We love our dogs and want to keep them in optimum health, but because dogs can’t talk to us and tell us where they are hurting, it is important that we know the symptoms of the most common health problems in dogs.
This article is not so much about how to treat these health problems, but rather what the symptoms are we should be looking for.
Heartworm, Fleas and other parasites
Heartworm – symptoms can include constant coughing, panting and tiredness. Advanced cases can cause loss of weight, coughing up blood and heart failure. Heartworm is spread by mosquitoes and is a small thread-like worm which actually lives in the pulmonary arterial system, and which can also affect the animal’s heart. The dog will normally show no sign of infection for six of seven months after being infected. Luckily heartworm can be prevented by many different products including daily tablets, monthly beefy chunks which are given orally to the dog, liquid “spot-on” products applied monthly to the animal’s skin or even a yearly injection from your vet.
Fleas and Ticks – symptoms are mainly severe scratching, which can lead to dermatitis and anaemia, plus ticks can cause bacterial infections. Luckily both fleas and ticks are easy to see, and reasonably easy to control through commercial products combined with the heartworm products outlined above, or flea and tick collars, plus spraying the area where they live.
Other Parasites, such as hookworms can cause skin rashes, anaemia and diarrhoea which may be streaked with blood, and roundworms which can cause a ‘pot belly’ in your dog.
Because dogs can’t brush their own teeth, the most common type of dental disease is periodontitis. Initial symptoms are bad breath, usually followed by bleeding gums. At this stage, it can be treated fairly easily by your vet. However, if left, it can lead to tooth loss, mouth ulcers, gum recession and because by this time your animal will find it painful to eat, poor appetite and loss of weight.
It is important to check your dog’s ears regularly once or twice a week, as ear infections are another common health problem in dogs. Look for any inflammation, discharge or constant scratching. Infections can be caused by ear mites, bacteria, food allergies or bad hygiene and need to be treated as quickly as possible by your vet.
Skin allergies can often be a health problem in dogs and may be caused by fleas, food, sniffing up dust or pollen, or lying on certain garden plants. Their skin will get itchy and red, and swelling can occur, but this will probably be because your dog has been scratching or chewing at the spot.
Fleas can and should be treated with a good flea product, other allergies could be caused by certain dog foods. You can try cutting out processed meat or changing his kibble. If this doesn’t work, your vet should be able to do some blood tests, or otherwise advise you.
As a dog owner, you will have probably discovered that your pet is happy to put everything or anything into his mouth! So, vomiting more often than not is a natural way of removing this stuff from their bodies.
However, if they also have other symptoms such as diarrhoea, lethargy etc. or they vomit multiple times in a short space of time, you should see your vet as it could mean their digestive tract is blocked, or possible they have ingested something poisonous.
This can be a common health problem for those dogs who like eating and are not fussy about what they put in their mouths! Usually, a sign of an upset tummy caused by eating something they shouldn’t have, or possibly they have worms or suffer anxiety. Try cutting out their food for a day, and only give them water. The next day gives them a smaller meal than usual, or perhaps something bland that you have cooked yourself. If he is still suffering from diarrhoea, then it would be time to see the vet.
Another fairly common health problem in dogs can be eye infections. Warning signs that your dog has an eye infection can include a discharge which is often thick and discoloured, their eyes may be bloodshot and possibly swollen (which could be caused by the dog pawing at their eye). They will probably need antibiotic treatment from your vet, especially if they get conjunctivitis, which is extremely contagious.
To avoid infections, keep your dog’s eyes clean by wiping away the normal discharge on a daily basis.
These are only some of the health problems that as a dog owner you may well come across. There are of course myriad other problems such as arthritis, obesity, diabetes, hip dysplasia to name but a few. But the above is probably the most common health problems in dogs, and most can be avoided by just being aware of what the symptoms are and what causes them.
Always remember dogs are pack animals, and by communicating with him in a way he understands, you will get a better result for everyone concerned. In this bonding process, you will also learn to recognize quickly when he is ‘out of sorts’ and will be better able to help your pet.
For more info or advice go to Comet Bay Vet Hospital.