms, the internal parasites that can infest dogs. Most worm infestations are relatively easy to control. If they are not controlled, they can weaken the dog, and other medical problems can occur. The following sections describe the worms that have the most serious effects. Many types of worms can be transmitted to humans.
These worms live in the dog's intestines and shed eggs continuously. The eggs are everywhere, and can affect humans, so it is generally advised to keep your house and any areas of the house your boxer has access to clean and sanitary. Get your boxer tested for worms regularly. In puppies, roundworms cause bloated bellies, diarrhea, coughing, and vomiting and are passed from the dam (through blood or milk) to the puppies. Affected puppies are more lethargic than normal. The worms look like spaghetti and can be as long as six inches. Since roundworms can kill puppies and severely affect adults if the infestation is bad enough, it is important to regularly examine your boxer's stool and keep an eye out for them.
Hookworm infestations include dark stools, weight loss, general weakness, pale coloration, and anemia, as well as some skin problems. Hookworms can also be passed to humans, so it is important to maintain sanitary conditions around your boxer and your children. Most heartworm preventatives also prevent hookworms, so discuss this with your vet. Hookworms are usually passed through exposure to feces, so be very careful how you dispose of your boxer's feces to avoid the possibility of a hookworm infestation.
There are many species of tapeworms, which can also affect humans. The most common way that dogs get tapeworms is by eating the fleas that are biting them. The best way for humans to avoid tapeworms is to keep dogs and the house free of fleas (and to refrain from eating any fleas!). While tapeworm infestations are not life threatening to dogs, they can cause serious liver disease in humans.
Be aware that fleas can travel easily from dog to dog, as they are adept jumpers. If your dog is greeting the neighbor's dog, playing with others in the park, or even visiting another dog's home, that dog's fleas can be transferred to your pet. Therefore, be sure to ask other owners about their dogs' flea status before you introduce your dog to a play session. Once your dog has fleas, they'll be all over your house in no time.
Common in North America, these worms attach themselves to the dog's lower intestines, where they feed. They may only cause anything from an upset tummy to colic and diarrhea. These worms can live for months or years in the dog with little or no other evidence. Treatment is tricky due to their odd life cycles, and whipworm eggs can live as long as five years in the environment, which makes cleaning up your dog's feces essential. If your dog has occasional bouts of diarrhea that you can't explain by any other means, he may have whipworms.
Don't let the idea of all these alternative treatments for dogs overwhelm you. The best way to maintain your boxer's health is to keep him and his environment as clean and parasite-free as possible. An annual physical, where your vet can go over your boxer, listen to his heart, lungs, and breathing, do routine blood work, and check for lumps you may have missed will help maintain your boxer's quality of life and well-being. Alternative treatments can be sought if a particular need is discovered.
Heartworms are long thin worms that can grow up to twelve inches in length. They live in the dog's heart and the major blood vessels surrounding the heart. Symptoms of heartworms may be lethargy, loss of appetite, coughing, the development of a potbelly, and anemia. The dog gets heartworms from being stung by a mosquito that has the microfilarie of heartworms in it. Mosquitoes pass the heartworm from dog to dog. However, whether or not your dog gets heartworms also depends upon his own state of health and immune system. Not every dog bitten by a mosquito carrying heartworm develops the disease. And not every mosquito carries the heartworm, even in climates where heartworm is prevalent, such as the South and parts of the Midwest. However, mosquitoes carrying heartworms can be found almost anywhere in the United States.