People most often become infected through flea bites or from contact with body fluids of infected animals. An example is a hunter skinning an infected rabbit or other animal. Bubonic plague is the most common form; symptoms include sudden onset of high fever, chills, headache, malaise, and swollen lymph nodes. The other two forms of plague, septicemic and pneumonic, cause more severe disease.
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Ringworm infections in people can appear on almost any area of the body. These infections are usually itchy. Redness, scaling, cracking of the skin, or a ring-shaped rash may occur. If the infection involves the scalp or beard, hair may fall out. Infected nails become discolored or thick and may possibly crumble.
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.
Tapeworms* are also common and in the dog are usually Dipylidium caninum, which is spread by ingesting fleas and lice. Also common is Taenia pisiformis, spread by ingesting rabbits and rodents. Rare tapeworm infections are caused by species of the genera Echinococcus, Mesocestoides, and Spirometra. There are usually no symptoms.
Because of the overpopulation of dogs in some countries, puppies born to strays or as the result of accidental breedings often end up being killed in animal shelters. Spaying and neutering can also decrease the risk of hormone-driven diseases such as mammary cancer, as well as undesired hormone-driven behaviors. However, certain medical problems are more likely after neutering, such as urinary incontinence in females and prostate cancer in males. The hormonal changes involved with sterilization are likely to somewhat change the animal’s personality, however, and some object to spaying and neutering as the sterilization could be carried out without the excision of organs.
Rabies is a viral disease that may affect the brain and spinal cord of all mammals, including cats, dogs and humans. This preventable disease has been reported in every state except Hawaii. There’s good reason that the very word “rabies” evokes fear in people—once symptoms appear, rabies is close to 100% fatal.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)* is an immune system disease characterized by the presence of antibodies to nucleic acid and/or antibodies to red blood cells, platelets, lymphocytes, clotting factors, and thyroglobulin. The disease can result in deposition of immune complexes or autoimmune disease. Immune complex deposition can cause vasculitis, meningitis, neuritis, and joint and skin disease. The most commons signs are hemolytic anemia or thrombocytopenia.
Symptoms of chocolate poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea, pacing, panting, and shaking. More serious cases could cause an irregular heart beat, seizures, heart attack, or even death. If you think you dog has eaten any chocolate, do not wait to take him to the doctor.
Lyme disease* is a disease caused by Borrelia burgdorferi, a spirochaete, and spread by ticks of the genus Ixodes. Symptoms in dogs include acute arthritis, anorexia and lethargy. There is no rash as is typically seen in humans.
Yes, puppies are a bundle of energy, but even they need disciplined exercise like leash walks. However, don’t start running and hiking with your pooch until your larger-breed dog is at least 1.5 years old. This will help avoid injuries while the growth plates in the legs and other long bones are still knitting closed. Tip: Be sure to build up your dog’s endurance, just as you did your own, if you’re hoping to take it with you on those marathon-training runs.
Conjunctivitis* is inflammation of the conjunctiva. In dogs it is most commonly caused by mechanical irritation (such as by entropion, ectropion, or trichiasis), allergies, and keratoconjunctivitis sicca. Any bacterial infection is usually secondary.
An infectious disease is caused by the presence of organisms such as viruses, bacteria, fungi, or parasites (either animalian or protozoan). Most of these diseases are spread directly from dog to dog, while others require a vector such as a tick or mosquito. Certain infectious diseases are a concern from a public health standpoint because they are zoonoses (transmittable to humans).
3. Dental disease: While everyone dreads “dog breath,” a stinky mouth is no joke. Both cats and dogs can develop tartar, gum disease, and cavities that require a professional dental cleaning. Dental disease is the perfect example of “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” because bad oral health can also lead to dangerous heart and kidney conditions in pets. Teach your kittens and puppies that brushing their teeth is a normal part of your grooming routine and save your pet a dental procedure down the line.
Brucellosis in dogs is caused by Brucella canis. It is a sexually transmitted disease, but can also be spread through contact with aborted fetuses. The most common sign is abortion during the last trimester or stillbirth. Other symptoms include inflammation of the intervertebral disc and eye (uveitis), and inflammation of the testicle (orchitis) and prostate (prostatitis) in males.
Unfortunately, kidney disease that develops over a pet’s lifetime—a.k.a. chronic kidney disease—is not preventable most of the time. Dogs with a genetic predisposition to kidney failure are most at risk.
Ticks* are an external parasite of the dog and can spread diseases such as Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, babesiosis, and ehrlichiosis. They can also cause a neurological disorder known as tick paralysis.
Coonhound paralysis is a type of polyradiculoneuritis seen in Coonhounds. The cause has been related to a raccoon bite. Signs include rear leg weakness progressing rapidly to paralysis, and decreased reflexes.
Valley Fever is the most serious and life-threatening of the group, mainly impacting hot, dry, dusty desert areas of California, Arizona, and Texas. The fungi are usually buried in the soil but can be displaced a number of ways—earthquakes, construction, rain—and released into the air where dogs can inhale it. If your dog develops respiratory symptoms, the disease can be deadly.
Dog hookworms are tiny worms that can spread through contact with contaminated soil or sand. Dogs can also become infected with hookworms through accidentally ingesting the parasite from the environment or through their mother’s milk or colostrum. Young puppies are most often affected and might have dark, bloody stool and anemia. Severe infections in some puppies can lead to death.
Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) is a disease of heart muscle resulting in decreased myocardial contractility. The left ventricle compensates for this disease by growing larger (eccentric or volume overload hypertrophy; AKA dilation). The left atrial is also dilated when the disease is severe. It is seen in large/giant dog breeds such as Boxers, Great Danes, and Doberman Pinschers. It is usually idiopathic, but can also be caused by taurine deficiency in American Cocker Spaniels or doxorubicin use. A mutation in the gene that encodes for pyruvate dehydrogenase kinase 4 is associated with DCM in Doberman Pinschers in the USA. Dilated cardiomyopathy usually ultimately results in congestive heart failure. Atrial fibrillation is common in giant breed dogs with DCM. Doberman Pinschers more commonly have ventricular arrhythmias (e.g., premature ventricular complexes; ventricular tachycardia) that predispose them to sudden death (i.e., ventricular fibrillation).
If your dog will be housed outside, provide shelter such as a doghouse for when it is cold or rainy and shade for when it is hot. Protecting your dog from the changes in weather will reduce stress and help keep it healthy.
Dental disease is very common. Calculus is the most obvious sign, but gingivitis progressing to periodontitis is what results in tooth loss. Treatment involves scaling and polishing of the teeth under general anesthesia and treatment of any periodontal disease. Prevention is very important and can be accomplished through the use of special diets or treats, brushing, and plaque prevention gels.
The virus attacks rapidly-dividing cells in a dog’s body, most severely affecting the intestinal tract. Parvovirus also attacks the white blood cells, and when young animals are infected, the virus can damage the heart muscle and cause lifelong cardiac problems.
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.
Hemorrhagic gastroenteritis is a disease of dogs characterized by sudden vomiting and bloody diarrhea. The symptoms are usually severe and can be fatal if not treated. It is most common in young adult dogs of any breed, but especially small dogs such as the Toy Poodle and Miniature Schnauzer.
Rabies, a fatal neurologic disease in animals and people, is caused by a virus. Animals and people are most commonly infected through bites from rabid animals. Infected dogs might have a variety of signs, but most often have a sudden behavioral change and progressive paralysis. Rabies is prevented by vaccination.
Infectious diseases that affect dogs are important not only from a veterinary standpoint, but also because of the risk to public health; an example of this is rabies. Genetic disorders also affect dogs, often due to selective breeding to produce individual dog breeds. Due to the popularity of both commercial and homemade dog foods, nutrition is also a heavily studied subject.
Granulomatous meningoencephalitis (GME) (including Pug Dog encephalitis and other noninfectious causes of meningoencephalitis) is an inflammatory disease of the central nervous system of dogs. It is a form of meningoencephalitis. The disease is more common in female toy dogs of young and middle age.
Thrombocytosis* is a condition characterized by an excess of platelets. Most cases are physiologic (caused by exercise) or reactive (secondary to some cancers, blood loss, or certain drugs). Rarely the condition is caused by a primary bone marrow disorder. In this last case, the platelets may not function normally, causing the blood to not clot properly.
10. Kidney disease: Kidney disease is common in senior cats, but also seen in cats and dogs of all ages. It can be congenital or develop as the pet ages. While cats with kidney disease can be treated and kept healthy for several years in most cases, dogs typically deteriorate more quickly. Kidney health is typically evaluated with annual bloodwork at your veterinarian.
As the name suggests, an infected mosquito injects a larva into the dog’s skin, where it migrates to the circulatory system and takes up residence in the pulmonary arteries and heart, growing and reproducing to an alarming degree. The effects on the dog are quite predictable, cardiac failure over a year or two, leading to death. Treatment of an infected dog is difficult, involving an attempt to poison the healthy worm with arsenic compounds without killing the weakened dog, and frequently does not succeed. Prevention is much the better course, via heartworm prophylactics which contain a compound which kills the larvae immediately upon infection without harming the dog. Often they are available combined with other parasite preventives.