This content was reviewed by veterinarian Dr. JoAnna Pendergrass, DVM.
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No two dogs are alike. Likewise, no two dog breeds are alike, especially when it comes to their health. Dog health problems range from infections to cancers, and it’s up to you as a pet parent to keep your companions happy and healthy by understanding some common dog illnesses and diseases. See below for the most common types of dog health issues, and make sure to take immediate action if you think something serious is wrong with your dog.
Depending on the size of your pup, some health problems are more prevalent than others. For instance, big dogs tend to deal with more joint problems, whereas smaller dogs tend to experience more dental diseases. Each breed is unique, but it’s important to understand which common dog illnesses and health issues could affect your pet.
Here’s a list of the most common health problems with dogs. Click on the link to jump to each issue and learn more about what to look for and how to treat it.
- What to look for: Dogs can experience different types of allergies and sensitivities, the most common being food allergies, flea and tick sensitivity, and seasonal allergies (e.g., pollen, dust). If your dog is scratching more than usual and seems to be miserably itchy, or perhaps, has a consistent cough or sneeze, you might be dealing with allergies.
- How to treat: First, determine what the allergen is. Identifying the allergen can be challenging, though, and require extensive diagnostic testing by your veterinarian. Be aware that allergies can be managed but not cured. Food allergies, for example, can be managed by changing your dog’s food. Seasonal or environmental allergies can be managed by administering medications and reducing your dog’s exposure to allergens. These medications could have long-term negative side effects on the immune system, so your veterinarian will need to monitor your dog’s health during treatment.
- What to look for: Arthritis usually, but not always, affects dogs as they grow older. It’s a very common health problem in older pets. Your dog will eventually begin to move around less and take more time getting up from lying or seated positions. Your dog may also not want you to touch his painful joints.
- How to treat: Sadly, arthritis is not curable. But, there are things you can do to make it easier on your pets as they age. Nutrition, physical therapy, and exercise are the three big things you can do to manage your dog’s arthritis) process. A healthy and balanced diet that includes joint health supplements (e.g., chondroitin sulfate, glucosamine) maintains good overall health and joint health. Physical therapy, which you can do at home in between therapy sessions, can reduce joint pain. Regular walks will help to keep your dog at a healthy weight. If your dog’s arthritis is really painful, your vet can prescribe medications to alleviate the symptoms.
- What to look for: No one wants to think about their dog getting cancer. It’s especially common in older dogs and is one of the most expensive diseases to treat. Dogs can get many types of cancer, so the list of possible cancer symptoms is incredibly long. A few general symptoms to look out for include lumps, drastic weight loss, and decreased appetite.
- How to treat: Early detection gives your dog the best chance for recovery. Surgery can remove the tumor in some cases, depending on the type, location, and aggressiveness of the cancer. Your veterinarian might also recommend chemotherapy or radiation treatment. Also, medications can be prescribed to reduce pain or manage other symptoms See your vet immediately if you suspect your dog might have cancer.
- What to look for: Dental disease occurs in nearly 80% of dogs by age 3. A common type of dental disease in dogs is periodontal disease, which affects the structures that support the teeth, such as the gums. Signs of periodontal disease include difficulty chewing or swallowing, bad breath, and excessive drooling.
- How to treat: Once periodontal disease starts, it’s essentially there for life. But it can be managed to prevent it from getting bad. Regular at-home teeth brushing and once yearly veterinary dental cleanings are the best ways to prevent serious dental disease. Your vet can instruct you on how to brush your dog’s teeth at home. It’s easier than you think!
- What to look for: Symptoms of diabetes in dogs include changes in appetite, and excessive thirst and urination. Chronic urinary tract infections (UTIs) and cataracts can occur if diabetes goes untreated for an extended period of time or is poorly managed.
- How to treat: Like humans, dogs should get regular insulin injections (up to twice a day) to control diabetes. Oral medications and a high-fiber diet can also work to reverse the disease and get your dog back to a healthy state.
- What to look for: Because kennel cough is a respiratory infection, it can be easily transmitted from one dog to another when they interact. Look for lethargy, coughing, runny nose, and eyes, or loss of appetite as common signs that your dog might have kennel cough.
- How to treat: Vaccines can be administered regularly to prevent some types of kennel cough. If your dog catches kennel cough, your vet can treat them with medication to speed up the recovery process. Keep your pup away from other dogs (especially in public places where the illness can spread rapidly), and give him lots of rest. Once you see signs of recovery, take him for regular walks until your dog is himself again.
- What to look for: Nearly 60% of dogs are either overweight or obese, making obesity a common health issue in dogs. The signs of obesity might seem obvious, but having regular weight checks is important in order to keep records of your dog’s weight over time. It’s important to recognize your dog’s weight gain early to give him the best chance possible to get back to a healthy weight.
- How to treat: A healthy diet and regular exercise are the two things needed when your dog is overweight. A healthy diet will meet your dog’s nutritional needs without going overboard on calories. Regular exercise will help your dog burn calories. It’s important to recognize the severity of your dog’s obesity and adjust your dog’s diet and exercise habits accordingly. Too much exercise, or too significant a reduction in food, can cause other issues, so you should consult your vet before making any drastic changes to your dog’s diet and exercise routine. Your vet will monitor your dog’s progress and help him maintain weight loss.
- What to look for: Thankfully, rabies is not as common today as it once was due to the development of vaccinations. It is extremely rare for a vaccinated dog to get rabies. Symptoms of rabies include heavy, thick drool and aggressive behavior.
- How to treat: Prevention is your best option. It starts with getting your dog a rabies shot either every year or every 3 years (your vet will let you know when your dog needs a rabies booster shot). You should also monitor your dog’s activity to make sure he isn’t interacting with rabies-infected animals in the wild. If you suspect that your dog has rabies, call Animal Control immediately and avoid your dog as much as possible.
- What to look for: If your dog is vomiting, there could be any number of causes. There are a few things to look for to see if there could be a more serious issue: frequency of vomiting (occasional vs frequent) duration of vomiting (a day vs several weeks), the vomit’s appearance (e.g., presence of blood), and other symptoms (e.g., lethargy, weight loss). Occasional vomiting is normal and could have been from something your dog ate.
- How to treat: Because vomiting in dogs has so many causes, always talk to your vet about your dog’s vomiting. If the vomiting is only occasional, then there’s probably no need to be concerned. However, if the vomiting is persistent, if there’s blood in the vomit, or if your dog has other symptoms, your dog could have a serious health issue that your vet will need to diagnose and treat.
- What to look for: There are various types of worms such as intestinal worms (roundworms, hookworms, and whipworms) and heartworms. Symptoms can differ according to worm type. For example, roundworms tend to produce a swollen belly. General intestinal worm symptoms include weight loss, diarrhea, and a lack of energy. A heartworm infection causes symptoms such as reduced appetite, loss of energy, and a mild yet persistent cough.
- How to treat: During the first few weeks of life, puppies are given a dewormer to kill any intestinal worms that might be there. Dewormers are also given to adult dogs with intestinal worms. Follow up with regular fecal checks to make sure all the worms are gone. A monthly heartworm preventative is highly effective at preventing heartworms.
Over the years, we’ve covered just about every topic imaginable regarding a dog’s health. Here’s a comprehensive list (organized by category), including links to articles to learn more.
- Anal Sac Disease
- Intestinal Blockage
- Poop Color Irregularity
- Throwing Up White Foam
- Upset Stomach
- Hot Spots
- Puppy Strangles
- Skin Allergies
- Skin Infections
- Staph Infection
- Wet Noses
We created a list for you and any other dog owners, so feel free to share! Print it out and/or save it somewhere you can easily reference it. That way, you’ll know what symptoms to look for in case your dog is ill.
This video has an overview of some of the common health issues with dogs and some possible solutions.
Becoming familiar with these common dog health issues should help you know which ones you can treat yourself and when it’s time to see a vet. If you find yourself visiting the vet often, perhaps pet insurance is something you should consider. It can greatly reduce your out-of-pocket cost when visiting your veterinarian.
Check out our pet insurance reviews and rankings to see which pet insurance providers might be a good fit for your family. Our guide can help you examine providers’ coverage, waiting periods, age restrictions, prices, and plan customizations.Tagged With: Aging, Cancer, Reviewed By Dr. Pendergrass, DVM, Vaccinations