As a devoted dog owner, your furry friend’s health and well-being are probably top of mind. But with so many potential health issues facing dogs, it can be tough to know what to watch out for or how often you should have your pup checked out by the vet.
To help, we’ll walk you through the most common dog health problems and teach you how to spot the most important signs and symptoms of more serious illnesses.
Common Health Issues in Dogs
As a dog owner, it’s important to keep an eye out for common dog health issues. The top things to watch for are:
- Skin problems: Things like hot spots, rashes, or excessive scratching can indicate issues like allergies, infections, or parasites. Check your dog’s skin regularly, and take them to the vet if you notice any abnormalities.
- Arthritis: If your dog is limping, having trouble getting up or lying down, or seems stiff, they may have arthritis. Arthritis is common in older dogs, but simple treatments like medication, physical therapy, or acupuncture can help improve mobility and relieve pain.
- Dental disease: Bad breath, drooling, or trouble eating can signal dental problems in dogs. Take your dog for regular dental checkups and cleanings to help prevent painful tooth decay and infections.
- Digestive issues: Vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, or bloating are signs of potential issues with your dog’s digestive system or diet. While an occasional upset stomach is usually not an emergency, frequent or severe symptoms warrant a vet visit.
By keeping a close eye on your dog and taking them for regular checkups, you’ll get to know what’s normal for them and be able to spot any potential health issues.
Below, we’ll begin to break down some of these common issues, as well as some of the more serious illnesses, diseases, and dog health problems you’ll want to watch out for. We’ll also flag some of the more dangerous symptoms, so you can learn when to seek more immediate help for dogs with health problems.
Is Vomiting a Serious Health Issue for Dogs?
Is your dog vomiting more often lately? As a dog owner, it’s normal to worry if this is one of the more serious dog health issues; but the truth is, occasional vomiting usually isn’t cause for alarm and can even be caused by something as simple as eating too fast.
However, frequent vomiting can be a sign of an underlying health problem and should be checked out by your vet.
- If your dog vomits more than a couple times in a day or a few times a week, it’s best to call your vet.
- Watch for other symptoms like diarrhea, loss of appetite, or lethargy, which can indicate a gastrointestinal issue and require treatment.
- Make sure your dog is staying hydrated by drinking water. Dehydration is dangerous and may warrant a medical emergency.
While scary, most cases of acute vomiting will pass within a day or two. But when it comes to frequent or persistent vomiting, it’s best not to wait — call your vet right away for advice and schedule an appointment.
Diarrhea in Dogs: How to Treat It and When to Call the Vet
If your dog has diarrhea for more than a couple of days, it’s time to bring them in for a checkup. Prolonged diarrhea can lead to dehydration, electrolyte imbalance and weight loss. It can also indicate possible issues, like changes to organ functioning.
It’s especially important to contact your vet right away if you notice any of the following symptoms in your dog:
- Blood or mucus in the stool
- Lethargy or weakness
- Loss of appetite
- Straining to defecate with little or no stool production
Your vet will want to examine your dog and may run some tests to determine the underlying cause, such as:
- Parasites (like giardia or worms)
- Bacterial infection
- Viral infection
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Dietary indiscretion (eating garbage or table scraps)
- Certain medications
The vet will recommend the appropriate treatment, which may include antibiotics, dewormers, a prescription diet, or IV fluids. They can also suggest remedies to help relieve discomfort from diarrhea, like probiotics, pumpkin, or over-the-counter medications.
How Can Fleas, Parasites and Worms Hurt My Dog?
While it may feel natural to group all these creepy crawlies into one category, the reality is that every critter can present its own danger to your dog. So to make things easier, we’ve broken the warning signs, dangers, and suggested treatment schedule down for each creature below.
Fleas are tiny parasites that feed on your dog’s blood and can very easily make your dog miserable, causing incessant scratching, restlessness, and skin infections. Fleas also transmit tapeworms and other diseases.
To prevent fleas, apply a monthly topical flea prevention, or give your dog an oral flea control medication recommended by your vet. These treatments contain pesticides that kill fleas and their larvae without harming your dog.
It’s best to treat all pets in the household to prevent re-infestation. You should also wash any bedding weekly in hot, soapy water to kill fleas and larvae.
Vacuum frequently to pick up flea eggs, and consider using a flea spray, especially in heavily carpeted areas. Check your yard for shady spots with loose dirt or sand, as these places are ideal flea habitats.
Parasites and Worms
Intestinal parasites like roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, and tapeworms can easily infect your dog. Puppies often get roundworms from their mother, and these parasites can rob your dog of nutrients while also causing vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, and other issues.
Have your vet check a stool sample to determine if your dog has worms. They will then prescribe a deworming medication, usually given orally as a liquid or chewable tablet.
Puppies should be dewormed every 2-4 weeks between 2 and 12 weeks of age, then monthly until six months. Adult dogs should be dewormed 1-4 times a year based on your vet’s recommendation.
Keeping your dog on a regular deworming schedule, along with flea prevention, will help keep intestinal parasites (and the diseases they carry) in check, which will ensure your dog can enjoy an active lifestyle.
Eye and Ear Infections: How to Spot and Treat Them in Dogs
While red, itchy eyes may be a telltale sign that something is wrong, some infections can hide further below the surface.
Ear infections are common in dogs, especially those with floppy ears. You may notice your dog scratching or shaking their head or see a foul-smelling discharge coming from its ear.
Take your dog to the vet right away for an exam, as they may be able to quickly prescribe a simple treatment like antibiotic ear drops. You can also prevent ear infections by checking and cleaning your dog’s ears regularly with a vet-approved cleanser.
Eye infections can cause red, irritated eyes, excessive tearing or discharge, squinting, or rubbing of the eyes.
Some eye infections like conjunctivitis are highly contagious between dogs, so isolate your dog and call the vet. They can examine your dog’s eyes and may prescribe antibiotic eye drops or ointment to clear up the infection.
Arthritis in Dogs: Signs, Symptoms, and Treatment
If your dog is slowing down, has trouble getting up, or seems stiff, arthritis could be the culprit. Arthritis is common in dogs, especially seniors, so watch for these signs:
- Difficulty climbing stairs or jumping into the car
- Limping or stiffness after rest that improves with movement
- Decreased activity or interest in walks
- Swelling or warmth in the joints
- Licking or chewing at joints
- Trouble with balance or coordination, especially in environments with unsure footings, like beds and furniture.
Your vet will examine your dog and may order X-rays to check for joint changes, but additional blood tests can also help rule out other issues. The earlier arthritis is diagnosed, the sooner treatment can start to slow its progress and help make your dog more comfortable.
Managing Arthritis Pain
There are many options to help relieve arthritis discomfort in dogs, and many of them will revolve around basic exercise. This may seem surprising, as, of course, too much exercise can also exacerbate the issue, but too little exercise can also worsen your dog’s condition.
This is because movement and activity are key for your dog’s health, as they can help them build and maintain strong circulation. Activity, in turn, pumps oxygen and improves blood flow across the body to soothe aching joints.
In addition to exercise, consider the following:
- Weight Loss: Losing excess pounds reduces stress on the joints.
- Physical Therapy: Exercises that stretch and strengthen muscles around the joints will help relieve pain.
- Medications: Pain meds, steroids, or supplements may be options if your vet suggests them.
- Alternative Therapies: Acupuncture, massage, or laser therapy may provide relief for some dogs.
With proper treatment and care, dogs with arthritis can live comfortably for many years. By recognizing the signs, getting a diagnosis, and working closely with your vet on a treatment plan, you’ll be taking the best steps to keep your dog active and pain-free.
How Often Should You Take Your Dog to the Vet?
As a responsible dog owner, you should take your canine companion for regular vet checkups, especially for annual exams. These wellness visits allow your vet to thoroughly check your dog’s health and make sure everything looks normal.
Early detection of health issues is critical, so annual exams after your dog’s first year of life are highly recommended. From there, your vet may suggest specific medications, routines, or practices that can help your dog live their best life.
Of course, there’s no better way to find help for dogs with health problems than by consulting your vet, so make sure to always speak with a professional if you suspect something may be awry.
Pet Boarding for Older Dogs and Dogs With Medical Needs
If your dog has already been diagnosed with a common health issue, it’s important to only board them with a qualified professional who can ensure your pup has all the tools, space, and attention they need to maintain their usual routines.
Of course, if your pup is already ‘living their best life,’ it’s even more important to ensure that they have access to clean, safe spaces when it’s time to play with other dogs or spend a night away from home while you’re traveling.
So look no further than Greenlin Pet Resorts. Their team offers everything from puppy daycare to dog boarding, plus fun play and train days where your dog can learn essential skills while socializing with other dogs.
Our highly trained staff is able to accommodate senior dogs as well as dogs with special medical needs. Learn more about our services and the personalized packages we offer when you reach out to one of our six locations in Central Pennsylvania.