You probably look at your canine companion sometimes and wish it never gets sick. We all do. You may also wish it could use words to tell you if it's not feeling well. Unfortunately, we both know that's not possible. That said, the only way to figure out if your furry friend is doing okay or not is to try and understand its body language and behavior.
Dog health issues are common, and there's no running away from them. However, educating yourself about them and tackling them head-on is the best option. This article will introduce you to the most common dog health issues, the environmental factors that may trigger them, and what prevention steps you can take.
Common Dog Health Problems
General Health Issues in Dogs
Those sad and big puppy eyes have a way of melting you, and they get you repeatedly, don't they? Oddly enough, They're almost always there around the time when you're cooking or having a meal. It's straightforward to fall for the charm and give in to the wishes of the cute little rascal. A snack here, a treat there, and you're playing Russian roulette with having an obese dog.
Obesity is one of the most common dog health problems, and it affects more than 50% of dogs. Not only does this disease leave your four-legged friend without energy, but it also makes it prone to other dog health issues, like cancer, arthritis, hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease. It's time to harden your heart and exchange your dog's favorite treat with a stroll outside or a little playtime.
Many people forget that their dog could have dental problems until Fido's bad breath feels like a lethal weapon. Don't be one of those people. Keep in mind that dogs can start developing dental issues before the age of two, and they are some of the most common dog illnesses and very critical as they can lead to more severe complications.
Periodontal or gum disease is the most common dental problem, and bacteria cause it. There's also plaque and tartar buildup, which, with time, can cause severe oral pain. You can prevent all these by regularly brushing your pup's teeth and taking them for regular dental checkups.
It's pretty distressing to watch your furry friend itch constantly. Their discomfort can be somewhat unnerving to you. While there are several reasons why your dog may be itching non-stop, skin allergies are one of the most common culprits.
The itching accompanies red and scaly skin and usually appears in spring and summer. Allergies are not limited to skin ones, as your dog might be allergic to certain types of food. Even though you can't permanently deal with these dog health issues, you can keep them under control with medication prescribed by the vet.
If Fido is doing a lot of head shaking and ear scratching, it may indicate an underlying ear problem. Symptoms often include a terrible odor, a dark discharge, or swelling in the ear canal. Reasons behind this can vary from ear discharge to debris and infections, and they may lead to more severe dog health issues if left untreated.
Dogs with floppy ears are more prone to such problems. Regardless, you'll want to check in with a vet if the symptoms last 24 hours.
It's safe to say that a lump on your dog's body is cause for concern, even if it turns out to be relatively harmless, like a benign tumor. Unlike malignant tumors, benign ones don't spread to other parts of your pup's body, but it's always safer to be 100% sure. The vet will perform a tissue biopsy and determine its nature before starting treatment.
Parasites are a dog's worst enemy and owner's worst nightmare. Some dogs' most common health problems have a parasite behind them. We're talking about internal parasites like heartworms, ringworms, and hookworms, and external ones, like fleas and ticks. These invaders reproduce in or on your dog's body and can cause serious health issues and a lot of discomfort, and unfortunately, they are not difficult to catch. The parasite can quickly enter your furry friend's body by simply coming in contact with a contaminated fellow canine or eating something contaminated. The good news is that treatments are available if you catch them early, and your four-legged buddy won't suffer much.
Urinary Tract Infections (UTI)
Has your dog's need to pee increased significantly? Is it showing signs of discomfort while peeing? Can you see traces of blood in the urine? If any or all of these signs exist, you should take your dog to the vet immediately. The reasons behind these symptoms can range from UTIs to bladder stones or even urinary blockages, and all are prevalent health issues in dogs.
Age-Related Health Issues
Canine Parvovirus in Puppies
Puppies without fully developed immune systems are prone to many dog health issues. One of the nastiest viruses your pup might catch is Parvovirus, commonly known as parvo. The virus attacks your little furry friend's intestine, causing diarrhea, vomiting, weight loss, fever, and dehydration. It is also highly contagious.
While parvo is a common dog health issue, it is specifically common in unvaccinated puppies ranging between 6 and 12 months. With that in mind, go through with the vet's vaccination plan because, believe us, parvo can get ugly.
Distemper in Puppies
Fatal yet entirely avoidable is distemper. This incurable and highly contagious disease attacks multiple systems in your tiny puppy's body - namely the gastrointestinal, nervous, and respiratory systems - and is transmitted through the coughing and sneezing of infected dogs.
It causes severe diarrhea, vomiting, depression, anorexia, and much more. Luckily, if you follow your vet's vaccination schedule, you can avoid this issue because vaccinated dogs usually are immune to it.
Arthritis in Senior Dogs
Although middle-aged adult dogs can have arthritis as well, it is most common in senior ones. You can also expect it since many dogs suffer from it. If you notice your dog is constantly reluctant to get up or is having difficulty getting up, jumping, or walking up and down the stairs, chances are it has arthritis.
Despite being one of the most common dog health problems, managing arthritis is easy with a healthy diet, supplements, weight management, medications, and physical therapy. Taking the proper measures will get your dog up and running again.
Eye Cataracts and Blindness in Senior Dogs
As your dog grows old, it will become more prone to blindness, which can be due to one of many conditions. These include glaucoma, diabetes, infection, and simply old age. Then there are cataracts, considered one of the most common dog health issues.
Seeing white spots or opaqueness in your dog's eyes might indicate cataracts.
Visual impairment becomes unavoidable once the cataracts spread over more than 60% of Fido's eye. The only way to prevent your furry friend from complete blindness is through surgery. Although it's not fatal, cataracts can significantly affect your dog's quality of life so that surgery might be a good solution.
Cancer in Senior Dogs
Like in humans, cancer in dogs is a life-threatening condition. Almost 50% of senior dogs end up having cancer. But this doesn't mean younger ones won't get it; they're less likely to.
Luckily, treatments have proven time and time again to be effective in many cases, mainly when the cancer is limited to just one area. Surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy are all common ways to beat the cancer. However, it's always important to see the signs early on. If you notice that your dog has lumps or sores that do not heal or is experiencing weight loss and heavy breathing, a quick visit to the vet can save your dog's life.
Breed-Specific Health Concerns
Having dogs mate within the same breed can also encourage the passing down of genetic disorders and illnesses. These health issues would otherwise fade away in mixed-breed offspring.
Certain breeds are more prone to certain illnesses. Large-breed dog health issues, for example, are different from those of small-breed dogs. If you're wondering what dog has the least health issues, we'd say Beagles, Chihuahuas, Greyhounds, Poodles, and Australian cattle dogs. On the other hand, here are seven dog breeds with the most health issues:
Excellent guard and rescue dogs, German Shepherds are favorites with families and the police. Unfortunately, they are one of the dog breeds with most health issues. These include hip dysplasia, cancer, allergies, epilepsy, and heart disease.
English bulldogs are among the most inbred dogs, making them susceptible to many health issues. These gentle and predictable canines are popular among parents with little children. However, they have a high chances of having Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS), obesity, luxating patella, and skin issues,
Everyone loves a happy and loving Cocker Spaniel. Their charming personalities make them family favorites. Sadly, they are known to have genetically passed health issues, like eye, ear, skin, and heart problems.
Pugs, one of the oldest known dogs and one of the most fun-to-be-around were known as royal family companions in ancient China. Sadly, these small and fun dogs suffer from various health conditions, including brain inflammations, skin infections, allergies, and eye issues.
Boxers are famous for being extra-friendly around kids, thanks to their fun-loving attitudes. Unfortunately, they are prone to common dog health issues, like cancer, obesity, skin issues, epilepsy, and kidney disease.
Famous for being one of the most protective dog breeds if well-trained—and the most aggressive ones when poorly trained—Rottweilers are forever known as the best guards. But what many people don't know is that they are inclined to suffer from allergies, heart and kidney disease, epilepsy, and cataracts.
The tall and iconic Great Danes are considered one of the most attractive dogs. They're also known as one of the breeds with the most common health issues in dogs. Hip dysplasia, Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM), and osteosarcoma are some of the most common health issues they can face.
Environmental Factors and Dog Health
Outdoor Dog Health Issues
All dogs need to spend a little time under the sun each day. Some are more than others, but all of them do. Be that as it may, staying outdoors for extended periods - especially unsupervised - can expose Fido to parasites and various dog health issues.
Insects, contaminated water, parasites, and toxic substances are everywhere. And let's not forget the intense heat. That said, you'll want to be fully attentive during your outdoor walks or playdates. It means making sure your four-legged friend isn't befriending sick animals, sniffing or eating what should be left alone, and spending too much time under the sun.
You might think, "If the great outdoors isn't safe, then I can avoid the risks by simply keeping my dog indoors." While it makes sense, that's not a good idea - especially if you don't have a backyard or garden.
Even then, it would be best if you considered that there are health issues related to indoor dogs. Left alone in a small area for long hours, your dog will be more prone to obesity, behavioral problems, and even depression. It is particularly true with energetic breeds like Dachshunds and Jack Russel Terriers.
Prevention and Health Maintenance
After adopting a puppy, it doesn't take long before you develop that beautiful bond of love and trust with your new furry friend. Soon enough, you'll realize that Fido follows a particular routine and has a set of habits and traits. You'll know when it's happy, sad, stressed, anxious, excited, and hungry. You'll even be able to distinguish the color of its pee and poop and what food it prefers over others.
Once you know your dog's behavior by heart, it'll be easy to notice any changes. All you need to do is keep an eye out for the signs.
There's minimal a healthy diet can't prevent. Like you, your dog needs to be on a diet that suits its nutritional needs. If you're unsure what to feed your dog, a vet will tell you how to keep your dog on a healthy diet based on its needs, energy levels, health conditions, and allergies.
Regular exercise can keep common dog health problems at bay. These include issues related to muscles, joints, bones, and obesity. Each dog breed has different exercise needs, depending on size and energy levels. Your dog's age and health conditions also significantly affect the amount and type of daily exercise they need. Consider consulting with your vet to determine your pup's exercise needs.
Constant Teeth Cleaning
It might be challenging to teach your adult dog how to sit still while you brush their teeth. And since brushing your canine's teeth is necessary, it's best to teach them the routine early on in their life. Three times a week is the minimum, and once a day is ideal. By getting into this routine, your four-legged friend can avoid common dental health issues in dogs.
Regular Checkups with the Vet
Once your puppy gets all its preliminary vaccinations, you'll still need to take it to the vet once a year for a general checkup. Yearly checkups are for detecting health problems early on and taking preventive measures. Besides that, you'll also want to drop by the vet when you notice weird behavior or physical changes in your dog. Consider the vet a family doctor, and don't hesitate to visit them when needed.
When it comes to dog health issues, prevention is always better than cure. No matter the breed, size, or age, your dog will likely encounter one or two of the common health issues during its lifetime. That's why it always pays to keep a watchful eye on your dog's habits and behaviors. And remember to take precautions and be ready to find solutions. After all, your furry friend entirely relies on you to keep it healthy and safe.