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.
Hypoadrenocorticism, also known as Addison’s disease, is a reduction of production of glucocorticoids and mineralocorticoids by the adrenal glands. There is more familiarity with the glucocortcoids, such as cortisol; mineralocorticoids control the amount of potassium, salt and water in the body. It is most commonly caused by destruction of adrenal tissue, probably by autoimmune disease. Signs include increased drinking and urination, vomiting, diarrhea, collapse, shivering and weight loss; at times neither the causes nor symptoms are especially specific. Because of this it is sometimes referred to as “the Great Mimic” or “the Great Imitator”. It is possible not to see any symptoms of the disease until the adrenal cortex is 90% dysfunctional. Addison’s can occur when regular steroid use is abruptly discontinued; during their use, the system the adrenal gland does not function at 100%. The system senses sufficient levels of these hormones in the body and does not signal for their production. Tapering the medication off gradually allows them to return to full production after discontinuation. About 35% of affected dogs are not diagnosed until they experience an Addisonian crisis, which outwardly appears to be a “classic” shock and is a medical emergency. Hyperkalemia can develop and cause severe bradycardia. Only typical Addison’s patients have the risk of Addisonian crisis due to the lack of mineralocorticoids. Treatment is with supplementation of mineralocorticoids in daily pills or a monthly injection. The atypical form and the form caused by abrupt withdrawal of steroids do not need mineralocorticoids. Glucocorticoids are usually supplemented with oral prednisone.
Antifreeze* is very dangerous to dogs and causes central nervous system depression and acute renal failure. Treatment needs to be within eight hours of ingestion to be successful. See Ethylene glycol poisoning.
Liver failure* is common. Signs include vomiting, loss of appetite, weight loss, and jaundice. Causes include bacterial or viral infection, toxic insult, cancer, copper storage diseases, or it may be idiopathic.
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.
Gastrointestinal cancer* is uncommon in dogs. The most common type is lymphoma. Nonlymphomatous esophageal cancer is especially rare, the most common types being squamous cell carcinoma, adenocarcinoma, leiomyosarcoma, and osteogenic sarcoma associated with the parasite Spirocerca lupi. Nonlymphomatous stomach cancer is usually an adenocarcinoma, and nonlymphomatous intestinal cancer is usually polyps, adenomas, adenocarcinomas, leiomyosarcomas, and leiomyomas.
Atrial septal defect* is a hole in the division between the heart atria (upper chambers of the heart). It is an uncommon abnormality in dogs. Most are not clinically significant, but large defects can cause right heart failure and exercise intolerance. Standard Poodles are the most common breed diagnosed with ASD in the USA.
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.
Histoplasmosis, caused by Histoplasma capsulatum, is a disease with a worldwide distribution. In the United States it is mainly found in the Mississippi and Ohio River areas, most commonly in bird and bat feces. Signs include weight loss, cough, fever, enlarged lymph nodes, and gastrointestinal symptoms. Coccidioidomycosis, caused by Coccidioides immitis, is found in arid and semi-arid regions of Central and South America, Mexico, and southwestern United States. Signs include weight loss, fever, cough, enlarged lymph nodes, and lameness.
Jump up ^ Heuter, Kerry J.; Langston, Cathy E. (2003). “Leptospirosis: A re-emerging zoonotic disease”. The Veterinary Clinics of North America. 33 (4): 791–807. doi:10.1016/S0195-5616(03)00026-3. PMID 12910744.
Because diarrhea can easily lead to dehydration, be sure your dog has plenty of clean water available, then take your pooch to the vet if the diarrhea persists for more than a day, or immediately if there’s also fever, lethargy, vomiting, dark or bloody stools, or loss of appetite.
Aspergillosis* is a fungal disease that in dogs is caused primarily by Aspergillus fumigatus. Infection is usually in the nasal cavity. Typical signs in dogs include sneezing, nasal discharge, bleeding from the nose, and ulcerations of the nose.
Jump up ^ Serfass P, Chetboul V, Sampedrano CC, Nicolle A, Benalloul T, Laforge H, Gau C, Hébert C, Pouchelon JL, Tissier R. Retrospective study of 942 small-sized dogs: Prevalence of left apical systolic heart murmur and left-sided heart failure, critical effects of breed and sex. J Vet Cardiol. 2006 May;8(1):11-8.
Eye proptosis is a condition resulting in forward displacement and entrapment of the eye from behind by the eyelids. It is a common result of head trauma in dogs. Most commonly it occurs in brachycephalic (short nosed) breeds.
Jump up ^ Holt, Peter E. (2004). “Urinary Incontinence in the Male and Female Dog or Does Sex Matter?”. Proceedings of the 29th World Congress of the World Small Animal Veterinary Association. Retrieved 2007-01-16.
They’re commonly known as hot spots, but the medical term for those bare, inflamed, red areas you often see on dogs is acute moist dermatitis — a bacterial skin infection. Anything that irritates your dog’s skin enough to make him scratch or chew can lead to the pain and itch of hot spots, which, if left untreated, can quickly grow larger.
Poisoning with pain medications is common. Aspirin, paracetamol (acetaminophen, Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil), and naproxen (Aleve) can all cause severe clinical signs in dogs, including vomiting blood, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. Specifically, aspirin can cause metabolic acidosis and bleeding disorders, acetaminophen can cause liver disease, ibuprofen can cause kidney disease, and naproxen can cause ulcers in the stomach, which can perforate. Treatment depends on the clinical signs.
Cushing’s syndrome, also known as hyperadrenocorticism, is characterized by an increase in glucocorticoids secreted by the adrenal glands. About 85 percent of cases are caused by a tumor in the pituitary gland, while 15 percent are caused by an adrenal tumor. The pituitary gland produces a hormone that signals the adrenal gland to produce cortisol; a tumor can cause it to produce the adrenal-stimulating hormone even when it is not needed. Signs include increased appetite, increased drinking and urination, a pot-bellied appearance, muscle weakness, and lethargy. Cushing’s can be caused by overuse of steroid medications; in some cases, stopping the medication is enough to solve the problem. Diagnosis can be difficult as there are no tests with both high sensitivity and specificity. Treatments inclulde mitotane, trilostane, ketoconazole, or selegiline. Surgery is used in some cases of adrenal tumors.
Elbow dysplasia is a condition found more commonly in large breeds. It incorporates several different hereditary conditions of the elbow, including osteochondritis of the medial condyle of the humerus, fragmentation of the medial coronoid process of the ulna, and ununited anconeal process of the ulna.
Osteochondritis dissecans (OCD) is separation of immature articular cartilage from underlying bone. It is caused by osteochondrosis, which is characterized by abnormal endochondral ossification of epiphyseal cartilage. It is most commonly seen in the stifle, elbow, shoulder, and hock.
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.
Does your dog wolf his food down in a blink of an eye? Then he may be at risk of bloat, which is basically an enlarged stomach; this can become even more complicated if the stomach also turns. This prevents fluid and air from escaping the stomach, which prevents the dog from belching or vomiting.
Intussusception* is characterized by telescoping of one part of the gastrointestinal tract into another part, forming an obstruction. It is most common in dogs six to eight months old. Surgery is necessary for treatment.
Jump up ^ Thrusfield, M. V; Aitken, C. G. G; Muirhead, R. H (1989). “A field investigation of kennel cough: Efficacy of vaccination”. J. Small Animal Pract. 30 (10): 550. doi:10.1111/j.1748-5827.1989.tb01471.x.
The dog tapeworm is a parasite spread to dogs, cats, and people through the ingestion of infected fleas. This parasite is common but rarely causes illness in pets or people. Infections with Dipylidium caninum can sometimes be detected by finding rice-like segments of the tapeworm crawling near the anus or in fresh bowel movements. In severe infections, pets can lose weight and have mild diarrhea.
Ehrlichiosis is a bacterial disease that affects animals and people and is transmitted by ticks. Dogs show variable signs that include depression, loss of stamina, stiffness and reluctance to walk, and coughing.
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?
Diabetes insipidus* in dogs can be central, caused by a lack of antidiuretic hormone (ADH), or nephrogenic, caused by a lack of response of the kidneys to ADH. Neither form is common. Central diabetes insipidus (CDI) is usually idiopathic, but can also be caused by head trauma or tumors of the brain. Nephrogenic diabetes insipidus (NDI) can be primary (hereditary) or secondary (caused by a variety of metabolic and renal diseases, including Cushing’s syndrome and pyometra). Because the disease is characterized by an inability to concentrate urine, the most common sign is increased drinking and urinating. Treatment of CDI is to use desmopressin, a synthetic analog of ADH. Treatment of NDI is to treat the underlying cause, if any.
Pick up and dispose of dog stools, especially in areas where children might play. Cleaning up after your dog will help keep the area clean and reduce the risk of spreading disease to people or other animals.
Contact your veterinarian immediately if your dog shows any of the clinical signs mentioned on the list above. Should your dog receive a diagnosis of cancer, you may wish to consult a veterinary oncologist, often employed by specialty veterinary practices and teaching hospitals.
Dogs infected with parvovirus need intensive treatment in a veterinary hospital, where they will receive antibiotics to control secondary infections, drugs to control the vomiting, intravenous fluids to treat dehydration and other supportive therapies.
Vogt-Koyanagi-Harada syndrome is a condition seen in dogs characterized by uveitis (inflammation of the inside of the eye), poliosis (whitening of hair), and vitiligo (loss of pigment in the skin).
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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.
It is not yet clear whether or not vitamins and supplements should be administered in dogs—opinions among veterinarians vary widely. While some think that vitamins and supplements are necessary and can improve the health of a dog, others believe that they are unnecessary and may harm the dog. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), dogs receive a complete and balanced diet from the commercially processed dog food alone. Pet owners who give their dogs homemade diets may incorporate extra vitamins and supplements.
Spaying (females only) and neutering (both genders but more commonly males) refers to the sterilization of animals, usually by removal of the male’s testicles or the female’s ovaries and uterus, in order to eliminate the ability to procreate, and reduce sex drive. Neutering has also been known to reduce aggression in male dogs, but has been shown to occasionally increase aggression in female dogs.
Pasteurellosis is a bacterial disease associated with animal bites and scratches. Pasteurella is a normal bacterium that lives in the mouths of healthy dogs. The bacteria do not typically make dogs sick; however, dogs can develop abscesses or skin infections in places where they were scratched or bitten by another animal.
Heartworm is easily preventable with an inexpensive, chewable pill or topical medication available as a vet’s prescription. The pills or topical are usually administered monthly and can be given to dogs under 6 months of age without a blood test. Older animals must be screened for the disease prior to starting medication.
“Some will get secondary infections with bacteria. Some dogs can die but it’s pretty uncommon. That’s more likely in dogs that already have other diseases: respiratory disease, heart disease or other things that make them more likely to get a serious illness,” he said.