Common Dog Diseases

Common Dog Diseases

One of the biggest challenges we face as pet owners are not being able to tell what is wrong when our beloved companion isn’t feeling well. Unlike humans, they can’t tell us with words, so we must learn to interpret their symptoms and non-verbal signs to know what’s going on with them. The following diseases are the most common to affect our domestic animals, and although these diseases can be deadly, most of them are preventable with proper care and immunizations. Along with a brief description of each disease, we’ve provided a few major symptoms to look for if you believe your pet is suffering. This page is informational only and not designed to help you self-diagnose your pet. If you believe your animal is sick, it is always best to take them to a professional veterinarian to confirm any sickness or disease.

Parvovirus (Parvo)

The core vaccines all puppies receive include the Parvo vaccine, which helps protect the dog from the beginning of their life. The disease is a highly contagious viral illness that only affects dogs. It attacks their intestines and heart and can be contracted through the poop of a contaminated dog. In most dogs, Parvo typically manifests in the intestines, but the cardiac form is another possibility and generally presents in puppies under six months old. An infected animal will not be able to absorb nutrients and will become dehydrated quickly. Dehydration and lack of protein from not absorbing nutrients from food will cause generalized weakness and lethargy, so this is a very noticeable sign that your dog is in distress. Early vaccination has improved the spreading of the virus and the number of cases has decreased because most people vaccinate their puppies. There is no cure for this disease as it is a virus, so the only option is to treat the symptoms and try to prevent a secondary infection that might develop. Signs & Symptoms of Parvo in dogs can vary slightly but the major symptoms associated with the intestinal virus include;

  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Fever
  • Bloody diarrhea
  • Weight loss, often rapid and severe

Kidney Disease (Renal Failure)

 Complications from medications, other diseases, poisoning, infection and chronic kidney issues are several examples of contributors to renal failure in dogs. Dogs that have a genetic predisposition to kidney disease are in the high-risk category, so knowing where your pet came from, family history and choosing breeds that don’t have a higher rate of kidney disease are all ways to try and prevent this from happening to your pet. Another cause of renal failure is dental disease, which is preventable, yet often overlooked by pet owners. Bacteria from the dog’s gums get into the bloodstream and over time the contaminated blood can damage vital organs, especially the kidneys. We encourage dog owners to brush their dog’s teeth at least once a week to help keep their mouths clean and free of bacteria build-up. Hard chew toys that are appropriate and approved for canines is another way to help prevent dental bacteria build-up, so next time you buy your four-legged companion a toy, consider finding one that encourages dental health, it could contribute to healthy kidneys. Scheduling an annual tooth cleaning through your vet is also a wonderful preventative measure you can take to reduce the risk of renal failure. Keeping human medications, antifreeze, and household cleaners away from your pet is important because if ingested, all of those will cause kidney failure, even if only small amounts are ingested. The following are common signs and symptoms of kidney failure that are typically severe and come on quickly;

  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Change in thirst
  • Change in appetite
  • Change in urination

Heartworm Disease

Heartworm disease is another preventable disease that costs a little bit upfront but saves you the heartache of a sick dog and an expensive vet bill down the road. In turn, the treatment for heartworm is painful for dogs and if your cat gets heartworm, unfortunately, there is no treatment. There are several options for heartworm prevention in dogs including topical applications, pills, and injections.  We encourage you to check with your vet for their recommendation for your pet as one treatment may be more effective for specific breeds than others. Heartworm disease is exactly what it sounds like…worms. The disease can affect your pet’s lungs, cause heart failure and other organs to shut down, and often death in severe cases. The parasitic worm spreads throughout the body and the adult worms live in your pet’s heart, lungs, and blood vessels. Heartworm disease is not contagious, the only way the disease can spread is through the bite of a mosquito. The treatment for Heartworms is painful for your companion. A common treatment is administered by your vet where a drug containing arsenic, which is approved by the FDA to kill adult heartworms, is injected deep into the muscles on your pet’s back. Multiple injections are required which can be costly and include x-rays, hospitalization and other procedures to treat symptoms. You can see why prevention is so important! The following are signs and symptoms that might indicate your pet is suffering from Heartworms;

  • Occasional dry cough
  • Unusual weakness or tiredness after normal activity
  • Trouble breathing
  • More persistent coughing
  • Bulging chest
  • Weight loss
  • Allergic reaction

GDV - Gastric Torsion - Canine Bloat 

A sudden enlarged stomach is a definite cause for concern and when your pet experiences Gastric Torsion, your immediate response is required. Whether your dog chronically wolfs down her food, or you’ve noticed one of her toys has gone missing, it’s a good idea to have her checked out by a vet right away. Gastric Torsion is fairly easy to recognize because the symptoms present rather suddenly, and they are obvious in nature. Your pet’s stomach becomes bloated, which means the fluid and air get trapped inside the stomach, with no escape. Their stomach can also turn on itself when this happens, which creates an even bigger issue because they can no longer burp or vomit the contents up, so everything gets trapped. Sudden bloating is cause for immediate veterinary intervention. There are some breeds of dogs more susceptible to Gastric Torsion than others and usually, it is most common in dogs with deep chests. The condition can affect a dog at any age and usually, the larger breeds are most susceptible. The exception is the two smaller, deep-chested breeds, the dachshunds, and basset hounds.  Training your dog to eat slowly is one of the best preventative measures you can take, as well as making sure you only offer appropriate chew toys that can’t be easily consumed. Look for the following obvious signs and symptoms;

  • Enlarged stomach area
  • Salivating
  • Heavy panting
  • Dry Heaving
  • Restlessness or obvious discomfort

Lime Disease

This disease is a tick-borne illness that is also a preventable disease if you take the necessary precautions. There is a bacterium that gets transmitted from deer ticks after they’ve attached to your pet’s skin, that causes the illness. In dogs, Lyme Disease is the most common illness related to ticks, but cats can also get sick from ticks. The illness is a bit different with cats, often referred to as “Bobcat Fever”, but has just as many devastating effects on your pet as Lyme Disease. The tick population varies from year to year and unfortunately, the High Desert is a common breeding ground for ticks. It’s best to take preventative measures by treating your pet during the high tick seasons, by administering a topical medicine that is designed to repel and kill ticks as soon as they hit the animal’s fur. There are also special collars that you can buy that have anti-tick medicine that is released over time, which protect against fleas and ticks. There are also oral medications you can give your pet as a precautionary treatment. We encourage you to do some research and consult with us if you are wondering which treatment is ideal for your pet. There are pros and cons to the assorted options and weighing your own pet’s needs is important when deciding any treatment. Most of the medicines decrease in potency over time, so reapplication and staying on a schedule is suggested.

The following signs and symptoms of a tick bite are;

  • Lameness in one or more limbs
  • Soreness and stiffness in limbs
  • Decrease in appetite
  • Lethargy and over-all weakness
  • Fever
  • Pain
  • Depression
  • Infection where the tick bite occurred
  • Partial or complete paralysis
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Excessive Drooling
  • Unsteadiness