The following are medical issues you may encounter as a foster parent with your mother dog and/or puppies, some common and some uncommon. This information is not meant to be extensive, just to give you an idea of what common ailments may look like. This is not a substitute for the expert advice of our shelter Veterinarian.

**Any and all medical concerns must be reported right away to our medical team using our Support Contacts page**

Diarrhea (and vomiting)

Diarrhea can be common in puppies, and can mean that your puppies may have anything from a potentially lethal virus to simple indigestion.

Here are six main causes of diarrhea in puppies that you need to know about:

  1. Diet change or food intolerance
  2. Bacterial infection
  3. Viral infection
  4. Ingestion of garbage, toxins, or foreign bodies
  5. Parasites
  6. Stress

If your puppy/puppies are experiencing diarrhea, or soft stool, please notify us right away.

Many cases of dog vomiting result from gastric irritation due to eating inedible objects, spoiled or rich food (raiding the garbage, table scraps), or simply eating too much too fast. Dogs and puppies may also vomit due to motion sickness during car rides or from poisoning or swallowing dangerous objects.

Puppies are at special risk for infectious causes of vomiting, particularly if they have not completed their vaccination series. For example, vomiting can be a sign of canine distemper virus or canine parvovirus. Intestinal parasites are another common cause of vomiting in puppies. 

Repeated vomiting, vomiting along with diarrhea, unproductive vomiting (retching or dry heaving), vomit that contains blood or other abnormal materials, or vomiting in a puppy that acts lethargic or confused are all serious situations, and the C.A.R.E. medical team needs to be notified right away. 

Differences Between Vomiting and Regurgitation

Vomiting is different from regurgitation. Vomiting is an active process that is accompanied by retching and abdominal contractions. Regurgitation, on the other hand, is passive. Dogs may even appear surprised when food comes out of their mouths. Regurgitation can occur minutes to hours after your dog eats its food, and the expelled material is mostly undigested and may even be tube-shaped like the esophagus.

Our Shelter Veterinarian will need to differentiate between regurgitation and vomiting because the two symptoms have very different causes and treatments.

Intestinal Parasites

There are several types of internal parasites that cause problems in dogs. These include roundworms, heartworm, tapeworms, hookworms, whipworms.

Canine parvovirus

Parvovirus (commonly known as parvo) most often affects young dogs, especially if they have yet to get all of their vaccinations. Unfortunately, parvo is a very serious and sometimes lethal virus that needs to be addressed right away. 

The symptoms of parvo include bloody diarrhea, vomiting, lethargy, and a loss of appetite. It—s caused by a virus and sick puppies need to be seen by our shelter Veterinarian as soon as possible so it can be treated with the right medications. It—s likely that the puppy may need to be hospitalized as well.

Canine Distemper

Distemper is a highly contagious viral disease of domestic dogs and other animals such as ferrets, skunks and raccoons. It is an incurable, often fatal, multisystemic disease that affects the respiratory, gastrointestinal, and central nervous systems. Distemper is caused by the canine distemper virus (CDV). As with all infectious diseases, clinical signs can vary. The main clinical signs are diarrhea, vomiting, a thick yellow discharge from the eyes and nose, cough and, in severe cases, seizures and neurological signs. Dogs that recover from the disease are often left with persistent nervous muscular twitches (chorea) and recurrent seizures.

Kennel Cough

Kennel cough, or tracheobronchitis, is comparable to the common cold in humans. An unrelenting goose-like cough is the hallmark of kennel cough in dogs, but fortunately, most cases are treated successfully at home. To ensure your puppies recover from kennel cough in a minimal amount of time and without complication, please contact us right away.


Low blood sugar can affect puppies much more often than adult dogs, even when a puppy is healthy. The technical term for low blood sugar is hypoglycemia and it happens most often with adult pets that suffer from unregulated or poorly regulated diabetes, but can happen to puppies in certain situations.

The signs of low blood sugar can be vague. It—s important to watch out for them especially if your puppies are small breed, who are most susceptible. Without enough sugar, the puppy—s heartbeat rate and breathing slow down, triggering a cascade effect of other symptoms.

Be alert for any one or a combination of the following atypical behaviors and symptoms.

  • Weakness
  • Becoming very sleepy
  • Disorientation
  • A wobbly “drunk” gait
  • “Glassy” and unfocused eyes
  • Twitching, shaking, trembling, or shivering
  • Head tilted to one side
  • Seizures
  • Unconsciousness
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