Most common dog diseases

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side view of transparent dogHealth problems are a part of life, both for humans and our pets. Here’s information on a few of the most common dogs diseases.


These are five of the most common dog cancers:


This cancer originates from the cells that form the dog’s blood vessels. It can happen in any part of the body but especially in the spleen, liver, heart and skin. If the tumor is in the liver or spleen it can rupture and cause anemia and even death. But, until this time, a dog usually will not have symptoms. If it is in the skin you will feel a lump. When it’s in the bones you can feel a swelling. Survival rates for this cancer are better when it’s in the skin. Otherwise, the prognosis is poor.

This cancer usually happens in older dogs and some breeds are more predisposed. These include Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, Portuguese Water Dogs and Skye Terriers.

The prognosis for dogs with the disease depends on where it is in the body. Life expectancy can range from a few months to several years. Veterinarians treat dogs with a combination of surgery and chemotherapy. They will use radiation for skin tumors.


This cancer attacks your dog’s lymphoid system. This is an important part of the immune system. The most common form of this cancer is in the lymph nodes where your dog will show swelling. You will find lymph nodes in the upper and lower neck, behind the front legs and in front of and behind the back legs. Other forms include cutaneous lymphoma (skin) and nervous system lymphoma.

Depending on the form the disease takes, a dog shows symptoms such as vomiting, shortness of breath and multiple lumps in the skin or mouth.

Middle age to older dogs are the most susceptible to this disease.

This is a highly treatable disease. Generally, your dog will receive treatment every other week with chemotherapy. Dogs tolerate chemotherapy quite well with minimal side effects.

Mammary Gland Carcinoma:

Unspayed female dogs risk this kind of cancer because of hormonal influence on the mammary tissue. Spay your dog early to reduce or eliminate the risks. About 50% of tumors are benign. The symptoms are a solid mass or numerous swellings in the mammary glands that grow quickly. Thus, you should treat any sign early to prevent a spread to other parts of the body.

Your veterinarian can surgically remove these masses and sometimes this is enough. Sometimes chemotherapy is necessary to stop regrowth or spread.


This cancer affects any dog but it’s most common in those with dark skin. It manifests with small, dark lumps or large, wrinkled areas on the skin. You find it in the nail beds, foot pads and eyes. However, the vast majority of tumors start in the mouth or around the lips. The first signs of this disease might be a swollen paw. Also, look for draining eyes or a sore near the mouth. Sometimes it is benign. Unfortunately when it’s malignant it’s highly aggressive and incurable. By the time it’s detected it has often spread throughout the body. Surgery is difficult or even impossible. Chemotherapy is not effective. Radiation can extend the dog’s life but will reduce the quality significantly.


This cancer originates in the bone and grows very quickly. Large breeds such as Great Danes, Irish Setters, Doberman Pinschers, Rottweilers, German Shepherds and Golden Retrievers have the most risk for this disease. Symptoms include pain, swelling, lack of physical activity and trouble breathing in severe cases. In its late stages, it will spread to the lungs. This type of cancer is painful and amputation is necessary top provide relief. After this, chemotherapy is effective in slowing down its spread. Then, a dog can live up to two years. There is research focused on the immune system and initial results show promise for longer-term survival.

Veterinarian examining dog with stethoscopeDistemper

Distemper is another of the most common dog diseases. It is a contagious viral disease that affects dogs and wild mammals. It belongs to the Morbillivirus which is a relative of human measles. The virus spreads through the air and by direct or indirect contact with an infected animal (for example, through utensils, bedding) . It first atttacks the dog’s tonsils and lymph nodes and replicates there for about a week. Then, it attacks the respiratory, urogenital, gastrointestimal and nervous systems

Symptoms include high fever, reddened eyes and watery discharge from the eyes and nose. Your dog will also be lethargic, tired and usually become anorexic. Additionally, you may also notice persistent coughing, vomiting and diarrhea. In it’s later stages, distemper will attack other systems in your dog, particularly the nervous system. At this point your dog may start having seizures, paralysis, confusion and hysteria. You may also notice a thickening in the pads of the feet and thick, horny skin on the nose.

In dogs with weakened immune systems, death will occur within two to five weeks after the initial infection.

A veterinarian will diagnose this disease with biochemical tests and urinalysis. Haired skin, nasal mucous and the foot pad are tested. MARI scans examine the brain for any lesions.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for this disease and there are no antiviral drugs that are effective. Thus, the focus is on alleviating the symptoms and keeping the dog comfortable. Your veterinarian may prescribe antibiotics and may add phenobarbital and potassium bromide to control convulsions.

Although there is no cure there is a chance for survival. This depends on the strain of the virus and the strength of the dog’s immune system. When a dog fully recovers, he does not carry or spread the virus.

Heartworm DiseaseHeartworm

This is a serious and potentially fatal disease for dogs and other mammals. It occurs in many parts of the world. In rare cases it can even infect humans. Heartworms are incredibly nasty 6″ – 10″ worms that live in the heart, lungs and blood vessels. Consequently, they cause severe lung disease, heart failure and damage to the organs.

These little devils live inside dogs, mature into adults and then produce offspring. If untreated, the number of heartworms can grow to the hundreds

Wild species such as foxes that live in proximity to urban areas carry these. When a mosquito bites and takes blood from an infected animal, it picks up microscopic baby worms in the system that develop into larvae.

Then, the infected mosquito bites a dog and he becomes the new host for them. A bitten dog will likely contract the infection. Once inside, the larvae take about 6 months to develop into adults. They can live up to seven years within the dog. Because of their longevity, they have time to reproduce in great numbers.

The American South has a disproportionate number of heartworrm cases.

In the early stages of the disease your dog may not show any symptoms. But, the longer the infection persists, the more likely symptoms will develop. These include persistent cough, fatigue, decreased appetite and weight loss. Your dog may develop heart failure and consequently a swollen belly due to fluid buildup.

Numerous heartworms within the system can cause blockages of blood flow that can lead to cardiovascular collapse. When this happens, there is labored breathing, the gums are pale and the urine turns dark. Without immediate removal of the heartworms, few dogs survive.

The American Heartworm Society recommends you test your dog every year for heartworm. The earlier you detect this disease, the more likely your dog will recover. Remember that there are few signs of the disease in the early stages so testing is vital.

The tests requires just a small sample of blood and generally results come back quickly.

If your dog tests positive, you can take comfort that most treatment is successful. Once your veterinarian diagnoses the disease, you need to restrict your dog’s activities. This is because physical activities increase the rate of heartworm damage.

Furthermore, your veterinarian may recommend antibiotics, heartworm preventatives and steroids. Afterwards, the doctor will administer a series of drug injections that kill the heartworms. This drug is an organic arsenical compound injected into the dog’s back muscles. The treatment takes about 60 days. Afterwards, the dog must be tested to find any remaining heartworms.


Parvovirus is a highly contagious viral disease and is thought to originate in cats. The current consensus is that the feline panleukopenia virus muted info Canine Parvovirus. The first observable case in dogs wasn’t until 1978.

It shows in two different forms. The most common is intestinal. It spreads by direct dog-to-dog contact, fecal contact, contaminated surfaces and the hands and clothing of people. It is even transmitted through a dog’s feet or shoes. Parvovirus is resistant to heat, cold, humidity, drying and can survive for long periods of time.

For unknown reasons, breeds such as Rottweilers, Doberman Pinschers, Pit Bulls, Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds, English Springer Spaniels and Alaskan Sled Dogs are especially vunerable to the disease.

Intestinal Parvovirus

Intestinal “Parvo” symptoms are vomiting, diarrhea, bloating, fever, low body temperature, weight loss and lack of appetite. It affects the lymph nodes and bone marrow the most along with the intestines.

If your veterinarian catches the virus quickly enough, a dog can survive. There is no specific drug available that will kill the virus in dogs. Treatment is intended to support dogs body systems in order to fight off the virus. It should start right away. It includes efforts to combat dehydration by replacing electrolytes, protein and fluid losses.

Furthermore, controlling vomiting and diarrhea is important. With early, proper treatment, survival rates approach 90%. It is highly contagious so it is necessary to isolate the dog. You should also thoroughly disinfect everything the dog contacts.

Cardiac Parvovirus

The second is Cardiac Parvovirus. This form attacks the heart muscles and causes hemorrhaging in young puppies, generally between 6 weeks and 6 months of age. This is the most deadly form of Parvovirus.  It’s not passed orally, but usually infects unborn puppies or shortly after they are born. Puppies usually die from this disease and unfortunately, there may be little warning of its presence.

Most deaths occur between 48 and 72 hours after the first signs of the disease.

The disease has been reduced radically by vaccinations in young puppies.

Periodontal Disease tooth exam

Today, this is most common disease in dogs and is entirely preventable. By the time your dog reaches three years of age, she has probably developed some degree of periodontal disease.

Periodontal disease starts when bacteria in the mouth form plaque.The plaque sticks to the teeth and subsequently minerals in the saliva harden it into tartar

The most serious problem is when this plaque finds its way under the gum line and starts to damage the supporting tissues around the tooth. Toxins secrete and these contribute to tissue damage. The result is tooth loss. In many cases, your dog will have several teeth pulled. Even worse, a weakening of the bone can cause jaw fracture.

Interestingly enough, the dog’s own protective system worsens the problem when white bloods cells move to the area. These cells are overwhelmed and release chemicals that cause damage to the tissues.

The disease is very obvious with close examination of the mouth. The signs are bad breath, stained teeth, inflamed gums, bleeding gums, receding gums, excessive drooling, nasal discharge, swelling below an eye, tooth loosening and tooth loss. However, to really evaluate the damage caused by this disease, it may be necessary to use general anesthesia for closer examination.

Unfortunately, periodontal disease in dogs is often under treated. Additionally, It can be carried around the bloodstream and cause further problems with internal organs as your dog ages.

Prevention is the key with this disease. Ideally, you should brush your dog’s teeth every day. Additionally, dogs can also chew “tooth-friendly” treats and toys that aren’t hard. These include rawhide strips and rubber balls. Frequent checkups at the vet can go a long way toward prevention.


These are a few of the most common dog diseases. It is my sincere hope that you dog will never have any of these. Of course, just like with humans, prevention and awareness are the best courses of action.

Thank you for reading. We love comments so please leave yours below along with experiences you and your dog have had with these or other diseases.


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