Crash! How quickly a puppy can change from healthy to near death

Rigby was a gorgeous lockdown puppy who presented to us for his first check where he was completely normal on clinical examination. He was eating, drinking and toileting normally with owners that couldn’t be happier. Fast forward five days and bang, he arrived into the Teddington clinic collapsed, vomiting and with severe diarrhoea with blood. 

This can be such a traumatic experience particularly after the excitement which is built up when you get a puppy. Poor Rigby had to be admitted immediately for treatment for correcting his dehydration, lethargy and gastroenteritis (dysfunction of the stomach and intestines). Days passed where we gave fluids, glucose and antibiotics given the severity of his case. A blood test confirmed that there was a large number of a specific white blood cell in his results corresponding to infections. There was particular concern that Rigby had parvovirus, a nasty disease which can cause some of the symptoms seen of severe dehydration and bloody diarrhoea. Parvovirus is one of the diseases we vaccinate against to keep your dogs safe from this life-threatening condition. As a result, full personal protective equipment (PPE) was worn to keep Rigby and all our other patients safe. 

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Overnight, it was important to continue this care and thanks to our out-of-hours provider, we were able to give 24-hour care for Rigby. For this condition, and many others, it isn’t as simple as admitting a patient in for a few hours worth of fluids. If there is a major process going on in the body, it can sometimes take days before the body is able to heal and sustain itself without the crucial support of fluid therapy and supplementary medications. 

After four days of treatment, Rigby started to improve which was a relief after a fraught number of days. Poo samples had been collected throughout the week with samples revealing a mild bacterial growth and signs of parasite eggs which can result in this diarrhoea with blood, and not parvovirus. Performing samples like these are key for cases of diarrhoea. Dogs are prone to picking up more things in their mouths which can result in upset tummies. These include parasites, bacteria, protozoa (small bugs) and random objects which can cause the tummy to become inflamed. Regular worming is key because when your dog presents to us with diarrhoea, this is an easy way for us to narrow down the list of what the cause can be!

Things were looking up. The ongoing treatment and medications we had given were helping to get Rigby better but two days away from the clinic and he came back to us with diarrhoea. Thankfully, with additional medication he managed to make a full recovery and 13 days after originally presenting, he got the all clear. Fast forward two months and Rigby has gone from a tiny bundle at 0.36kg to 2.3kg and is now a gorgeous, recovered puppy.

Some final thoughts for things we recommend and points to remember:

  • Worming: please remember to follow the recommendations when it comes to young animals. Puppies and kittens need to be wormed every month until six months as they can carry more worms from their mothers.
  • Not all cases of gastroenteritis require antibiotics! Keeping up to date with wormers and trialling bland food whilst collecting faecal samples to be sent off to be tested is usually the best course of action. We have a responsibility to protect antibiotics – it would be far more beneficial to use antibiotics when your pet needs it as opposed to giving it to them when they do not, potentially making the bacteria resistant to that antibiotic. Additionally, not all bacteria are negative! There is a natural gut flora which needs to be maintained and antibiotics will also affect them.
  • Registered breeders: try and use registered breeders when finding a pet as there is better assurance they have received the necessary care in their first 8 weeks. We wouldn’t recommend getting animals off of marketplace websites because they can come from unethical homes. Purchasing into these unethical practices can mean you get a very sick animal and because the breeder has received your financial support, more animals will also be born into the same conditions. You may think an animal is cheaper on these websites but if they become sick, the price of treatment can far outnumber the cost of a puppy born to a good home. Using websites through the Kennel Club can be a good place to start.
  • Insurance: if you may struggle with the cost of treatment, consider pet insurance from a young age and not for when your animal is older. As you will have read in Rigby’s situation, it required 24 hour attention for several days which can become costly in order to give the appropriate care. Vets are legally not able to provide opinions on insurance companies. We do, however, offer 4 weeks free insurance through Petplan which we can set up after the first consultation to take the time pressure off finding the right insurance for you.
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