Any good dog parent will make sure they’re educated on common dog health problems, so that they can take preventive measures and keep their dog’s health in check.
Your dog is more than just a pet, they’re a faithful companion, a close friend, and a member of your family. When you bring a pup into your home, they rely on you to take care of them, with regular walks, plenty of love and affection, a healthy diet, and the right healthcare when necessary.
Unfortunately, just like us, dogs can suffer from a range of common health problems, and you might notice symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhoea, and lethargy. Some breeds of dogs are more susceptible to certain ailments than others, thanks to their unique physiology. However, there are many health issues which can affect just about any dog, at any stage of their life.
Knowing how to identify the symptoms of an impending issue for your dog ensures you can take the right steps to care for them, including seeking out vet treatment at times. Here are some of the most common dog health problems pet parents face, and how you can recognize them.
1. Ear Infections
Floppy, fluffy, pointy – dog ears can come in a range of shapes and sizes. However, virtually all of them are susceptible to an ear infection. In fact, about 20% of dogs are estimated to have some manner of ear disease, which could affect one or both of their ears. Ear infections are usually caused by allergies, yeast, bacteria, and ear mites, as well as hair growth within the ear canal.
If you have a pup with longer, floppier ears, like a Basset Hound or Cocker Spaniel, ear infections can be particularly common, because it’s easy for dirt to get trapped within the canal.
Symptoms of a dog ear infection can include:
- Regular head shaking or tilting
- Unusual odor from the ears
- Vigorous scratching around the head
- Unusual eye movements
- Lack of balance
- Redness around the ear canal
- Brown or yellow discharge
- Swelling around the ear
If you suspect your dog has an ear infection, take them to the vet for some thorough cleaning and a dose of antibiotics. Chronic infections can cause significant problems over time, so it’s important not to let the issue worsen.
Keep in mind that a head tilt in a dog could also be vestibular disease, which can be quite serious, so it’s important to rule that out.
2. Worms and Parasites are Both Common Dog Health Problems
Most pooches have a nasty habit of exploring and eating things they shouldn’t. This can often lead to the onset of parasites, ranging from tapeworm, hookworm, and roundworm to the ever common flea. Any infestation can make your pooch pretty uncomfortable, but some can be extremely dangerous. In puppies, hookworms are sometimes fatal.
Symptoms of parasites in dogs can vary depending on the type of parasite in question. Fleas often cause dry skin, scratching, and shaking, while worms can cause:
- Weight loss
- Appetite changes
- A rough, dry coat
- Small segments of tapeworm in the stool
Some dogs also spend a lot of time rolling around to get rid of fleas, or scooting across the floor on their bottoms to relieve itchiness. If you’re concerned your dog might have a parasite, speak to a vet about the best course of action. Not all worm and flea medications will work for every dog.
3. Skin Conditions
Skin conditions are relatively common in all dogs, regardless of their breed. Your pooch is exposed to all kinds of irritants on his daily walks, and when running around in your home. In some cases, dogs may also have allergies to certain substances and cleaning products.
The easiest way to check for a skin condition in your dog is to spend plenty of time petting them. This will give you an opportunity to search through the fur for signs of red, flaky, or scaly skin. Your dog might also begin to lose some of their fur if a condition gets too bad.
Other symptoms to look for include:
- Bleeding or damaged skin
- Bumps and inflammation
- Dandruff or flaky skin
- Intense scratching
- Excessive licking or washing
- Hot spots of inflamed skin
Check your pet regularly for these signs and symptoms, and take note of when your pup has a reaction. They may be sensitive to certain things, such as the pesticides used in a specific field, or the air fresheners sprayed around your home.
4. Urinary Tract Infections
Similar to ear infections, urinary tract infections can be quite common in dogs. More often than not, when your pup has a urinary problem, they’ll spend more time peeing in the house. Unfortunately, many pet parents attribute this issue to behavioral problems, rather than a health problem.
Keep a close eye on your dog’s bathroom habits. If they appear to urinate more often than usual when they’re outside, this could be a sign of an underlying issue. Your dog might also start to cry out or whine when they’re straining to urinate.
Other symptoms to watch for include:
- Blood or darker colored urine
- Lethargy or tiredness
- Licking of the genital area
- Trouble going to the bathroom
- Changes in eating habits
- Strong smelling urine
- Increased thirst
Dogs with a urinary infection can sometimes develop bladder stones too, which can open the door to further health issues. It’s important to get your dog checked out straight away if you’re concerned, they might have a urine infection, so you can begin a course of treatment.
Dogs can have allergies similarly to people, and allergies are a common dog health problem. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to determine what sorts of sensitivities your pup might have from the moment you bring them home. Skin allergies are relatively common, and often caused by exposure to certain chemicals. However, your dog may also be allergic to pollen, dust, or certain foods. The exact symptoms your pet might exhibit in connection to an allergy can depend on the source of the sensitivity.
Signs to watch for include:
- Excessive scratching or itching
- Swelling around the eyes, lips, face, and ears
- Diarrhea or bloody stool
- Changes in appetite and thirst
- Frequent sneezing or coughing
- Discharge from the eyes and nose
While allergies can’t necessarily be cured, there are various ways you can avoid them, by switching out your dog’s meals, or administering specific medications. You may also need to change your habits based on your dog’s allergies, and avoid visiting certain areas.
Arthritis is one of the most common dog health problems. Although it usually happens in later life, it can be a problem for pups of all ages. As many as 4 out of 5 dogs will experience some arthritis at some point in their lives. Certain dogs with unique bone structure are more predisposed to this condition than most.
The easiest way to watch for arthritis in your pooch is to pay attention to their movement. They’ll begin to move around less frequently, and may take more time to get up when lying down. Your dog may also snap when you touch their painful joints.
Watch for symptoms such as:
While arthritis isn’t curable, there are various things you can do to reduce the symptoms, such as providing your dog with the right nutrition and physical therapy. It’s also a good idea to focus on managing your dog’s weight, as obesity can worsen arthritis.
7. Dental Disease
Experts suggest dental disease may affect around 80% of dogs by the time they reach age 3. This is usually a result of exposure to various forms of bacteria over time. A common form of dog dental disease is periodontal disease, which also affects the gums.
You should be able to keep a close eye on your dog’s teeth and gums throughout the day when you’re playing with them.
Watch for symptoms such as:
- Trouble chewing or swallowing
- Excessive drooling
- Redness around the gums
- Swelling around the teeth
- Discoloration on the teeth
- Bad breath
Once dental disease sets in, it can affect your dog forever, but it can also be managed. Regular teeth brushing and veterinary dental cleanings are often a good way to tackle the problem. Your vet can give you advice on how to clean your dog’s teeth at home too.
Canine diabetes is a common, but unfortunately incurable dog health problem. Notably, this kind of diabetes isn’t influenced by sugar, such as diabetes mellitus. Instead, pooches tend to suffer from a metabolic disorder and low levels of insulin. If your dog suffers from diabetes, you may need to commit to giving them regular insulin injections.
Symptoms to look out for include:
- Changes in appetite
- Excessive thirst and urination
- Chronic urinary tract infections
- Lethargy or exhaustion
- Cloudy eyes
- Weight loss
Aside from insulin injections, vets can offer a number of tools to help pet parents deal with canine diabetes. There are oral medications available, and some vets also recommend switching your pet to a high-fiber diet to help slow the disease.
As much as you might love spoiling your dogs with extra treats or scraps from your plate, it’s important to be aware of the threat of obesity. Dogs don’t have the best ability to control their appetite, which means they’re likely to continue gobbling up treats for as long as they can, which can lead to excessive weight gain.
Some dogs are particularly prone to obesity. The Beagle, Dachshund, Pug, and Golden Retriever are all very food oriented. This is why it’s so important to make sure you look for other ways to train and treat your dog, outside of using food.
Signs to look for include:
- Excessive eating
- Bloating around the stomach
- Lethargy and tiredness
- Disinterest in walks and exercise
- Inability to jump up or down from places
While the signs of obesity might seem obvious, it’s easy for pet owners to overlook their pup’s weight gain. Taking your dog for regular vet checkups where they can be weighed by a vet is an excellent way to reduce your chances of obesity getting out of hand. Regular exercise and a balanced diet will help to bring your pooch back to the right weight.
Watching for Common Dog Health Problems
Dog health problems can be worrying for pet parents, but many can be easy enough to overcome, cure, or control with the right medication and strategy. The key to keeping your pup as healthy as possible is knowing how to spot signs of an impending issue.
A good way to prepare yourself for more common issues is to check your dog’s DNA. A DNA test for dogs can give you an insight into your pet’s genetic history, so you can determine which kinds of diseases they’re most likely to be susceptible to. When you test your dog’s DNA, you can learn all about the potential conditions they might face, and create an appropriate prevention strategy. For instance, if your dog is more prone to obesity, you can start them on a balanced diet early, and use a scale to regularly check their weight between vet visits.
Find out your dog’s genetic health risks with the CirclePAW DNA Test for Dogs. Sign up now to be notified the moment our CirclePaw DNA test for dogs becomes available.
- AKC: Dog Ear Infections: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, and Prevention
https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/dog-ear-infections/#:~:text=Ear infections are common conditions,affect one or both ears.
- CHF: Managing Canine Arthritis
- VCA Hospitals: Dental Disease in Dogs