Our dogs are faithful companions, and they depend on us for good care. To help your canine friend live a healthy life, you should know some of the most common health problems dogs face, their signs, and what you can do about them.
Kennel cough is an infectious respiratory disease which can be caused by one of several viruses or by Bordetella bronchiseptica. It most commonly occurs in dogs in close confinement such as kennels.
Facial nerve paralysis* is most commonly caused in dogs by trauma, otitis media, or as an idiopathic condition. Signs include an inability to blink, drooping of the ear, and drooping of the lips on the affected side, although in chronic conditions fibrosis occurs and the ear and lips may appear to be in an abnormal position.
Jump up ^ Modiano J, Breen M, Burnett R, Parker H, Inusah S, Thomas R, Avery P, Lindblad-Toh K, Ostrander E, Cutter G, Avery A (2005). “Distinct B-cell and T-cell lymphoproliferative disease prevalence among dog breeds indicates heritable risk”. Cancer Res. 65 (13): 5654–61. doi:10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-04-4613. PMID 15994938.
Symptoms are basic: abdominal heaving and drooling caused by nausea. If your dog also has diarrhea, blood in the vomit, seems lethargic, continues vomiting, or can’t hold down liquids, contact your vet right away to prevent life-threatening dehydration.
Chocolate is a common cause of poisoning in dogs. The toxic principles in chocolate are theobromine and caffeine. Baker’s chocolate is the most dangerous form since it contains higher concentrations of these drugs, followed by semi-sweet, dark, and then milk chocolate. Signs include vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, difficulty walking, seizures, and heart problems.
6. Rabies: Rabies is the disease made famous in the hearbreaking scene in Old Yeller. Thankfully, the widespread use of the rabies vaccine in recent years has made its occurrence in pets in the U.S. quite rare. However, it is still present in wild animal populations, and because rabies is always fatal, it’s critical to make sure that your pets are current on their rabies vaccination.
Jump up ^ Arnold S (1997). “[Urinary incontinence in castrated bitches. Part 1: Significance, clinical aspects and etiopathogenesis]”. Schweiz. Arch. Tierheilkd. (in German). 139 (6): 271–6. PMID 9411733.
Ocular melanosis (OM) is a disease of the eye which in dogs is almost found exclusively in the Cairn Terrier. The disease is caused by an increase of melanocytes in the iris, sclera, and surrounding structures.
Acromegaly (also known as hypersomatotropism) is a hormonal condition resulting from over-secretion of the growth hormone somatotropin from the pituitary gland. The hormone is responsible for growth from birth to adulthood. Normally in adulthood, the growth plates of the bones close and the secretion of the hormone slows considerably. Because the bone plates close when entering maturity, the continued growth of acromegaly is not of normal proportions. Most dogs with the disease are unspayed females, but the condition can come about with use of medications containing progesterone. Acromegaly patients often also have diabetes mellitus. There is a transient form of acromegaly which can affect females at the diestrus portion of the reproductive cycle. This condition is brought about by the mammary glands excreting excess growth hormone, which is triggered by progesterone from the ovaries. As with non-transient acromegaly, spaying is necessary. The symptoms can include overgrowth or enlargement of gums with wide spaces between teeth, increased drinking, increased urination, thickening of the skin and skin folds, enlargement of the tongue and excessive panting. Acromegaly is also possible from a somatotroph adenoma. The hormone somatostatin can also be useful in treatment. Since hypothyroidism is connected with the release of excess growth hormone, hypothyroidism can be mistaken for acromegaly.
Jump up ^ Rijnberk, A, Eigenmann, JE, Belshaw, BE, Hampshire, J, Altszuler, N. (1980). “Acromegaly associated with transient overproduction of growth hormone in a dog”. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. Journal-American Veterinary Medical Association. 177 (6): 534–7. PMID 7440347.
Jump up ^ Uechi, Masami; Mizukoshi, Takahiro; Mizuno, Takeshi; Mizuno, Masashi; Harada, Kayoko; Ebisawa, Takashi; Takeuchi, Junichirou; Sawada, Tamotsu; Uchida, Shuhei (2012-05-04). “Mitral valve repair under cardiopulmonary bypass in small-breed dogs: 48 cases (2006–2009)”. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. 240 (10): 1194–1201. doi:10.2460/javma.240.10.1194.
Many studies show the health benefits of dog ownership. Dogs not only provide comfort and companionship, but several studies have found that dogs decrease stress and promote relaxation. Dogs have positive impacts on nearly all life stages. They influence social, emotional, and cognitive development in children, promote an active lifestyle, and have even been able to detect oncoming epileptic seizures or the presence of certain cancers. But for all the positive benefits of keeping dogs, pet owners should be aware that dogs can carry germs that make people sick.
“Anytime you’re out with your dog,” says Pat Miller, author of The Power of Positive Dog Training, “one of you is training the other.” Better for it to be you. Begin as early as 8 weeks, before it picks up bad behaviors, and continue even into old age to keep your dog sharp. Make training about reward, not punishment. (Old-school devices like choke collars injure and instill fear, Miller says, “the most common cause of canine aggression.”) When housebreaking, “keep your puppy under close supervision and take it outside more often than he needs to go,” says Miller. “Reward it when it goes to the bathroom so it learns that this is the right way to do it.” Tip: “A well-trained dog has more opportunities to improve its physical health,” Miller adds. Walks, fetch, and agility training are more fun for you both if your dog will come when called, wait when asked, and greet other people and pups politely.
Veterinary parasitology studies both external and internal parasites in animals. External parasites, such as fleas, mites, ticks and mosquitoes can cause skin irritation and are often carriers of other diseases or of internal parasites.
Tick paralysis* is a disease in dogs caused by a neurotoxin found in the saliva of female ticks. Dermacentor species predominate as a cause in North America, while Ixodes mainly causes the disease in Australia. There is a gradual onset of signs, which include incoordination progressing to paralysis, changed voice, and difficulty eating.
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Vestibular disease* is an uncommon condition in older dogs. Most cases are idiopathic, but it can also be caused by otitis interna, or inner ear infection, tumors, and encephalitis. Signs include nystagmus, head tilt, circling, vomiting, and falling to one side. Idiopathic vestibular disease will usually resolve in a few days to a few weeks.
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.
Because infection can potentially spread over a dog’s body and infect other animals and people, it is important that you see your vet for an accurate diagnosis if your pet is showing any signs of a skin problem.
The frequency of bilateral glaucoma with a genetic base in purebred dogs is higher than in any species except humans. Cataracts in dogs either have a genetic base or can also be caused by diabetes. Nuclear sclerosis resembles a cataract but is actually a normal age-related change.
Kennel cough is a term loosely used to describe a complex of respiratory infections—both viral and bacterial—that causes inflammation of a dog’s voice box and windpipe. It’s a form of bronchitis and is similar to a chest cold in humans.
Every diabetic dog is an individual and will respond differently to therapy. Diabetes treatment is based on how severe the signs of disease are and whether there are any other health issues that could complicate therapy.
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 the pet parents to keep their companions happy and healthy by understanding some common dog illnesses and diseases.
Luxating patella is a medial or lateral displacement of the patella, or kneecap. It is strongly suspected to be inherited, but can also result from trauma. It is more common in smaller breeds of dogs 
The mysterious illness, which first appeared in the late 1980s affecting greyhounds in America, has been found in at least 27 counties in England and Wales since 2012, with 78 cases confirmed in the UK and 14 being already identified in 2016 alone.
Syringomyelia* is a condition where a fluid filled sac develops in the spinal cord. The most important cause in dogs is by a Chiari I malformation, which is when an underdeveloped occipital bone interferes with spinal fluid circulation and results in fluid accumulation in the cervical spinal cord. This is a congenital disease most commonly found in small breeds such as the Brussels Griffon and the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. Other breeds known to be affected include the Bichon Frise, Boston terrier, bull terrier, Chihuahua, French bulldog, Havanese, King Charles spaniel (the English toy spaniel), Maltese, miniature dachshunds, miniature and toy poodles, Papillon, Pomeranian, Pugs, Shih Tzu, Staffordshire bull terrier, and the Yorkshire terrier. Signs may include ataxia, weakness, and neck pain.
Malignant histiocytosis (histiocytic sarcoma) is an aggressive cancer found primarily in certain breeds including the Bernese Mountain Dog, rottweiler, golden retriever and flat coated retriever. It is characterized by infiltration of the joints, lungs, spleen, lymph nodes, and other organs by malignant histiocytes.
Brucellosis is a bacterial disease that affects the ability of animals to reproduce. The disease can be transmitted to humans through contact with recently aborted tissue from infected animals or consumption of unpasteurized (raw) milk. Dogs that are infected might have decreased appetite, weight loss, behavioral changes, and lack of energy, but most dogs infected with brucellosis show no signs of illness. Brucellosis affects the reproductive organs and can cause early-term deaths of developing puppies.