Owning a dog means your canine knowledge is going to expand quickly. Nutrition and training are just two of the numerous subjects you’re going to become familiar with, but your dog’s health is going to be an education in itself. It doesn’t matter whether your dog is a puppy or a senior citizen, knowing the common illnesses dogs come down with goes a long way towards ensuring their long-term health. As always, your veterinarian is the best source of information in keeping your dog healthy.
Common Dog Toxins and Poisons
There are tons of items that are toxic or deadly for your dog if they ingest them, but there are some common symptoms that should send you straight to your veterinarian’s office if they occur. These include:
- excessive vomiting
- muscle tremors
- change in urine frequency, color, or smell
- ataxia (unable to stand/walk)
These symptoms can be indicative of other conditions, but regardless of how they occur, they require medical attention. If your dog is a trash digger, counter surfer, or an eater of random items, these symptoms should be immediately concerning.
Intestinal Obstructions in Dogs
Dogs sometimes eat items that are either inedible or too large to pass through the large intestine. Some dogs are rock eaters, others like to eat socks, and some dogs will swallow their toys in large pieces. An intestinal obstruction is fatal if it isn’t treated surgically, and knowing the signs of a blockage is crucial if you have a dog who habitually eats non-food items. Signs of an intestinal obstruction are:
- vomiting immediately after eating or drinking
- diarrhea that quickly progresses to a lack of bowel movements
- painful abdomen (walking with a hunched back, crying when you touch their stomach)
- lack of appetite
Almost all intestinal blockages need to be remedied with surgery. If you suspect your dog has eaten something that could be lodged in their intestines or could potentially get stuck, you should take them to their vet immediately for prompt diagnosis.
Parvovirus Cases in Puppies
This virus almost exclusively affects unvaccinated or partially vaccinated puppies, but some older unvaccinated dogs (especially pit bulls and Rottweilers) are susceptible to the disease, too. Parvovirus attacks a puppy’s intestinal lining, causing it to die and slough off in the form of putrid, bloody diarrhea. Parvovirus isn’t automatically fatal if it’s treated promptly. Symptoms of parvo include:
- lack of appetite (typically the first sign)
- lethargy (the second sign)
- vomiting, especially after drinking water
- diarrhea that becomes increasingly more frequent, bloody, and putrid smelling
- dehydration (sticky gums, sunken eyes)
- seizures if dehydration progresses to dangerous levels
Parvo is preventable! Vaccinate your puppies on your vet’s recommended schedule, avoid taking an unvaccinated puppy to communal areas like parks and daycares, and only expose them to fully-vaccinated adult dogs.
Ear Infections Are A Common Issue
Dogs with floppy ears are prone to ear infections, as are dogs who spend a lot of time in the water. Ear infections can be caused by bacteria or yeast, so they require a medical diagnosis for proper and effective treatment. Signs of an ear infection are:
- frequent head shaking
- constant ear scratching or rubbing their ears on furniture or the floor
- foul/odd odor coming from their ears
- discharge from the infected ear
- head tilt if the inner ear is affected
Never treat an ear infection with products you can buy at the store. If the eardrum has ruptured, putting ointment or cleanser into the ear canal could permanently damage your dog’s hearing.
Dogs and Parasitic Infections
Your dog having worms is a horrific and slightly traumatizing experience, especially if the adult worms appear in your dog’s stool. Puppies are the most likely to get worms, but adult dogs should be regularly dewormed to avoid an infection. Signs your dog has worms are:
- potbelly appearance
- unexplained weight loss
- poor skin/coat quality
- adult worms in the stool
- pink rice-like segments around their anus (in the case of tapeworms)
Worms are rarely serious unless the parasitic infection gets out of control. Monthly deworming is highly effective in preventing an infestation.
Hot Spots On Dogs
Dogs get allergies just like humans do. In some dogs, their allergies are severe enough that they develop oozing, painful sores on their body. They’re challenging to get rid of when they become large, so getting them treated as quickly as possible speeds up the treatment process. Hot spots typically appear as:
- open, superficial wounds anywhere on the body
- missing hair directly over the hot spot, but hair loss surrounding the area is common
- obsessive licking and chewing the affected area
Treatment typically involves steroids (oral), antibiotics, and NSAIDs. Without treatment, the spots will get infected and last for months.
Dogs Can Get Kennel Cough
Kennel cough is a bacterial respiratory infection transmitted from dog to dog, and it’s seen mostly in kennels, daycares, and shelters. It’s not deadly or dangerous, but it will make your dog miserable. Signs are:
- a dry, hacking cough that increases at night or with activity
- a runny nose and/or eyes
- lack of appetite
- ahistory of being boarded within the past 10-14 days
It is easily treatable with 10 to 14 days of antibiotics and anti-cough medications to keep them comfortable.
There are hundreds of illnesses dogs can get, and like humans, they vary in severity. Whenever you notice anything out of the ordinary with your dog, it’s better to play it safe and have them seen by their vet as quickly as possible. Your vet would rather see your dog for “nothing” than for you to wait until there is something to be concerned over.