As a loving and caring dog owner, when your furry friend is sick, you want to do everything you can to help her get better. An important part of this is learning how to recognize the signs of some of the health conditions that most commonly affect dogs.
Your dog can’t tell you when she’s not feeling well or describe her symptoms to you. As a result, it’s up to you to keep a careful eye out for any signs of illness. That way, you can be sure your dog gets prompt medical attention when necessary.
Read on to learn about some of the most common canine illnesses, and what you can do to help prevent them. And remember that, while the descriptions below are a helpful basic guide, you are the one who knows your four-legged friend best. If your dog is displaying any behaviors or physical signs that are abnormal or that are worrying you, contact your vet. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Ear infections are a very common canine heath problem, particularly for dog breeds with longer ears. Ear infections can develop for a number of different reasons, including ear mites, bacteria, hair growth in the ear canal, or allergies (often to corn, wheat, or soy in their food).
If your dog is shaking or tilting her head, scratching at her ear, rubbing her ear against the floor or furniture, or having trouble keeping her balance, these behaviors could indicate that she has an ear infection. Physical signs to watch out for include redness or swelling in the ear canal or the outer ear, discharge from the ear, and unusual ear odors.
Ear infections are commonly treated with antibiotics or other medication. However, surgery may be required for cases of chronic infections. To help prevent ear infections, be sure to clean your dog’s ears regularly and ensure that ear hair is carefully trimmed. In addition, if you or your vet suspect a food allergy is causing repeated infections, a change of diet may be in order.
Kennel cough is an umbrella term for a range of respiratory infections (viral and bacterial) that affect dogs. You can think of kennel cough as the canine equivalent of bronchitis or a chest cold.
The most common symptom of kennel cough is a persistent dry cough, usually accompanied by a goose-like honking sound. While most dogs will seem healthy except for the cough, you should also watch out for nasal discharge, fever, or signs of coughed-up white phlegm.
Kennel cough will usually clear up on its own if you let it run its course. It is highly contagious, so your dog should be kept away from other dogs until several days after the symptoms have disappeared.
To help prevent kennel cough, ask your vet about available vaccinations. Remember that vaccinations are used to protect your dog against future exposure. They won’t help treat kennel cough if your dog already has it.
Arthritis is a chronic condition that occurs when the cartilage that helps joints move smoothly gradually wears down. The resulting joint friction and wear-and-tear can make moving around uncomfortable and painful.
Arthritis typically affects older dogs, but it can develop in dogs of any age. In addition, a greater propensity for arthritis is an inherited trait for a number of dog breeds. This means that it’s important to keep an eye out for the symptoms regardless of your canine companion’s age.
If your dog seems to be limping or moving stiffly, is more reluctant to go up and down stairs, or is less flexible than she once was, this could mean that arthritis is setting in. Other common signs include pain or swelling around the joints with no obvious cause.
While arthritis can never be completely prevented, there are things you can do to minimize its effect on your dog. Most importantly, you should feed your dog a nutritious diet and keep her at a healthy weight, as obesity can greatly aggravate the effects of arthritis. If your dog seems to be in a great deal of arthritis-related discomfort, you can also talk to your vet about medications for pain management.
Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)
A bacterial infection that affects the bladder and urinary tract, UTIs can develop in both male and female dogs, making urination uncomfortable and painful. If you notice that your well-trained dog is urinating in the house, urinating (or straining to urinate) more frequently than usual, or crying out or whimpering while urinating, this could indicate the onset of a UTI.
Other signs to watch for include blood in the urine, dribbling urine, and obsessive licking of the genital area. If any of these symptoms are present, it’s important to contact your vet right away, as UTIs require proper antibiotic treatment. To help prevent them, make sure your dog always has enough water to drink and the opportunity to urinate frequently.