The puppy, being an unruly puppy, had a few other issues and needed general obedience and the owner wasn't seeing any results. They fired their third trainer and arranged a board and train with us at our home in Flint, Michigan.
The puppy settled in well and began playing with adult dogs and quickly learned appropriate behavior and bite inhibition during play. We switched his food with the owner's permission from a low quality kibble to a high quality kibble and saw a reduction in the excessive hyperness and need to absolutely chug down his food as fast as he could. Things were looking up.
Here is a do not try this at home -
The puppy received a recreational chew bone, myself knowing full well there was a potential for the resource guarding to pop up because I hadn't yet seen it with this new higher quality kibble. Suddenly, as all the best training experiences seem to happen, it appeared - growling, snarling, and snapping out of this 20 pound puppy. Just a baby, about 4 months old. Because it was a 20 pound puppy - I took the bone and gave it back, took it and gave it back, over and over in a 3 minute session. I was bit but I showed absolutely zero reaction. Very very quickly the puppy realized, biting gets me no where - this person doesn't react or move and when I am quiet I get it back.
Now for the medical part of this story. This puppy had multiple veterinary checks with the usual vaccinations. The owner also told us that the veterinarian performed what the owner described as a rectal exam. The owner verified these things as well as provided a signature that there was no evidence of internal or external parasites that we require from all owners. We are the fourth trainer for this puppy because the others weren't achieving results or weren't otherwise knowledgeable or suitable for various reasons.
Less than a week into his board and train there it was. A dead adult roundworm in his stool.
The puppy (and everyone else in our home) was immediately placed on a worming protocol if they weren't already on a worming medication that included roundworms. Today is day 4 and I saw the true severity of this infestation.
Being a first time dog owner, the owner had no idea and took everyone's advice. The veterinarian told the owner that this puppy was free of internal and external parasites. Of the three previous trainers the owner talked to one trainer about health care. The owner was told by that one trainer that the puppy was too young to worry about worming/heartworm medications yet.
I watched the puppy struggle today to pass the shear load of roundworms. 8-10 adult worms in a single segment of stool (beware: picture at the end of this article) and the puppy had passed 5 of these segments in a single potty break this afternoon.
Here is the moral of this story - DO NOT TAKE A NEGATIVE FECAL EXAM OR RECTAL EXAM AS AN "ALL CLEAR" FOR DOGS NO MATTER THEIR AGE.
Even I have been told that my dogs were "negative" for internal parasites only to see them come out in stool after our regular scheduled worming. (Note: We worm our personal dogs at least every 6 months because we attend dog shows regularly).
If you attend a place such as a doggie daycare or if you regularly attend areas that are of high-traffic to dogs make sure you have a regular schedule in place even if they have a "negative fecal exam requirement." Time and time again I have seen dogs with "negative" fecal exams turn out to have parasites.
The most common monthly heartworm medications will cover roundworms and a few other types of worms. Make sure you know exactly what the medications you give your dog(s) covers. Most do NOT cover tapeworms so make sure you have a seperate worming protocol for tapeworms. They also do not cover microscopic parasites such as Giardia - you can not see Giardia with your naked eye and it is very commonly missed by veterinarians. Ask your veterinarian if you have any questions about a regular worming protocol.
Turns out, this poor puppy had never been properly wormed in its entire life. The veterinarian and other dog (training) professionals should have known better and known basic dog health and worming protocols. Seek medical assistance if you visually see worms in stool. I am not going to give medical advice or our worming protocol in this article.
I can't help but think that as the parasite load of this puppy grew, his resource guarding of food sources also grew because the puppy was being increasingly robbed of nutrients to grow by all of these adult roundworms. Without proper guidance from an experienced trainer this would have turned into a major issue in short order with children in the home. With this medical issue taken care of and some additional training, I expect to see the full recovery of this guarding behavior by the end of the board and train program as well as some weight gain for this young pup.
I do not blame the first time dog owner for this at all. They provided us with all the "right" information and veterinary forms - multiple veterinary exams, vaccinations, verification that they had not seen any evidence of internal or external parasites, etc. prior to beginning our board and train program.
Negative fecals will never be a guarantee.