Dog Health and Wellness Overview of Dog Sicknesses and Health Problems

Published on July 15th, 2017 | by Allie Coleman


Overview of Dog Sicknesses and Health Problems

As most dog owners will attest, while their pets can’t speak to them, they often have other means of letting their owners know they are feeling under the weather. But sometimes when a dog is feeling down it’s hard to tell, and medical conditions can go unnoticed for months, or even years–potentially leaving pets, who have few ways to communicate with their owners, in pain.

Overview of Dog Sicknesses and Health Problems 1

Maintaining Your Dog’s Health: The Top Ten Ailments to Watch Out For

The main reason for the dog becoming man’s best friend is that the critter known to science as Canis Lupus familiaris was actually created by early and ancient man over thousands of years through a process of artificial selection. In effect, this genetically-modified organism that brings joy, companionship, and service to billions of people the world over was bred to retain traits that are compatible to human existence. Thus, we have wonderfully cuddly and engaging dogs that are great with kids, and dogs that are useful in various tasks from home security to herding livestock. What dog breeders did not give as much consideration to, however, was the ability of the dog to face the challenges of its domestic environment which is fraught with health hazards that were still unheard of in the natural environment of the wolfpack.

Thus, all responsible dog owners should give special attention to looking after the health of these valued family members, and know how to prevent and address the more common ailments their dogs may be afflicted with. The following are the most commonly encountered health issues of our beloved fur babies:

1: Heartworm

There are good reasons for veterinary clinics nowadays to recommend regular prophylactic injections to prevent your dog from getting heartworm. As their name suggests, they truly are worms, and large round ones at that, that can infest your dog’s heart and circulatory system several months after the dog is bitten by a mosquito carrying heartworm larvae. Dogs do not show any specific symptoms of this disease, but could become lethargic, short of breath, and less energetic when the worm infestation becomes so severe that their blood flow is impaired. The dog will hardly be able to manage any physical activity and will eventually die if untreated. If your dog shows overall weakness, a check for heartworm infection is indicated before the problem becomes fatal. As in most cases, the treatment costs a lot more than the prevention, so it is truly advisable to subject your dog to the recommended vaccination schedule.

2: Vomiting and Diarrhea

Like your human children, your dogs occasionally pick up some nasty bugs by putting questionable items in their mouths, most especially in the case of dogs who are allowed to romp around your garden or even your neighborhood. Thus, it is not usually too alarming to have your dog belching out his lunch or unleashing a disgustingly wet dump now and then. The dog usually gets over it in a day or so, often even munching on select garden plants to get some roughage into their system. However, if you observe bloody or dark-hued vomit or stool, it’s time to bring the pooch to the vet. Apart from the whole spectrum of pathogens that could cause this, there may be other causes like trauma or gastro-intestinal ruptures that need to be addressed immediately.

3: Obesity

It is not uncommon for well-meaning, but misinformed dog owners to kill their pets with kindness. While overweight and obesity is not often observed in wild animal groups, dogs living with their human families usually have much more food than they ever need, and are subject to much less demand for physical activity. How wonderful it must be for a carnivore to just wait for Mommy to plop some dog chow into a dish, rather than have to run like the dickens all day trying to catch something edible! If your dog is starting to look less like those cool dogs in YouTube clips, and more like a waddling panda, then it’s time to cut back on the snacks, and get your dog to exercise. Scheduling a daily walk or romp with your dog could be a win-win if you need the exercise, yourself.  Obese dogs experience increased risk or injury and various chronic illnesses like liver disease or even metabolic disorders like diabetes.

4: Infectious Diseases

Since the time rabies vaccination was introduced and became the principal reason for a visit to the vet, a multitude of other dangerous and infectious pathogens were discovered, and appropriate prophylaxis was developed for most of them. Rabies makes public health authorities jumpy because of the threat it poses to the human population; but the virus is pretty much under control throughout the U.S., mostly because of continuous immunization programs. What is now more likely to afflict an unvaccinated dog is canine parvovirus and distemper. These are prevented through a now-routine multivalent DHPP vaccine which includes protection against parainfluenza and hepatitis. This is administered in a series of shots beginning when the puppy is just six to eight weeks old, then tapers off to every three years for adult dogs. Other vaccines are recommended in places where the risk of exposure to these diseases is considered high. While rabies is largely transmitted by dog bites, most of these other bugs can be caught by relatively casual contact or exposure to saliva, stool, and other discharges. Leptospirosis vaccination is now also offered because of the potential danger to humans posed by this bacteria.

5: Kennel Cough

Canine infectious tracheobronchitis is a bacterial disease that is commonly spread among dogs sharing the same living space, hence the name “kennel cough.” While it is a relatively benign illness, it is easily transmitted by infected dogs who interact at groomers, doggie daycare facilities, or even play dates in a park. This illness in usually managed with conventional analgesics or cough suppressants, or even antibiotics if the case is severe.

6: Lower Urinary Tract Problems

If your dog seems to be urinating too frequently or having difficulty and experiencing pain when trying to urinate, he might be suffering some kind of urinary tract problem. This could be caused by infectious disease, malformations or blockage such as stones, or even malignancy. Such conditions are nothing you want to deal with at home. A well-equipped veterinary clinic or hospital can evaluate the condition, run some tests, including an X-ray, and determine whether the dog should be treated with medication, surgery, dietary alteration, or other options.

7: Dental Disease

Dogs are often associated with their teeth since many people fear being bitten. These teeth, however, are not as impervious as one might imagine, and are subject to pretty much the same range of dental problems that humans experience, and certainly do need regular dental hygiene care. Dog owners who are not comfortable doing a daily brushing of their pet’s teeth can avert tooth and gum deterioration by making sure the dog has dental-friendly treats or chew toys like rawhide that strengthen teeth and gums. Most adult dogs suffer from some degree of periodontal or gum disease which could open the door to complications like heart and kidney disease, and even diabetes.

8: Skin Problems

Most furry animals in the wild harbor colonies of various types of hitch-hikers such as fleas, ticks, mites, and a lot of even smaller critters.  In the home environment, however, you want your dog to be as comfortable as possible, and not scratching incessantly, or even endangering the health of human family members. There is a host of pet products available in the battle against these parasites. Many of these products such as the soaps and shampoos can be used routinely as a form of prevention. More serious concern should be given to mange or scabies which is caused by certain difficult-to-eradicate mites. Other skin problems can be caused by actual skin infections and even allergies. Sores that are infected with bacteria or fungi need to be treated both locally and systemically. Most allergies that cause skin problems in dogs are food-related, and are easily managed by simply avoiding the allergen.

9: Broken Bones

As dogs are generally lively animals, they do suffer their share of fractures from mishaps occurring in their normal play, or even due to accidents and assault. Broken bones are treated in the same way as such orthopaedic issues are in humans — with splints and casts.

10: Cancer

Yes, our beloved pooches are not spared from the dreaded “big C.” As in treating humans, cancer in dogs is managed through chemotherapy, surgery, radiotherapy, and immunotherapy. Malignancy is not easily diagnosed in dogs because they often compensate for or do not exhibit discomfort from illness as a human would. Cancer should be suspected when the dog shows overall malaise or dysfunctions, especially for unknown reasons. As in humans, skin cancer in dogs is more readily seen and attended to.

Loving your furball

Like any member of the family, your dog deserves the appropriate attention to ensure his health. This could simply mean promoting a healthy lifestyle and making the prescribed visits to the vet; or it could even mean enrollment in a canine health plan which, by the way, is really a thing.

Know the what to look for in canines who might be experiencing anything from a common illness, like kennel cough, to something more serious, like broken bones or cancer, in this article:

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