Dealing with Dog Health Problems

The best way to respond to dog health problems is to be fully aware of numerous diseases all dogs are susceptible to, and to act fast when our pet gets ill.

Unfortunately, since animals can’t talk, it’s often very difficult to tell whether our pet is ill.

Even if you know something is wrong with your pet, do you know what it is? Do you know how to recognize the symptoms of dog diseases?

To complicate things further, a lot of dog health problems are due to hereditary diseases common to some group of dog breeds. Not all breeds are susceptible to the same diseases but there is at least one disease that affects every dog breed.

Are you aware of dog diseases that could affect your pet's health? Visit dog breeds for breed-specific information, including potential health issues.

Let's take a look at some...

Common Dog Health Problems and Diseases

So, how can you tell if your dog is sick?

Learn more about How to Keep your Dog Healthy

Please note that while the following list includes some of the most common dog illnesses and diseases, it does not include every single dog health problem.

Dog Health Problems you Need to be Aware of...

Addison's Disease Elbow Dysplasia Lyme Disease
Arthritis Entropion Obesity
Asthma Food Allergies Parvovirus
Bloating Glaucoma Pancreatitis
Cancer Hearing Problems Rabies
Congenital Heart Disease Heat Stroke
Dental Diseases Hip Dysplasia  
Diarrhea and Loose Stools Hypothyroidism  
Distemper Kennel Cough
Ear Infections Kidney Stones


Addison's Disease

The disease is caused by a deficiency of certain hormones released from the adrenal glands. The signs of this condition vary depending on how much of each hormone is missing.

Learn more about How to Keep your Dog Healthy

Common symptoms of this disease include vomiting, weight loss, increased thirst, excessive urination, loss of appetite, and lack of energy. Bloody diarrhea is also possible.

One of the dog breeds with increased risk of developing Addison's is the Standard Poodle.


Arthritis is one of the common dog health problems. It affects one in every five adult dogs and is one of the most common sources of chronic pain that veterinarians treat. Some of the most common symptoms of this dog health problem include:

  • Difficulty standing or sitting
  • Favoring one or more limbs
  • Decrease in activity, including play
  • Hesitancy to run or jump

There is a wide range of treatment options available for treating arthritis. Discuss them with your veterinarian.


Asthma is a condition where air passages in the lungs fill up with mucous. This leads to the obstruction of the airways and causes spasms. While this condition may occur in all dogs, it's more common in younger pets.

Common symptoms include coughing, distressed breathing and, rarely, purple tongue. The condition is often caused by certain fragrances, second hand smoke, and various pollutants.

Veterinarian will need to perform various tests to rule out other dog health problems before Asthma can be correctly diagnosed.


In bloat, the stomach fills up with air and puts pressure on the other organs and diaphragm. Filled with air, the stomach can easily rotate on itself, thus pinching off and disrupting the entire blood supply. Once this occurs, the stomach begins to die.

The condition occurs when a dog swallows too much air but does not release it. Some of the symptoms are a swollen belly, restlessness, abdominal pain, and rapid shallow breathing. Another sign is when a dog appears to be vomiting, but nothing comes up.

Even with treatment, almost 1 in 4 dogs will die. Without treatment, bloating can kill a dog within several hours after occurring.

Some of the dog breeds with increased risk of developing bloat are: Great Dane, Weimaraner, Irish Setter and the Standard Poodle.


Cancer is one of the most, if not the most, serious dog health problems.

There are many diseases that are classified as cancer. The condition involves any type of malignant tumor that invades the surrounding tissues and spreads throughout the body via the bloodstream.

Some of the symptoms include persistent swelling, decreased appetite and weight loss, lack of energy, and bleeding, especially during defecating. There too many symptoms of cancer. If you suspect something is wrong with your pet, bring him to a vet.

The Boxer is one of the breeds most susceptible to cancer.

Congenital Heart Disease

Unlike acquired heart diseases that develop over time, a congenital heart disease includes several different heart diseases that already exist when a dog is born. Congenital heart disease is one of the biggest dog health problems in young dogs.

Symptoms include coughing, shortness of breath, fatigue, difficulty during breathing, and weight loss.

Diagnosis is based on physical exam, X-ray, ultrasound as well as angiocardiography (dye injection). Treatment and prognosis depends on the actual disease and how advanced it is.

Dental Diseases

If not the most common, this has to be one of the most common dog health problems. To learn about dental diseases in dogs, and how to keep your pet's gums and teeth strong and healthy, visit dog teeth cleaning.

Diarrhea and Loose Stools

Diarrhea is a condition that occurs when the intestines become irritated. When this happens, food travels through the digestive system too quickly, resulting in insufficient moisture, and nutrients, being absorbed.

Diarrhea may be caused by changes in diet, eating garbage, bacterial infection, and internal parasites.

While this is one of the most common dog health problems and may appear harmless, it may also be a symptom of something serious. Contact your veterinarian if the problem persists for more than 24 hours.


Distemper is highly contagious viral disease. It affects the gastrointestinal, central nervous and respiratory systems. The virus is transmitted through air and body secretions.

As many as 3 out of 4 infected dogs may die. Needless to say, this is one of the most serious dog health problems, especially with puppies under 6 month of age.

Early symptoms of the disease include loss of appetite and fever. As the disease progresses, symptoms become more serious, and include coughing, vomiting, diarrhea, nasal and eye discharge, and seizures.

There is no specific treatment for distemper. Therapy is mainly supportive. The best defense against canine distemper is early vaccination.

Ear Infections

Ear infections are pretty common, especially in dogs with heavy earflaps. Infections are caused by bacteria that grow inside a dog's ear. This usually happens when the ear's normal environment changes.

Symptoms of an ear infection include pawing at the ear, head shaking, redness, and foul smell coming out of the ear.

Learn more about How to Keep your Dog Healthy

To prevent infections, follow your veterinarian's advice on ear cleaning. Also, prevent water from getting in dog's ears when bathing your dog.

Elbow Dysplasia

Elbow dysplasia is a general term used to identify an inherited disease in the elbow of dogs.

The symptoms include limping and avoiding putting weight on one of the front legs when walking.

Treatment varies depending on the abnormalities that are present. In some cases, a low-impact exercise program may be sufficient. In more extreme cases, a surgery may be required.


Entropion is a condition in which the eyelids fold inward. As a result, eyelashes rub against the surface of the eyeball, causing great discomfort. The condition may affect one or both eyes.

Without treatment, the condition may lead to eye infections and, in extreme cases, blindness.

The only way to correct the condition is through surgery.

This dog health problem most commonly affects the Bloodhound, Pug, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Great Dane, Saint Bernard, Irish Setter, Boxer, Akita, Chow Chow, Rottweiler, Labrador Retriever, Springer Spaniel, Shar Pei, Bullmastiff, Neapolitan Mastiff and Cocker Spaniel.

Food Allergies

This is one of the most common dog health problems. Food allergies account for almost 1 in 10 cases of all allergies in dogs.

The foods most often responsible for causing an allergic reaction include dairy products, corn, chicken, beef, wheat, and soy.

The most common symptom of an allergic reaction is excessive itching. Other symptoms include hair loss, ear infections, rashes, hot spots, and difficulty breathing.

Before a food allergy may be diagnosed, all other causes need to be ruled out.

Once the cause of the allergy is identified, the treatment is straightforward. The veterinarian will prescribe either a commercially available or a homemade special diet.


This is one of the most common dog health problems related to eyes. Glaucoma occurs when pressure inside an eyeball exceeds normal level. Without prompt treatment, permanent damage to the eye structure and loss of vision may occur.

Symptoms of glaucoma include a red or bloodshot eye and cloudy cornea. Another symptom is when one eye seems larger or protrudes more than the other.

The only way to know for sure if your pet has glaucoma is to have the eye pressure measured by a veterinarian. The treatment depends on the severity of the problem.

Hearing Problems

Deafness and hearing loss in dogs can be hereditary or caused by blocked ear canals, ear infections, or a ruptured eardrum. The most common symptom is when your pet stops responding to your commands or familiar noises.

Some of the breeds suffering from hereditary deafness are the Dalmatian, Border Collie, English Setter, Collie and the Rottweiler.

If your pet shows any of the symptoms, bring him to a vet for an evaluation.

Heat Stroke

A heat stroke occurs when a dog's internal temperature rises to levels high enough to lead to death. A heat stroke may occur when a dog is exposed to heat in a confined space with poor ventilation.

Signs include rapid panting, bright red gums, warm dry skin, and vomiting. Unless a body temperature is reduced quickly, coma or death may follow soon thereafter.

If a heat stroke occurs, dip your dog in a tub filled with cold water. Massage the skin to encourage circulation. Bring your pet to a veterinary hospital as soon as possible.

Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is a hereditary problem generally found in larger dogs. It occurs when the upper ball portion of the dog's hind legs doesn't fit properly into the hip socket. This causes the instability within the ball-and-socket joint, which in turn leads to the destruction of the bone.

Common symptoms include reluctance to move, arthritic pain, lameness, and hip pain. The symptoms may be more pronounced on cold days.

Several treatments, including hip replacement, are available.


Hypothyroidism is another one of the common dog health problems. The thyroid gland has many different functions but is most known for controlling metabolism. The hypothyroidism is the condition that occurs when not enough thyroid hormone is produced.

The condition is most common in medium to large dogs between the ages 5 to 10 years. Breeds that are predisposed to this condition include Miniature Schnauzer, Irish Setter, Golden Retriever, Doberman and Cocker Spaniel.

Symptoms include trouble gaining weight, obesity, lethargy, skin problems, and cold intolerance. The diagnosis is made by administering one of several tests.

The disease is easily treated with a daily dose of synthetic thyroid hormone.

Kennel Cough

Kennel Cough is the term applied to the most common of respiratory dog health problems.

The disease is highly contagious and usually spreads through airborne bacteria and viruses excreted by infected dogs. Dogs are usually infected when kept in a warm, crowded place with poor ventilation.

The most common symptom is a harsh cough that sounds like something is stuck in dog's throat. In more severe cases, symptoms include lethargy and fever. Most severe cases can progress to pneumonia.

Infected dogs are usually treated with antibiotics. Vaccination is also available.

Kidney and Bladder Stones

Kidney and bladder stones are composed of mineral deposits. There are several types of stones, each one composed of different materials. Kidney stones are not as common as bladder stones.

Several factors, including wrong diet, bacterial infection, and low acidity of urine can play a role in the formation of stones. The most common symptoms of stones include difficulty urinating, frequent urination, blood in urine, and cloudy urine.

X-rays and ultrasound are used to determine not only the presence of stones but also their size and location.

In most cases, stones can be dissolved with special diets. Stones may also be flushed out. If nothing helps, they may be removed surgically.

Lyme Disease

Many falsely believe the disease is caused by ticks. That's not true. Ticks only act as carriers of the bacteria that cause the disease. While Lyme disease in dogs has been reported in every state, certain geographical areas are much more likely to harbor bacteria-carrying ticks than others.

The symptoms of Lyme disease in dogs occur much later than they do in humans. Some of the symptoms include a fever of between 103 and 105°, swelling in the joints, lethargy, and leg lameness.

Treatment consists of using antibiotics for at least 14 days. Most doctors recommend a 30 day cycle.


Obesity is one of the most common dog health problems. Overweight dogs have an increased incidence of arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, ulcers, and cancer. They also live less. The risks are too numerous to list all of them.

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Your veterinarian can design a diet to bring your pet's weight down to a normal level.


This is a deadly and highly contagious viral disease that attacks dog's digestive system. The virus spreads through contact with infected fecal material and is difficult to kill.

Some of the symptoms include fever, vomiting, bloody diarrhea, and lethargy.

At this time, there is no treatment specifically for the Parvovirus. The treatment usually involves hydrating the dog, providing anti-vomiting medications, and antibiotics. Vaccination is the best way to prevent the disease.


The Pancreas has two functions: production of enzymes that are necessary for the digestion of food and production of insulin that is necessary for the metabolism of sugar. Acute pancreatitis is an onset of pancreatic inflammation.

The condition may be caused by metabolic disorders, high levels of calcium in blood, infections, a diet high in fat, and obesity. Older dogs appear to be at a higher risk of developing pancreatitis.

Symptoms include fever, vomiting, lack of appetite, stomach pain, diarrhea, and greasy stool.

Unless recognized early, acute pancreatitis can be a life-threatening condition.

The condition is more common in Yorkshire Terriers than other breeds.


Rabies is a viral infection that is not limited to just dogs. All mammals, including humans, can get infected.

The virus is transmitted by the bite of an infected animal. It infects the central nervous system and causes a brain infection, leading to death.

There are no symptoms early in the infection. As symptoms begin to appear, a dog may become irritable and bite without being provoked. In later stages, a dog may become uncontrollably angry. In final stages, muscles that control breathing stop functioning and death follows.

While no treatment is available after the symptoms appear, a vaccine is available.

Additional Dog Health Problems

A lot of dog health problems are caused by internal and external parasites. To learn why they are so dangerous, and how you can protect your pet from them, visit...

  Tick Bite Prevention Worms in Dogs
  Tick Bite Symptoms Dog Mites
  Removing Ticks Dog Parasites

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Puppy Training

As a dog owner, you are responsible for your puppy's health. A good source for dog health information, including puppy care and preventive medicine, how to protect your pet from worms and ticks, dog food, and how to recognize if your pet needs immediate medical attention, is the Ultimate Guide to Dog Health.


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Dog Health Problems » Dog Health Care

I hope you will find this information useful and it helps you to recognize some common dog health problems your pet may be experiencing. However, if you suspect your pet is ill, immediately contact your veterinarian.  He or she will be able to help you decide the best course of action when it comes to caring for your pet.

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