It’s unfortunate, but our four-legged friends can have the same health issues we do. Common dog health problems include skin issues and allergies, diabetes, arthritis, and even cancer. Dogs also get diseases due to viruses, bacteria, and parasites. Here is a look at some of the most common canine health issues.
Dog Skin Problems and Allergies
Dogs can be allergic to house dust and dust mites, ragweed, molds, pollens, fleas, dog food ingredients, and other common allergens. Allergies may be seasonal or your pet may suffer all year round. Common symptoms of canine allergies include your dog licking his paws excessively, scratching his body, or pawing at his ears. In some severe cases, you dog may have oozing hot spots on his body.
Avoiding allergens should be the first step in treating your dog’s allergies. If you dog is allergic to dust mites, vets suggest using a plastic cover over your pet’s bed and be sure to vacuum your house often. If you suspect food allergies, try changing your dog’s diet to eliminate common allergens such as corn and soy. If your dog has ragweed and pollen allergies, keep him out of fields and tall grasses. Cut your lawn frequently and keep your dog indoors during days with high pollen counts. If your dog has severe reactions to flea bites, talk to your vet about the best flea prevention medication.
Mild allergies are usually treated with soothing shampoos liked oatmeal shampoo and/or essential fatty acids to help stop itching and keep skin from getting dry. Hydrocortisone spray or shampoo may also help to relieve itching. Check with your vet for other recommendations, especially if your dog has severe symptoms.
Arthritis in Dogs
Arthritis is very common in dogs, especially older ones, and can affect large breeds and small. Symptoms may range from mild to moderate or severe and there may be joint cartilage damage. If you dog has difficulty in getting up; limps, particularly after exercise; walks slower than normal or has a change in gait; has difficulty in jumping or climbing stairs; or a hard time squatting to do his business, he may have arthritis. It is best to see your vet to get a proper diagnosis in case there is another underlying issue such as cancer or hip dysplasia.
Your vet may prescribe one or more anti-inflammatory medications or pain relievers. You can also get special non-prescription canine aspirin for dogs to help relieve joint pain and inflammation. Some dog owners have found that supplements with glucosamine, chondroitin, MSM, and essential fatty acids have helped reduce their dog’s discomfort and improved their mobility.
Tip: If your dog is overweight, help him lose weight with low impact exercise like leash walks and swimming and a reduced caloric intake. This will reduce the stress on his joints.
Dog Heartworm Symptoms and Prevention
Heartworm disease is one of the most preventable canine diseases. Heartworm disease is caused by infected mosquitoes biting your dog and depositing microscopic larvae, which mature, migrate to your pet’s heart and reproduce. When they grow into adult worms, they can be up to a foot long. If left untreated, dogs will usually die of heart failure. Heartworm symptoms include tiredness, decreased appetite, weight loss, and heart failure. Sadly, symptoms often don’t show up until about a year after infection when it may be too late. Preventing this nasty disease is simple. Your vet will normally perform a heartworm test as part of your dog’s yearly checkup and prescribe a once-a-month tablet or a topical treatment that will prevent heartworm infestation.
Canine Kennel Cough
Kennel cough is a very contagious respiratory infection. Symptoms include a persistent, dry hacking cough and sometimes a foamy mucus may develop. Most commonly it is caused by a bacterial infection called Bordetella bronchiseptica. It is often referred to as “kennel cough” because the bacteria is easily passed among dogs in close quarters such as at boarding kennels, dog park, dog shows and pet hospitals. Dogs may have short term immunity after an infection but then get it again 6-12 months later. You can have your dog vaccinated for kennel cough (Bordetella), which is usually administered as a nasal drop. If you frequently board your dog or take him to dog parks, vets usually recommend that your dog be vaccinated twice a year. If your dog has a mild case of kennel cough, no treatment may be needed. In severe cases it can be treated with antibiotics.
If you think your dog has a health problem, see your veterinarian so you can get a proper diagnosis and discuss treatment options.