Sick dogs are depressed and grumpy dogs, and no dog owner wants to see his usually happy-go-lucky pit bull go down-in-the-dumps. Unfortunately there are many illnesses and diseases that can affect dogs, and since they can’t drive themselves to the doctor, it’s up to their owners to make sure that they get the veterinary care they need. It’s extremely important that you pay attention to your dog’s overall health, and that you deal with illness, injury, or other potential problems before they become serious.
The first step to keeping your pit bull healthy is to keep his vaccinations updated. Prevention is the best way to fight illness. If you take the necessary steps to make sure that your dog won’t get a disease, then you will never have to deal with the effects of it! Of course, many vaccines are also required by law. The rabies virus is the most obvious example of this, and your dog will need to have a rabies booster every 1 to 3 years throughout his life. Along with rabies, your dog will likely be vaccinated against diseases such as parvovirus (a potentially fatal gastro-intestinal disease to which pit bulls are particularly susceptible), hepatitis, and distemper. Other optional shots that your dog can receive are parainfluenza (which is similar to a flu shot in humans) and bordetella, or kennel cough.
Puppies will be vaccinated against these illnesses early in life. Your vet will give your puppy the initial vaccines at about six weeks of age, and will follow up with a series of booster shots until your puppy is one year old. Keeping your dog up to date on his shots is a great way to prevent him from getting any serious illness that might kill him or negatively impact his quality of life. It’s important to note that some dogs can have allergic reactions to certain vaccines, so you should keep a close eye on your dog the first few times he receives any. If he has trouble breathing or experiences swelling or itching, take him into the vet immediately.Your dog will still have to have the vaccine in the future, but the vet can give him medication to stop allergic reactions from occuring. If you change vets, be sure to let the new doctor know about your pit bull’s allergy!
When you take your pit bull to the vet for his vaccinations, the doctor will give him a checkup that will help detect and prevent any other health problems he might be developing. Standard procedure at any vet’s office is to check the dog’s temperature, range of motion, weight, lungs, heart, ears, mouth, and eyes. This will help him to determine if your dog is developing any health conditions or illness.
You can do some prevention of your own at home as well. You get to know your dog’s body when you play with him, pet him, and groom him. Check his eyes, ears, nose, and mouth regularly for signs of redness or infection. You should always be on the lookout for any changes that might appear. Growths can be a sign of cancer (but aren’t always), and should be seen by a vet immediately. Changes in your dog’s energy level and appetite can also indicate that something is wrong. It’s possible that your dog just has an upset stomach because of something he ate, but if the symptoms persist, you should take him to a vet. If your dog is reliably housetrained but suddenly starts having accidents in the house, don’t assume he is rebelling! Digestive problems can often be signs of illness too, and you might want to consult your vet.
Other symptoms to watch for include fever, cough, nasal discharge, sore or infected ears, skin problems, excessive scratching, or pain. Dogs can get colds, the flu, and allergies, so many of these symptoms might really be minor problems. If your dog’s health really seems to be suffering you should always take him to the vet. Pain and trouble breathing are especially not symptoms to be taken lightly. Pit bulls are resilient, but they can injure themselves. Dogs are also susceptible to conditions such as arthritis and hip dysplasia, which can be painful and require careful management. Asthma, too can affect dogs, but breathing problems can be symptoms of other serious illness. It’s extremely important that you notice and keep an eye on any symptoms your dog might develop so that you can get him the medical attention he needs.
In many cases a dog’s body will heal itself, but there will be times that it needs help. If you are concerned about a symptom your pit bull has developed, then you should probably take him to the vet. Many owners hesitate to make appointments for their dogs because they are afraid of looking paranoid or silly if the problem turns out to be minor. In general, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. A good rule of thumb is to imagine yourself with the same symptom or injury. Would you take yourself to the doctor? If the answer is yes, then you are safe to assume that you should also take your dog to the vet.
There is another major part of healthcare that is worth mentioning. This is heartworm prevention. Heartworm is a disease in which worms, which can be several inches in length, invade your dog’s heart. These worms can cause a variety of problems and can be fatal. It would be wise to keep your pit bull on a monthly heart worm medication, such as Heartgard, throughout his life. (This is especially important during mosquito season, as the disease is passed from infected dogs by mosquitos). You can usually purchase this medication from your vet. If your dog hasn’t been on heartworm medication, it would be a good idea to have your vet do a heartworm test. Don’t panic if your does have heartworm! Most heartworm is treatable through medication, and the good news is that the treatment has a 96% success rate. The other 4% can usually be cured with surgery to remove the worms.
It is stressful to watch your dog go through an illness, and chances are he will, at some point, feel a bit under-the-weather. But if you are diligent in monitoring his health and making sure that he gets the veterinary care he needs, then he will live a full and happy life. Remember that you are responsible for your pit bull’s health, and that catching a problem early is the best way to prevent serious illness or discomfort for your dog later on.