This guide will help you to spot the symptoms of some fairly common dog diseases, and to care for your dogs.

1. Allergic Eczema

One of the most common problems seen by vets, this is certainly the most prevalent skin ailment. The allergic reaction may be caused by fleas, mites or by vegetation.

Allergies to plants cause the worst type of eczema as they flare up every time the pet roams in the garden or may recur at certain times of the year corresponding to the particular plant’s growth. The types of vegetation most likely to cause allergies are wandering jew, paspalum, Kikuyu, and buffalo grass.

The condition is more common among low-slung breeds, such as dachshunds, corgis, and cocker spaniels. An acute red rash will appear suddenly on the underbelly – with or without angry pimples, pus, or larger infected areas.

Treatment may aim to localize the cause of the allergy.

Dogs that are taken for a run through a park or thick undergrowth often develop a rash that night or the next day. Regular administration of anti-inflammatory drugs may be necessary throughout the summer.

2. Bad Breath

Raw meat or meat buried too long down at the bottom of the garden can cause bad breath in your pet. Bad breath can also be caused by infections of the mouth such as:

  • Tartar build-up on the teeth leading to inflammation of the gums (gingivitis).
  • Ulcers, viral attacks, and bacterial infection of tonsils or lymph glands of the mouth.

Most causes of bad breath require veterinary treatment.

3. Heartworm

This has become prominent in the last 20 years. It’s not a gastrointestinal worm but one which lives in the heart. Adult worms are long (12 – 30cm), slender, resembling very thin strands of spaghetti.

Heartworm can be fatal. In dogs, the main effects are a mechanical obstruction to circulation, inflammation of blood vessels, lung embolism, chronic heart failure, damage to the liver, and a build-up of fluid in the abdomen.

Mosquitoes are carriers, biting one dog and transferring the worms from its bloodstream to the next dog they bite. It is also possible for a pregnant bitch to infect her unborn young with larvae migration through the placenta.

This is a major problem. Once the worms are destroyed they break up or dislodge from the heart into the circulatory system and so may cause artery blockages in vital parts of the dog’s body. Treatment requires careful monitoring of these side-effects.

On rare occasions embolisms from the breaking-up dead worms may occur from five to 30 days after treatment, causing high temperatures, increased rate of breathing, coughing, lethargy, and failure to eat. The dog should be taken immediately to a vet.

Diethylcarbamazine (DEC) should be given at a daily rate of 12mg per kilogram weight of the dog. The drug is given orally, beginning when the dog is certified free of heartworm and continuing throughout the mosquito season and up to 80 days afterward.

Blood tests are advisable every month, the dog should be housed mosquito-proof kennel at night treated with suitable repellents.

4. Ringworm

Ringworm is a rather misleading name given to infections caused by a fungus infection of the skin. The name is derived, from the circular or ring-like sores it normally produces on the animal’s skin. There is no association whatever with any worm parasite.

Infection is by means of spores that are transferred by direct contact of one animal with another or by spores shed onto bedding, carpets, or kennels. Spores can remain infective in the environment for a very long time, up to one year. They are also resistant to most common disinfectants.

Newly acquired infections are often not very obvious. In kittens, the fungus can produce a very diffuse thinning of the hair and the skin may not show the characteristic ring-like sores. The fungus attacks the outer layer of the skin and hairs producing a dry scaly skin and breaking of the hair shafts.

Veterinarians use a special lamp to examine animals suspected of having ringworm. Under an ultra-violet lamp, the affected areas omit a green fluorescence which makes it possible to detect even very small areas of infection.

Ringworm in dogs is usually the more discrete type, with definite areas of hair-loss and scab formation. The most common sites are those which have come in contact with an infected animal. The nose, side of face and forelegs usually show the most advanced lesions. If the dog has shared the bedding with infected animal lesions may occur on the undersurface of the body.

Treatment of ringworm must be vigorous and must involve tracing the source of the infection. In most cases, a newly introduced kitten or puppy is found to be the culprit. Often veterinarians are called upon to examine the family pet after ringworm has been diagnosed in members of the family.

Round red spots that become quite itchy on the arms, neck, and face are the common sites in humans. Infections of the legs and buttocks can occur where the family shares a chair with the cat or dog.

Local treatment of the skin with ointments or gels is used. Care should be taken to apply the treatment to the surrounding skin and not just to the obvious bare area. Whenever possible the animal should be completely bathed in an effective fungicide, as newly infected areas are not always easily seen.

In most eases a tablet containing a drug called Griseofulvin is prescribed. This is the most effective means of stopping the spread of the infection to other parts of the body.

Bedding should be changed and any loose hairs thoroughly vacuumed where the animal may have been lying. Before stopping these measures have the animal checked by your veterinarian to make sure all areas of the body are free.

It is very wise to have any new kitten or puppy checked before introducing it into the home. This is particularly important in stray animals or where the origins of the young animal are not known.

5. Constipation

This can be defined as an infrequent or difficult bowel movement. Causes include slipped discs where there is a weakness in the back legs, paralysis, pelvic fractures, mechanical obstructions, excessive amounts of bone in the diet or painful anal area cuts.

Where a dog is prone to constipation:

  • Do not include bones in the diet.
  • Serve canned food or at least semi-moist feed. Do not feed it dry rations.
  • Give the dog paraffin oil orally at the rate of 5ml twice weekly, depending on the consistency of the droppings following each treatment.
  • Give Dilax or Coloxyl tablets; one tablet twice weekly depending on droppings.

6. Desexing

Desexed females make the best pets; they tend to stay at home and are less trouble. Desexing, contrary to old wives’ tales, does not alter the dog’s personality, nor does it cause it to run to fat.

Undesexed dogs should be considered only if you intend to breed. Undesexed bitches more often develop infected wombs and mammary glands and have false pregnancies.

Undesexed male dogs like to wander around the neighborhood in search of female dogs on heat. These sojourns can last several days and while so occupied the dog is neither a pet nor a watchdog, and is prone to fighting.

7. Vomiting

Vomiting is controlled by a center in the brain which can be stimulated by disagreeable odors, tastes, smells, toxins, drugs, and poisons. Vomiting is very weakening for the dog and can be caused by:

  • Indigestion, overeating, bad food (particularly if the dog is likely to dig up bones or old meat), poisons.
  • Acute abdominal problems such as pancreatitis or peritonitis, swallowing a bone, a deep internal wound, a ruptured organ after a car accident.
  • Disease such as distemper, hepatitis, pyometra, septic kidney, constipation.
  • In young puppies, it can be due to a dilation of the food pipe between the throat and the stomach. This condition can be rectified to a point by making the dog stand on its hind legs to eat and giving it small quantities at a time.
  • Ticks. One of the initial signs of tick poisoning is vomiting and salivation.
  • Drugs. Digitalis or heart tablets are given in excess cause vomiting. Stop the tablets for a day and then commence at half the recommended dosage. Certain antibiotics and morphine can cause vomiting. In any such case cease the medication and phone your vet.
  • Nervous problems, such as car or motion sickness or lesions within the brain.

When you take a vomiting dog to your vet it is important to know whether the vomiting is related to eating, how many times a day it vomits, and whether the food is digested or not. The color also is important and if possible take a sample of the vomit along with you.

Where the dog appears healthy but vomits occasionally, there is generally no need for concern. Dogs tend to vomit about once a week or once every 10 days. This is perfectly normal.

8. Distemper

Distemper is a highly contagious viral disease which is universal in dog populations and is transmitted through contaminated objects or by close contact. The incubation period is about 9 days, the first signs being a high temperature for 1 to 3 days.

The temperature then returns to normal before the second run of high fever, lasting a week or more. Pus accumulates in the corners of the eyes which squint and redden. Sometimes there is a pus-filled nasal discharge and diarrhea.

The pregnant mother should be immunized halfway through the gestation period, giving the puppies an increased immunity at birth. They should be immunized at 6 weeks and then again at 16 weeks.

Because it is caused by a viral agent, treatment is not always effective. However, it is always preferable to try to treat the dog because even the most serious cases can sometimes show a remarkable improvement. Treatment consists of anti-canine distemper serum, plus supportive therapy.

9. Diabetes

An early symptom is a loss of weight. Despite heavy eating, most diabetic dogs lose weight – as much as a pound or more a day. They are thirsty because they need large quantities of water to dissolve the unused sugar in their bodies. As a result of excess drinking, they urinate frequently. They can’t burn the sugar they need for energy, they readily become weak and tired.

Reference: My Dog is Drinking a Lot of Water – Pet Health Partnership

10. Ear Disease

Most dogs at some stage of their life will suffer some form of ear problem. Unfortunately, some dogs are doomed to suffer chronic ear irritations all their lives. The early recognition of ear disease can probably minimize the risk of chronic ear disease.

Signs of ear disease are easily recognized. The dog may show irritation by scratching at the affected ear vigorously with its hind legs. Such vigorous misuse can very quickly convert a mere reddening and itching of the lining of the ear canal into a weeping, inflamed, painful condition.

The ear canal is not very well ventilated and the trapped air tends to be moist. Such conditions favor the presence of various bacteria and fungi, which when the lining of the ear is damaged in any way, quickly invade the tissues and proliferate, producing in many cases a complex mixed infection.

Dogs have large variations in the size and shape of the external ears. Breeds with long pendulous ears tend to have convoluted ear canals. Drainage and ventilation of the structure are thus impaired and ear infections are much more likely. Breeds that have dense hair growing in the ear canal develop thick plugs of matted hair that block the opening of the canal and which act as an irritant to the sensitive lining of the canal.

Grass seeds cause intense discomfort when they enter the ear. The dog vigorously shakes its head, paws at the affected ear, and tends to tilt its head to keep the ear canal as horizontal as possible.

Ear mites commonly affect young puppies but may be present in older dogs. These small insects live on the surface of the skin of the ear canal. The tissues react to their presence by becoming inflamed and intensely itchy and by producing a dark reddish, brown waxy exudate that often blocks the canal.

Just as the causes of ear disease in the dog are very varied, so must be the treatments. There is no universal ear drop that can cure all ear problems. Until the precise cause is established, it is unwise to administer any medications at home.

Every veterinarian will have seen a dog treated for months with proprietary “ear canker drops”, that has had a grass seed lodged in the ear. The treatment for ear mites differs from the treatment for a chronic mixed bacterial and fungal infection. Before even the cause of the condition can be established in some patients, excessive hair and accumulations of wax must be removed.

Recently a new concept in the treatment of some chronic ear infections has been introduced. It has been known for a long time that by making the tissues within the ear more acid, the proliferation of most bacteria and fungi is inhibited.

Some of the previous preparations that were used to do this were fairly irritant in themselves, and the animal resented their use so much that owners naturally gave up the treatment. A new preparation does not attempt to alter the acid-base ratio within the ear so radically, and when combined with an efficient wax solvent seems to be a well-tolerated means of keeping the ear clean.

Care should be taken with any ear preparation to use it as advised by your veterinarian. Too-vigorous attempts to clean the ear with cotton buds are more likely to further irritate the ear and cause greater discomfort.

If ointments are prescribed, they should be used in sufficient quantity and frequently enough to coat the damaged tissues within the ear. Early diagnosis, specific remedies, and efficient carrying out of the treatment are the all-important factors in the control of ear diseases.

Reference: My Dog Keeps Shaking Head and Scratching Ear – Pet Health Partnership

11. Diet

Your favorite four-legged friend could be heading for obesity, infertility, and early death — and it could be your fault.

If your cat or dog’s diet is not balanced your furry friend could be gummy, overweight, and arthritic by mid-life, according to the results of a survey of pet foods published in Pet Health Partnership.

Although some brands of canned pet food claimed to be “balanced and complete”. Pet Health Partnership warned that pets should not be fed on canned foods alone. Cats and dogs needed dry food or uncooked bones as well as canned food to keep their teeth and gums healthy.

And because canned foods tasted so yummy to some pets, especially to dogs, many pets were in danger of overeating and becoming obese.

Obesity predisposed pets to circulatory and joint diseases, as well as skin problems, heat intolerance, infertility, and lowered resistance to diseases, all of which could lead to premature death.

Pet-food manufacturers were moving into the fresh meat sector with a range of canned foods containing little or no vegetable matter.

The meat in canned dog food and meat-based cat food tested by Pet Health Partnership came from licensed slaughterhouses and generally consisted of lungs, heart, kidneys, and other organs not used for human consumption.

Pet Health Partnership recommended that the brand and “flavor” of canned food in your pet’s diet should be varied to avoid ending up with a fussy eater who was “addicted” to a particular dish.

The Pet Health Partnership also warned against feeding dog food to cats. Cats needed more protein in their diets than dogs did, and a long-term diet of dog food could leave your puss with a protein deficiency.

Reference: The Best Food to Feed My Dog – Pet Health Partnership

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