Of course you want your dog to be well and happy. To be sure that you know he is, you should:
(1) learn to recognize the signs of dog sickness;
(2) take him to a veterinarian when you are in any doubt about your dog’s health.
A really sick dog needs the care that only a trained doctor can give him. A slightly sick dog can be cared for at home, but only if some person with experience tells you what to do and how to do it.
Signs of Sickness
What are the most common signs of sickness in a dog? Look at your pet and ask yourself these questions: Is his coat dry and harsh? Are the whites of his eyes reddish or yellowish? Does his breath smell bad? Does his skin feel too hot? Does he vomit frequently and refuse to eat? Is he shivering? Has he a dry-sounding cough? Are his bowels loose? Does his stomach look swollen? Does he refuse to play? Is his nose running?
If the answer to quite a few of these questions is “Yes,” then something is probably wrong. But if you see only one or two of these signs, don’t run right to a vet. They may be signs of a small upset. Pups often vomit or have loose bowels. A bad breath can be caused by food caught between the teeth. A running nose may mean nothing more than a little cold.
“Then how will I know if Beans is sick enough to take to a vet?”
Well, if you see any combination of these signs, there is one sure way to discover whether or not they mean anything serious. That way is to take Beans’s temperature.
A high temperature in a dog for more than one day is a danger signal. But don’t let anyone tell you that all you have to do is to feel your dog’s nose to discover whether or not he has a fever! A perfectly healthy dog can have a hot, dry nose, while a sick one can have a cold, wet one. The only reliable way to know what his temperature is is to use a thermometer. Because of the possibility of breaking the thermometer and the difficulty of holding the dog still, it is advisable for you to ask some grown-up person to take Beans’s temperature when you think this is necessary.
This is done with a regular rectal thermometer. Its end is greased with vaseline and then held in the dog’s rectum for from two to five minutes. If the thermometer reads anywhere from 101 to 102 degrees, stop worrying. This is the normal temperature for a dog. But if it runs higher than 102 degrees for more than twenty-four hours, take Beans to a vet.
It’s Better to Prevent than to Cure
As children are often given shots to prevent their catching contagious diseases, so dogs should be inoculated to prevent their getting two of the most serious illnesses a dog can catch: distemper and rabies.
Distemper is a dog disease that is a little like influenza in humans. People cannot catch distemper from dogs, but it is one of the worst diseases a dog can have. Fortunately, it is also one that can usually be avoided.
When Beans is three months old, take him to a vet for a temporary shot against distemper. This does not immunize him for long, but since he will not go outdoors yet or be near other dogs, it will be good enough for the time being.
When Beans is four months old, take him to the vet for his first permanent distemper inoculation, IF he is in good health. Two weeks later, as the vet will tell you, take him for his second shot. And in another two weeks, for his third. These shots should keep Beans from catching distemper all through his life. But since they are not 100 per cent perfect, you should take him to a vet whenever he has a high fever for longer than a day. Even if this should indicate that he has caught distemper, the vet can almost always cure him if you have called on him soon enough.
Rabies is the disease also known as hydrophobia. Some cities and states have a law which says that your dog must be inoculated against rabies every year. If this is the law where you live, you should take Beans to a vet when he is about six months old. He will be given a shot of antirabies serum that will protect him from this disease for a year. He will also be given a tag that you attach to his collar. This proves to any policeman that Beans has had his inoculation for that year.
Rabies shots are not effective for longer than twelve months, so Beans will have to get a new one each year. If this is not the law in your state, it is probably not necessary for a city dog to get these shots. He will not be in contact with other dogs, so the chances of his catching rabies are slight. But if you take your dog to the country, or travel through other states, he should be inoculated. Dogs run loose in the country, and your dog can catch rabies from the bite of another animal who has that disease. For this reason, all country dogs should be inoculated against rabies every year, law or no law.
Even when inoculated, a dog that is bitten by a rabid animal needs care. Put a strong antiseptic, like iodine, on the bite and rush your dog to a vet at once, if this should happen. A person who is bitten by a dog that is suspected of having rabies should consult his doctor immediately.
Fleas aren’t a disease, of course. But they can carry diseases. They can also make Beans mighty uncomfortable, so you should try to keep him reasonably free of these little pests. Page 76, under Grooming, explains how daily brushing helps do this, but if, in spite of this care, Beans should pick up a few fleas, don’t get excited. All dogs seem to get fleas at some time in their lives. This isn’t serious, but you will want to get rid of them before there are too many. You can dry-clean them out of Beans’s coat. Buy some pyrethrum insect powder at a drugstore. Stand your dog on newspapers on a table and shake the powder all over his coat. Let it stay on a while. Then brush it out. Go over his coat with a damp cloth. Then be sure to destroy the newspapers on which he was standing, as that’s where all the fleas and used powder will be. If this dry cleaning fails to remove all the fleas from Beans’s coat, you can give him a special kind of bath. Mix a tablespoon of kerosene in a quart of milk. Rub this mixture into his coat and all over his body. Let it stay on for half an hour. Then wash it off with soap and water.
Another kind of flea bath is made by putting two teaspoonfuls of Creolin into a gallon of warm water. You can buy Creolin at a drugstore. It is not expensive and has a nice, tarlike odor. Sponge Beans with this mixture, being careful not to get it in his eyes. Then give him a soapand-water bath.
Ticks and Lice
Occasionally, dogs pick up ticks in the country, or lice from other dogs. If Beans scratches a lot, first give him one of the flea baths described above. If he still scratches after the bath, take him to a vet for advice.
Don’t ever try to pull off ticks by hand, even if you recognize them on your dog. You can catch Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever from certain kinds of ticks. Ticks should be removed by tweezers and burned.
Dandruff isn’t really a bad disease. If Beans’s coat shows that he has dandruff, ask your father if you can borrow some of his bay rum. Add a tablespoonful to half a cup of water, then sponge Beans with this mixture. Let it dry and then rub coconut oil or lanolin into his coat. Finally, rub most of the oil out with an old Turkish towel.
Beans might get skin diseases like mange, eczema, or ringworm. If he scratches until sore spots show up on his skin, or if his hair starts to fall out in patches, take him to a vet. Don’t touch the sore places with your hands. And don’t try rubbing any old medicine on them. You won’t know what to use until the vet tells you what kind of trouble Beans has and advises what medicine to apply.
Worms are not serious if you treat them promptly and correctly. Most dogs have worms at one time or another, usually when they’re pups. It’s nothing to get frightened about, but it’s also nothing to neglect. Learn to recognize certain worm-signs and take Beans to a vet if he shows those signs. He will tell you the best way to treat whatever kind of worms the dog may have. You will probably be able to follow this advice right at home. In spite of what many people say, worming a dog is not hard to do. But because each type of worm needs a different type of treatment or medicine, you must get a doctor’s advice before you do anything.
The most common signs of worms in a dog are: round, white worms that you can actually see curled up in his bowel movement or vomit; a swollen stomach; loose bowels; persistent vomiting; or running eyes and nose. You might also see Beans dragging his bottom along the floor, or trying to bite at his tail. This may mean that worms are irritating his rectum and he is trying in these ways to remove or scratch them. You may see sections of tapeworm around the dog’s bed or clinging to his coat around his tail. They will look like little hard pink or brown pieces of dried rice.
If your dog doesn’t want to play and is getting thin, or if you see any blood in his bowel movements, you may suspect that he has some kind of worms.
To repeat: No matter what friends may advise or dogmedicine advertisements say, if you think you see signs of worms, take Beans to a veterinarian before you try to treat him. This is the only way to know the right thing to do.
Since dogs will eat almost anything, they easily get upset stomachs. Luckily, a dog’s stomach is so made that it very quickly throws up what it doesn’t like. For this reason, you shouldn’t worry if Beans vomits once or twice some days. It doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s sick, especially if you find that his temperature is normal (101 to 102 degrees).
But a lot of vomiting can mean something seriously wrong. To find out how serious it may be, first do this: Take all food away from Beans for one entire day. Don’t let him eat anything. And don’t let him drink anything. Give him a bit of ice once in a while if he seems thirsty.
Next give Min a teaspoonful of milk of magnesia by pouring the medicine from the spoon into the back part of Beans’s lower lip, which you hold out with your other hand. Keep his mouth closed until he has swallowed. If he throws this up, don’t try to give him any more. Instead, get him to swallow a teaspoonful of rhubarb of soda or milk of bismuth. Give him a dose of this every two hours. If he still vomits after a day of this treatment, if there’s any blood in the vomit, if the vomit is black or greenish, or if Beans has a temperature, take him to a vet at once.
Like vomiting, diarrhea is something every dog seems to have once in a while. Also like vomiting, it need not be serious. But if it lasts longer than twenty-four hours, or if there is any blood in the movements, or if Beans is running a fever, call the vet.
If Beans doesn’t move his bowels for a day or two, or if he seems to have difficulty doing so, he may be constipated. Give him a teaspoonful of milk of magnesia the first thing in the morning, before his breakfast.
If he is often constipated, add more vegetables to his diet and also mix a teaspoonful of mineral oil in his dinner. He won’t taste it with the food. Do this until he is regular again. Also be sure that he gets plenty of exercise. Lack of running, walking, and jumping can make a dog constipated.
Never give a dog the same pills that human beings take. And if Beans remains constipated for several days, in spite of the milk of magnesia, exercise, and additional vegetables, take him to a vet.
Halitosis, or unpleasant breath, can be caused by a sick stomach, bad teeth or tonsils, or something that is stuck in the dog’s mouth or throat.
Look at Beans’s teeth to see if any are decayed. If not, then give 3/4 teaspoonful of bicarbonate of soda in his food twice a day for a few days. If his breath is still offensive, then take him to a vet to see if he needs his teeth cleaned or his tonsils treated.
You won’t have to give much care to the eyes of a healthy dog. They will be bright, with clear whites, so long as he isn’t sick or hasn’t hurt his eyes.
But if you want to clean out the “sleep bugs,” you can dip a wad of cotton into warm boric-acid solution (the same as your mother uses for your eyes). Squeeze a few drops of this in each eye. You can also use plain warm milk for this purpose, instead of the boric-acid solution. If Beans’s eyes should look red or weepy from a cold or from too much strong wind during an automobile ride, smooth a little yellow oxide of mercury on the lids and keep him out of drafts for a while.
In case of a real injury to the eyes from a dogfight, or something poked into them, put a pad of gauze soaked in boric-acid solution over the eye that’s hurt. Then wrap a towel loosely around the dog’s head and take him at once to a vet.
Beans Swallowed a Tack!
It’s a rare puppy who doesn’t swallow at least one strange object which his stomach can’t possibly digest. But a dog’s stomach is so constructed that it can usually take care of most of the odd things that find their way into it. If you should see Beans swallow something you know is bad for him, however . . . a piece of rubber toy, a bit of glass, a nail, a splinter of bone . . . here’s what to do right away.
Give him a large piece of soft bread to eat. Then toss about two teaspoonfuls of salt on the back of his tongue, close his mouth with your hand and keep it closed until he swallows the salt. Now put him on a newspaper or some other place where he can vomit without doing any damage. In a short time, the salt will cause him to throw up the bread and the strange object he has swallowed. If this doesn’t come up the first time you give him a dose of salt, give him another in a few minutes. Once the object is vomited, Beans will be all right.
But if he begins to have diarrhea, or if his stomach swells up and seems sore when you touch it, give him a tablespoonful of mineral oil. If he still seems to be in pain after a few hours, or if there is any blood in his urine or bowel movement, take him to a vet. He will look at Beans’s insides with a fluoroscope to see what is in his stomach or intestines that doesn’t belong there.
If Beans should cut himself slightly, put some boricacid solution or some peroxide on the cut and then leave it alone. It will heal up quickly.
If the cut is deep, or if it doesn’t stop bleeding, pack gauze or clean rags around it and take Beans to a vet. If the cut is on his leg or foot and bleeds a lot, tie a piece of cloth tightly around his leg, between the cut and his body, and take him to a vet at once.
Once in a while, a silly puppy will chew through an electric cord leading to a lamp or a radio or a toaster. The shock he gets is usually not serious, but sometimes it can be strong enough to knock him out for a minute. If this happens, put a little household ammonia on a wad of cotton and hold this under his nose. Don’t touch the nose with it, as the ammonia will burn his skin. The sharp odor will bring him to.
When he comes to, give him some cool, strong, black coffee to drink. If his mouth seems burned by the shock, wet a cloth in strong, cool tea and wash the burned place with this.
The best treatment for poisoning is to do everything you can to avoid it! That’s why you should see that there are no rat, mouse, or roach poisons around the house in places where Beans might find them. That’s why you should never let Beans eat things he finds in the street or accept food from a stranger. That’s also why you should take a dog out of the house if there’s a lot of painting going on.
He may lick the fresh, damp paint or be poisoned simply by breathing the air that smells of paint. If either of these things happens, do this: Give him some salt on the back of his tongue to make him vomit. Then let him lap up the white of an egg which has been added to half a cup of milk.
The most usual kind of burn a pup gets is from jumping into a lighted cigarette. This won’t be too serious unless the burn is in the eye. If it is, put some strong, cool tea in the eye, and then a few drops of castor oil to soothe the burn.
If his skin or coat is burned, some castor oil rubbed gently on the spot will soothe the pain and help the hair to grow back. Or you can use vaseline, Unguentine, or butter.
Your puppy will probably never have a fit. But just in case this does happen, it is very good for you to know ahead of time that it is not so serious as it looks. For it does look scary! And above all, don’t get frightened if this happens. Don’t think that your pet has suddenly “gone mad.” A dog that really has rabies will give you plenty of warning, by certain definite signs that your vet will recognize. He will not suddenly start to foam at the mouth as he does when he has a fit.
If Beans should have a fit, he may suddenly fall down and become very stiff. Foam may come out of his mouth. His eyes will be wide and staring. He may kick all his four legs in the air, or he may run around wildly, bumping into tables, chairs, and even walls. Or he may simply stand still and bark and bark, for no reason. Luckily, all this doesn’t last long. It will go away as fast as it came, leaving poor Beans feeling weak but otherwise all right.
There isn’t much you can do for a dog that’s having a fit. But if Beans should start to have one on the street, carry him home as fast as you can. Or if you can’t do that, then carry him into a doorway or some other place off the street and cover him with a coat. Keep him on his leash and don’t let people crowd around him. As soon as he seems calm, take him home. There, let him rest in a dark room. Don’t feed him for several hours. Take him to a vet later.
If Beans has a fit in the house, take him into a dark room and put cold wet towels on his head and neck. Do NOT try to make him drink anything until the fit is completely over. Keep calm and try to keep Beans quiet and calm.
If he has what’s called a “running fit,” throw a coat or blanket over him until he becomes quiet. Then take him to a vet after he’s had a rest.
While fits in themselves are not serious, they are usually signs that something else is wrong. After a dog has had a fit, he should be taken to a vet to find out what the trouble is. It may be teething, or hot weather, or a bone in the stomach. Only a veterinarian can find out what has caused your dog to have a fit and help you to treat the problem.