Some pretty common dog diseases (and how to avoid them in the first place)

No matter how much we try to take care of our buddies, it still hard when they suffer in silence and can’t tell us what’s wrong. I’ve had my fair share of panic attacks with Bella.

Here’s how you can prevent potential health problems and their risk factors based on past experience (and relevant research). The following are the most common yet preventable dog diseases:

Parvovirus a.k.a. Parvo

Ideally, most dogs shouldn’t be infected by this as it’s part of their essential vaccination.

It happens when your pooch gets in contact with the poop of a contaminated dog directly or indirectly. Puppies in breeding facilities or shelters are mostly exposed to this risk.

Symptoms include severe diarrhea and weight loss, vomiting, and lethargy. The chances of survival is very low.

Parvo is largely preventable by vaccine, similar to other diseases e.g. distemper, hepatitis, and rabies.


Gastric Torsion a.k.a. Bloat
Does your dog wolf his food down quickly? Then he may be at risk of bloat, which is basically an enlarged stomach. This can become complicated if the stomach starts turning, preventing fluid and air from escaping the stomach.

Symptoms are sudden but noticeable e.g. Retching and the inability to vomit, enlarged stomach area, restlessness and salivating

Bloat can affect any dog at any age but certains breeds are more susceptible to it – Large breeds, deep-chested dogs like Great Danes, German shepherds, boxers, Labrador retrievers, bloodhounds, and weimaraners. Mid-size and smaller dogs aren’t at much risk except for basset hounds and dachshunds which also have long, broad chests.

Having your dog eat slowly generally reduces the risk of bloat. Alternatives include time-releasing food bowls, or a toy ball which your dog has to knock around to get the food out. This stimulates your dog’s mind while forcing him to eat slowly—a win-win.


Kidney Disease a.k.a. Renal Failure

Kidney disease can develop on its own over a dog’s lifetime or as a complication from medications or other diseases e.g. Lyme disease.

Unfortunately, kidney disease that develops over a pet’s lifetime—a.k.a. chronic kidney disease—is not often preventable. Dogs with a genetic predisposition for kidney failure are most at risk.

Dental disease, which is one of the causes, can be prevented. Bacteria from the dog’s gums can enter the bloodstream and damage vital organs like the kidneys in the advanced stages of dental disease.

So keep those chompers clean!


Lyme Disease

This tick-borne illness is a highly preventable disease. It is caused by a bacteria transmitted by slow-feeding deer ticks that have been attached to the dog for at least 18 hours. It’s the most common form of tick-related illnesses.

The number one symptom is lameness in limbs that can shift from leg to leg over a period of time as well as stiffness and decrease in appetite.

If not caught, Lyme disease can lead to kidney problems—even kidney failure.

Treatment is through antibiotics and although symptoms are usually resolved in four weeks, they may not always fully go away.

Keeping your dog away from tick-prone areas and checking your dog for ticks are always good ideas, but tick medicines are the most effective way to prevent Lyme disease so as other tick-borne illnesses.

There are topical medicines to repel and kill ticks you put directly on your dog’s fur, like Frontline and K9 Advantix. There are also pills, like NexGard, and even collars your dog can wear, like Preventic. Just keep in mind the effectiveness of topical medicines decreases through the month, especially if your dog goes swimming or bathing. Year-round prevention is best.


Heartworm Disease

Would you rather pay for heartworm medication now or costly and painful treatment later? Unfortunately, most people choose the latter even though preventative meds are fairly inexpensive.

All it takes for your dog to get heartworm is a single bite from an infected mosquito. So folks with mozzie infected areas, careful.

Ddry climates used to be considered safe from heartworm, but the disease has been reported in all 50 states. Better to be safe than sorry, especially considering the involved treatment. Dogs with severe cases will not always survive.

Consult your vet to see which is best for your dog that needs to be tested first before giving the preventative medication and make sure there is no heartworm.


Chocolate Poisoning
Pretty much everyone knows dogs can’t eat chocolate. But surprisingly, a good number of dogs still manage to get their paws on it which makes it the most common cause of poisoning in dogs.

The type and amount of chocolate that a dog eats are the two main issues. Even mall pieces can affect a dog but the worst is dark chocolate.

Symptoms of chocolate poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea, pacing, panting, and shaking. More serious cases could cause an irregular heart beat, seizures, heart attack, or even death. If you think your dog has eaten any chocolate, do not wait to take him to the doctor.

Chocolate poisoning symptoms can last up to 72 hours.



Several types of canine cancers seem to be on the rise. A staggering 50 percent of dogs aged ten and older develop some form of cancer, and it’s the leading cause of death of dogs in this age group.

The faster you detect and treat cancer, the better the chances of survival. If you notice a change in your dog’s behavior or habits, mention it to your vet right away.

Some signs of cancer include unusual odors, lumps on the skin, weight loss, change in appetite, and lethargy.

At the moment, lymphoma is the most treatable cancer.


The bottom line is that it’s best to arm yourself with the knowledge of common pooch diseases, and learn how to prevent them.

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