20 Most Common Dog Diseases w/ Explanations & Symptoms

common canine health conditions

If you are looking for the most common dog diseases, this free and full guide will help you. We will walk you through the top 20 dog health issues, bringing you exclusive insights such as the factors that cause them and which breeds tend to develop them the most.

Some of them are easy to treat and not fatal, whereas others are deadly dog diseases that will require immediate treatment. As a responsible dog owner, it is your duty to inform yourself, and thanks to our guide, you will obtain all the necessary knowledge.

This is a must-read for every dog owner or breeder because although dogs bring joy and happiness to the lives of people, it is also important to be aware of potential problems.

We will bring you a concise explanation of the most common dog health issues, what signs to look for, treatment recommendations and notes on recovery and survival rate.

Here are the most common canine diseases and their description:

1. Dog Cancer

Did you know that cancer is the primary cause of death in dogs older than 10 years? It affects 50% of senior dogs, and according to general stats, 1 in 3 domestic dogs will develop cancer at some point in their lives. It causes the abnormal growth of cells that spread to other organs and tend to form tumors and masses.

Most cases, if detected early, can be treated and cured. Nonetheless, all types of cancer have the potential of being fatal. These are the most common types of canine cancer:

  • Lymphoma
  • Melanoma
  • Squamous Cell Carcinomas
  • Hemangiosarcoma
  • Brain Tumors
  • Testicular Tumors
  • Mast Cell Tumors
  • Osteosarcoma (Bone cancer)

Although the symptoms will vary depending on the type of cancer, these are the most common signs:

  • Abnormal lumps or masses
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Abnormal odor
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy and intolerance to exercise
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Abnormal thirst

The prognosis for canine cancer depends on the type. For example, hemangiosarcoma is very dangerous because it has a high mortality rate and a median survival rate of 3-6 months. Therefore, immediate diagnosis and treatment are recommended for any type of cancer.

If you notice any of the aforementioned symptoms – especially if there are many – then consult your veterinarian as soon as possible.

2. Diabetes

Diabetes affects the ability of the pancreas of your dog to produce enough insulin, which in consequence, makes it impossible for your dog to control the levels of sugar in its blood. In consequence, it is cataloged as a metabolic disorder. Nonetheless, it has differences in comparison to human diabetes such as autoimmune destruction of beta cells.

It causes several problems such as infections, neuropathies, loss of eyesight and lethargy, all of which can affect the quality of life of your pet. In the case of infections, they can be fatal.

Nowadays, it is a major health issue in dogs, because according to this study by Banfield Pet Hospital that analyzed 2.1 million dogs, there is a 32% spike in diabetes following a veterinary patient data from 2006 to 2010.

The symptoms of diabetes are easy to spot:

  • Abnormal thirst
  • Excessive urination
  • Sudden weight loss (despite eating normally)
  • Increase in appetite
  • Cloudy eyes
  • Deteriorated vision
  • Lackluster coat and skin

If your dog presents some or all of these symptoms, then you should consult with your veterinarian as soon as possible.

The good news is that diabetic dogs that receive proper treatment can enjoy the same lifespan as non-diabetic dogs. Your veterinarian will prescript a special diet and exercise regimen, as well as insulin injections if they are necessary.

3. Canine Parvo Virus (CPV)

The canine parvovirus is highly contagious and is spread by direct and indirect contact with infected feces or a contaminated area. It causes anorexia, vomiting, diarrhea and chronic pain. Therefore, it can lead to myocarditis and acute hemorrhagic enteritis, for example.

It presents the following symptoms:

  • Lethargy and intolerance to exercise
  • Bloody diarrhea
  • Severe fever
  • Sudden and progressive weight loss
  • Malaise (general discomfort)
  • Vomiting (can be bloody)

If you detect these symptoms, then immediate action is advised, especially if your dog is a puppy because it can be fatal.

This virus is especially dangerous because it has a morbidity rate of 100%, and according to stats, it scores a mortality rate of 10% in adult dogs and 91% in puppies. The best protection against CPV is to get your dog vaccinated. The treatment usually includes IV fluids, antibiotics, injectable vitamins, and colostrum.

4. Heart Worm

Heartworm (Dirofilaria immitis) is a parasite that attacks the heart, lungs and blood vessels. It causes a wide myriad of issues such as chronic heart failure and severe lung damage. It is a common canine disease with a growing incidence rate in the USA, especially the southern region. For example, the positive results in Mississippi more than doubled from 2013 to 2016.

Therefore, it is important to know the symptoms of this potentially fatal disease:

  • Recurrent and persistent cough
  • Intolerance to exercise
  • Decreased appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Abnormal fatigue

Nonetheless, these are later signs, because, in the beginning, these parasites do not show symptoms at all. Therefore, it is important to take your pet to regular checks to ensure that it is free of heartworms and other parasites.

The best way to deal with heartworms is to stop them from infecting your dog, and all you need to do is to administer your dog with a preventive year-round. Nonetheless, test your dog every year.

5. Kennel Cough

This disease affects the upper respiratory tract and inflames the bronchi and trachea. According to evidence, the responsible for kennel cough is the bacteria Bordetella Bronchiseptica. In addition, the canine parainfluenza virus SV-5 can also cause this disease.

In consequence, dogs catch this disease when they inhale that specific type of bacteria or virus. It is a frequent respiratory problem and you should watch out for the following symptoms:

  • Strong cough with a honking sound (it is the most remarkable sign)
  • Frequent sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Excessive tiredness after minimal exercise
  • Low fever

Fortunately, it has a low mortality rate. Nonetheless, puppies are at higher risks, and in such cases, it can be fatal. The veterinarian will usually prescript antibiotics, along with other medications such as Baytril, Doxycycline, and Clavamox.

6. Dog Tapeworm

Tapeworms (Dipylidium Caninum) are intestinal parasites and they are usually 4 to 8 inches long. Normally, they do not cause problems and they are treated easily. Nonetheless, if they cause a serious infestation known as Cestodiasis, then it can cause health complications.

It is important to be aware of the signs that a tapeworm infestation might cause because it registers an incidence rate of 2.2 in 100 cases. Watch out for these symptoms:

  • Segments, larvae or eggs of tapeworms in the feces of your dog. They look like seeds or grains of rice. This is the most common sign
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea and vomiting (check if the vomit contains tapeworms)
  • Abdominal pain and discomfort
  • Inflammation around the abdominal area
  • Weight loss
  • Lethargy
  • Weakness

They do not cause big health issues and the treatment is easy and effective. Nonetheless, in the case of puppies, they can lead to anemia and cause death. You should take your dog to the veterinarian for a proper check and treatment when you notice the symptoms.

7. Rabies

Rabies is a virus that causes the inflammation of the brain in dogs, and in consequence, it affects the central nervous system. It can also affect humans, and according to stats, it kills over 59,000 people and millions of animals every year.

Dogs get this disease when they are bitten by an infected animal such as a fox or raccoon, or when a wound or a scratch is exposed to infected saliva. It also includes mucous membranes.

These are the characteristic symptoms of rabies:

  • Hydrophobia
  • Aggressiveness
  • Dropped jaw
  • Seizures
  • Paralysis
  • Pica
  • Fever

Unfortunately, once the symptoms appear, this disease leads to death. Therefore, dogs diagnosed with rabies are euthanized. The best way to prevent this fatal conclusion is to get your dog vaccinated. In fact, it is a legal requirement in the US.

8. Prostate Problems

The prostate of dogs is susceptible to several health issues. Here is the list of the most common prostate issues:

  • Cancer: Fortunately, it is not a common type of cancer amongst dogs. Nonetheless, when it occurs, it can spread to other organs easily
  • Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia: It is the most common type of prostate problem in dogs because it happens when dogs get older. It causes discomfort and in some cases, it can causes problems when urinating or infections
  • Cysts: They are filled with fluid and can develop within the prostate or around it
  • Infections: They are amongst the most problematic issues because they can be hard to treat with conventional medication, and they can lead to abscesses

The treatment will depend on the kind of prostate issue that your dog is facing.

9. Ear Infections

Ears are susceptible to infections, and therefore, it is a common problem amongst dogs. The responsible agents are yeast and bacteria. Some breeds are more prone to developing ear infections:

  • Poodles
  • Bichon Frise
  • Maltese
  • Schnauzers
  • Spaniels
  • Setters
  • Retrievers
  • Hounds

In conclusion, dogs with hairy and long ears are at higher risk, especially if they love to get dirty like Retrievers and Setters. For example, poodles tend to develop otitis externa more than other breeds.

These signs will let you know if the ears of your dog are infected:

  • Odor in the ear
  • Your dog scratches its ear or the area around it
  • Yellowish or brownish discharge. It can be bloody too
  • Hair loss around the ear area
  • Your dog tends to shake and tilt its head
  • Loss of balance
  • Abnormal eye movements
  • Difficulties to hear

The usual treatment includes special medication such as tobramycin and gentamycin. Nonetheless, prevention is the best policy: clean and dry the ears of your dog regularly.

10. Diarrhea

Diarrhea is a common problem amongst dogs and there are different factors that can lead to it, and in addition, it can be a symptom of underlying health problems such as inflammatory disorders and metabolic diseases.

Furthermore, it can range from mild to severe, and in the latter case, it can be fatal. Therefore, observe your dog closely, because if it is out of control, then you should take it to the veterinarian as soon as possible.

Diarrhea is easy to spot:

  • Watery and loose stools
  • Lethargy
  • Weight loss
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain

If diarrhea persists for many days (more than two) and you notice exacerbated symptoms such as extreme abdominal pain and excessive lethargy, then you should visit the veterinarian because the treatment will depend on the diagnosis.

11. Skin Allergies

Since many dogs have sensitive skin, it is easy for them to develop allergies. It triggers behaviors such as licking and scratching, sometimes to the point of hurting themselves, which can leave open wounds and lead to infections.

Several elements can trigger skin allergies in your pet:

  • Dander
  • Pollen
  • Contamination
  • Insects (e.g.: fleas)
  • Plants
  • Food
  • Medication

As you can see, some factors are external such as pollen and contamination, whereas others are internal such as diet and medication.

They are easy to spot if you notice the following signs:

  • Extreme itchiness and scratching
  • Swelling
  • Inflamed skin
  • Itchy ears
  • Vomiting
  • Sneezing
  • Diarrhea
  • Altered behavior
  • Hives

The best way to deal with these allergies is to detect what is triggering them in the first place, so you can stop exposing your dog to it. Nonetheless, you should pay your vet a visit.

12. Canine Distemper

Canine distemper is a serious viral disease that affects the nervous, gastrointestinal and respiratory systems. In addition, it is highly contagious, and unfortunately, it is one of the most common dog diseases. The most affected targets are unvaccinated puppies and young dogs from two to 6 months old.

These are the signs to watch out for:

  • Swollen and painful eyes
  • Loss of eyesight
  • Dry cough (at the beginning of the disease)
  • Wet cough (in the later stages)
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Fever

If you notice these symptoms, then take your dog to the veterinarian immediately to receive prompt treatment.

The best way to combat distemper is to prevent it, and that is why it is important to keep a firm schedule of vaccination. According to stats, less than 50% of affected adult dogs die from it, whereas the death rate for puppies reaches 80%. Therefore, it is important to prevent it.

13. Canine Influenza

Along with kennel cough, canine influenza is one of the most common respiratory diseases in dogs. Dog flu is caused by Type-A influenza viruses, for example, the virus subtype H3N8, which started to affect greyhounds in the United States in 2004.

Nonetheless, it is worth mentioning that there is another subtype, the H3N2, which is responsible for seasonal influenza.

If your dog has canine influenza, then it will display the following symptoms:

  • Coughing (it can be moist or dry)
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Nasal discharge (it can be purulent, which denotes an infection)
  • Fever
  • Sneezing
  • Runny eyes

The good news is that canine influenza is easy to treat and is rarely fatal. Nonetheless, the most vulnerable to fatality are puppies.

14. External Parasites

Parasites are a huge and common problem for dogs. We have internal parasites such as tapeworms, but also external parasites such as fleas, ticks, and mites. They are dangerous because they can carry diseases like anemia and dermatitis, and in addition, they can transport other parasites such as tapeworms.

Furthermore, many dogs are allergic to flea saliva, which can trigger several skin allergies and other health issues.

These are the signs to observe to detect if your dog has any of these external parasites:

  • Excessive itching
  • Aggressive scratching
  • Hair loss
  • Inflamed and irritated skin
  • Scabs

If your dog has fleas, mites or ticks infestation, then you need to take it to the veterinarian for the correspondent treatment. In addition, you need to apply an anti-flea, anti-mite or anti-tick treatment to your home or areas where your dog may have been infested.

15. Heatstroke

Because dogs are not as efficient as humans when it comes to releasing heat, they have a higher risk of suffering a heat stroke if the environment is too hot, especially in summer. It is a serious condition and it can have fatal consequences.

Therefore, it is important to watch out for symptoms to take rapid action:

  • Excessive panting
  • Salivating
  • Restlessness
  • Accelerated heart rate
  • Vomiting (it can be bloody)
  • Diarrhea (it can be bloody)
  • Red or pale gums

If you notice these symptoms, then you should take your dog to the veterinarian as soon as possible. Nonetheless, the best way to avoid this scenario is to prevent it. Follow these recommendations:

  • If it is too hot outside, then keep your dog indoors
  • If you go outside, make sure that you provide your pet with plenty of shade and water
  • Make sure to keep your home fresh and ventilated
  • Keep your pet hydrated (at least 1 ounce of water per pound of body weight)

16. Leptospirosis

The Leptospira bacteria cause leptospirosis and your dog can contract it from getting in contact with infected animals and their fluids (e.g. rats) or an infected area since this bacteria can be found in water and soil alike. It is a common dog disease, and according to stats, it is increasing.

In consequence, it is important to be aware of the symptoms to detect it early and receive prompt treatment, because it can lead to liver and kidney damage. Here is the full list:

  • Sore and stiff muscles
  • Intolerance to exercise
  • Fever
  • Lethargy and weakness
  • Decrease in appetite
  • Increased thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Shivering

Fortunately, the survival rate of dogs diagnosed with leptospirosis is 90%, as long as they receive proper treatment. The veterinarian will determine the best treatment to follow, but it usually includes doxycycline and penicillin (in case your pet cannot tolerate doxycycline).

17. Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is the abnormal formation of the hip socket. It happens when the acetabulum (socket in the pelvis) and the head of the femur (thighbone) do not grow at equal rates. It is one of the most widespread dog diseases, and unfortunately, it is a genetic defect. Therefore, scientists are working on genetic predictive models to prevent it.

Nonetheless, your dog can also develop hip dysplasia due to obesity, poor diet and nutrition, and excessive exercise. Furthermore, this deformation can lead to arthritis and chronic pain. This issue is more prevalent in large breeds.

Look out for these symptoms to see if your dog has hip dysplasia:

  • Limited range of motion
  • Decreased physical activity
  • Lameness in the hind end (big red flag)
  • Narrow stance
  • Grating in the joint when your dog moves
  • Looseness in the joint

Depending on the severity of the case, your veterinarian will decide the most appropriate treatment. It usually includes a weight loss regimen, nutritional fixes, physical therapy, joint fluid modifiers, and anti-inflammatory medications. For the most severe cases, surgery will be necessary.

18. Autoimmune Issues

Autoimmune diseases are also common among dogs. As the name clearly implies, they cause an autoimmune reaction of the body, which causes several problems such as inflammation. These are the most common cases:

  • Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia (AIHA)
  • Immune-Mediated Thrombocytopenia (ITP)
  • Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE)
  • Immune-Mediated Polyarthritis
  • Autoimmune Skin Diseases: Pemphigus, Vogt-Koyanagi-Harada-like syndrome and discoid lupus erythematosus

Even though the symptoms will vary depending on the specific autoimmune disease, these are some common signs:

  • Lameness
  • Joint pain
  • Muscle pain
  • Ulcers on feet and face
  • Loss of pigment in the nose
  • Increased thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Anemia
  • Fever

If you notice these signs, then take your dog to the veterinarian for a proper analysis, because autoimmune diseases are serious, and therefore, they require a precise diagnosis and treatment.

19. Elbow Dysplasia

Elbow dysplasia is the abnormal development of the elbow joint and it is categorized as a genetic disorder. This disorder damages the surface of the joint, which causes pain and eventually leads to arthritis and other orthopedic issues. It more usual in large breeds, and from this group, it affects Rottweilers, Retrievers, the German Shepherd, and the Bernese mountain dog the most.

These symptoms characterize elbow dysplasia:

  • Forelimb lameness
  • Forelimb stiffness
  • Outward rotation of the paw
  • Reduced weight bearing on the affected limb

To treat it, the veterinarian will have to determine what is causing it. Nonetheless, the most used method to treat it is arthroscopically surgery. Furthermore, this procedure can also include removing loose cartilage and coronoid fragments.

Fortunately, the treatment is very effective and it will improve the quality of life of your dog. Just make sure to seek professional help as soon as possible.

20. Luxating Patella

Luxating patella is the name of the abnormality that happens when the kneecap dislocates from its usual position in the groove of the thighbone, also known as the femur. It is a recurrent knee abnormality, especially in toy and small breeds because they are 12 times more likely to develop it than large breeds.

Luxating patella can lead to arthritis and other orthopedic issues. In addition, it will limit the range of movement of your dog, and in consequence, diminish its quality of life. It is classified into four categories:

  1. Grade 1 (Mild)
  2. Grade 2
  3. Grade 3
  4. Grade 4 (Chronic)

These are the most common signs:

  • Licking at the knee
  • Crying
  • Lameness
  • Abnormal gait
  • Bow-legged appearance (the most remarkable trait of grade 4 luxating patella)

The treatment will depend on the grade. If it is grade 1 or grade 2, then the veterinarian will prescript rehabilitation and other conservative treatments. Nonetheless, if it is grade 3 or grade 4, then surgery will be the choice.

Top 20 most common canine health conditions. (infographic)

Now you have in your hands the full guide of the most common dog diseases. Since you have this privileged info in your hands, now you can detect these issues quickly and become a better and more responsible owner.

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