Digestive health in weaning puppies: news from the field

What do you do during your spare time? I personally use this time to read and go through veterinary literature.
Oh for sure I’m just focusing on my favourite topics, one of them being infectious diseases (because as a rule of a thumb, breeding kennels are significantly at higher risk). And one week ago I read a paper called “Factors influencing digestive safety in puppies at weaning”. Great info that I thought would be interesting to share with our PRO community. Here are 4 important points I think you guys should know in the field!

1/ How age and breed can affect the stool consistency

 Age and breed are two factors that can influence stool quality at weaning. Large breed puppies (>25kg when adults) have softer stools than small/medium breed puppies (<25kg when adult). Stools are also significantly softer in 4-5 weeks old puppies vs 6-8 weeks old ones. These variation factors must be taken into account in order to properly define what is normal… and what is not.

2/ What are the most common pathogens found in puppies at weaning?

Fig 1: Prevalence of different pathogens (%) in puppies at weaning

Important facts to keep in mind:

-          Most common pathogens found: Giarda sp, Isospora sp (aka coccidia), Toxocara canis (aka ascaris) and the CPV2 virus (aka parvo).

-          CPV2 can cause weaning diarrhea WITHOUT significantly impacting the puppies ‘health. If you thought parvo could only cause hemorrhagic gastro-enteritis, keep in mind this is not always the case.

-          Other viruses (astrovirus, norovirus) and parasites (Tritrichomonas foetus, Pentatrichomonas hominis) have been isolated in dogs. They have not been formerly associated with weaning diarrhea but still their impact should not be overlooked as well.

3/ Pluri-infections are NOT something uncommon!

Fig 2: % of puppies being coinfected with various pathogens (from 0 to 8) at weaning

75% of the puppies are infected by at least 2 different pathogens: an in-depth diagnosis approach is key. Fecal tests are great tools (and we really encourage you to ask your vet for pooled analyses at least once-twice a year in your kennel) but keep in mind that they cannot detect all pathogens, especially viruses! For these, other tests like PCR will be required.

4/ Sanitary prophylaxis: key measures to make a difference in weaning puppies

-          Use a diet with a high digestive safety profile (our recommendation: our Starter products)

-          Control the quantities fed per day and propose at least 4 meals/day

-          2 week quarantine for all new individuals entering the kennel

-          Sectorization of the kennel (important sectors to have are maternity and nursery)

-          Daily cleaning with a good detergent

-          Appropriate disinfection depending on the main targeted pathogens. Steam cleaning is the
recommended technique to fight protozoas like Giardia and Isospora (Coccidia).

Sanitation of your kennel is of paramount importance. Efficient treatments will be provided by your veterinarian after he defined what is best for your kennel. But in order to make a difference, you need to focus on your environment. You are in charge here, and that’s great I think, because it also means that YOU will make the difference.

Remember we are all part of the same PRO community! Don’t hesitate then: share with us your experiences, ask your questions and let us know what you think! Social networks enable us to keep the discussion going, so whether you are a Facebooker or a Twitter-addict, you can – and should!- be part of it!

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