Common Dog Health Issues You Must Know

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Dog with cone on headNo 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 the pet parents to keep their companions happy and healthy by understanding some common dog illnesses and diseases.

Depending on the size of your pup, some health problems are more prevalent than others. For instance, big dogs tend to deal with more bone and joint problems, whereas smaller dogs tend to suffer more with organ and breathing disorders. Again, each breed is unique, but it is important to understand what common dog illnesses and health issues affect your pet. 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.

Common Dog Ailments


  • What to look for: Arthritis usually, but not always, affects dogs as they grow older. It is the most 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.
  • How to treat: Sadly, arthritis cannot be cured, but there are things you can do to make it easier on your pet as he ages. Diet and nutrition are the two biggest things you can do to slow down the aging (and arthritis) process. Regular walks and a balanced diet of proper (age appropriate) food will keep your dog’s nutrition levels where they should be. Look for food labeled “Senior” and pay attention not to over or under feed. If your dog’s arthritis is severe, your vet can prescribe medications to alleviate the symptoms.

Read more about canine arthritis


  • What to look for: Weight loss, swollen belly, diarrhea, lack of energy.
  • How to treat: Talk to your vet, who might prescribe medication for your dog. Follow up with regular fecal checks to make sure all the worms are gone.

Read more about worms in dogs


  • What to look for: Since there are so many kinds of allergies dogs can have (from food to flea/tick bites and a wide range of other possibilities), it’s important to look for any change in behavior when exposed to something new. If your dog goes a few days showing lack of energy, has a consistent cough or sneeze, or if anything else seems out-of-place, you might be dealing with allergies.
  • How to treat: First, determine what the allergen is. Common allergies can be treated by changing your dog’s food or the shampoo you use when bathing. Seasonal or environmental allergies can be treated with medications, but those will eventually weaken the immune system if administered repeatedly.

Read more about dog allergy symptoms | Get an at-home allergy test

Common Dog Illnesses

Kennel Cough

  • What to look for: Since kennel cough is a respiratory infection, it can be easily transmitted from one dog to another when they interact. Look for lethargy, coughing, leaky 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 you should take him to your vet where he might be prescribed medications that will 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 he is himself again.

Read more about kennel cough & how to avoid it


  • What to look for: If your dog is vomiting, there could be any number of causes. Generally speaking, it’s best to assess your dog’s behavior leading up to the vomiting to see if there might be a more serious issue. General vomiting, initially, is normal and could have been from something your dog ate.
  • How to treat: Again, assess the behavior leading up to the vomiting. If there was nothing unusual, then there’s probably no need to be concerned. If the vomiting is persistent, however, or you noticed your dog acting differently before the vomiting, there could be a number of things wrong and it’s best to take your dog to your vet to get him checked out.

Read more about treating a dog’s upset stomach

Dog Obesity

  • What to look for: 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 is important to recognize your dog’s weight gain early to give him the best chance possible for recourse.
  • How to treat: A steady diet and regular exercise are the two things needed when your dog is overweight. It’s important to recognize the severity of your dog’s obesity and be sure to administer the right changes in nutrition and exercise. 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 the diet.

Read more tips to help your dog lose weight

Learn more about pet obesity in the video below:

Common Dog Diseases


  • What to look for: Symptoms of diabetes in dogs include changes in appetite, excessive thirst and vomiting. UTI’s and cataracts can occur if the diabetes goes untreated for an extended period of time.
  • 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.

Learn more about canine diabetes


  • Almost 50% of disease-related pet deaths are due to cancer.
  • What to look for: No one wants to think about their dog getting cancer. It is one of the biggest killers in dogs and one of the most expensive diseases to treat. Look out for unusual odors, lumps, drastic weight loss, or long-lasting changes in behavior.
  • 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 and location of the cancer. In others, medications can be prescribed to allow your dog to tolerate the pain better. See your vet immediately if you suspect your dog might have cancer.

Read more about cancer in dogs


  • What to look for: Thankfully, rabies is not as common today as it once was due to the development of vaccinations, but it is still possible for your dog to become infected with rabies even if he has received his shots. Symptoms of rabies include heavy, thick drool and aggressive behavior.
  • How to treat: Prevention is your best option. It starts with getting your dog shots every year. 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.

Learn more about rabies in dogs

Common Dog Health Issues List

We created a list for you and and any other dog owners too, so feel free to share! Print it out and/or save somewhere you can easily reference that way you have these conditions top of mind and know what symptoms to look for in case your dog is ill.

Common Dog Health Issues


Being 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 Comparison to see which pet insurance providers might be a good fit for your family.

What experiences have you had with common dog health issues?

About The Author:

Ryan Rauch graduated from Scripps School of Journalism in 2009 and has been writing for Canine Journal since 2012. Ryan enjoys writing and researching new and evolving home security measures, and has a passion for technology.

Disclaimer: Information regarding insurance company offerings, pricing and other contract details are subject to change by the insurance company at any time and are not under the control of this website. Information published on this website is intended for reference use only. Please review your policy carefully before signing up for a new pet health insurance contract or any other contract as your unique circumstances will differ from those of others who may be used for example purposes in this article.
Disclaimer: The information provided through this website should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or a disease. It is not a substitute for professional care. If you have or suspect you may have a health problem, you should consult your health care provider.

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Diana Baker
April 29, 2020 11:07 am

My 16 y/0 Pekingese started walking like he is drunk and holds head to one side and will go around and around in circles …. he started this behavior after getting his bath at the groomer the day before . Could he have water in his ear or vertigo ? It’s hard right now to get hold of his Vet . Thanks

Apiffany Gaither Billings
April 29, 2020 5:39 pm
Reply to  Diana Baker

Hi Diana, we always recommend seeing a vet when you think something is wrong with your pet. If you cannot take your dog to a vet, perhaps this online vet service can help. It sounds like there could be an issue that is serious and he needs a trained professional.

April 22, 2020 8:26 am

My dog is 8 months old patterdale terrier she had her season 2month ago and was not bred since then her breast have got larger and larger she does not get any pain from touching them can anyone advise . Thank you.

Apiffany Gaither Billings
April 22, 2020 4:52 pm
Reply to  Wendy

we always recommend seeing a vet when you think something is wrong with your pet. If you cannot take your dog to a vet, perhaps this online vet service can help. There could be underlying concerns such as infection, inflammation, or others. A trained professional should be able to help you determine why your dog’s breasts have gotten larger.

Susan S Sparks
March 2, 2020 10:32 am

I have a 10 yr old Boxer who is starting to show some joint discomfort in her back hips after she has had a very physical day. Can I give her asprin and at what dosage?

Apiffany Gaither Billings
March 3, 2020 8:54 am
Reply to  Susan S Sparks

Many OTC human pain medications such as aspirin can be fatal for dogs. We recommend speaking with your vet regarding pain management for your pup including alternative options. This article may help you with more information:

Mary Ann
July 17, 2019 5:19 pm

We recently got another shichon. This one is a boy. He seems to have a severe underbite & his jaw is a little
Crooked any words about this? Is this a caricature of shichons? He also has a slight bend in the end of his tail,
The breeder told us he was born that way. Also, any comments & imput would really help. He is only 5 months young.
Vet appt in 2 weeks. Thank you in advance for all input!

Linzy Hughes
February 11, 2019 9:56 pm

My Bichon gets oral flea/tick meds which kill the “bugs” when they bite; however, she gets the occasional flea which bites and drives her nutso and causes itching and misery. Must bite to die! Is there a repellant collar or something she can wear during heavy flea weather here in Florida in addition to the oral med? Not infestation, just one or two which die after they bite.

Mary Ann
July 17, 2019 5:23 pm
Reply to  Linzy Hughes

Hello Linzy! You need to get your Bichon a Seresto Collar! They are excellant! We have been using them for years on our now 2 Shichons & 1 cat. They are around $55-
$75.00 but they are DEFINATELY worth it! You will be impressed. We have never had any fleas OR tic problems since we started using them!

Amy Winters
December 3, 2018 5:32 pm

Thanks for pointing out that we should take our dog to the vet if they start vomiting frequently with no apparent cause. I’ve had dogs my whole life and they’ve always thrown up occasionally, so I didn’t know if I should be concerned with my dog’s new vomiting problem. It’s been pretty frequent and I don’t know what caused it, so I’ll take your advice and get him to an animal hospital soon!

Norene dykhuis
November 30, 2018 11:22 pm

Hi, we have a border collie /blue healer and even aftrr we bathe her shortly there after she smells like sweat, does anyone know why, shes been on blue dog food for a year so i cang believe its doing it and she receives no people food ! thanks norene

Dennis Sims
November 22, 2017 8:56 am

Although the dog is an animal, still, he is one of the most honest companions of the human being. He usually relies on his pet owner for healthy care. Well, being a pet owner you must be aware of your canine friend health condition. In this regard, I can say that the ear infection(signs- swelling, redness of the ear canal, vigorous scratching), worms-including(tapeworms, hookworms, roundworms), flea attacks(signs- excessive licking, hair loss), hot spots, vomiting, diarrhea etc, are some of the common health issues that your canine friend usually suffers from the lack of care and treatment. Thus, my suggestion is, you must stop this negligence and consult an
experienced vet to execute the regular checkups in order to give your pet a healthy and comfortable life. In addition that, you should not change your dog’s diet without taking the permission of a skilled veterinarian.

May 18, 2017 7:01 am

My dog was having seizures quite regularly, I had been to vets and they did not have answers. This is my empty nest child. So we constantly were changing his diet, I prayed about his health constantly and one day my husband and I were talking about it and it was like a light bulb went off in my head. STOP THE DAIRY! I used to feed him cheese like it was good for him. We have stopped the dairy for over a month and he hasn’t had a seizure since. I know this probably isn’t the answer for all fur babies but it was for mine and it changed his life.

May 10, 2017 10:41 pm

I got my dog (1-1/12 yr old/F/German Sheppard/Australian Cattle dog mix) one yr ago. She was unwanted and came to a good home. She is up to date on all vaccines and has been in good health. She is super energetic and playful 99% of the time, however, bout every 3-4 months she goes through some phase of lethargy/no eating and pain. She can barely drag herself onto the couch and limos around. When you put pressure on her ribs she yelps. She is like this for about 2 weeks then ia back to normal. Asked the Banfield vets about it, they did expensive tests for cancer and valley fever but don’t know what’s wrong with her. Has anyone else experienced this?

John Lawrence
January 11, 2017 8:46 am

When a dog is suspected a common disease, do not think twice. bring the dog in the veterinarian as much as possible to not deteriorate.

November 7, 2016 6:04 am

American bull dog reoccurring ear infections? Remedies

September 13, 2016 4:58 pm

My 13 yr old male miniature (24lb) neutered Dachshund has started to urinate when at rest. Usually at night, other than that he is acting normal & eating well. He does drink a lot but not really any more than what he has normally consumed before this all started. We are waiting for the results of his urinalysis. Any suggestions out there?

May 23, 2015 12:21 pm

Good day! I want to ask about the situation of my 2 month old puppy that suddenly became weak, won’t want to eat and is vomiting. Can anyone please tell me what’s the best thing to do?

Mary Ann
July 17, 2019 5:50 pm
Reply to  gyle

Poor little thing! Pray & take it to the vet A.S.A.P!

February 21, 2015 5:26 pm

My dog will all the sudden get a burst of energy and run so fast he can’t stop and he will run right into things. Now he does this exorcist thing with his head, turning it back violently, teeth chattering and trying to bite his ear kind of thing and will not let anyone near him at all. I think he is having seizures but I’m not sure. I need help. Anyone??

Barry G
November 15, 2019 10:20 pm
Reply to  slugger

Your dog is ‘Possessed. Consult a Priest.

May 14, 2017 5:24 pm
Reply to  slugger

Please take your pup to the vet immediately

Michelle Schenker
February 23, 2015 1:10 pm
Reply to  slugger

I am sorry to hear about this, Slugger. We would advise that anytime there is a such a drastic change in your pet’s behavior that you call to consult a vet. This sounds like a very specific incident that it will be hard to diagnose and treat from reading articles. Sending lots of healing vibes your way.

Adam Brooks
January 30, 2015 12:10 pm

Really good discussion 🙂