Common dog health problems sometimes can become part of a dog’s daily life.
Our dogs are faithful companions, and they depend on us for good care. Canine health problems range from infections to parasites, and it’s up to us to keep them healthy by understanding some common dog illnesses, conditions and diseases. To help our dogs live a healthy life, we should know some of the most common health problems they can face, including their signs and what we should do about them.
Dogs and Ear Infections
Ear infections are a common canine health problem, and they can be caused by allergies, yeast, ear mites, bacteria, hair growth deep in the ear canal, and more. Symptoms your dog may have with an ear infection include:
- Head shaking or head tilting
- Ear odour
- Vigorous scratching
- Lack of balance
- Unusual back-and-forth eye movements
- Redness of the ear canal
- Swelling of the outer portion of the ear
- Brown, yellow, or bloody discharge
Always take your dog to the veterinarian if you think he has an ear infection. In most cases, cleaning and medicating the ear canal will quickly clear up an infection. However, surgery can be needed for chronic infections or if forceful head shaking results in the rupture of a vessel within the outer part of the ear.
Tapeworms, roundworms, hookworms, and whipworms are common internal parasites in dogs. And although any worm infestation can make your pooch uncomfortable, some, like hookworms, can be fatal in puppies. Signs your dog may have worms include:
- Diarrhoea (may be bloody)
- Weight loss
- A change in appetite
- A rough, dry coat
- Scooting on his bottom
- Vomiting (with roundworms in particular)
- An overall poor appearance
The best way to diagnose a worm problem is with a visit to the vet. Treatment depends on which type of worm your dog has, but generally includes an oral medication and may require follow-up. Don’t try treating worms yourself: A medication that kills roundworms, for example, doesn’t kill tapeworms.
It takes just three weeks for one flea to turn into an infestation of 1,000 biting bugs. A very common canine health problem, fleas are easy for your dog to pick up, but they’re also easy to treat. Signs your dog may have fleas include:
- Excessive scratching, licking or biting at the skin
- Hair loss
- Hot spots
- Allergic dermatitis (allergic response caused by contact)
- Tapeworms (which are carried by fleas)
- Flea dirt (looks like small black dots) against your dog’s skin
Untreated, fleas not only make your dog intensely uncomfortable, but they can also cause allergic reactions, infections, and even lead to anaemia from blood loss.
Talk to your vet about the right flea medicine for your dog, which may include collars, oral medicine, shampoos, sprays, or topical liquids.
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.
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.
Vomiting is a common dog health problem, with dozens of possible causes, from infection or intestinal parasites to pancreatitis, kidney failure, heatstroke, an obstruction in the stomach or intestine, or poisoning.
Symptoms are basic: abdominal heaving and drooling caused by nausea. If your dog also has diarrhoea, blood in the vomit, seems lethargic, continues vomiting, or can’t hold down liquids, contact your vet right away to prevent life-threatening dehydration.
Treatment depends on what’s causing a dog’s distress and may include fluid therapy, drugs to control vomiting, and homemade foods like well-cooked skinless chicken, boiled potatoes, and rice.
Read more about vomiting in dogs.
Diarrhoea in dogs, as with vomiting, can have lots of causes, including stress, infections like parvo-virus, intestinal parasites, and food problems.
Diarrhoea symptoms are pretty obvious — look for loose, watery, or liquid stool.
Because diarrhoea can easily lead to dehydration, be sure your dog has plenty of clean water available, then take your pooch to the vet if the diarrhoea persists for more than a day, or immediately if there’s also fever, lethargy, vomiting, dark or bloody stools, or loss of appetite.