When dogs get sick, they don’t always tell you. They can suffer in silence for days or weeks. While many dog owners would immediately take action if their dog was ill, sometimes it’s hard to tell that your dog is sick in the first place. Here are 5 common dog diseases to watch out for:
5 Common Dog Diseases
While there’s no way to prepare for every possible illness your dog might get, you can prepare for the most common diseases. Below we’ve listed the 5 most common diseases that impact dogs. If you keep these diseases in mind, you might just be able to catch your dog’s illness in the early stages, before it becomes a bigger problem.back to menu ↑
Cancer is a scary word. While modern medicine is exploring the causes of and cures for cancer, it’s tough to know if a loved one will recover if they do get cancer.
Cancer occurs when normal functioning cells in the body somehow mutate and start to grow uncontrollably. These unhealthy cells grow into healthy cells and suffocate them. Eventually, these healthy cells die and the organism cannot survive any longer.
Cancer can be localized or generalized. Localized cancer is only found in one part of the body, like a tumor. Generalized cancer occurs when the cancer cells begin to spread throughout the body.
The singular cause of cancer is not currently known either. What scientists do know is that cancer is caused by both hereditary causes and environmental causes. If your dog has lumps, swelling, sores, abnormal discharge from any part of their body, sudden weight loss, or lethargy, they may be developing cancer.
If you suspect your dog has cancer, head to the vet right away. Your dog will likely be given an x-ray, ultrasound, or other diagnostic tests to determine the cause of these symptoms. If it is found that your dog has cancer, your vet will suggest a treatment option based on the severity. Treatments usually include surgery, chemotherapy, or immunotherapy. Some pet owners may also choose to not seek treatment depending on the age of the dog or the severity of cancer. If no treatment is selected, you should talk to your vet about managing pain while providing end-of-life care.back to menu ↑
When a dog eats, the food gets broken down. One of the components that food breaks down into is glucose. This glucose is then processed in the body by insulin. Without insulin, the body wouldn’t be able to use the glucose taken in by eating. This is what happens when a dog has diabetes.
Type I diabetes is when the body doesn’t produce enough insulin to get sugar to cells. Type II diabetes is when the body is resistant to using the available insulin. In both these cases, sugar cannot be brought to cells to be used as energy. While the causes of Type II diabetes are not entirely known, it is thought to be caused by a combination of genetics, obesity, and other autoimmune diseases.
The symptoms of diabetes in dogs include vomiting, urinary tract infections, dehydration, excessive thirst, increased urination, and fruity or sweet-smelling breath. If you suspect your dog is developing diabetes, be sure to head to your vet. Your vet will have to run tests to see if your dog’s pancreas is working properly.back to menu ↑
Heartworm is a very common disease in dogs that is both fatal and preventable. The easiest way to prevent heartworms is to give them a chewable treat or a topical medication. Usually, the medicine should be administered monthly, but some manufacturers have different schedules so be sure to read the instructions before beginning heartworm prevention.
Heartworm occurs when a mosquito bites your dog. Their bite transfers the heartworm babies into your dog’s bloodstream. These babies grow and mate until they find a home in your dog’s heart and lungs. Once they settle, they continue to grow and damage your dog’s body. Hundreds of heartworms can live in a dog’s body, and these worms can live for many years. This means your dog’s infection can go unchecked for years before you even begin seeing symptoms. That’s why prevention is so important.
The symptoms of heartworm include labored breathing, coughing, vomiting, weight loss, and fatigue after light to moderate exercise. Be sure to take your dog to the vet if they are displaying these symptoms. Unfortunately, most dogs only display symptoms after they’ve been infected for a significant amount of time. Your vet can use ultrasound or radiographs to check your dog for heartworm disease, but all dogs should be screened annually using a blood test.
If your dog is found to have heartworm disease, treatment may include hospitalization while they are injected with an adulticide. This medication will help expel the adult worms and allow your dog to recover. Your vet should also recommend that you prevent your dog from heavy exercise while they are recovering.back to menu ↑
Kennel cough is a bit of a catch-all term. It’s similar to when humans catch a chest cold. Normally kennel cough is used to refer to both bacterial and viral infections that can cause inflammation in your dog’s voice box and windpipe.
Kennel cough is spread the same way as the common cold is spread. Aerosols from one dog to the other or sharing a food or water dish are the most common culprits. Kennel cough is often spread in animal shelters or a kennel, hence the name.
You’ll know your dog has kennel cough if they have a persistent, honking cough. They may also have discharge from their nose or mouth accompanied by a fever. The good news is that you can vaccinate your dog against kennel cough. If your dog isn’t vaccinated you may also be able to just let it run its course. A humidifier can help relieve your dog’s symptoms. If your dog is gagging when they cough, you can talk to your vet about getting a cough suppressant.back to menu ↑
Rabies is a very serious virus that is usually fatal. This is the reason that vaccination is pushed so hard. Vaccination against rabies is a must, and in New York, rabies vaccination is the law.
Rabies is normally transmitted by a bite from an infected animal, though it can also be passed if the saliva of an infected animal enters an animal’s mucous membranes or an open wound.
The symptoms of rabies are many and varied. They include:
- Foaming from the mouth
- Hiding in dark areas
- Attacking other people or animals
- Overall aggression
- Sudden death
If your dog is exhibiting these symptoms, it’s usually too late. Rabies symptoms take anywhere from two to eight weeks to show, and at that point, there is little a vet can do for your dog.
Even detecting rabies cannot be done. There is no known test to check for rabies while the animal is alive. After the animal dies, its brain tissue can be checked for the presence of the rabies virus. Because of this, if your dog has interacted with another animal known to have had rabies, it’s vital you head to the vet right away.
These common dog diseases should always be something you look out for, but don’t let the thought of something bad happening to your dog ruin your time with them. Most dogs live long, full lives, but it’s always a good idea to be prepared by noticing the signs and symptoms of a serious medical condition.