Dogs are loyal companions that love unconditionally and provide their owners with numerous benefits and joys during their life. Unfortunately, like any other living creature, dogs are susceptible to a variety of health issues and diseases that range in levels of seriousness, some of which can cut their lives short.
Although dogs are sometimes befallen with certain health issues, some are more common than others. It’s always best to know what common diseases in dogs are, what their symptoms are, and how to prevent and treat them. Read on to find out what you need to know about these diseases.
Often referred to as simply “Parvo,” parvovirus is a general family of viruses that is highly fatal and results in death 80% of the time. Parvo is the most common of all dog diseases, and affects countless puppies and older dogs each year. It’s nearly impossible to provide an environment for your dog where it cannot be found.
Whether it’s your yard, a kennel, or even a couch, parvo can easily inflict your dog with a serious disease that needs immediate attention.
Parvo is easily spread through various contact from dogs, or even from tracking fecal matter into your home. The virus is a single strand of DNA, and is nearly impossible to eradicate even with disinfectants and rigorous cleaning. Parvo can live on host for up to five months, and isn’t affected by changes in temperature.
While dogs are able to have mild forms of parvo that show hardly any symptoms at all, the effects of a serious form often include: Lack of appetite, fever, dehydration, bloody stool, lethargy, vomiting, and even depression. If a dog has severe parvo, you’ll notice very quickly.
If you even mildly suspect that your dog or puppy has parvo, get to the vet immediately. The sooner it’s caught, the higher the survival rates are.
Parvo is a huge battle for even the toughest puppies and dogs. When diagnosed, the next step is for the dog to stay at the vet for anywhere from five to seven days. The dog receives a mixture of IV fluids, antibiotics, and medicine that suppresses vomiting so they can stay hydrated and keep nutrients in.
Even with the best care and treatment, fatality rates are still high, and there is also the possibility for lingering effects, especially with the heart and intestines.
Although parvo is indeed a deadly and prevalent disease, it can be prevented with vaccinations. Puppies should begin receiving their first rounds of shots around 6-8 weeks old, and then receive booster shots until 16 weeks old. Doing so will allow you to have peace of mind from knowing that your dog will never have to face such a terrible disease.
Distemper is another common disease that mainly affects puppies. It is incredibly contagious, and usually fatal. In fact, it kills more dogs than any other infectious disease. Dogs that do survive suffer from lasting effects throughout their life. Just like parvo, there is no real way to ensure that your dog isn’t subjected to it.
Puppies are the most vulnerable to distemper, and rarely survive. The virus attacks everything from brain tissue to internal organs, and even limbs.
Distemper can be spread through even minimal contact. The virus itself is present in any kind of body secretions, including saliva. It can even be spread through the air. Puppies under six weeks old are usually protected from it, as their mother’s antibodies are still present.
Puppies from six to twelve weeks are most vulnerable, since the antibodies have almost fully diminished by then. Puppies that come into close proximity to animal waste from a variety of other infected animals are at risk as well.
Distemper symptoms can often be observed in two different stages. The first stage includes symptoms such as fever, vomiting, diarrhea, dry cough, pussy blisters on the abdomen, watery discharge from both eyes and nose, and depression.
As the disease progresses, the symptoms begin to change, and include slobbering, head shaking, confusion, seizures, blindness, and callous-like pads on the feet.
Once acquired, distemper can never be fully cured. The sooner you notice symptoms, the better chance your dog has for survival, although there may be lingering effects such as seizures and hardening of the paw pads. The age of the dog plays a role as well.
If your bring your dog to the vet for treatment, expect the dog to receive IV fluids, antibiotics, and other medicines that help to lessen diarrhea and vomiting.
Distemper is an incredibly fatal and damaging disease with low survival rates, but it can be prevented with standard puppy vaccinations. Most vets will offer distemper vaccinations during the puppy’s first 5 or 6 weeks of life.
If your puppy is too young, or hasn’t been able to get the vaccinations, yet, do not bring other dogs into your household, as they could be carrying the disease. If you are adopting a dog, be sure to ask the shelter for documentation on the vaccines.
Lyme disease is a tick borne illness, and affects numerous dogs each year. Although Lyme disease is generally associated with humans, it is rather common for dogs, and can lead to some serious health problems if left unchecked.
The health problems that result from Lyme disease can vary, but it is always best to tackle the disease head-on to ensure your dog’s well-being.
Lyme disease can be carried by deer ticks, and is transmitted from the tick biting your dog. The transmission can happen instantly, but has a far greater chance of occurring if the tick has been attached to your dog for 2-3 days. While it is the most common tick borne illness, it only causes symptoms in 5-10% of dogs.
Most dogs that contract Lyme disease will experience inflamed and painful joints that lead to lameness and obvious discomfort. The lameness may only show up for a few days, but is known to recur several weeks later.
Other symptoms include difficulty breathing, sensitivity to touch, stiff walk, fever, lack of appetite, swollen lymph nodes, and sometimes even heart and nerve complications.
If you notice these symptoms in your dog, the first step is a vet visit. Your veterinarian may perform a number of tests to check for other causes of joint inflammation, such as arthritis, trauma, or other joint disorders.
If the diagnosis is indeed Lyme disease, outpatient care usually follows, except in the cases of kidney failure and other symptoms that are causing instability. Antibiotics are prescribed, such as Doxycycline. The dog can usually recover after around four weeks. Future kidney issues remain a risk, however.
Lyme disease vaccinations are available, but remain controversial. Because of this, it’s best to rely on practical steps to decrease the chances of your dog being bitten by ticks, or having one attached for a long period of time.
First off, avoid areas where tick infestation is likely, such as wooded areas with tall, unkept grass. Check your dog daily to see if there are ticks present, particularly in the warmer months. If found, remove gently by hand without squeezing, or using special tick tweezers.
Flea and tick collars, sprays, and topical skin solutions can all be effective in both preventing and killing ticks as well.
Mange is a skin disease that can refer to any type of affliction in a dog that results in itching, scabs, hair loss, and redness of skin. The rough and ungroomed appearance often found with long-term stray dogs is a result of the non-treatment of mange.
Mange may not seem as serious is some other dog diseases, but the truth is that it not only causes a high level of discomfort for a dog, it can led to other health issues, and be spread to other as well. There are two main types of mange in dogs: Sarcoptic and Demodectic.
Both mange types are caused by mites. With Sarcoptic mange, the disease is brought about from mites, and can then be transferred to other animals via contact. With Demodectic mange, transfer occurs from mother to puppy, and cannot be spread through touch.
The symptoms for each type are somewhat similar. Sarcoptic mange results in extreme itchiness and scratching, hair loss, and scaly, red skin that is spread about in sparse areas including the ears, face, elbows,and stomach, but can eventually spread to the entire body if left untreated.
Demodectic mange results in patchy hair loss, but usually without any scaly skin or redness. Constant scratching and itchiness is prevalent as well.
Treatment for Sarcoptic mange can be accomplished with several different dips, spot treatments, oral medications, and even injections. The treatment often depends on the breed and size of the dog.
With Demodectic mange, antibiotics, drugs, and topical treatments can be used when the condition is severe, but the disease generally fades away as the puppy grows older.
The prevention of Sarcoptic mange lies in simply keeping your dog away from affected dogs. Should your dog come into contact with one, give them a bath immediately and monitor closely for signs of symptoms.
Demodectic mange prevention is a little different, but just as practical. It begins with avoiding breeding and dogs that carry the gene or trait in the first place. Puppies can be nurtured with a healthy diet rich with nutrients that help them to fight off potential ailments, mange Demodectic included.
Rabies is perhaps the most well-known of all dog diseases, and is nothing to mess around with. This disease has several drastic symptoms that not only make a dog dangerous and out of control, but also a carrier of the disease, which can lead to death in humans as well.
Rabies is always fatal for dogs. It is also entirely preventable, but still remains a large risk for both dogs and humans.
Rabies is transmitted via biting from an infected animal to the other. This obviously includes dogs, but can also come from infected skunks, raccoons, bats, and foxes. Canine-specific rabies has been virtually eradicated, but the disease lives on and is transmitted to dogs from encounters with these smaller animals.
Rabies symptoms are severe and very noticeable, and occur in two awful stages.
The initial stage is marked by the dog being aggressive, and displaying restlessness, apprehension, high pain tolerance, extreme mood swings, confusion, and even attempting to lunge at imaginary objects.
Once the disease progresses, the dog can show foaming at the mouth from extreme dehydration, paralysis, and an inability to eat. The final stage is death.
There is no cure for rabies in dogs. Humans can be treated with a long series of painful injections.
When a dog is suspected of having rabies, it will be quarantined for up to 90 days, and released after if no symptoms show. If the symptoms are present, the dog is immediately euthanized. The only way to know for sure if a dog has rabies is through an autopsy after it has died.
This one is fairly obvious. Vaccinations are legally required, and must always be done to ensure the disease is kept at bay for both dog and human.
Diabetes not only affects people, but dogs as well. This canine version of diabetes carries many of the same symptoms and causes of human diabetes, and treatments as well. This disease has increased in occurrence in recent years, although this good be attributed to better screening and detection. Either way, it is common and should be addressed.
The exact cause of diabetes in dogs is debated. Factors such as genetics, autoimmune disease, pancreatitis, obesity, and diet can all play a role in the development of the disease, however.
Diabetes can be classified in two ways, but only one type is found in dogs, and that’s Type I. With Type I, the pancreas is incapable of producing insulin.
Several symptoms can occur with canine diabetes when left untreated. They include weight loss, lethargy, vomiting, dehydration, cataracts, frequent urination, noticeable change in appetite, and urinary tract infections.
Diabetes in dogs is treated with a combination of diet and insulin shots. Veterinarians will provide you with a plan and ways to store the insulin after a diagnosis.
Sticking to an exact schedule with the insulin is essential in keeping your dog at optimal health. Following a strict diet is also a key requirement in treatment. Controlling the disease is much more difficult in an overweight dog, so exercise and a healthy diet go a long way in managing it.
As mentioned earlier, the exact cause of diabetes is unknown, and dogs are certainly more susceptible to it in later years. However, a proper diet mixed with adequate exercise can go a long way in decreasing the chances of diabetes occurring in your dog.
Be sure to feed your dog the proper amount of food each day, and use a reputable food brand that doesn’t use filler or low-quality ingredients. Go easy with treats, and keep dog-friendly human food to a minimum.
Obesity in dogs is a growing problem, especially in the United States. According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, 44% of dogs in the U.S. are estimated to be either overweight or obese.
It probably goes without saying, but an overweight dog is prone to a wide number of health issues that can not only create an uncomfortable life, but early death as well.
Canine obesity isn’t just something that magically happens overnight, or is contagious. It is the owner’s fault 99% of the time, and is completely unnecessary, with the exception of special health issues that could lead to it.
The obesity is a result of overfeeding, and feeding unhealthy human foods that are not good for a dog’s diet.
Canine obesity is widely believed to be the biggest cause of preventable disease and death in dogs. The symptoms can result in arthritis, heart issuers, hip dysplasia, diabetes, and a whole host of other issues.
The added weight can also make it much more difficult for your dog to be active, which makes losing the weight that much harder.
Treatment for canine obesity generally includes a strict diet as determined by your veterinarian, and will typically involve low-fat dog food varieties and portion control. As your dog’s weight drops, monitored exercise may be increased incrementally, helping the weight come off faster while improving your dog’s circulation and cardio health.
Obesity is entirely preventable. Pay close attention to the recommended food portions for your dog’s breed and weight. Avoid giving the dog too many treats or human food. Brown rice, carrots, small amounts of peanut butter, and green beans are suitable human food options for when you want to mix things up a bit or offer a reward.
Periodontal disease largely refers to gum disease in a dog. This disease can start off undetected, and silently wreak havoc to your dog’s mouth over time. If left unchecked, your dog’s dental health can turn into a dire situation that will be very bothersome to both your dog and your bank account.
Just like humans, gum disease is caused by bacteria and plaque build-up. The bacteria begins to spread and attack the gums, which leads to a whole host of issues.
At first, even if the disease is advanced and painful for your dog, you might not notice. Dogs tend to downplay pain as a way to avoid showing any kinds of weakness. Plus, it’s hard to outwardly notice tooth pain in a dog who can’t actually tell you what’s going on.
Still, there are other symptoms you can observe, such as problems picking up normal amounts of food during feeding, bleeding gums, avoiding petting on the head, loose teeth, blood in water bowl, and constant sneezing in advanced cases.
The treatment methods for periodontal disease all vary based on how far along the disease has progressed.
During the earliest stage, the gums are red and slightly inflamed, needing only some cleaning above the gum line. Unfortunately, it’s rare to catch the disease this early.
The second and more common stage is when there are periodontal pockets separating the gum and tooth. In this case, the gum and root must be cleansed, and a gel is applied to reattach the gums to the teeth.
In the third stage of the disease, the periodontal pockets have gone deeper than 5 millimeters, which means there is actual bone loss. This can be treated by opening a gum flap around the affected area and cleaning the diseased tissue, which is then aided in regrowth with special medicines.
The fourth and most severe stage of the disease involves a high level of bone loss. The only solution is tooth extraction.
Periodontal disease is one of the most common claims for pet insurance each year. It’s also easily preventable.
Always feed your dog appropriate food, and give them dental dog chews in their spare time to keep plaque and tartar in check. You can also brush their teeth several times a week to ensure optimal dental health.
Routine mouth inspections can help you catch any problems before they get worse, and regular oral exams from your veterinarian are even more effective.
Arthritis is very common in aging dogs. It involves the erosion of cartilage in joints, which also decreases the fluid that helps to lubricate them. The result is varying degrees of pain in your dog’s joints, which can have a significant effect on their well-being and attitude.
Arthritis can lead to a diminished quality of life for your dog, but there are some things you can do to ease its effects.
The biggest cause of arthritis is old age. As your dog gets older, their body begins to wear and break down, leading to issues like arthritis. It’s as simple as that.
All of the symptoms of arthritis stem from the pain and discomfort that your dog feels. Their joints will get inflamed, which leads to pain when doing any kind of moving, especially when it comes to climbing stairs, jumping up into the car, and other similar actions.
If your dog is slow to get up, showing reluctance to play, climb steps, or get up on the couch or bed, it’s time to take them in for a checkup to determine if arthritis is the cause.
There are numerous options for helping your dog cope with arthritis.
Several medications and supplements are available that can ease the symptoms of the disease. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories can help to keep the inflammation down, and supplements with glucosamine and chondroitin can both improve joint lubrication and also reinforce the existing cartilage.
Physical therapy and rehabilitation are effective as well. Certified canine rehab practitioners (CCRP’s) can use methods such as hydrotherapy and therapeutic ultrasound to help offer relief to symptoms and increase overall mobility. The results are often immediate and will cause a drastic improvement over time.
Acupuncture is treatment that is gaining more traction as well. Tiny needles are inserted into problem areas, and can actually feel good to your dog. The needles also help to release cortisol and endorphins in your dog’s joints, easing pain and preventing spasms and cramps.
Not much can be done to prevent arthritis from occurring, especially in aging dogs. One thing that can be done to help your dog if they do develop arthritis is to make sure they maintain a healthy weight. The more weight they put on, the more painful the burden is on their joints.
Arthritis certainly prevents your dog from being as active, which can make weight gain easier. Try to involve your dog in some low impact activities, and take them on frequent small walks. Swimming is an excellent choice for an activity, as it involves no pressure on the joints.
Just as the case is with humans, dogs are affected by several different types of cancer. In fact, it’s the leading cause of death in dogs over the age of 10 years old. Lymphoma, skin cancer, and bone cancer are all common forms of cancer found in many dogs each year.
Cancer can certainly be deadly, but a dog’s chances of survival are increased significantly when it is caught in early stages.
It’s difficult to determine what exactly causes cancer in most dogs. However, since it mainly occurs in older dogs, it can actually be attributed to the fact that dogs live longer lives that in years past, thanks to widespread vaccine use, preventative health measures, and proper care.
Genetics and bloodlines can also play a big role in the dog’s chances of developing cancer.
Cancer comes in many forms, so the symptoms themselves will vary depending on the actual form of cancer. Still, there are several signs you can observe to alert you to the possibility of cancer in your dog.
An abnormal lump or bump is a warning sign, as is a wound that is having trouble healing. Swelling, enlarged lymph nodes, and abnormal bleeding can be giveaways as well, including lethargy and lameness.
If you are observing these symptoms in your dog, it’s best to take them in for a checkup.
Treating canine cancer depends on the types of cancer, its stage, and the age of your dog. Many of the same options are available for dogs that humans have as well. Surgery can often be used to remove many cancer types, and radiation and chemotherapy are often used when surgery isn’t an option.
Oncology for dogs was hardly existent even 20 years ago. Today, there are numerous treatment centers to be found for dogs, with some veterinarians who are solely dedicated to treating cancer in dogs.
Like we mentioned earlier, cancer is hard to prevent, mainly because the actual cause is hard to pin down. Still, there are some precautions owners can take to decrease the chances of it occurring.
Try to limit your dog’s exposure to carcinogens such as smoke and herbicides in your yard. Dogs with thin fur or lack of pigment on their face and bellies should avoid being in the sun for long periods of time.
Spaying or neutering your dog is a very effective way to avoid the development of cancers such as testicular, ovarian, uterine, and even breast cancer.
There are actually some vaccines that have been developed, such as a vaccine that prevents oral melanomas. Those are worth asking your veterinarian about as well.
Keeping an eye out for abnormal symptoms is the best way to catch a cancer developing in the early stages, and routine checkups are extremely helpful as well. Ask your veterinarian about scheduling consistent checkups, or getting on a monthly plan that helps cover the costs of checkups.
Dogs can suffer from a number of different worm infections and diseases, with each worm type being contracted in different ways, along with varying effects in the body. Since there are so many different types of worms, it’s best to just address each one on its own.
Heartworm is a dangerous diseases that is found all over North America and Canada. It is spread by mosquitos, making fairly easy for your dog to contract during warmer months.
Just like the name says, heartworms live inside a dog’s heart, and also the blood vessels. When heartworms reach adulthood, they lay eggs, which can be passed on to other mosquitoes that feed on that dog. The mosquito then bites another dog, transferring the larvae to that dog, and the process repeats.
Dogs with heartworms are at severe risk for congestive heart failure, and other harmful cardiac issues. Other symptoms can include trouble breathing, constant tiredness, listlessness, weight loss, rough coat, and coughing. If you observe these symptoms in your dog, schedule a vet appointment as soon as possible.
Treatment for heartworms can include various medicines, and surgery for severe cases. Prevention can be accomplished through a variety of ways, including a heartworm preventative that is taken monthly. Your vet may even prescribe separate medicines for your dog if it is traveling to an area where heartworms are prevalent.
The best course of action as an owner is to begin using a medication as soon as your dog is old enough, and constantly getting checkups to ensure your dog is heartworm-free.
Hookworms are a particularly nasty worm that lives in the intestines and sucks the blood from its host. They can be found in both dogs and humans. Hookworm infection can cause severe weakness and malnutrition, and can prove fatal for small puppies.
Hookworms can be contracted from surface contact with contaminated water or soil, but most often comes from mothers who have passed it on to their puppies during feeding.
Symptoms can include coughing, lack of appetite, and a generally sickly appearance. Infected dogs can also have diarrhea, and a pale lining of their nostrils, lips, and ears.
Treatment involves a few rounds of a de-wormer medication, which can eradicate the infection over the course of a few weeks. Puppies with severe infestations may require additional supplements to help them regain vitamins and minerals.
Prevention is never guaranteed, but you can take several steps to discourage the proliferation of hookworms. Try to keep your dog’s environment clean, and be sure that their water is constantly fresh and never stagnant. Should you suspect an infection, bring your dog to a veterinarian, or supply them with a fecal matter sample to test.
Roundworms, sometimes referred to as ascarids, are another type of worm that lives in the intestines while feeding off of them. These worms can cause some fairly obvious symptoms, and can also be identified easily in your dog’s fecal matter.
These worms can infect your dog through a variety of ways, whether it’s contact with other infected dogs, their feces, or unkempt environments and living spaces. Puppies often get roundworms from their infected mothers during nursing.
The roundworms will be ingested as eggs, where they later hatch in become larvae. The larvae spread to the dog’s windpipe, which causes it to cough and then ingest the into the intestines, where they become adults, and the cycle repeats.
Should your dog contract roundworms, you’ll notice symptoms such as weakness, a pot-belly, weight loss, belly pain, vomiting, and of course visible worms in their fecal matter.
Treatment typically involves a deworming medication given in several does over the course of one or two weeks. Prevention can be attained by keeping your dog’s environment clean, cleaning up their waste immediately, keeping the dog away from other small mammals, and be taking preventative medications.
These worms are yet another example of worms found in the intestines. Whipworms actually reside where the small and large intestines meet. Although they are less harmful than other worms, they can cause noticeable symptoms in large numbers.
Whipworms can be taken on when ingesting infected matter, or from contact with other infected animals. These worms are pretty resilient, and can survive in an environment for several years.
If your dog is infected with a significant amount, you’ll notice it suffering from bloody stool, dehydration, weight loss, and even anemia. A trip to the veterinarian is in order if so. Diagnosis can be accomplished by analyzing stool samples.
Treatment is administered with specific mediations that will eradicate the infection in a week or so. This should be followed with a checkup to ensure that they are all gone. Preventing infections revolves around keeping your dog’s space clean, fresh water, and no contact with other at-risk animals.
Tapeworms are a particularly aggressive worm that can cause your dog plenty of trouble and discomfort. These worms live in the small intestine, and continually break off pieces of themselves that pass into your dog’s waste. These worms are very resilient, and can infect children as well.
Tapeworms are generally transmitted by ingesting matter that has eggs contained. Fleas can carry tapeworms, as can other animals your dog may have contact with. Scavenging is a cause as well.
Symptoms include a number of intestinal issues, and also a burning, itching pain around the dog’s anus. This often results in the dog dragging it’s behind across the ground to get relief from the itching. If your dog does, this, get them to the veterinarian as soon as possible to begin treatment.
Treatment is outpatient in nature, and involves injecting prescribed medications to eradicate the infestation. You can decrease your dog’s risk for tapeworms by keeping it away from dead animals and garbage, along with ensuring a clean living area and fresh water.
If you think only humans get the flu, you are mistaken. Canine parainfluenza is extremely common in all breeds of dogs, and can even go unnoticed for weeks.
Dog flu generally affects the upper respiratory system, and is easily spread from one dog to another. Many dogs can contract the flu, and fight it off on their own, while others may need veterinary attention.
Similar to the human flu, dog flu is contagious and spread from one dog to another, whether it’s through direct contact, or sneezing. Some dogs may contract it from using the same water or food bowl.
Dog flu symptoms can be grouped into two separate levels of severity.
Milder forms of the flu include the dog having a wetter than usual nose, and nasal discharge. Dry coughing may accompany this as well, along with frequent sneezing. The dog may be less playful and energetic as usual as well, or less excited when you come home.
More severe cases involve the above symptoms, and a high fever that surpasses 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Pneumonia can develop if left unchecked as well. The virus can affect the capillary vessels as well, which can lead to coughing up blood.
Parainfluenza can also lead to other diseases, such as bordetellosis, otherwise known as Kennel Cough.
The less-severe form of the flu can be treated with simple cough suppressants. Advanced forms of the flu require potent antibiotics to take care of the bacterial infection. If the flu has taken a large toll on the dog, IV fluids and other medications may be needed until the dog is stable again.
There are vaccines available for dog flu, but you should first ask your veterinarian if the vaccine is right for your dog.
It’s also a good idea to keep your dog away from other dogs showing signs of the flu, if possible.