As a dog owner, your pet’s health and wellbeing is a top priority. However, even the healthiest of dogs can develop health problems or fall victim to a variety of illnesses or diseases.

The good news is that most problems can be easily treated or managed with the right care, and some can even be prevented entirely. But it’s important to stay informed about the common illnesses and conditions which can affect your dog and be able to recognise the signs and symptoms to look out for, so you know when it’s time to seek advice from your veterinarian.

Here you can learn more about common dog health problems, including symptoms and causes, as well as treatment and prevention advice.


 

Skin problems in dogs

Skin problems are common in dogs, and can range from minor irritations that usually clear up on their own to long-term conditions which can be harder to treat. Here are some of the most common skin problems in dogs, including information on symptoms, how best to control or treat them and, if possible, how you can prevent them from occurring. Acral lick granuloma What is acral lick granuloma? Acral lick granuloma, also known as lick dermatitis, is a disorder which occurs after your dog continuously licks or chews an area of skin. A lick granuloma can start as a small skin irritation, caused by a bacterial or fungal infection, mites, allergies or hot spots, or by bone or joint pain, but they can also be the result of compulsive licking, normally due to stress, anxiety or boredom. A lick granuloma will normally appear on your dog’s lower leg as a red, inflamed area of skin. There are some breeds which appear to be more prone to developing acral lick granulomas than others, including: Airedale Terrier Doberman Pinscher German Shepherd Golden Retriever Irish Setter Labrador Retriever Weimaraner How to treat acral lick granulomas Lick granulomas are very difficult to treat. If the granuloma is the result of a psychological issue, such as boredom or anxiety, your veterinarian may prescribe medication such as antidepressants, or recommend making changes to your dog’s lifestyle, for example, increasing walks and avoiding leaving your dog alone at home for long periods of time. Lasers are sometimes used to treat the lesion, as well as radiation therapy, antibiotics or acupuncture. Anti-licking ointments and Elizabethan collars or cones can prevent your dog licking the wound, however once the wound is healed, it can reoccur if your dog starts compulsively licking again. It may take some time before you identify the underlying cause and find right treatment for your dog. How to prevent acral lick granulomas There is nothing you can do to prevent acral lick granulomas, however paying a visit to your veterinarian as soon as you notice any compulsive licking behavior will help prevent the problem getting worse and is likely to be easier to treat. Atopic dermatitis What is atopic dermatitis? Atopic dermatitis is an inflammatory skin condition caused by allergens found in pollen, dust, mold, dander and grass. Symptoms include itchy, inflamed skin and hair loss around your dog’s ears, paws, underarms and groin, and you’ll notice your dog licking, scratching and chewing the affected areas, or even lying on cold surfaces to help soothe the irritation. How to treat atopic dermatitis To treat your dog’s itchy skin, your veterinarian may prescribe medications such as antihistamines or corticosteroids, and anti-itch shampoos. How to prevent atopic dermatitis Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do to cure your dog’s allergy, however, your veterinarian will conduct several tests to try and determine the exact cause, so that you can try and limit your dog’s exposure to the allergen. Your veterinarian may also recommend hyposensitization therapy, which involves injecting your pet with the allergen over a period of several months to help reduce their sensitivity. Folliculitis What is folliculitis? Folliculitis, or bacterial folliculitis, is the infection of a dog’s hair follicles and is normally the result of an underlying disease or skin disorder, including hypothyroidism, Cushing’s disease, allergies, canine acne, acral lick glaucoma, mange or fungal infections. The most common symptoms are redness, swelling, itching, pimples and hair loss. The affected areas may also be painful for your dog. How to treat folliculitis Your veterinarian will perform tests to help identify the underlying cause of the folliculitis and then prescribe the most appropriate treatment. Depending on the condition, this could be antibiotics, medicated shampoos, dietary supplements or topical treatments, such as aloe vera or coconut oil. How to prevent folliculitis Preventing folliculitis is easy once you have identified the root cause, as you can then treat the primary condition or try and eliminate the allergen from your pet’s environment to prevent future outbreaks. Hot spots What are hot spots in dogs? Hots spots, also known as summer sores or acute moist dermatitis, are painful, red lesions which normally appear on a dog’s head, hip or chest. A hot spot can be caused by anything which irritates your dog’s skin, such as an insect bite, allergic reaction or underlying infection, or can even be prompted by excessive licking or chewing due to stress or boredom. As your dog licks, scratches and chews their wound, the moisture on the surface of the skin creates the perfect breeding ground for bacteria, causing a minor skin irritation to become a red, hot and painful wound. How to treat dog hot spots If your dog has a hot spot, you should pay a visit to your veterinarian who will trim the fur around the wound and clean it with antiseptic or a specially formulated shampoo. They will treat the hot spot with a topical medication, and possibly antibiotics, and leave it exposed to help it dry out and heal faster. Your dog will also probably need to wear a ‘cone of shame’ for a few days to keep them from biting or licking at it. How to prevent hot spots Staying on top of parasite control and keeping an eye out for signs of skin irritation will help you keep hot spots to a minimum. Impetigo What is impetigo in dogs? Impetigo, also known as puppy pyoderma or juvenile pustular dermatitis, is a skin condition which is more commonly seen in puppies. It is caused by the staphylococcal bacteria, which leads to small skin infections developing on the dog’s chin or belly. The infection causes small, pus-filled blisters to develop, which can then rupture and crust over. Symptoms include itchiness and skin discoloration, and the condition will be painful for your dog. Impetigo is contagious to other dogs, and while most puppies will outgrow the condition, it can affect the following breeds into adulthood: Boxer Bulldog Doberman Pinscher Shar-Pei How to treat impetigo Impetigo will often clear up on its own without any treatment, however if the infection becomes worse, your veterinarian may prescribe antibiotics or medication lotions or shampoos to speed up recovery. Mange What is mange? Sarcoptic mange, more commonly known as mange, is a skin condition caused by the Sarcoptes scabiei mite which results in intense itching and hair loss. Mange is extremely contagious, and so is usually picked up in places such as kennels, groomers, shelters and veterinary clinics, where animals are living in close proximity. Mange can also be passed on to humans, so it’s important to keep your dog in quarantine if they are suffering from the condition. How to treat mange Mange is treated using a scabicide, a drug which kills the mites. Your dog’s entire body will need to be treated, and so they will normally be dipped or shampooed over a period of several weeks to ensure all the mites, and their eggs, are eliminated. Seborrhea What is seborrhea? Canine seborrhea is a secondary skin condition which can occur as a result of allergies, parasites, autoimmune disorders, endocrine disorders or dietary deficiencies. Seborrhea causes a buildup of oil and flaky skin in the dog’s fur, which will gather around the ears, elbows, armpits, and under the belly. Seborrhea can cause itching, and if left untreated, the scratching can lead to bleeding, hair loss and skin infections. Seborrhea is sometimes hereditary, and is more common in the following breeds of dog: American Cocker Spaniel Basset Hound Dachshund Doberman English Springer Spaniel German Shepherd Golden Retriever Labrador Retriever Shar-Pei West Highland White Terrier How to treat seborrhea Your veterinarian will conduct tests to determine whether the seborrhea is a result of an allergy or digestive disorder so they can treat the underlying cause. They will prescribe medicated baths to treat the skin, and potentially vitamin or mineral supplements if the condition is the result of a deficiency. How to prevent seborrhea Unfortunately, there is no cure for seborrhea. However, your veterinarian may recommend making changes to your pet’s diet and lifestyle to help keep the condition under control. Yeast infection What is a yeast infection in dogs? A yeast infection occurs when there is an overabundance of yeast on a dog’s skin, which can be the result of an underlying problem such as an allergy or hormonal disorder. Symptoms include greasy or scaly skin, swelling, redness, odor, itching, licking, head shaking, and hair loss. How to treat a yeast infection To treat your dog’s yeast infection, your veterinarian will first have to determine the underlying cause to help prevent future outbreaks. They will normally prescribe anti-fungal medications, as well as disinfecting and degreasing shampoos to help clear the infection. How to prevent yeast infections There are several things you can do to prevent the build-up of yeast on your dog’s skin. Swimming and over-exercising can cause moisture to remain on your dog’s skin, creating the perfect conditions for yeast to grow. A high-carb diet can also encourage yeast growth, so try and avoid pet foods and treats which contain potatoes, wheat, rice and honey, and try and bathe your dog regularly using anti-fungal dog shampoo, particularly during the summer months.

Bloat in dogs

What is bloat? Gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV), more commonly known as bloat, is a life-threatening condition which can affect all dogs. However, larger breeds of dog are often more susceptible to developing the condition. Bloat occurs when a dog’s stomach fills with fluid, gas or food, putting pressure on its diaphragm and causing breathing difficulties. This is known as gastric dilation. As the dog’s stomach expands, it can often twist, trapping the contents of the stomach inside and cutting off the organ’s main blood supply. The increased pressure can cause the stomach to rupture, and can even cause the dog’s spleen to twist. The swelling can also obstruct the blood flow back to the dog’s heart, causing low blood pressure and shock. This twisting of the stomach is known as volvulus or gastric torsion and it occurs in some, but not all, cases of bloat in dogs. Bloat is extremely serious, and can cause your dog’s health to deteriorate very quickly. Prompt veterinary treatment is vital in terms of increasing your dog’s chances of survival if they develop the condition. What causes bloat in dogs? There are many possible causes of bloat, however experts have discovered that the condition is normally triggered by your dog’s eating habits or by stress: Eating habits such as rapid eating and drinking, exercising too soon after mealtimes or eating foods which produce abnormal amounts of gas can also cause bloating in your dog’s stomach. Dogs who tend to be nervous or anxious will often swallow air. This is known as aerophagia and it is seen in lots of animals, even humans. Stressful situations, such as dog shows, a change in routine, kenneling or an introduction of a new dog to the household, can also trigger this behavior. However, there are certain characteristics which may mean your dog is predisposed to bloat. Older, male dogs, particularly those with deeper, more narrow chests, are more at risk, and the condition is often hereditary. While bloat can affect dogs of any age or breed, it is more common in the following dog breeds: Great Dane Saint Bernard Boxer German Shepherd Doberman Weimaraner Irish Setter Gordon Setter Newfoundland What are the symptoms of bloat? The most common sign of bloat is a swollen stomach. Your dog may also seem restless, have shallow breathing, or be retching and drooling. If your dog looks pale, has a weakened pulse and rapid heart rate, they may have gone into shock, and it’s therefore imperative that you take your dog straight to your veterinarian. What is the treatment for bloat? The treatment your dog receives will depend upon how severe the bloat is. Your veterinarian will normally perform an x-ray to assess the seriousness of the condition and to see whether or not the stomach is twisted. Your veterinarian may then pass a tube down your dog’s throat and into the stomach to release some of the gas that has built up. However, if the stomach is twisted, the tube may be unable to pass through the opening of the stomach and your veterinarian will instead insert a large, hollow needle into your dog’s belly to release the pressure. Once the build-up of gas has been released, your dog should be able to breathe normally and the blood flow to their organs will return to normal. When your dog is in a more stable condition, your veterinarian will normally perform surgery on the stomach to return it to a normal position. If there is damage to the spleen or stomach tissue, this may need to be removed. They will also stitch your dog’s stomach to the abdominal wall to prevent it twisting again. This preventative procedure is known as a gastropexy. Your dog will need plenty of rest and some pain-relieving medication while they recover from surgery, but they should be back to their normal self and can eat and exercise normally after several weeks.  Can bloat be prevented? While bloat in dogs cannot be prevented entirely, there are several ways you can help minimize the likelihood of it occurring: Avoid feeding your dog dry kibble and ensure water is available at all times Feed your dog two or three smaller meals rather than one large meal a day Avoid feeding your dog from an elevated food bowl, and instead, feed them at floor level Wait at least two hours after meal times before exercising your dog If you have more than one dog, try and feed them individually and in a quiet location to reduce stress around meal times And, if you are making changes to your dog’s diet, always introduce the new food gradually over a period of three to five days If your dog has an increased risk of developing bloat due to their breed, your veterinarian may recommend preventative surgery. However, they will be able to offer you advice around the best option for you and your dog.

periodontal disease

  Periodontal disease is one of the most common diseases that affects dogs and is pretty easy to spot and prevent. It is considered an extremely severe disease in untreated cases, as it can end up causing irreversible damage to your dog’s teeth.   What is periodontal disease? Periodontal disease is the inflammation of the structures of the mouth as a result of a bacterial infection. This disease has several stages and is extremely preventable! The first stage is merely a build-up of sticky plaque on the teeth and the development of tartar deposits (also known as calculus), as well as inflamed gums. Plaque and tartar are conditions we can suffer from and tartar is fairly easy to spot on your dog’s teeth as it is yellow or brown in color. If left untreated this can progress to gingivitis (gum disease). Gingivitis is where the gums are in state of permanent inflammation due to the bacterial build-up in the teeth. If no action is taken the disease can then become full blown periodontal disease, which can cause irreversible damage. At this stage in the disease a dog can suffer a 25-30% loss of attachment in the affected teeth making them loose. When this happens spaces form under the teeth, creating a breeding ground for more bacteria. This can lead to bone loss, tooth loss, tissue destruction in the gums and the build-up of pus in the cavities between the gums and teeth. In extreme cases the weakening of the jaw can result in a jaw fracture from a surprisingly small amount of pressure. The final stage is considered to be severe periodontis, marked by bone or tooth loss in the animal. In this case, there is at least a 50% loss of attachment in the affected teeth, and the gum tissue is usually receding and exposing the roots of the teeth.   What makes this a common health issue in dogs? Periodontal disease occurs far more commonly in dogs than in humans, due to their mouths being more alkaline than ours. On top of this, your dog may be more susceptible to periodontal disease if they: Have a wider mouth with irregularly positioned teeth. Are a short-faced breed of dog, such as the English and French Bulldog, Shih tzu or Pug. Are genetically predisposed to gum disease. Some dogs, such as the Yorkshire terrier, Chihuahua and poodle are genetically more likely to develop periodontal disease, regardless of life stage.   How can I spot signs of periodontal disease? It’s quite unusual for pet owners to notice early signs of gum disease in their dog, and usually by the time it is noticeable the disease can be quite advanced. As the disease in its late stages is almost irreversible, it is important to get your dog’s teeth checked at least once every 6 months by your vet. You can look for signs of the disease between veterinarian visits, so it is caught as early as possible. Watch out for signs such as:  Swollen or reddened gums yellow or brown teeth and loose or missing teeth Smelly breath A loss of appetite or trouble eating and weight loss   How can you prevent periodontal disease? The best way to combat gum disease is to fight to prevent it in the first place. Visiting your veterinarian for regular checks and building good habits early on could save you and your furry friend no end of woe down the line!   Brush your dog’s teeth While many may think that brushing your dog’s teeth may be uncomfortable for your dog, many dogs enjoy it as a new form of attention. If your dog does not enjoy it, consider building in a reward system to make it more manageable. Be sure to use special toothpaste that is formulated for dogs, as they have different mouth chemistry from humans!   Visit your local veterinary practice regularly Get regular checks and some practices offer a professional dental cleaning service so talk to your local practice about how to arrange a session for your dog.   Toys and Treats Give your dog chew toys. The chewing action will help prevent the build-up of plaque and tartar. Some chew treats come treated with enzymes specifically added to help reduce the formation of tartar, so they can be helpful. However, these toys should not replace brushing, but they are a good supplementary form of care for your pet, as well as a great treat!   Food It is possible to purchase dog food that has been specifically formulated to help fight dental disease and if needed your vet will be able to advise you on what to buy.    

dog in grass

Witnessing your dog have a seizure is always scary, even if it’s a regular occurrence. Seeing your dog have a seizure for the first time can cause you to panic, so it’s important to understand what seizures are, what causes them, and how to deal with them. What are seizures in dogs? Seizures are not a disease in themselves, but a symptom of various possible conditions. They occur when complex chemical changes in nerve cells cause a sudden surge of electrical activity in the brain. As the electric impulses hit different parts of the brain, the effects can vary with each attack, but seizures in your dog are normally instantly recognisable from a combination of any number of these signs: Muscle spasms Inability to stand Seemingly frozen with rigid muscles Shaking or twitching Sudden erratic behavior Unresponsiveness Drooling or foaming at the mouth Incontinence Seizures usually only last between a few seconds and a few minutes (any longer than this and your dog needs urgent medical attention). After the attack your poor pup will be feeling confused and scared, so be sure to offer them lots of cuddles without being too overwhelming. What causes dog seizures? There are several possible causes of seizures in dogs, the most common being epilepsy. If you’re dog experiences a seizure it doesn’t necessarily mean they will have another one, but it makes them much more likely to have more in the future. The main causes of seizures in dogs include: Epilepsy (the most common cause) Eating poison or certain toxic foods Liver disease Imbalanced blood sugar Kidney disease Anaemia Head injuries Encephalitis Strokes Brain Cancer If your dog has been diagnosed with epilepsy, then seizures can usually be managed at home without a trip to the vet every time. However, if your dog has not been diagnosed with a cause for seizures or it is their first seizure, be sure to head straight to the surgery for a diagnosis. What can trigger a seizure in my dog? Not all seizures in dogs will be brought on by a particular trigger, some will appear to be totally random. However, especially in cases of seizures caused by epilepsy or poisoning there can be triggers that cause seizures on multiple occasions. Some potential dog seizure triggers include: Over-tiredness Stress caused by a variety of things such as changes in environment e.g. loud noises, thunderstorms, car rides, vet visits Certain foods, especially foods that are toxic to dogs You may find it helpful to keep a trigger diary to help your veterinarian and you identify the key triggers for your dog and work out a way of avoiding them. What should I do if my dog is having a seizure? Seeing your fur baby having a seizure for the first time can be terrifying but knowing what to expect and what to do when it happens will help ensure both you and your pup get through the incident okay. Try to stay calm – Most of the time your dog will be unaware that the seizure is happening and will not suffer even if they appear violent. Move your dog to safety – This means away from anything they might bump themselves on such as walls or furniture. Stay away from mouth and head – It’s an impulse for dogs to bite and chew whilst having a seizure, and anything in their mouth or near their face could be a target. Film the seizure – If you can remember to do this it can be incredibly helpful for your vet when diagnosing your dog and prescribing medication. If you cannot film it then at least timing it will be a great help to your veterinarian. Cool him down – If the seizure lasts longer than 2 minutes your pup might begin to overheat, try to with a fan or cold water on his paws. After a seizure the safest thing to do is to call your veterinarian and explain what has happened over the phone. They will be able to decide based on your dog’s history whether you should bring your dog in straight away. If your dog has been diagnosed with epilepsy you may have been advised by your veterinarian that it’s not necessary to call in every time, if you have been adequately trained in dealing with the seizures. However, it’s still a good idea to take note of the duration of the seizure and the triggers so that you can notify them of any changes. Do I need to go to the vet if my dog has a seizure? If your dog has a diagnosed cause for seizures, such as epilepsy, and they are a regular occurrence, your vet may have advised you that you don’t need to bring your dog in every time an episode occurs. However, it’s always worth being safe and getting them checked over anyway. Head straight to the veterinarian if: There is no diagnosed cause for the seizure The dog has hurt themselves The seizure lasted longer than 5 minutes Witnessing your dog have a seizure can be distressing, even if your dog seems fine afterwards, so we’d always recommend giving the veterinarian surgery a call just to put your mind at ease. What is the best treatment for dog seizures? Depending on what has caused the seizure, treatment is usually only begun after the dog has experienced more than one seizure within the space of a month. The most common medications given to prevent seizures are phenobarbital and potassium bromide. Your veterinarian may also prescribe emergency medication which you can use to reduce the length of an episode once it has started. These include rectal diazepam and levetiracetam pulse therapy. If the seizure has been brought on by ingestion of poison or toxic foods, treatment may involve an overnight stay with the veterinarian on an IV drip which will cleanse the body of toxins. When you see your dog having a seizure remember to record as much information as possible (and film the incident if possible) to tell your veterinarian so they can recommend the best possible treatment for your pup. What dog breeds are most prone to seizures? Seizures are pretty rare within dogs, so many pooches will luckily never experience one. However, sadly some dog breeds are more prone to seizures, and this risk should be considered when adopting one of the following breeds: Border Collies Australian Shepherds Labrador Retrievers Golden Retrievers Beagles Belgian Tervurens German Shepherds Boxers Irish Wolfhounds Keeshunds Poodles Saint Bernards Unfortunately, if a dog experiences a seizure, they are much more likely to have more in the future, so for most dogs they are an ongoing issue which can get expensive. As many insurers don’t cover existing conditions, it’s important to get insured before your dog ever experiences one. Try out our pet insurance quote tool to get free quotes from some of the US and Canada’s top pet insurers. 

dog on grass

What is Giardia? Giardia is an illness that infects the intestines and can cause issues with the digestive system within dogs. This infection occurs when the animal has been drinking water that has been contaminated with faeces. This disease is common throughout the United States due to the risk being present throughout the entire year. This infection, if left untreated, can lead to inflammatory bowel disease that can lead to digestion problems in later life.  What are the symptoms of Giardia? When diagnosing Giardia, sometimes symptoms aren’t present in the animal. However, in some cases the animal can suffer the following due to the infection: Diarrhoea & gas (can be severe to light) Vomiting and sickness Diminished appetite leading to weight loss Abdominal pain and discomfort Changes to their stool (be it smell, colour or texture) How is Giardia diagnosed? If you suspect that your pet has contracted Giardia, then take them to the vet for a check-up. However, as Giardia is often not traceable in animals it is important you take your pet to the vets regularly regardless of symptoms, to make sure they haven’t contracted the disease without your knowledge.  The diagnosis of Giardia can be difficult, as the cysts that develop in the intestines are pushed out with the faeces. Usually your vet will test and evaluate your animals stool to determine if they have Giardia or not. A test of a fresh stool sample (30 minutes old) is needed when detecting the disease.  Your vet may suggest doing a set of tests over several days to make sure the diagnosis is correct and begin the proper treatment plan for your pet. What is the treatment for Giardia? Once Giardia has been diagnosed a simpler diet that will harden your pets stool will be recommended to try and ensure that any medication given to your pet isn’t being pushed out before it can take proper effect.  If your pet isn’t suffering from severe diarrhoea, then they are usually sent home to complete treatment. Typically, treatment will include oral medication and more bath times with a shampoo that has been prescribed by your vet, to clear up the cysts and faeces from your pet’s body.  Do I need to change my pet’s lifestyle after being diagnosed with Giardia? It is key to make sure that in the medication process you are following the advice given by your vet closely. Regular bathing, making sure you have removed anything on your pet’s skin and fur, and completing the medication plan is essential to make sure your pet is feeling better.  Your dog shouldn’t be outside in the back yard during the treatment process, and after that it is a good idea to make sure that faeces are cleaned up properly, and that any still water in the back yard is removed.  Can Giardia be prevented? It may be hard to completely prevent Giardia in your pet, but there are some measures you can take that may minimise the chances of your pet contracting the disease: Monitoring the water your dog is drinking, try to make sure it is clean and fresh. However, Giardia is often found in tap water, so it may be prudent to get your water tested for the disease.  Making sure your house is clean, and any dog faeces is cleaned up promptly.

Dog Diabetes

What is dog diabetes? Dog diabetes is a complex disease in which your canine friend either can’t produce insulin or can’t use it properly to fuel their cells, causing their blood sugar levels to rise. Body cells are fuelled by glucose, and if your pet is unable to use insulin to carry glucose to the cells, the cells will starve and vital organs can be damaged. There is no cure for canine diabetes, and diabetic animals are prone to other health problems such as cateracts. However, most dogs live happy, healthy lives with consistent management of their condition. Insulin-deficiency diabetes (IDD)? IDD is the most common type of diabetes found in dogs, and means that your pet’s pancreas is unable to produce the insulin it needs. It can be caused by a genetic defect, and in most cases your dog will require daily shots of insulin to survive. Insulin-resistance diabetes (IRD)? IRD is much rarer in dogs, and refers to an inability to use insulin effectively. What are the risk factors for diabetes in dogs? There is a chance of diabetes in all dogs, but there are certain factors that could put your dog at greater risk. Some risks can be reduced by smart lifestyle choices, whereas others should just make owners more aware of the symptoms to look out for. Here are some of the main risk factors identified by vets: Age; most dogs that are diagnosed are middle-aged or elderly Diet; poor-quality diets, particularly ones high in fat, can cause problems for your dog’s pancreas, which produces insulin Existing autoimmune disorders and viral diseases; many health experts believe these can trigger diabetes Genetics/Breed; all dogs are susceptible to diabetes, but certain breeds are at a higher risk. This includes Miniature Poodles, Bichon Frises, Pugs, Dachshunds and Beagles. Gender; female dogs and neutered male dogs are more at risk Progesterone; not spaying your female dog or long-term use of progesterone-like drugs can increase risk of diabetes Steroids; long-term use of steroids or Cushing’s Disease (where the body overproduces steroids internally) can lead to diabetes Weight; obesity can make cells resistant to insulin, and a strong correlation with diabetes has been found What are the symptoms of dog diabetes? Diabetes can be a silent disease, but there are common symptoms to keep an eye on. The most easily spotted symptom is usually a change in weight and appetite. Despite eating what they normally do, your dog will not be feeling the energy benefits from their food and so may start eating more and feeling lethargic. Similarly, your dog’s body will also be aware of the lack of energy, and may start breaking down fat and muscle to compensate, causing them to lose weight. Meanwhile, all that glucose that isn’t making its way to your dog’s cells will build up in their blood, forcing their kidneys to work harder and require more fluids to filter it out. This will mean a thirsty/dehydrated dog, and much more frequent urination. How is diabetes diagnosed in dogs? Your vet will carry out a blood test if they suspect your dog may have diabetes, and will check for elevated levels of glucose in the blood and urine. This is sometimes caused by other factors, such as stress, and so your vet may decide to test again at a later date. What is the treatment for canine diabetes? The sooner diabetes is diagnosed and treated, the better chance your pet has of a normal life, and so your vet will likely look to start a schedule of insulin as soon as possible. They will measure your dog’s glucose level over several hours in order to determine the appropriate dosage of insulin to keep blood glucose levels normal (approximately between 65 and 120 mg/dl). As each dog responds differently to treatment, your dog may need more regular visits to the vet at first to ensure that the dose is correct and to make any adjustments. Most diabetic dogs will require 1-2 daily insulin shots, which the owner will need to inject just under the skin at home. Your vet will demonstrate the best way to do this and it will soon become a simple part of your routine that shouldn’t stress pet or owner. Your vet may also recommend that you test your dog’s blood glucose levels at home with a meter that collects a small drop of blood. Do I need to change my dog’s lifestyle after being diagnosed with diabetes? Monitoring your dog’s blood glucose levels and administering insulin at home will likely be the biggest change that you’ll need to get used to. You’ll need to give your dog their insulin shot at the same time each day, and ensure it’s just after a meal to minimize the chance of sugar levels swinging too high or low. Many owners find it helpful to get organised with a diary or calendar to keep a log of their canine’s health. Record test results, changes in behaviour or appearance, advice from your vet and more to ensure you’re monitoring your pet’s health closely. Another big change you may need to adjust to is diet and exercise. If your pet is overweight at diagnosis, then your vet will likely recommend weight loss to improve their condition. Consistent exercise and a high fibre diet is important, even if your dog isn’t overweight, and you may need to take a long, hard look at what your pet is eating. Poor quality, high fat food, particularly scraps of human food, won’t do your furry friend any good. Are there further complications associated with dog diabetes? Diabetes does make your pet more vulnerable to further health risks, particularly if left untreated, some of which are life-threatening. Kidney failure, ketoacidosis, urinary tract infections, cataracts (which can lead to blindness) and seizures are all possible. Bacterial infections, particularly of the gums and skin, are also common with high sugar diets. Your vet will inform you of the warning signs to keep an eye out for after your pet’s diagnosis, and may recommend ketone testing sticks to check for ketoacidosis at home. Can canine diabetes be prevented? Some dogs will get diabetes no matter what you do, but there are steps you can take to reduce your dog’s risk and to ensure they’re in a good position for their symptoms to be managed if they do develop diabetes down the line. A healthy, high fibre diet in sensible portions will help maintain your dog’s blood sugar levels and avoid obesity, which can lead to diabetes. Plenty of consistent exercise will also keep your pet healthy and help regulate blood sugar levels. Most importantly, regular check-ups with your vet will ensure that symptoms are spotted early and that treatment can be established before other health concerns become an issue.

Kennel cough

What is kennel cough? Kennel cough is the name commonly given to the respiratory infection, tracheobronchitis – a condition caused by the bacteria bordetella bronchiseptica and canine parainfluenza virus. Kennel cough is highly contagious, with most dogs contracting the disease at least once in their lifetime. As the name suggests, kennel cough is normally picked up in places where large numbers of dogs are kept together, such as daycare, boarding kennels, dog shows and grooming facilities.     How do dogs catch kennel cough? Kennel cough is spread through airborne droplets; for example, when a dog coughs or sneezes, and can even be transmitted when a dog sheds dander. It can also spread through contact with contaminated surfaces, such as toys or feeding dishes, or through direct contact with an infected dog. The bacteria and virus can survive on surfaces for hours before they are ingested by another dog, and some dogs will carry the disease for several months without showing any symptoms.   Like common colds in humans, dogs can catch kennel cough multiple times throughout their lifetime. However, a dog will be more prone to catching kennel cough if they have a weakened immune system. Stress, cold temperatures and poor ventilation can also leave a dog’s respiratory system more vulnerable to contracting the illness.    What are the symptoms of kennel cough? The most common sign of kennel cough is a persistent, hacking cough, which may sound like your dog is choking or gagging.  In mild cases, your dog may seem perfectly healthy aside from experiencing regular coughing fits. However, other symptoms may include a runny nose, sneezing, retching and, in more severe cases, lethargy, loss of appetite and a fever.  The symptoms of kennel cough will be extremely uncomfortable for your dog, so it’s important to obtain a diagnosis and advice around the best course of treatment for your pet as soon as you can.    How is kennel cough diagnosed?  Your veterinarian will be able to determine if your dog has kennel cough by looking at their symptoms and recent history of exposure to other dogs. If they have developed a hacking cough after recently spending time with a large group of canines, then it’s normally safe to say they have contracted the illness.   If there are suspected complications, then your veterinarian may conduct tests to identify the exact micro-organisms that are causing the kennel cough so they can treat your dog’s symptoms is the most effective way and prevent against a secondary infection.    What is the treatment for kennel cough?  The good news is that kennel cough is highly treatable. In fact, most dogs will recover within three weeks without the need for any medical treatment. However, it is always important to pay a visit to your veterinarian in case the symptoms are the result of something more sinister, such as asthma, bronchitis or even heart disease and to get professional advice on the best course of treatment.   If your dog is active and eating normally, then your veterinarian will usually just recommend plenty of extra rest and TLC. It’s a good idea to walk your dog with a harness until they are fully recovered, as a collar and lead could aggravate their symptoms further. In more serious cases, your veterinarian may prescribe antibiotics or anti-inflammatories to help make your dog more comfortable and speed up their recovery.   If kennel cough is left untreated, your dog could suffer from complications or may even pick up another infection, such as pneumonia. Puppies, older dogs and more vulnerable dogs, such as pregnant bitches or dogs with pre-existing respiratory conditions, may take up to six weeks to recover and are more likely to suffer from complications, so it’s important to visit your veterinarian as soon as possible if you think your dog may have contracted the illness.    Can kennel cough be prevented?  Kennel cough cannot be prevented entirely, however there are precautions you can take to help reduce the chances of your dog contracting the illness:  As kennel cough is easily transmitted, it’s important that infected dogs are isolated from other canines for at least two weeks.   Sanitizing any contaminated areas, toys and surfaces will also help prevent the illness spreading.  If your dog is in good health, they are less susceptible to catching infections such as kennel cough, so ensuring your dog stays active and receives the right nutrition can make them more resilient to the illness.    Kennel cough vaccination Vaccinations are available against the bordetella bronchiseptica bacteria, which is the most common organism associated with kennel cough. Puppies can be given the vaccination from just two weeks and your dog will need a booster every year to maintain their immunity.  Reputable kennels and boarding facilities will normally insist your dog is given an additional bordetella bronchiseptica booster vaccine before their stay, so always check their vaccinations policy if you are concerned about kennel cough.   Even vaccinated dogs are susceptible to other forms of the kennel cough virus, so it’s important to be vigilant, particularly if you notice your dog is coughing or if you plan to introduce your dog to other dogs. 

Ear infections in dogs

Ear infections are common in dogs, and can affect one or both of your dog’s ears at any one time. They can affect your dog’s middle ear or outer ear canal, and can vary in severity. However, once the cause of the ear infection has been identified, they will normally clear up easily with the right course of treatment.   What causes ear infections in dogs? Some breeds of dog will be more prone to developing ear infections than others. This normally includes breeds with long or floppy ears, or those with excessive hair growth inside the ear. These factors can restrict air flow and trap moisture in the ears, making them the perfect breeding ground for yeast and bacteria. Ear infections are more common in the following breeds of dog: Afghan Hound Basset Hound Beagle Bloodhound Bull Mastiff Coon Hound Cocker Spaniel Cavalier King Charles Dachshund Golden Retriever Great Dane Labrador Miniature Poodle Newfoundland Portuguese Water Dog Poodle Saint Bernard Schnauzer Shih Tzu Springer Spaniel Weimaraner However, ear infections are not always caused by the build-up of bacteria or yeast in the ear. Foreign bodies, such as seeds or plant material, can easily become lodged in the ear canal, while parasites, such as fleas, lice, mites and ticks, can cause irritation and lead to inflammation and infection if left untreated. Allergies, including environmental allergies (such as mold or dust mites), food allergies or flea allergies, are also a common cause of ear infections, as well as growths, tumors and abscesses. Your dog’s age, as well as their breed, may also play a role in the likelihood of them developing an ear infection. A build-up of wax in the ear is a common cause of ear infections in older dogs, while recently vaccinated puppies can be more susceptible to ear infections as their immune systems will be compromised.   How can I tell if my dog has an ear infection? If your dog experiences any of the following symptoms, then it may indicate they have developed an ear infection: Head shaking, scratching or rubbing ears against carpets or furniture Dark colored discharge Abnormal odor Redness or swelling Hair loss or scabs around the outer ear Hearing loss Loss of balance The symptoms of an ear infection will be extremely uncomfortable for your dog, so be sure to visit your veterinarian to obtain a proper diagnosis and seek advice around the best course of treatment for your pet. How is an ear infection diagnosed?  Your veterinarian will be able to determine whether your dog is suffering from an ear infection. They will normally take a small sample from the affected ear to find out whether any bacteria or fungi are present, as well as look for out for any lumps or bumps, sores or parasites. Once they have found out what’s causing the infection, they’ll advise you on the best way to treat it.   The dangers of not seeking veterinary advice for your dog's ear infection As there are many different causes of ear infections in dogs, it’s important to always visit your veterinarian and obtain a proper diagnosis. Using the wrong type of treatment may cause the infection to worsen and could even lead to deafness, so even if your dog has suffered from ear infections in the past, always speak to your veterinarian for advice around the best course of treatment for your pet.   How to treat ear infections in dogs  Your veterinarian will normally prescribe a course of oral antibiotics or topical drugs and will clean the affected ear(s) thoroughly. They will normally schedule a check-up for a couple of weeks later to see if the infection has cleared fully. If the infection was caused by your pet’s allergies, your veterinarian may advise making changes to your pet’s environment to prevent any future ear infections occurring. How to prevent ear infections in dogs Ear infections are common in dogs, particularly in high-risk breeds or those who suffer from allergies. While there is often nothing you can do to prevent ear infections entirely, there are several precautions you can take to help minimize the chances of your dog developing an ear infection: Check your dog’s ears regularly for signs of redness or discharge. The sooner the infection is diagnosed, the easier it will be to treat. If your dog has excessive hair growth inside its ear, it’s a good idea to have it removed. Your local groomer or your veterinarian will be able to do this, or can show you how to remove it safely yourself. Dogs who frequently swim or bathe, or live in more humid climates, are also more prone to developing ear infections. Always ensure your dog’s ear are clean and dry after swimming or bathing, as this will help prevent the growth of bacteria or yeasts in the ears. Clean your pet’s ears regularly, as recommended by your veterinarian. How to clean your dog’s ears Keeping your dog’s ears clean helps keep your dog healthy and can help prevent ear infections. However, dog’s ears are sensitive, and cleaning them in the wrong way or cleaning them too frequently can cause serious damage, so it’s important to speak to your veterinarian before adopting an ear-cleaning routine for your dog. Here’s our guide to cleaning your dog’s ears safely and effectively but always check with your veterinarian first: Fill your dog’s ear with a good amount of cleaning solution. Your Veterinarian can make a recommendation. Hold a ball of cotton wool over the opening of your dog’s ear before massaging the base of the ear to loosen any debris. Stand back while your dog shakes their head to remove the majority of cleaner from their ear. Wipe away any excess dirt or liquid from the outer ear with another clean cotton wool ball or tissue. Allow your dog’s ears to dry before administering any drops or ointment which may have been prescribed by your veterinarian. Repeat as often as recommended by your veterinarian.