With the amount of enthusiasm that your dog throws into life, it is inevitable that they will get sick at some point. With any luck, your dog will remain free of serious illness and will live a long and happy life. Throughout that life, though, there is a handful of common dog illnesses and ailments that your furry friend may encounter. It’s important that you get acquainted with them because some of them can be deadly, and your quick thinking could save your dog’s life.
Many dogs will experience an ear infection at least once in their life. They are more common in dogs with floppy ears, like Basset Hounds or Cocker Spaniels, and for dogs that like to spend their time in the water (that means you, cottage dogs!). Ear infections are more likely to occur in dogs that have had one in the past. Luckily, they are not contagious and are fairly easy to cure.
The ear canal is very sensitive, so symptoms of an ear infection are usually quite obvious and include:
1. Head Shaking
3. Scaly Skin
4. Whining and Pawing at the Affected Ear
5. Smelly Discharge
6. Redness and Swelling
Ear infections in dogs are typically caused by a buildup of bacteria, yeast, or fungi within the ear canal. A dog’s ear canal is more vertical than a human and has an “L” shape, which can trap liquid. That means that moisture can enter the ear canal and remain there, creating the perfect breeding ground for bacteria. A recurring ear infection can also be a sign of an underlying health problem, like an allergy.
If you believe that your dog has an ear infection it’s important to take it to the vet immediately for treatment to prevent spreading to the middle and inner ear. Ear infections can be very painful for dogs, and the only way to cure it is with antibiotics.
It is possible to lessen the chance of your dog getting an infection by cleaning your dog’s ears on a regular basis. If your dog enjoys swimming, make sure that you’re clearing your dog’s ears of water post-swim. It is a good idea to set up an ear cleaning routine to make sure that the ear is getting clean regularly.
Watch the following video for a full guide on how to clean your dog’s ears:
Just as with humans, dogs can suffer from arthritis. Arthritis is an inflammation of the joints, and it is typically more prevalent in older dogs. The bone surface is covered in a thin layer of cartilage which is lubricated with joint fluid that allows the two surfaces to glide easily over one another. Over time, or through physical trauma, that cartilage can deteriorate, causing the bones to grind against each other. This process and the pain and stiffness that goes along with it is called arthritis.
How to Know Your Dog Has Arthritis
The disease nearly always causes pain and stiffness, so if your dog seems to be less enthusiastic about exercise, shows lameness or stiffness especially after long periods of rest, then your dog may have arthritis. Though arthritis is more common in elderly dogs, it can also occur in young dogs, so it’s important to be aware of all the symptoms. Some dogs may also excessively lick the painful joint. Signs of arthritis aren’t always obvious and can range from obvious signs of pain to a general grumpiness.
Arthritis cannot be cured. It is something that your dog will live with for its entire life, but there are ways to make its life more comfortable.
Arthritis can be more painful for an overweight dog because the weight adds more stress to the joints, so keeping your dog at a healthy weight is important. There are several medications and therapeutic treatments for dogs suffering from arthritis in order to make them more comfortable and to ensure that their joints do not worsen over time.
Kennel cough, or infectious tracheobronchitis, is a respiratory infection that attacks the upper airway and causes inflammation. It leads to a dry cough and irritation of the airway and can leave the dog susceptible to a secondary infection. A dog can contract kennel cough at any time of the year but it is typically more prevalent in the summer months.
How You Dog Can Get It
Kennel cough was given its name because it is VERY contagious, and can easily spread to affect every dog in the kennel. It can be transmitted through the air, when two dogs are in close contact with each other, or when they share contaminated objects, such as drinking out of the same bowl. Puppies and unvaccinated dogs are at a higher risk.
Symptoms tend to develop three to ten days after exposure. Kennel cough will cause a deep, persistent cough that may sound like something is caught in your pet’s throat. Some dogs may also vomit excessively. Animals with kennel cough will otherwise act normally, eating and exercising as usual.
Watch this short video for an example of what kennel cough can sound like:
What to do if your dog has it
If you believe that your dog has kennel cough it’s important to take it to the vet immediately. Keep your dog isolated and away from others dogs so that the infection doesn’t spread. In mild cases, the dog may not need medication to overcome kennel cough, but often antibiotics are prescribed. Kennel cough can often lead to pneumonia, so it’s important to visit the vet to see what the best treatment options are for your dog.
Many owners squirm at the thought of tiny worms infesting their dog’s internal organs, but worms are something that is common enough to have to think about. There are 5 main types of worms that commonly affect dogs: roundworms, tapeworms, hookworms, whipworms, and heartworms. All of the worms affect the dog differently. One of the most worrisome, and luckily most preventable, is heartworm.
Heartworm is caused by a parasitic worm that is spread through the bite of a mosquito. The worm travels from the mosquito, through the bloodstream, and lives in a dog’s heart, lungs, and blood vessels. In the United States, all 50 states have confirmed the presence of heartworms.
The severity of the symptoms depends on how many worms are living inside of the dog, how long the dog has been infected, and how the dog’s body reacts, but they typically involve:
Signs of heart failure
The treatment of heartworms is often lengthy, expensive, and can have serious side effects for the dog. Treatment involves many visits to the veterinary clinic, bloodwork, x-rays, hospitalization, and a series of injections. During this time exercise restrictions and confinement is required, which can affect the dog emotionally.
Fleas & Ticks
Fleas and ticks are the biggest and most common concern for people living in America. Prevention is the best defense against the parasites, but knowing where they come from and what they can do to your pet is important so that you can catch the pests before there’s an outbreak.
Fleas are wingless creatures that feed on blood and can jump up to two feet high. They are most commonly noticed on the dog’s abdomen, the base of the tail and head. They can live anywhere from 13 days-12 months, and during that time they can produce millions of offspring.
Ticks also live off the blood of a host by biting the host’s skin, burying their head inside, and then gorging themselves on the blood. Ticks prefer to attach themselves to the head, neck, ears, or feet of the host, but can be found anywhere on the body.
How Your Dog Can Get Them
Both fleas and ticks can be contracted outdoors. They prefer warm climates, which means that they are more prevalent in the summer months. They typically will hide out in long grass, waiting for a host to come close enough for them to attach to.
Fleas – When a dog has fleas it will excessively scratch, lick, or bite the skin. Hair loss, scab, and hot spots may develop because of this. In many cases, you will be able to see flea eggs or the droppings of fleas, which will resemble ‘grains of sand’.
Ticks – Often times your pet will not notice that the parasite is attached to them. Luckily they are visible to the naked eye, and by monitoring your dog when it spends time outside you will be able to when a tick has attached itself.
If your dog has fleas, you can get a prescribed treatment from your vet clinic. A tick will need to be gently removed from the skin. You can do this yourself or get a veterinarian to do it.
Prevention is the best course of action with fleas and ticks, and there are many excellent annual medications that you can give your dog during the summer months.
How to Protect Your Pet Today
Sadly, unlike our human children pets typically aren’t covered under our traditional insurance policies. Luckily, there are some options that we can invest in to make sure that our furry friends are taken care of, should they become sick.
Just as there is human insurance, there is also pet insurance. There are a number of companies that you can invest in that will cover the cost of your pets medical care should they become sick. These companies offer a multitude of plans to choose from, depending on the needs of your pet. It is important to note that many companies will not cover pre-existing medical conditions, so while it may be helpful for new ailments that occur, do not expect them to cover the medical costs of known illnesses.
Separate Bank Account
Many people will keep a separate bank account specifically for their pet. This ensures that should an emergency occur there will be money in order to treat it.
A healthy dog needs only to go to the vet once a year for a checkup, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t inspect your dog in the meantime. Schedule regular ‘inspections’ (once a month is recommended) to give your dog a once-over to ensure that they are fit and healthy. During this inspection, you can check inside the mouth and ears, and feel around for any lumps that may have developed.
As a dog owner, you want your dog to live a long and happy life free of sickness. The best way that you can do that is to know about the dog illnesses and ailments that your dog may encounter in its life. The sooner you spot the symptoms, the better you will be able to ease your fur baby of that pain. By educating yourself, and seeking help from a veterinarian when needed, you’ll be able to ensure that your doggo is living the fullest and happiest life possible.
 AKC Staff. (November 23, 2015). Dog Ear Infections: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, and Prevention. Retrieved on November 6, 2017, from http://www.akc.org/content/health/articles/dog-ear-infections/
 The Kennel Club. Arthritis in Dogs. Retrieved on November 6, 2017, from https://www.thekennelclub.org.uk/health/for-owners/arthritis-in-dogs/
 Dr. Ruth MacPete. Kennel Cough: The Signs and Symptoms. Retrieved on November 6, 2017, from http://www.pethealthnetwork.com/dog-health/dog-diseases-conditions-a-z/kennel-cough-signs-and-symptoms
 US Food and Drug Administration. (October 12, 2017). Keep the Worms Out of Your Pet’s Heart! The Facts About Heartworm Disease. Retrieved on November 6, 2017, from https://www.fda.gov/animalveterinary/resourcesforyou/animalhealthliteracy/ucm188470.htm
 ASPCA. Fleas and Ticks. Retrieved on November 6, 2017, from https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/general-pet-care/fleas-and-ticks