Dog Diseases

Dogs can fall foul of diseases just like humans. Depending on the species and individual dog, he or she may be more or less prone to different forms of canine diseases. This guide covers the most common dog diseases, how to spot them and how to treat them.

How can I tell when my dog is feeling sick?

Dogs who are sick are generally obvious. One easy way to spot if your dog is sick at all is to watch him or her eat and exercise. A sick dog will be listless or show very reluctant enthusiasm. If your dog eats without any lustre, it is possible that he or she has become ill. Other symptoms of sickness include pale gums and a whiter than usual tongue, duller than standard eyes, and a dry coat. Sick dogs also often suffer from a fever.

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How can I check the temperature and pulse of my dog?

The standard method for measuring a dog’s temperature is a rectal thermometer. The normal body temperature of a dog is 101.5 degrees Fahrenheit. You can check how fast your dog’s heart is beating by pressing your finger firmly against the joint between the hindquarters of the dog, on the underside. The average pulse rate of a healthy dog is between 75 and 100 beats per minute.

What are some of the most common and serious diseases that afflict dogs in the UK?

There are a number of serious dog diseases, including distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis and rabies (virtually unknown in the UK.) The first series of jabs that puppies receive should inoculate them against all of these. If you suspect that your dog has any of these illnesses, you should take him or her to the veterinarian immediately.

What other diseases could my dog catch?

Unfortunately, dogs are susceptible to a huge range of diseases. These include:

  • Allergies (lick granuloma, ears, inhalant allergies, food allergies)
  • Behavioural problems (separation anxiety, barking, training resources)
  • Blood and immune systems diseases (bleeding disorders, autoimmune anaemia)
  • Cardiovascular & pulmonary disorders
  • Digestive disorders (teeth, mouth, stomach, liver, intestines, intestinal parasites, weight management)
  • Eye problems (cataracts, uveitis)
  • Endocrine disorders (diabetes, hypothyroidism)
  • Infectious diseases (viral, bacterial, fungal, protozoal, other parasites)
  • Muscles, skeletal disorders (arthritis, elbow dysplasia)
  • Nervous system disorders (epilepsy, paralysis)
  • Parasites disorders (internal and external)
  • Reproductive disorders (pregnancy, birth, pyometra)
  • Coat/skin disorders (allergies, parasites, ear problems, hair loss)
  • Urinary disorders (kidney failure, bladder stones, infection.)

What is rabies and how does it affect dogs?

Rabies is a particularly nasty virus that is fatal once symptoms appears. Fortunately, in the UK, rabies is entirely unknown. The disease is fatal to almost all mammals, including humans, and some countries require a rabies vaccine in order to travel. Once the virus reaches the brain, the disease is almost always fatal.

What is distemper and how does it affect dogs?

Distemper is a virus that affects the mucous membranes within the respiratory tract of the dog. The symptoms actually resemble those of human flu, and include a temperature, but the disease is far more serious. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association distemper is a major threat to dogs throughout the world.

Unfortunately, canine distemper virus is fatal amongst the great majority of puppies and approximately half of all dogs affected. Advanced symptoms can include nasal discharge, gunk in the eyes, loss of weight, vomiting and diarrhoea. Distemper is also highly contagious, and may be spread by urine, faeces, secretions, objects or even through the air.

Distemper is most common amongst dogs under six months old, and once the dog is infected there is little in the way of cure. However, some dogs do recover although they often face nervous system problems and further complications.

Owners can prevent their dogs from getting distemper by vaccinating them frequently, particularly if the dog associated with other dogs a lot.

What is parvovirus, and how does it affect dogs?

Parvovirus can completely overwhelm a dog within a few hours, and cause death within 48-72 hours. A highly contagious disease affecting the intestinal tract, white blood cells, the heart, parvovirus is found across the whole globe. The virus spreads easily, particularly in large groups of dogs.

The symptoms of the disease appear approximately five-seven days after exposure. Symptoms include low appetite, vomiting, diarrhoea and depression. Weaker or young dogs are the most susceptible. Rottweilers and Dobermans seem to be the most prone to parvovirus. Vaccination against this disease is very effective, but the virus can live for months in infected areas.

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What is canine hepatitis, and how can it affect my dog?

Canine hepatitis is transferred by being inhaled or ingested by the dog. At this point, the virus enters the bloodstream and makes straight for the liver, kidneys, eyes and other cells that line the blood vessels. The symptoms and effects depends on the case, lethargy is often mentioned, as is a reddening of the mouth and eye membranes. In some cases, death quickly follows, but many dogs will recover within a week. Between these worst and best case scenarios, other problems such as internal bleeding, liver disease and central nervous system involvement can occur. There is no cure for dog hepatitis, but vaccination is recommended.

What is kennel cough, and how can it affect my dog?

Kennel cough is a respiratory disease which can be caused by several different types of infectious agent. Kennel cough is highly contagious, particularly in kennels or other places where the immune system of dogs is tested. Vaccination is the only sure preventative.

What is leptospirosis, and how could it affect my dog?

Leptospirosis is spread in the urine of wild and domestic animals, and it can affect dogs and their owners. There are several different species of leptospirosis bacteria, but symptoms are generally lethargy, inflamed kidneys, fever, vomiting, and blood clotting. Leptospirosis can cause enzymes, jaundice, pneumonia and further intestinal problems.

Leptospirosis can be fought with antibiotics, when combined with supportive treatment. Vaccines are one of the few that are often not recommended, unless you live somewhere with a high incidence of the disease. The vaccine does not prevent the disease, but it can help to lessen its severity. Puppies and small dogs can have adverse reactions to this vaccine.

What is Lyme disease, and how could it affect my dog?

Lyme disease is another bacterial infection that is spread between animals by ticks. Some dogs show no symptoms, but amongst those that do they include painful joints, loss of appetite, fever and lethargy. Tetrecycline, an antibiotic, can be used to treat the disease.

Vaccines for Lyme disease are available, but they are limited to six months worth of protection.

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