Top 5 health problems for puppies

Top 5 puppy health conditions Bow Wow Meow

Our four-legged fur babies quickly become an integral part of the family, and we love them like our own kids! To give them the best start in life, it’s important to be aware of the common health conditions they may face during their first year, so that we know what to look out for.

We also bring you the best tips and advice on how to keep your puppy safe and healthy, because prevention is always better than cure.


Why do puppies get sick?

A puppy’s immune system isn’t as developed as that of an adult dog. This means they are more vulnerable to getting infections and catching diseases, which can sometimes be fatal.

Top 5 health conditions for puppies Bow Wow Meow

Puppies and young dogs are exploring the world so it may not be surprising that gastrointestinal problems like diarrhoea, vomiting and gastritis (inflammation of the stomach lining) are common. Ear infections and skin irritations are other conditions that affect this age group of dogs.

Pet insurance can help by covering a portion of the eligible vet bill if the unexpected happens. Because it is difficult to predict the costs of veterinary care, it can help to have measures in place to help prepare for the unexpected.

Get a quote for 2 months free pet insurance in the first year.


The top 5 conditions in puppies*:

  1. Otitis Externa – ear infectionTop 5 health conditions for puppies Bow Wow Meow
  2. Diarrhoea
  3. Skin allergies
  4. Gastritis
  5. Vomiting

*According to PetSure claims data from 2022 for dogs under 1 year of age


1. Ear Infections

Taking first place in the top health conditions for puppies are outer ear infections (also called otitis externa), which is a condition that causes inflammation of the outer part of the ear canal.

Puppies are more likely to get ear mite infections than bacterial ear infections. Itching, scratching, and head shaking are a few symptoms of ear mites. Mites in puppies’ ears can lead to secondary infections if left untreated, so it’s important to take prompt action if you suspect that your pup has ear mites.

PetSure data from 2022 shows that in pups, the average claimed amount to treat these pests was $185 with a maximum claimed amount of $726.

Top 5 health issues in puppies Ear infection Bow Wow Meow


Preventing ear infections in puppies

  • The good news is that many topical flea products also treat ear mites, so chat to your vet about the best option for your pup and always ensure that parasite treatment is up to date.
  • Clean your puppy’s ears every week or two and whenever the dog goes swimming, and keep the ears off floppy eared breeds as dry as possible.
  • If you notice your dog shaking their head, scratching their ears or if you see any discharge from the ears, seek veterinary advice right away.


2. Diarrhoea

Diarrhoea is the second most common health condition affecting pups, according to Petsure claims during 2022.

In puppies, diarrhoea can occur from changes in diet causing a simple tummy upset or indigestion, or it can be caused by viruses, bacteria, or parasites such as worms. Young and curious dogs may also be more likely to delve into rubbish bins, nibble on household plants or overeat, all of which can  result in diarrhoea.

If, or more likely, when your puppy experiences diarrhoea, it’s best to seek advice from your veterinarian. As diarrhoea is also a sign of parvovirus, it’s a good idea to have your puppy checked by a vet if it lasts longer than a day, if it’s watery or has blood in it.

The average treatment cost for diarrhoea in 2022 was $416, with the highest cost for treatment coming in at over $20,663.

Top 5 health problems in puppies diarrhoea Bow Wow Meow


Preventing diarrhoea in puppies

Preventing diarrhoea in young dogs may not always be possible. Often, the true cause may never be known, and treatment is symptomatic. Here are some practical ways to help reduce the risk of tummy upsets:

  • Introduce new foods gradually by mixing a small amount of the new food with the old food.
  • Avoid giving young dogs cow’s milk, as dogs are often lactose intolerant, which can result in diarrhoea.
  • Ensure intestinal worming prevention and vaccinations are up to date.
  • Practice good hygiene around the home: wash bowls daily with hot soapy water and allow them to dry completely, ensure water is fresh daily, and pick up poos from the garden as soon as possible.
  • Store medications, cleaning products and any other household toxins away from pets.
  • Keep all rubbish, food scraps and human foods away from dogs.
  • Only expose young puppies to trusted dogs who are fully vaccinated, and avoid dog parks or areas where they could come in contact with unvaccinated dogs or other dog’s waste.


3. Skin allergies

Skin allergies in puppies are very common and rank as the third most common health condition affecting puppies, according to Petsure claims from 2022.

An allergy is a condition where the immune system is overly sensitive or reactive to a specific substance known as an allergen. Proteins from plants, insects, animals or foods are common allergens in dogs. After exposure to an allergen, the body can start to overreact, and this is what brings on an allergic reaction.

Skin allergies can range from minor itchiness or redness right through to chronic, severe or ongoing skin disease with underlying allergies as the cause. Broken skin from scratching sets up a perfect environment for secondary bacteria to take hold. Allergies can pose a welfare risk in affected pups, as being chronically itchy is very uncomfortable.

Allergies can be complicated to diagnose and often they require ongoing, long-term treatment to help keep you pup itch-free and happy. In 2022, pet parents forked out $520 on average for treatment according to PetSure claims data.  The highest cost for treatment was $17,460.

Top 5 health conditions in puppies, Dermatitis Bow Wow Meow


Preventing skin allergies in puppies

  • Avoid any known allergens or environments that may trigger a reaction, including long grass with seeds, or pollen.
  • Keep their skin and coat clean, and brush the coat regularly.
  • A common cause of hypersensitivity reactions in dogs is flea bites, so tay up to date with flea treatment all year round.
  • Feed a high-quality diet.
  • Examine their sking frequently to identify problems early.


4. Gastritis

Gastritis, the inflammation of the stomach lining, was the fourth most common health problem experienced by puppies in 2022.

This condition is generally caused from overeating, a change in diet or an allergy or sensitivity. In most cases, acute gastritis in pups is transient and lasts for a day or so before resolving. When gastritis persists more chronically, it can be a sign that there is something more serious going on.

According to PetSure claims data, pet parents claimed an average treatment cost of $523 with treatment costs as high as $28,232 in some cases.

Top 5 puppy illnesses Gastritis Bow Wow Meow


Preventing gastritis in puppies

  • Ensure you don’t overfeed them and that you follow the recommended portion sizes for your dog’s breed and weight.
  • Feed a high quality diet
  • Avoid sudden changes in diet
  • Avoid rich, fatty table scraps
  • Keep bins secure
  • Be vigilant when out on walks


5. Vomiting

Vomiting was the fifth most common health problem for puppies, according to PetSure claims data.

In most cases acute vomiting in puppies lasts for a day or so before resolving, and the underlying cause is often not identified. Sudden changes in diet, eating raw or rotten food, human foods that not safe for dogs, plants, toxins or fungi can cause vomiting. Some dogs may even overeat to a point where vomiting occurs.

In 2022, the average cost for treatment was $565 while the highest cost was over $26,661.

If your dog presents with vomiting, speak to your local veterinarian for advice.

Top 5 puppy health problems vomiting Bow Wow Meow


Preventing vomiting in puppies

  • Provide them with excellent, premium dog food and avoid foods containing by-products, artificial colours, flavours and fillers.
  • Avoid snacks that your dog might not be used to or that could contribute to tummy upsets.
  • Observe your pup closely on walks and make sure they aren’t eating things they shouldn’t.
  • Avoid sudden changes of diet.
  • Feed to the recommended amount and don’t allow dogs to over eat
  • Make sure bins, kitty litter and plants are well out of reach



Puppies, like children, are very adventurous and accident prone, and often end up accidentally hurting themselves.

The top 3 accidental injuries in puppies are:

Top 5 health conditions in puppies Accidents Bow Wow Meow


Preventing accidents in puppies

  • Keep claws trimmed so they don’t get overgrown and catch on things.
  • Socialise them from an early age to help prevent fights and bite injuries.
  • Check your garden or yard for hazards that could cause wounds or other injuries.
  • Make sure your property is secure to avoid escapes.
  • Warm up gradually into exercise to avoid injuries such as torn ligaments.


Get 2 months free pet insurance for your puppy!

Congrats on your new bundle of joy…

To ensure your precious fur baby is covered from the start, we’d like to offer you 2 months free in your first year. This promo will be automatically applied on sign up for pets under 12 months old.2

This article is written by

Nicky Klugman

Nicky is our Marketing Communications and Content Specialist. She is an animal-lover who is particularly interested in animal behaviour and the relationships between humans and their pets. While growing up, dogs were always an integral part of the family. Nicky is mum to three human sons and a rescue pup called Dobby.

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*Please note, any pet insurance advice provided is general only. Refer to the applicable Product Disclosure Statement for details of Bow Wow Meow Pet Insurance cover.

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