All of us love our dogs. We get them checked by a veterinarian once a year, get them vaccinated, and feed them nutritious food. We do everything we can to give them a happy, healthy life and treat them like a member of our family. Unlike a human member of the family though, our canine companions can’t tell us when their tummy hurts or when they just aren’t feeling well. Understanding and being able to recognize the symptoms of common dog diseases can help you identify problems with your dog quickly.

Here are some of the most common dog diseases.

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Canine Parvovirus

Parvo is a virus that targets puppies and young dogs. They contract parvo by coming into contact with the feces of an infected individual, so it is often found in crowded breeding facilities or shelters. The disease attacks the intestines and heart and only 50% of infected dogs survive. 

Symptoms of parvovirus include vomiting, lethargy, severe diarrhea, and weight loss. This disease damages the immune system and intestines and can lead to septic shock.

Fortunately, there is a vaccine to prevent canine parvovirus. All puppies should receive this vaccination as part of their core vaccines in their first few months of life.

Gastric Torsion (Bloat)

Gastric torsion, or bloat, can affect any dog, at any age, but some dogs are more susceptible than others. Large, deep-chested dogs such as German shepherds, boxers, labs, and Great Danes as well as long, broad-chested dogs like basset hounds and dachshunds are more likely to suffer from bloat. Bloat is the result of a dog eating quickly. The dog’s stomach becomes enlarged, or even flips over, which is dangerous because it prevents fluid and air from escaping. This causes retching (without vomit), an enlarged stomach, restlessness, and excessive salivation.

The best way to prevent bloat is to slow down your dog when they eat. You can use puzzle feeders or kong toys stuffed with food, or even put a couple of balls in your dog’s food bowl. If you suspect your dog has bloat, it’s vital to seek medical attention right away.

Kidney Disease

Also known as renal failure, kidney disease is most common in geriatric dogs. It can also arise as a complication of some medications or other diseases. 

Kidney disease that develops over time is called chronic kidney disease. This dog disease is not preventable, and some dogs are genetically predisposed to it, making them even more at risk. One cause of chronic kidney disease, however, is preventable: dental disease. In late stages, dental disease bacteria can enter the bloodstream and damage organs like the kidneys.

Acute kidney disease, on the other hand, is caused by issues like poisoning, complications from medication, or infections. Unlike chronic kidney disease, which develops over time, symptoms of acute kidney disease are sudden and severe. These symptoms include vomiting, fever, increased water intake, increased urination, or a change in appetite.

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Lyme Disease

Lyme Disease is the most common tick-borne illness. It is caused by bacteria transmitted from ticks to your dog via saliva while the tick feeds on your pet. Symptoms of Lyme Disease include lameness that can shift from leg to leg over time. Your dog might also experience stiffness and a decrease in appetite. 

Treatment for Lyme Disease is antibiotics and symptoms often fade in about 4 weeks. Symptoms may never fade entirely, however. To prevent your dog from contracting Lyme Disease, keep them away from areas prone to harboring ticks and check your dog often. Make sure your dog is on a flea and tick preventative to discourage ticks from biting. Preventative medicines come in topical forms, pills, and collars.

Heartworm Disease

Heartworm is a dangerous and unfortunately common heart condition that is completely preventable. Dogs get heartworm when they are bitten by an infected mosquito. Heartworm is most common in wet, humid areas, but can be found in all environments. These parasites are exactly as the name implies: worms that burrow into your dog’s bodily tissues, including the heart and other organs. Untreated heartworm can kill our beloved canines, with severe cases seeing as many as 250 worms living in a single dog.

This disease is treated with a series of injections that are painful, but effective. Preventatives come in topical, pill, and injection forms.

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Cancer is common in dogs, especially older dogs, and comes in many forms. 50% of dogs over the age of 10 develop some form of cancer. Though cancer isn’t preventable, the faster you find and treat the disease, the better the dog’s chance of survival. Changes in a dog’s behavior can indicate a health issue like cancer. It’s important to report any suspicious behavior changes to your veterinarian in case they are signs of disease.

Other signs of cancer include hair loss, swollen lymph nodes, abnormal lumps on the skin, changes in appetite, lethargy, and weight loss.

Kennel Cough

Kennel cough is especially prevalent in spaces where many dogs interact with one another, such as a dog park or kennel. This dog disease is a highly contagious respiratory disease that spreads through air or touch. Puppies are especially susceptible to kennel cough due to their weaker immune systems, but all dogs can develop it. 

Symptoms of kennel cough include a strong cough, runny nose, sneezing, fever, loss of appetite, and lethargy. 

Kennel cough can be prevented with a vaccine. Not all dogs require vaccination, but if your dog spends time among large groups of other dogs, they should be vaccinated for kennel cough.

Dog Diseases: Keeping Our Dogs Healthy

While many of these dog diseases can have terrible consequences for our canine companions, almost all of them are preventable. Regular veterinary checkups, as well as inspections at home, can catch many issues early on. Using preventative medications suggested by your veterinarian can save you money and your dog from suffering unnecessarily. They may not be able to tell us when they are feeling sick, but we can do our best to keep them healthy.

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