Things to Think About Before Getting That New Puppy…

Dear Dog Breeders:

As Christmas comes upon us, the inevitable onslaught of new puppies will start marching through our door.  Their owners will come brandishing the various and sundry contracts and instructions that are requisite with new puppydom.  Caveat emptor.

I got the first one yesterday, and I thought I would share some of the inaccuracies/questionable things I found on the contract that came with this cute little yorkie: 

“We DO NOT GUARANTEE AGAINST any worms, coccidiosis (parasites),  or giardiasis, or ear mites. ”  First of all, they’re ALL parasites.  Second of all, why don’t you just say:  Your puppy is likely to be full of worms, coccidia, giardia and ear mites, we’re just letting you know ahead of time.” 

This puppy was given 1cc of SMZ-Flagyl morning and night.   I need you to explain this to me because it looks to me like you are administering antibiotics to the puppies in an attempt to prevent the previously mentioned Coccidia and Giardia.  There is no mention of the milligram strength of this concoction, therefore no way to ascertain the puppy was getting the proper dosage based on it’s weight. 

Just so you see this from my end:  By the time I see these puppies, just like you predicted; they are full of Coccidia and Giardia, but, thanks to your antibiotic administration; the parasites are resistant to the stuff that we normally use to treat them.  We’ve seen some nightmare Giardia and Coccidia cases that are just about impossible to clear up, and I’m pretty convinced it’s because of improper dosing of antibiotics by breeders.

I would be happy to consult with you on how to weigh the puppies and try to dose them properly, for the proper amount of time, but you also have to clean up the environment where the parasites live.  Lots of poop cleaning and disinfecting and bathing has to go on to try and clear the environment.  

Regarding, the other worms:  we,  deworm pets based on specifically what type of worms they have and the life cycle of the worm in question.  Dewormers generally don’t kill young worms, so you have to deworm at intervals that catch the babies when they’re old enough to be killed but young enough to not lay any eggs.  And again, the dewormer dose should be calculated based on the weight of the puppy.  There is a method to our madness.

I see puppies who are indiscriminately dewormed with every dewormer under the sun at varying intervals who are loaded with worms.  Please, just keep good records of the doses, specific dewormer type, weight of the puppy at time of deworming.   You might be contributing to resistance in the parasite species we see. 

I love this part:  “To qualify for a replacement puppy, it must die of PARVO or DISTEMPER within 72 HOURS of purchase.”  That’s just great, you could just say “If you adopted a puppy that has snot pouring out of its nose and it’s eyes glued shut with boogers while it’s coughing up a lung and maybe seizuring, OR if you got one that is lethargic and weak while vomiting and shooting bloody diarrhea everywhere, that subsequently dies, we’ll be happy to replace it (I presume with another puppy that is obviously from the same facility that is obviously incubating said viruses?  How’s that puppy going to be unaffected?  Magic?)  Is this something that happens frequently with these people?  Why is it in the contract?  The incubation period for Parvo and Distemper range from 7 days to two weeks.  So theoretically, the pup can get exposed the week before the owner adopts it, then it breaks with the disease a week later, then might subsequently die.  If that were to happen, well, then I guess you’re s.o.l.  (I guess the owner should have adopted the one with snot pouring out its nose, at least that way they could get a replacement puppy)

OK, here is a biggie, this drives me crazy, and breeders:  I’m not out to make enemies here, but you must change this practice, it’s totally immunologically incorrect, wrong, wrong, wrong!  I am totally ok with you vaccinating your own puppies, I understand that it saves you a ton of money.  However, you MUST keep accurate records.  You MUST handle your vaccines carefully: store them at the proper temperature, mix them according to package directions,  give the vaccine immediately after you mix it.  THIS IS THE PART THAT DRIVES ME CRAZY:    DO NOT VACCINATE THESE PUPPIES EVERY TWO WEEKS.   It doesn’t work.  It’s wrong. 

Basic Puppy Vaccination Schedule:  We like to start them somewhere between 6 and 8 weeks of age and booster every 3-4 weeks until they are 16 weeks old. 

Here’s a quick and dirty rundown of what happens when you give a vaccine:  You give the puppy on day one, the pup’s body goes “oh goodness! Here comes a load of viral antigen (pureed virus parts), I must mount an immune response!  So the puppy’s white blood cells get all riled up and start attacking the virus parts.  This process peaks at about the two week mark.

So, if you re vaccinate at two weeks, the puppy’s white blood cells are busy consuming all virus particles, and will just immediately inactivate the new vaccine. 

What happens, AFTER that two week white cell inflammatory riot, is that every thing calms down at about the 3 week point. THEN you booster, THEN the white cells go:  “Oh crap!!  It’s that pureed virus stuff again, guess this is serious! ”  So the whole  inflammatory process starts up again, only THIS time, the white blood cells create “memory cells”.  These guys are responsible for remembering that this is a significant pathogen, and create long term immunity.  It takes a series of boosters PROPERLY SPACED to create these memory cells.  This is what creates vaccine immunity. 

If you vaccinate every two weeks, you never create any memory cells and you get no long term immunity. 

There is a whole ‘nother process that goes on to make the vaccines not work right.  Puppies get immunity from their mom’s first milk:  the colostrum.  This protects the pups in those early days.  That’s good, but the bad news is that mom’s immunity actually attacks and inactivates the stuff in the vaccines.  Mom’s immunity seems to wear off sometime around 8-16 weeks of age, but nobody knows for sure when.  So we do multiple vaccinations in an effort to “catch” that moment when mom’s immunity is wearing off, then booster it to get maximum long term protection. 

Here’s a tip:  mom’s immunity is in full swing between 2-4 weeks of age, so vaccinating puppies at this young age is basically achieving nothing more than teaching them to hate needles.  It’s not doing squat for them protection wise.  You’re wasting your money. 

So, once again, please forward this to all the dog breeders you know:  if you get one thing from this post it’s to please, please, please vaccinate correctly.  I see this way, way too often!

I know Oprah has some big beefs with breeders, and there is a whole world of dog breeding controversies outside of this, but these are my personal issues with them, that I deal with almost daily.  If you could fix those things, that might be a good start. 


Vivian Carroll, DVM

PS…I know there are breeders out there who keep stringent records (not just vaccine stickers on index cards with no dates) who vaccinate and deworm properly.  I’m not talking to you.  I’m talking to the others who seem to constitute the majority of puppies I see.


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