Ask the Vet

Stray Puppy Needs a Trip to the Vet

Given some love and care, little foundlings almost always become extra special family members.(Progressive Farmer photo by Victoria G. Myers)


We had a stray puppy come up to our barn, and my daughter fell in love with it. It is covered with fleas and ticks, and has a horrible skin condition. What does he need to help bring him around?


This puppy needs to see your veterinarian immediately. Fleas and ticks are what you see, but other potential diseases could threaten this puppy's life and potentially affect your family. The good news is your veterinarian can assess this puppy and develop a treatment plan that, in almost all cases, will get this little guy on the road to recovery.

Fleas and ticks are gross, but more importantly, they can lead to skin disease and anemia. They can also carry diseases that affect both dogs and humans. Sarcoptic mange, for example, leads to skin infection, and dogs with it will itch badly. But, it can pass to humans, where it looks a lot like redbug or chigger bites. Demodectic mange, or "red mange," is noncontagious and most commonly seen in young dogs. It presents as a spot or spots of hair loss, but can progress to severe skin infections and almost no hair.

Add to this the fact most stray puppies have worms. These parasites can make them sick and more vulnerable to other diseases, especially canine parvovirus. Hookworms and roundworms can infect people. We deworm every puppy the first time we see them, even if we do not find eggs. In addition, if it's healthy enough, we give vaccinations, and we also start puppies on heartworm preventive the first visit.

You have a project ahead of you, but it is a good project for a child and a family. There are certainly risks that this puppy could get sick, and there are some risks to people. But, with proper care from you and your veterinarian, most of these puppies will make a complete recovery. Stray dogs almost always become extra-special family members.