Pet Wellness Guides > 31 Common Dog Health Problems

31 Most Common Dog Health Problems

Posted: 08/06/2023 | BY: Jenna Bruce | Categories: Dog , Health problems , Pet care

When you become a pet parent, you welcome the good times as well as the inevitable dog health problems that come up. Taking good care of your pup can decrease his or her chance of developing dog sicknesses, illnesses or diseases, but common dog health problems can still occur.

The best type of pet parent is an educated pet parent, though, so with your loving care and knowledge you can ensure your dog lives a happy and comfortable life.

Signs Your Dog is Unwell

Dogs are stoic, meaning even when they aren’t feeling well they act like they are just fine. It’s up to pet parents to pay close attention and notice those signs that indicate something may be going on. 

Here are some of the most common signs that your dog may be feeling unwell:

Behavior Changes

Usually your dog is super excited, boinging up and down, to go on your morning walk. But on this particular morning, they wouldn’t even get out of bed. Maybe your dog is laying in a very different spot than they normally do. Maybe they show their teeth to the cat as a warning, which they’ve never done before. Like people, when dogs don’t feel good, they don’t act like themselves.

Vomiting and Diarrhea

Vomiting or diarrhea can be caused by a variety of conditions including viral infections, parasites, or gastroenteritis. A dog will also vomit or have diarrhea if they have ingested something they shouldn’t have, such as toxic food, plants or household chemicals such as antifreeze. Minor bouts of vomiting and diarrhea with no other symptoms (drooling, listlessness) may correct on their own and not warrant a trip to the vet. But if the vomiting or diarrhea persists, or if you see any blood, you should seek veterinary care immediately.


Like people, dogs often have a fever when they are fighting some kind of infection or illness. Signs of a fever in a dog can include a warm dry nose, warm ears, listlessness and perhaps shivering or trembling. 

Of course this isn’t an exhaustive list of signs your dog may be dealing with a health problem, but they are the most common. Now let’s take a look at the 31 most common dog health problems:

Common Dog Health Problems

1. Arthritis

What is arthritis?

As with people, dogs can suffer from arthritis as they age. Arthritis is the inflammation of joints in the body. Multiple forms of arthritis that affect dogs, and the most common type is osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint disease. Osteoarthritis happens when the cartilage that protects the bones of a joint is destroyed. The joint loses any lubricating protection, which causes friction between bones and results in significant pain.

Causes of arthritis

General arthritis is caused by autoimmune disorders, genetic joint instability, injury or trauma to ligaments, joint infections, or abnormal cartilage growth. Osteoarthritis is a condition impacting older or elderly dogs due to ageing, hip or elbow dysplasia, obesity, high activity levels, and metabolic diseases.

Symptoms of arthritis

The primary symptoms of arthritis are lameness, stiffness, reluctance to walk or climb up and down stairs, inactivity or sleeping more, unusual weight gain, or loss of appetite.

Treatment of arthritis

Your dog’s arthritis can be treated in multiple ways. A nutritious diet, weight control, non-steroidal pain medications, light exercise, massage and acupuncture, and physical rehabilitation (particularly water exercise) are all successful means by which to manage arthritis in dogs.

For more robust information on the causes, symptoms, treatments, treatment costs and preventative measures for canine arthritis, be sure tor read our full article called Arthritis in Dogs: Signs, Causes & Treatments

old dog resting on floor

2. Autoimmune Issues

What are autoimmune issues?

These issues are common in people and their pets. That’s why we put it autoimmune issues at the beginning of this common dog health problems list. There are a variety of autoimmune diseases that are common dog health problems. Canine autoimmune diseases cause a dog’s immune system to attack the body’s tissues and cells as opposed to defending them from outside infections and illnesses. There are multiple autoimmune disorders that affect dogs, including:

Autoimmune issues can be fatal to dogs; therefore, your dog will need a veterinarian to perform an accurate diagnosis and design a treatment plan.

For more on the three top autoimmune diseases in dogs, read our article Autoimmune Diseases in Dogs: Common issues, Symptoms & Treatments

Causes of autoimmune issues

Canine autoimmune disorders and diseases have four primary causes: genetics, vaccine reactions, sulfa antibiotic medications, and disease-carrying ticks. It can be challenging to pinpoint an exact cause of a dog’s autoimmune disorder, and veterinarians must analyze blood samples, genetic histories, as well as perform X-rays, MRIs, and ultrasounds to diagnose a dog with this condition.

Symptoms of autoimmune issues

Although specific forms of autoimmune diseases have particular symptom associations, some symptoms appear in all types of canine autoimmune disorders. These symptoms are the most commonly found in dogs with this medical issue:

  • Lameness

  • Pain in joints or muscles

  • Fever

  • Lethargy and weakness

  • Anemia

  • Increased thirst and urination

  • Weight loss

  • Increased breathing and heart rate

  • Enlarged lymph nodes

Treatment of autoimmune issues

Autoimmune disorders are treated from multiple angles. Corticosteroid immunosuppressive drugs and topical ointments, surgery, blood transfusions, and prednisone are traditional medical options for treating these diseases. Alternative treatments include physical therapy and hydrotherapy, acupuncture and massage, supplements, and dietary changes to unprocessed foods without preservatives, dyes, and chemicals.

3. Broken Bones

What are broken bones?

When a dog’s bone breaks, it results in significant pain and discomfort. It’s relatively easy for a dog to break a bone. A dog’s front and back legs have three bones that can break in many ways for different reasons. Here are the ways a dog can break a bone:

  • Hairline fractures, which are small cracks within the bone

  • Broken radius bones in the front leg (weight-bearing)

  • Broken bones in the back legs (shin and thigh bones)

  • Dislocated bones, especially in the shoulders and elbows

  • Open fractures (skin breaks open and the broken bone is exposed)

  • Closed fractures (bone breaks but skin stays intact)

Causes of broken bones

Your dog can break a bone quite suddenly. Generally, a broken bone occurs when there is some type of impact or sudden force to the dog’s legs or body. For example, your dog may have a fall or be struck by something large, like a vehicle. Smaller breeds may even break a leg by jumping up and down in the home. Other causes of bone breaks are sports injuries, genetic health issues, poor diet, inadequate calcium levels, age, exercise or play, and diseases.

Symptoms of broken bones

Broken bones symptoms range from obvious to subtle. Obvious signs of a broken bone will be any type of open fracture accompanied by significant pain and bleeding. For closed fractures, a dog will favor one leg, limp, or refuse to walk at all. Other symptoms are twisted legs, legs at abnormal angles, bruising, swelling, and vocalizing (whining, howling, whimpering).

Treatment of broken bones

Broken bones need to be stabilized as fast as possible to prevent infection and further damage. A dog must be carefully transported to an animal hospital as internal injuries will not be evident to the naked eye. The veterinarian will sedate the dog, order blood work and IV fluids, a catheter, and X-rays to determine the extent of the internal and external injuries.

Severe breaks may require surgery, while extreme cases may call for amputation of a limb. Minor breaks and fractures may be placed in a splint or cast.

4. Cancer

What is cancer?

Sadly, cancer is one of the most common dog health problems. It is the primary cause of death in dogs over 10 years old and affects 50% of senior dogs. Cancer causes the growth of abnormal cells that typically form tumors or masses and may spread to multiple organs. Types of cancer in dogs are as followed:

  • Mouth and nose cancer

  • Melanoma

  • Testicular

  • Brain tumors

  • Osteosarcoma (bone cancer)

  • Mast cell tumors

  • Hemangiosarcoma (blood vessel cancer)

  • Lymphoma

  • Bladder cancer

  • Squamous cell carcinomas (mouth and nail bed cancer)

  • Mammary carcinoma

  • Malignant histiocytosis (localized lesions)

Causes of canine cancer

The causes of cancer in dogs are still under investigation. Unfortunately, scientists have yet to find the connection between older dogs and higher cancer rates. One theory is that ageing causes the canine immune system to weaken, making the cells more susceptible to mutation. Other probable causes include dietary, environmental, and hereditary factors.

Symptoms of cancer

The signs of cancer may vary in dogs depending on the type of cancer they have. However, some symptoms that appear generally in most cancer cases:

  • Evidence of pain

  • Bumps and lumps underneath a dog’s skin

  • Loss of appetite

  • Abnormal discharge from the ears, eyes, mouth, or rectum

  • Depression or lethargy

  • Changes in bathroom behaviors

  • Sudden weight loss

  • Abdominal swelling

  • Difficulty breathing or excessive coughing

Treatment for cancer

Treating a dog’s cancer is dependent upon the aggressiveness of the cancer itself, as some cancers are more dangerous than others. Dogs with cancer should see a veterinary oncologist who can provide specific treatment for your pup, particularly in diagnosing cancer through ultrasound, biopsy, and urinalysis amongst other procedures. Other treatment therapies include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, surgery, and immunotherapy.

For more robust information on the causes, symptoms, treatments, treatment costs and preventative measures for canine cancer, be sure tor read our condition guides;

5. Canine Distemper

What is canine distemper?

Canine distemper is a highly contagious dog health problem that severely affects your dogs respiratory, gastrointestinal, and nervous systems. This virus spreads through the air when infected canines cough or sneeze (nasal discharge), through shared food and water bowls, and through the bloodstream from mother dogs to their puppies. Puppies younger than four months old and unvaccinated dogs are more likely to acquire this disease.

Causes of canine distemper

The cause of this illness is the distemper virus itself. Some places where the distemper virus may spread quickly are public parks, animal shelters, or in unregulated breeding operations and puppy mills.

Symptoms of canine distemper

Canine distemper symptoms vary depending on the stage of the illness. Here are the symptoms based on virus progression:

Early-stage symptoms, affecting the respiratory system

  • Fever

  • Sneezing

  • Coughing

  • Discharge from nose and eyes

  • Pneumonia

Second stage symptoms, affecting the gastrointestinal system

Advanced stage symptoms, impacting the nervous system

  • Stumbling

  • Depression

  • Seizures (from involuntary jaw snapping to grand mal)

  • Paralysis

Treatment of canine distemper

There is no cure for canine distemper virus; however, it can be prevented entirely by having your dog vaccinated yearly to remain immune to the virus.

For more robust information on the causes, symptoms, treatments, treatment costs and preventative measures for canine distemper, be sure tor read our condition guide; Distemper in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms & Treatments

6. Canine Influenza

What is canine influenza?

Canine influenza virus (CIV) is one of the most common dog health problems and one of the most contagious respiratory illnesses in dogs. First identified in 2004 as an infectious disease in racing greyhounds in Florida, this form of flu spread quickly from infected dogs to healthy dogs.

Causes of canine influenza

The causes of canine influenza are two Type A viruses: H328 and H2N2. These viruses are of avian origin and differ from virus H3N2, which is the seasonal influenza virus. The canine influenza virus spreads through respiratory secretions such as nasal discharge, coughing, and sneezing. Because the virus can live for 12 hours on people’s skin, 24 hours on clothing, and 48 hours on surfaces, dogs can also develop CIV if they come in contact with contaminated collars and leashes, kennel walls, food and water bowls, and human clothing and skin.

Symptoms of canine influenza

CIV symptoms are varied, but most signs appear in different parts of the respiratory system. The most common CIV symptoms are:

  • Fever

  • Lethargy

  • Runny nose

  • Coughing (dry or moist)

  • Sneezing

  • Reduced appetite

  • Eye discharge

  • Breathing difficulties

  • Pneumonia

It is worth noting that some dogs have asymptomatic CIV where they show no signs of illness.

Treatment for canine influenza

The treatment for CIV is supportive. Dogs with CIV should be quarantined in a warm, dry location away from other dogs. They need a quality diet and plenty of water to let the virus run its course. Most dogs recover from CIV within a few weeks; dogs with more severe cases who develop pneumonia may require hospitalization, medications, antibiotics, and intravenous fluids.

7. Canine Parvovirus

What is canine parvovirus?

Canine parvovirus (CPV) is an extremely contagious dog health problem that can impact the stomach and small intestines (common cases) or the cardiovascular system (less common). Most cases of parvovirus happen in puppies between six weeks and six months of age. It takes 3 – 10 days after exposure for a dog to show symptoms of this illness.

Causes of canine parvovirus

CPV is caused by a genetic alteration of the original canine parvovirus type 2b. The virus damages intestinal cells, and in puppies, the heart muscle. CPV spreads through direct contact with an infected dog or through direct or indirect contact with a dog’s feces. Simply sniffing infected feces or being exposed to traces of CPV brought into the house by shoes that have been in contact with infected stool.

Symptoms of canine parvovirus

The earlier your puppy’s symptoms are diagnosed, the better her chances of surviving a potentially deadly disease. In puppies, the mortality rate from CPV is 91% compared to 10% in adult dogs. The symptoms of canine parvovirus are:

  • Lethargy

  • Anorexia

  • Severe, bloody diarrhea

  • Vomiting

  • Fever

  • General pain and discomfort

Treatment for canine parvovirus

There is no cure for canine parvovirus. Supportive treatment is provided by veterinarians who work to prevent secondary infections, control diarrhea and vomiting, and replacing fluids and electrolytes. Fecal transplants are a new CPV treatment procedure where healthy microbiomes replace infected ones.

8. Periodontal Disease

What is periodontal disease?

Another incredibly common dog health problems. Periodontal (dental) disease is a bacterial infection of the mouth. It has four stages ranging from the existence of plaque to severe disease resulting in tooth and bone loss. Nearly 80% of dogs have some form of dental disease by the age of two. Untreated dental disease can lead to other dog health issues.

Causes of dental disease

Dental disease begins with the development of plaque on a dog’s teeth which causes gum disease and bad breath. Plaque growth leads to gingivitis, accompanied by redness, swelling, and inflammation of the gums. Left untreated, an infection can set in and lead to severe pain, damage to tissue and gums, and tooth loss. Dogs with periodontal disease are more likely to develop heart disease and organ damage from bacteria constantly entering the bloodstream and traveling to the heart.

Symptoms of dental disease

There are a variety of signs that may indicate your dog has oral health problems, and may already have some dental disease. Look for these symptoms of dental disease in your dog:

  • Sore mouth

  • Bleeding gums

  • Rubbing or pawing at the mouth

  • Dribbling

  • Yellow or brown tartar on the teeth

  • Loose teeth

  • Tooth loss

Treatment of dental disease

Treatment of periodontal disease starts with prevention. Annual oral exams by a veterinarian can prevent or catch dental disease in its earliest stage. Regular cleanings, while the dog is under standard anesthesia, can correct and reverse dental disease if it is still in early stages. Brushing your dog’s teeth weekly and feeding your dog a specially-formulated, nutritious pet food are other types of treatment for periodontal disease.

For more robust information on the causes, symptoms, treatments, treatment costs and preventative measures for canine periodontal disease, be sure tor read our condition guide; Periodontal Disease in Dogs: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment & Prevention

9. Diabetes

What is diabetes?

Diabetes mellitus is a growing epidemic, especially amongst older dogs. This condition occurs when a dog’s body creates too little insulin, making it impossible for control of the sugar levels in the bloodstream or has an abnormal response to insulin. This metabolic disease can also impact a dog’s eyesight and affect her overall quality of life.

Causes of diabetes

It’s not certain what causes diabetes in dogs, although researchers believe that some dogs are genetically predisposed. Obesity also increases a dog’s chance of developing diabetes.

Symptoms of diabetes

The signs of diabetes are relatively easy to identify. Here are the symptoms to look for if you suspect your dog has this disease:

  • Excessive urination

  • Cataracts and cloudy eyes

  • Lackluster skin and coat

  • Abnormal thirst

  • Increase in appetite

  • Deteriorated vision

  • Sudden weight loss (despite regular eating habits)

  • Urinary tract infection

  • “Sweet-smelling” breath

Treatment of diabetes

While there is no cure for diabetes, it can be managed with careful ongoing treatment so that your dog can live a full, happy life. Treatment involves these steps:

  • Regular insulin shots twice a day

  • A specially designed diabetes-friendly diet

  • Monitoring your dog for any changes

  • Regular visits to the veterinarian

10. Diarrhea

What is diarrhea?

A common dog health problem, diarrhea happens when unabsorbed nutrients draw water or retain water in the intestines. Abnormal and loose stools are the result, and sometimes they include blood or mucus. There are two kinds of diarrhea: acute (occurs suddenly) and chronic (happens over weeks to months).

Causes of diarrhea

There are multiple causes of both acute and chronic diarrhea. Here are the causes of this condition:

  • Viral or bacterial infection (acute and chronic)

  • Stress (acute and chronic)

  • Parasites (acute and chronic)

  • Dietary changes or indiscretion (acute)

  • Medications (acute and chronic)

  • Exercise intolerance (acute)

  • Metabolic diseases (acute and chronic)

  • Intestinal cancer (chronic)

  • Ingestion of spoiled foods or foreign objects (acute)

  • Pancreatitis (chronic)

Symptoms of diarrhea

Diarrhea ranges from mild to severe, and severe cases can be fatal. Signs of diarrhea are as follows:

  • Loose and watery stools

  • Weight loss

  • Vomiting

  • Abdominal pain

  • Weight loss

Treatment of diarrhea

Diarrhea can be treated with a series of steps. First, continue to feed your dog according to your veterinarian’s instructions. Nutrition is an important step in letting your dog’s intestines begin to heal. Next, change your dog’s diet by switching to a low fat, bland diet with limited ingredients. Feed multiple small meals to your dog during this time. Finally, speak with a

veterinarian about probiotics and prebiotics to give your dog to repopulate her gut’s healthy bacteria levels.

For more robust information on the causes, symptoms, treatments, treatment costs and preventative measures for canine diarrhea, be sure tor read our condition guide; Diarrhea in Dogs: Causes, Treatment & Prevention

11. Ear Infections

What are ear infections?

Canine ear infections in the outer ear indicate an inflammation of the external ear canal. Infections can also occur in the inner or middle ear. The infection causes significant pain and discomfort, and in severe situations, loss of hearing. These are some of the most common dog health problems seen by vets.

Causes of ear infections

Ear infections have many causes. Most ear infections being with bacteria and yeast trapped inside the ear. Other causes of infection include allergies to the environment or diet, ear mites, wax buildup, or hypothyroid disease. Dogs who have floppy ears or who are prone to allergies are at the highest risk of developing ear infections.

Symptoms of ear infections

Dogs with ear infections are typically in pain and discomfort. Those feelings often manifest in the signs of infection, including:

  • Offensive odor coming from the ears

  • Redness and inflammation

  • Constant scratching or pawing at the ears

  • Walking in circles

  • Yellowish or brown discharge

  • Whining

  • Shaking and tilting the head

  • Loss of balance

  • Abnormal eye movements

  • Loss of hearing

Treatment of ear infections

Veterinarians treat canine ear infections with approved medications like gentamycin and tobramycin. In cases of severe infection, your dog may need sedation for a thorough ear cleaning. Periodic cleanings with an ear cleaner can help prevent infections from developing in a dog’s ears.

dog ears

12. Parasites

What are external parasites?

External parasites, such as ticks, mites, lice and fleas, are more than just irritations to a dog. They are organisms that live on a host and feed on that host. These parasites can carry diseases like dermatitis and anemia; they may also carry internal parasites like tapeworms as well. Additionally, external parasites can trigger allergies in dogs.

Causes of external parasites

Parasites are caused by a healthy dog’s exposure to a dog or animal infected by external parasites or an environment where the parasites exist.

Symptoms of external parasites

Aside from seeing parasites on your dog’s skin and fur, there are other signs of these organisms’ effect on your pup. Here are symptoms to look for:

  • Hair loss

  • Aggressive scratching

  • Scabs

  • Irritated and inflamed skin

  • Excessive itching

Treatment of external parasites

Your veterinarian can give your dog medical treatment to eliminate the parasites. To prevent further infection, dogs should receive preventative medicine, receive regular testing during yearly exams, and their living areas should be as clean as possible.

13. Fleas

What are fleas?

Fleas are six-legged wingless external parasites that live on a dog’s skin and feed off its blood. They are roughly 1 1/16th of an inch, brown in color, with flattened bodies. Fleas crawl and jump from one host to another. They have four growth stages: egg, larvae, pupae, and adult.

Causes of fleas

Fleas are natural parasites that hop onto hosts to live and feed. They transfer themselves from an old host to a new one by jumping or crawling, and they may use the same methods to jump from the ground or grass onto a host.

Symptoms of fleas

When a flea bites a dog, it leaves behind saliva that can cause reactions in a dog. These signs of flea infestation include:

  • Skin rashes

  • Excessive scratching at the skin

  • Sores and scabs

  • Hair loss

  • Skin infections

Treatment of fleas

Application of spot-on flea and tick treatment or a prescription for an oral flea preventative given by a veterinarian are two ways to combat this common dog health problems.

14. Fungal Infections

What are fungal infections?

Fungal infections and diseases are incredibly common in dogs. Fungi are parasitic organisms that produce spores. When those spores enter a dog’s respiratory tract or skin, an infection can occur. Fungal infections can happen on the body’s surface, or they can be systemic and spread throughout the internal body systems.

Causes of fungal infections

Fungal infections can affect younger, large breed dogs, dogs with compromised immune systems, and dogs who are taking cyclosporine. These infections are caused when a dog inhales the fungal spores from the soil, ingests the spores, or if the spores enter an open wound.

Symptoms of fungal infections

Different types of fungal infections have specific symptoms associated with them. Here are the most common fungal infections and their symptoms:

  • Nasal aspergillosis: sneezing, nose bleeds, nasal discharge, visibly swollen nose, loss of appetite

  • Blastomycosis: weight loss, fever, eye inflammation, skin lesions, coughing, sudden blindness, seizures, lameness

  • Cryptococcosis: Lethargy, sneezing, raspy breathing, loss of appetite, weight loss, sniffling, dizziness, eye problems

Treatment of fungal infections

The best chance of your dog overcoming a fungal infection or disease is the administration of nasal or oral antifungal drugs by a veterinarian.

15. Heat Stroke

What is heat stroke?

Heatstroke (hypothermia) is the high elevation of a dog’s temperature not caused by fever. Dogs cannot release heat as easily as humans can, and that makes them far more prone to experiencing heat stroke, which is why it is one of the most common dog health problems. Hypothermia can happen quickly, especially in locations where high temperatures are accompanied by high humidity or areas that are not well ventilated, such as a vehicle. Heatstroke is a serious medical condition and can be fatal; there is a 50% mortality rate for heat stroke in dogs.

Causes of heatstroke

There are two kinds of heatstroke: exertional and nonexertional. Exertional heatstroke happens when a dog becomes overheated during exercise, usually because the dog has not had the chance to acclimate her body to the higher temperatures. A notable rise in temperatures causes nonexertional heatstroke while the dog is in an unventilated area without access to drinking water to stay cool.

Symptoms of heatstroke

Heatstroke symptoms happen rapidly and require quick action to cool a dog down and potentially save her life. Watch out for these signs of heat stroke:

  • Accelerated heart rate and pulse

  • Excessive panting

  • Dehydration

  • Dark-colored or red gums or tongue

  • Salivating and drooling

  • Diarrhea (may be bloody)

  • Vomiting (may be bloody)

  • Barking or whining in agitation

  • Glassy eyes

  • An elevated body temperature of 40 °C (104 °F) or higher

  • Weakness, staggering, or collapse

  • Seizures

  • Coma

Treatment for heatstroke

The treatment required for heatstroke involves an immediate trip to the emergency veterinarian. But there are steps that you can take before you get to the vet that can increase your dog’s chances of survival:

  • initiate the cooling process in their dog by moving her to a shady spot and placing a cool, wet towel underneath her.

  • Offer your dog small amounts of water frequently if she is alert enough to drink.

  • Measure your dog’s temperature with a rectal thermometer, if possible.

  • Spray cool (not cold) water over the dog’s body if her temperature is high.

  • Stop spraying once the dog’s temperature has dropped to 103.5 °F.

  • Dry her off with a dry blanket or towel.

  • Take her to the veterinarian.

The veterinarian will continue the controlled cooling process, replace your dog’s fluid and electrolyte levels, and manage any secondary complications (clotting, organ failure, or inflammatory responses) that may occur.

16. Hookworms

What are hookworms?

Hookworms are internal parasites that live in a dog’s digestive system. Their hook-like shape allows them to attach to the lining of the intestinal wall to feed on a dog’s blood. Hookworms lay their eggs in the digestive tract and pass through to the environment through defecation. This parasite can be passed to unborn puppies through their mother’s milk. Humans are also susceptible to hookworm infections.

Causes of hookworms

Hookworm larvae hatch once they’ve been passed through feces and onto the soil. From there, they can infect a dog through contact or skin penetration. Dogs can even ingest hookworms when they are licking themselves or swallowing dirt.

Symptoms of hookworms

Hookworms can cause a variety of symptoms in dogs. These are the signs most associated with these parasites:

  • Diarrhea

  • Loss of appetite

  • Weight loss or failure to gain weight

  • Skin irritation (usually between the toes)

  • Coughing (larval infection in the lungs)

  • Tarry or bloody stools

  • Anemia (pale gums, weakness)

Treatment of hookworms

Hookworms can be treated by administering medication to end the parasitic infestation. Your veterinarian can select the right medication for your dog. Medication only affects the hookworms inside the intestine; thus, treatment should repeatedly occur until all larvae have matured and died. The number of treatments will depend on your dog’s age and extent of the infestation.

Pregnant dogs will need particular deworming protocols that a veterinarian can determine and provide to prevent or stop hookworms from spreading to the unborn puppies.

17. Hot Spots (Acute Moist Dermatitis)

What are hot spots?

One of the most common dog health problems – these superficial skin disorders in dogs are hot spots or acute moist dermatitis. These raw, red, itchy and inflamed lesions often appear suddenly on a dog’s body. Hot spots can become moist, oozing sores, especially if your dog frequently licks, gnaws, or bites at them; they can spread rapidly, and infection may develop without treatment.

Causes of hot spots

Hot spots are caused by anything that irritates a dog’s skin to the point where she scratches, licks, or bites at the skin repeatedly, causing a lesion to develop. Hot spots can be the result of multiple culprits, including:

  • Moisture and humidity

  • Poor grooming

  • Allergies

  • Pyoderma (skin infection caused by yeast and bacteria)

  • Ear infections

  • Parasites and general pests (flies, mosquitoes)

  • Anal gland disease

  • Behavioral issues (excessive licking to relieve boredom or stress)

  • Contact irritants

  • Moisture trapped in the coat from bathing or swimming

Symptoms of hot spots

Hot spots can be easy to identify once you’ve combed through your dog’s fur to find them. These are the signs of hot spots on your dog:

  • Redness

  • Hair loss

  • Swelling

  • Lesion is moist

  • Discharge of fluid or pus from the sore

  • Matted or crusted hair around the lesion

  • Your dog excessively licks, bites, or scratches at specific spots on her body

Treatment of hot spots

You can treat your dog’s hot spots at home if you catch them early. Medicated anti-itch shampoos can kill bacteria and soothe inflamed skin. This treatment should prevent scratching and let the skin heal.

Veterinarian assistance is necessary for severe hot spot cases. A vet will clip away matted fur, apply a gentle antiseptic solution to the wounds, and prescribe oral or topical steroids to decrease itching and address secondary infections.

18. Kennel Cough

What is kennel cough?

Kennel cough, or infectious tracheobronchitis, is a highly contagious respiratory infection where a virus and bacteria affect a dog’s windpipe, lungs, and voice box. Kennel cough is only fatal to puppies, senior dogs, and dogs with compromised immune systems. But it is one of the most common dog health problems.

Causes of kennel cough

Kennel cough is caused by the bacteria Bordetella bronchiseptica and canine parainfluenza virus. These pathogens combine to attack the cilia which line the lungs, inflaming the upper airway. This irritation causes dogs to experience a persistent, repetitive dry cough. Dogs get kennel cough by breathing in the air after an infected dog has coughed, sharing contaminated objects, or coming into contact with an infected dog.

Symptoms of kennel cough

Kennel cough can impact any dog unvaccinated against this infection. Here are the symptoms of kennel cough in dogs:

  • Persistent and unproductive dry cough

  • Deep honking cough

  • Sounds that seem like your dog is gagging or has something caught in her throat

  • Fever

  • Lethargy

  • Nasal discharge

  • Watery eyes

Treatment of kennel cough

Kennel cough treatment depends on the severity of the infection. Dogs with mild cases of kennel cough will not receive specialized treatment as the disease will run its course. Severe cases of kennel cough require cough suppressants and oral antibiotics and should be resolved within 7 – 14 days.

19. Leptospirosis

What is leptospirosis?

Leptospirosis (“Lepto”) is a highly contagious bacterial infection which impacts dogs and mammals including rodents, wildlife, other dogs, and humans. Lepto exists around the world and is often found in wet, moist areas after rainfall.

Causes of leptospirosis

Lepto, which is one of the most common dog health issues, is caused by multiple strains of the bacteria Leptospira spp. Dogs can become infected by this bacteria if they swim in or drink contaminated water, eat infected meat, or come in direct contact with another infected animal.

Symptoms of leptospirosis

The signs associated with leptospirosis are often non-specific and vague. The following symptoms are linked to lepto and vary in intensity:

  • Vomiting

  • Fever

  • Conjunctivitis

  • Depression and weakness

  • Shivering

  • Coughing

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Jaundice

  • Increased urination

  • Muscle pain and stiffness

  • Loss of appetite or anorexia

  • Liver or kidney failure

  • Increased thirst

Some dogs with lepto are asymptomatic and will show no signs of having the disease.

Treatment of leptospirosis

Dogs with lepto are treated with antibiotics. For severe cases, dogs may also need to hospitalization and care for any damage done to the liver or kidney.

20. Obesity

What is obesity?

We simply cannot leave obesity off the list of common dog health problems. Excessive weight, or obesity, is a medical issue that is common to many dogs; between one-third and 40 percent of dogs are obese or overweight. Obesity leads to several health complications for dogs, especially as they grow older. Dogs who are obese are more likely to develop cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and respiratory illnesses, as well as experience a higher overall mortality rate.

Causes of obesity

There are a variety of reasons why dogs may become overweight to the point of obesity. Here are the most common causes of obesity:

  • Breed predisposition

  • Old age

  • Certain medications that cause weight gain

  • Neutering

  • Endocrine diseases

  • Nutrition

  • Overweight or obese owners

Symptoms of obesity

Signs of obesity include both symptoms that occur sooner and those that occur later:

  • Weight gain

  • Lack of stamina

  • Inability or unwillingness to exercise

  • Excess body fat

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Heart disease

  • Respiratory illness

  • High blood pressure

  • Diabetes

  • Hypothyroidism

  • Cancer

  • Shortened life span

Treatment of obesity

Obesity is a reversible condition. Treatment includes switching your dog to a light dog food under your veterinarian’s supervision as well as feeding your dog on a strict schedule. Stop feeding treats, snacks, and table food to your dog. Your dog will begin to lose weight with light to moderate exercise and play in the backyard or at a local dog park.

fat dog laying on floor

21. Prostate Problems

What are prostate problems?

The prostate is a gland of the reproductive system, and male dogs are prone to various issues with it. The primary types of prostate problems are prostate enlargement, bacterial infection, cysts, and cancer.

Causes of prostate problems

These are the causes of the main types of prostate issues:

  • Prostate enlargement is caused by the enlargement of the prostate gland in both lobes.

  • Bacterial infections occur when bacteria enter the body through the prostate via blood or urinary tract.

  • Cysts grow adjacent to the prostate after birth and slowly increase in size to put pressure on the prostate, urethra, rectum, and colon.

  • Cancer develops in the prostate and spreads quickly to other organs in the body. Prostate cancer in dogs is rare.

Symptoms of prostate problems

The signs of prostate problems are linked to the type of prostate illness your dog suffers from, but there are general symptoms that all four kinds share:

  • Straining while urinating or defecating

  • Constipation

  • Blood in urine

  • Bloody or yellow discharge from the penis

  • Loss of appetite

  • Lethargy

  • Fever

  • Abdominal pain

  • Rectal pain

  • Weight loss

  • Difficulty breathing (cancer)

  • Ribbon-shaped stool (cancer)

Treatment of prostate problems

For prostate enlargement, there is no specific treatment; however, if the enlarged prostate makes the dog’s quality of life uncomfortable, you may need to have your dog neutered.

Bacterial prostate infections are treated with hospitalization and antibiotics via IV; in some cases, surgery may be necessary. You can eliminate your dog’s cysts by having him castrated. There is no cure for prostate cancer, and treatment is limited to radiation and medical therapy for short-term hospice care.

22. Rabies

What is rabies?

Rabies is a viral disease that causes brain inflammation and affects the central nervous system, and sadly, it is one of the most common dog health issues. Once the symptoms of rabies appear, fatality will soon follow; thus, dogs with rabies are euthanized.

Causes of rabies

Rabies spreads through contact with the saliva of an infected animal; the wildlife most likely to carry rabies are raccoons, skunks, foxes, and bats. The infection spreads from a bite wound, but it may also spread through an open wound or scratch.

Symptoms of rabies

Although the incubation period for rabies varies by case, generally within 3 to 8 weeks, these symptoms will appear:

  • Fever

  • Pica

  • Aggressiveness

  • Anxiety

  • Seizures

  • Dropped jaw

  • Hydrophobia

  • Paralysis

  • Respiratory failure

Treatment of rabies

There is no cure or treatment for rabies. You can prevent your dog from contracting rabies by getting her vaccinated against this disease.

23. Ringworm

What is ringworm?

Ringworm is a fungus that produces infective spores that live off the dead hair and skin tissues on a dog. These spores then infect broken skin, causing hair loss in round patchy lesions. Ringworm most frequently affects young dogs, long-haired dogs, and elderly dogs.

Causes of ringworm

A collection of pathogenic fungi causes ringworm. These fungi grow on the surface of the skin, in the hair follicles, and sometimes in the dog’s nails.

Symptoms of ringworm

Although not life-threatening, ringworm is contagious and may require treatment from a veterinarian. These are the signs associated with ringworm in dogs:

  • Dry, brittle hair

  • Inflamed skin

  • Scabby skin

  • Dandruff-like scaling in the coat

  • Red lesions and hair loss (head, chest, forelegs, back ridge)

  • Brittle, rough nails

Treatment of ringworm

Your dog’s veterinarian will administer oral medication to get rid of the ringworm. In severe cases, you may also need to use a topical medicated shampoo or lotion on the skin.

24. Roundworms

What are roundworms?

Roundworms (ascarids) are the most common parasite in dogs. The canine roundworm species are Toxocara canis and Toxocara leonine. Roundworms live in the stomach and intestines; they can grow to 7-inches long and lay upwards of 20,000 eggs a day.

Causes of roundworms

Roundworms are highly contagious parasites. They spread when an infected dog sheds roundworm eggs in her feces. This disease can also transfer when other dogs sniff or lick at the infected stool. Additionally, roundworm eggs spread through contact with birds, rodents, earthworms, and cockroaches.

Roundworm eggs can transfer from the placenta to an unborn puppy. Nursing from infected mother’s milk is another way puppies get ringworm.

Symptoms of roundworms

Some dogs with ringworm infections are asymptomatic and don’t show any signs of illness. Most dogs with ringworm will exhibit the following symptoms:

  • Weight loss

  • Vomiting

  • Dull hair

  • Diarrhea

  • Coughing

  • Potbellied appearance

Treatment of roundworms

Roundworms in puppies are treated with multiple rounds of deworming. Preventative measures involve placing your dog on heartworm medication.

25. Skin Allergies

What are skin allergies?

Talk about common dog health problems! Skin allergies are a normal, common health condition that many dogs struggle with daily. Many dogs have sensitive skin or are susceptible to certain factors in their environment. Allergy sources can be difficult to identify, but there are a variety of ways to treat allergies and give your dog some relief.

Causes of skin allergies

Skin allergies can be caused by just about anything and everything in dogs. Here are the most common allergies found in canines:

  • Contact and inhalant allergies (pollen, grasses, dust mites, molds)

  • Flea allergies

  • Food allergies

  • Bacterial hypersensitivity

  • Medication

  • Dander

  • Seborrhea (dandruff)

Symptoms of skin allergies

The signs of skin allergies can become noticeable quite quickly, especially due to your dog’s obvious discomfort. Look for these symptoms of allergies in your pup:

  • Itchy ears

  • Hives

  • Excessive itching and scratching

  • Inflamed skin

  • Altered behavior

  • Vomiting

  • Diarrhea

  • Sneezing

Treatment of skin allergies

There is a wide range of treatments for allergies, depending on their severity:

  • Weekly medicated baths (calm allergic inflammation and soothe skin)

  • Supplements (Omega-3 and Omega-6 essential fatty acids)

  • Antihistamines

  • Antifungal medications

  • Hypoallergenic diets

  • Antibiotics

  • Flea control treatments

  • Immunotherapy (allergy shots)

  • Environmental control

  • Corticosteroids

  • Thyroid medication

26. Tapeworms

What are tapeworms?

The tapeworm is a flat, white, segmented parasite commonly found in dogs. Tapeworms live inside a dog’s intestinal tract, growing from 4 to 28 inches in length. They latch onto the inside walls of the stomach and feed from there.

Causes of tapeworms

When a dog ingests a host of tapeworm eggs, such as an adult flea, a tapeworm infection can occur. This situation may happen when the dog is self-grooming, or if the dog licks or bites an infected animal, such as a rabbit, rodent, or bird.

Symptoms of tapeworms

Tapeworm symptoms include any of the following factors:

  • A dog scooting her read end on the ground

  • Lethargy

  • Extended abdomen

  • Dull coat

  • Weight loss (even with a regular diet)

  • Vomiting

  • Diarrhea

  • Visible evidence of tapeworms

Treatment of tapeworms

The treatment of tapeworms include deworming procedures which are proven effective for eliminating the infestation.

27. Tick-Borne Diseases

What are tick-borne diseases?

Rocky Mountain spotted fever, anaplasmosis, and ehrlichiosis are three tick-borne diseases that are increasing in occurrence. Ticks are parasites that latch onto dogs and feed on their blood. By doing so, ticks directly transmit diseases into a dog’s body. The results range from mild irritation to full-blown diseases.

Causes of tick-borne diseases

Tick-borne diseases are caused by the tick’s transmission of disease directly into canine systems. Certain ticks cause specific diseases to occur; there are seven different types of tick-borne diseases that dogs are prone to contracting.

Symptoms of tick-borne diseases

Although each tick-borne disease has its characteristic acute symptoms, all of these diseases have similar flu-like signs at the beginning of the disease:

  • Loss of appetite

  • Fever

  • Swollen lymph nodes

  • Lethargy

  • Vomiting

  • Stiffness in joints

  • Diarrhea

Treatment of tick-borne diseases

The main treatment for tick-borne illnesses is to administer a broad-spectrum antibiotic; the earlier the disease is found and treated, the better the prognosis. Oral or topical tick prevention products, plus annual screenings can help your dog avoid tick-borne diseases altogether.

28. Toxicity or Poisoning

What is toxicity/poisoning?

Toxicity and poisoning occur when your dog ingests some item or material that is toxic or poisonous to her body.

Causes of toxicity/poisoning

Poisoning and toxicity are often the results of your dog having access to substances or items that she can eat, drink, and swallow.

Symptoms of toxicity/poisoning

The symptoms of toxicity and poisoning are often dependent on the toxin your dog has ingested. Here are some signs of poisoning associated with most toxic items:

  • Drooling

  • Vomiting

  • Loss of appetite

  • Rashes at the contact site

  • Labored breathing

  • Seizures and tremors

  • Loss of consciousness

  • Organ failure

  • Sensitivity to light

  • Loss of coordination

  • Coma

  • Death

Treatment of toxicity/poisoning

If you suspect your dog is poisoned, contact the Pet Poison Control Hotline for assistance. Wrap your dog in a blanket and transport her to the veterinarian immediately if she is convulsing or seizing. Induce vomiting in your dog if she has not already thrown up and if the poison is not petroleum or caustic substance. The best form of treatment is to get your dog to an emergency veterinary clinic as quickly as possible.

29. Urinary Tract Infections

What are urinary tract infections?

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are common bacterial infections that involve the urinary tract and bladder. Any breed of dog can develop a urinary tract infection.

Causes of urinary tract infections

UTIs occur when bacteria works its way into the urethra, often from contact with debris or feces in that area. Dogs with weakened immune systems are also vulnerable to this infection. E. Coli is the bacteria most responsible for urinary tract infections.

Symptoms of urinary tract infections

The symptoms of UTIs are relatively easy to notice. Keep an eye out for these signs of UTI in your dog:

  • Dribbling urine

  • Licking at or around the urinary opening

  • Cloudy and/or bloody urine

  • Fever

  • Needing to go outside to urinate more frequently than normal

  • Straining or whimpering during urination

  • Increased water intake

Treatment of urinary tract infections

Urinary tract infections are treated after a veterinarian has run a urinalysis on your dog. After the vet verifies the UTI, your dog will be on an 8 to 10-day round of antibiotics. You will need to increase your dog’s water intake during treatment to help flush out remaining bacteria.

30. Vomiting

What is vomiting?

Vomiting belongs under the umbrella of common dog health problems and often, it isn’t cause for alarm. If your dog vomits without any other symptoms, she probably just had an upset stomach. However, if your dog vomits accompanied by other symptoms, then her behavior is cause for concern.

Causes of vomiting

Acute vomiting (severe or sudden vomiting) can be caused by a variety of substances, illnesses, and diseases. Here are some of the common causes of acute vomiting:

  • Ingesting toxic or irritating substances (chocolate, spoiled meat)

  • Heatstroke

  • Reaction to a medication

  • Diet change

  • Liver failure

  • Poisoning

  • Bacterial infection

  • Bloat

  • Viral infection

  • Pancreatitis

Chronic vomiting (long-term, frequent vomiting) is a serious situation and may the result of these factors:

  • Parvovirus

  • Intestinal inflammation

  • Constipation

  • Uterine infection

  • Intestinal obstruction

  • Cancer

  • Liver disease

  • Kidney or liver failure

  • Pancreatitis

  • Colitis

  • Pancreatitis

Symptoms of vomiting

Serious cases of vomiting are evident alongside any of the following symptoms:

  • Vomiting large amounts at one time

  • Vomiting blood

  • Dry vomiting

  • Continuous vomiting

  • Chronic vomiting

  • Vomiting with weight loss, lethargy, and/or fever

  • Bloody diarrhea

  • Seizures

  • Foreign body ingestion

Treatment of vomiting

Treatment of acute or chronic vomiting starts with your veterinarian who will run a series of diagnostic tests, blood work, X-rays, and fecal analysis to determine the underlying cause of the vomiting. In most cases of vomiting, treatment will include anti-nausea medication and a bland diet. For more severe cases, hospitalization, fluid therapies and surgery may be necessary.

31. Whipworms

What are whipworms?

Whipworms are common intestinal parasites in canines which spread when infected dogs pass whipworm eggs through their feces. They are also one of the most common dog health problems. Whipworms, named for their whip-like shape, typically lay eggs which hatch and mature in the intestinal tract. These parasites can live in your dog’s intestinal system for up to five years.

Causes of whipworms

Your dog can develop a whipworm infection by ingesting whipworm eggs from soil or other substances that contain traces of stool. Dogs who spend time in a contaminated area, such as dog parks or backyards, may also become exposed to these parasites.

Symptoms of whipworms

Not all dogs with whipworm infections will show signs of the parasites. Those dogs who do show symptoms will likely have one or more of the following behaviors:

  • Weight loss

  • Bloody stools

  • Dehydration

  • Diarrhea

  • Recurring weakness

  • Frequent attempts to defecate

  • Straining to defecate

  • Urgency to defecate

Treatment of whipworms

Whipworms are one of the most common dog health problems and they should not be ignored. Your veterinarian will give your dog prescription parasite medications. You can prevent future whipworm infections by placing your dog on a parasite preventative medication each month; additionally, many monthly heartworm medications also include preventatives against whipworms.

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The information contained on this blog is intended for informational and educational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. It is not a substitute for professional veterinary care. Always consult with your veterinarian before making any changes to your pet's health care or treatment plan.

The authors of this blog are not veterinarians and do not claim to be experts in pet health. The information provided here is based on our own experiences and research, as well as information from reputable sources. However, we cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of this information.

We encourage you to do your own research and consult with your veterinarian before making any decisions about your pet's health.

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