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10 Common Dog Diseases & Treatments

June 30, 2023

10 common dog diseases treatments

Dogs are just as prone to infectious diseases as we are and can also pick up bacterial and viral infections from the environment. Most can be treated, but preventing your dog from contracting or suffering the worst effects of these diseases is the better way to go.

Prevent Your Pup From Catching These 10 Common Dog Diseases

A healthy diet and lifestyle is the foundation of a healthy dog life. This includes feeding your dog a high-quality diet, providing unrestricted access to fresh water, and ensuring they get plenty of exercise. As with humans, healthy dogs have a better chance of healing from any potential disease or injury. The second priority is observing annual veterinarian checkups; observing the AAHA’s guidelines for vaccines is the foundation of supporting your dog’s long and healthy life. 

Here are 10 of the most common dog diseases and illnesses, many of which can be prevented with routine vaccinations.

Kennel cough (bordatella)

If you’ve ever tried to board your dog or have them groomed, you know that a Bordatella vaccination is a prerequisite. This respiratory illness- the doggie version of bronchitis - is transmitted from dog to dog like a common cold in humans. They can catch it through airborne particles from a fellow canine’s cough or sneeze and from sharing food and water bowls or each others’ toys. 

Dogs with kennel cough have a persistent, dry, and hacking cough. Healthy dogs fight it off on their own in two to three weeks. In the meantime, they must be warm, dry, well-fed, rested, and separated from other dogs.

Canine distemper 

Canine distemper is another contagious dog virus that is preventable with vaccines. Unfortunately, unlike kennel cough, canine distemper is commonly fatal. It’s spread through airborne viral particles and direct contact with secretions from an infected dog.

Symptoms of distemper include fever, runny eyes and snotty nose, vomiting, diarrhea, coughing, and seizures. Unfortunately, there is no cure for distemper other than taking good care of the patient and hoping their immune system can overcome it.

Canine parvovirus

Canine parvovirus (parvo) is a gastrointestinal disease. It’s highly fatal, particularly in puppies and young dogs, which is why the puppy shot series is essential. It’s spread when dogs come in contact with each other’s saliva or other body excretions, via shared water and food bowls, fecal matter, toys, from people’s hands when they pet infected and then healthy dogs, etc. Parvo viruses also remain alive in the soil for long periods of time.

Like kennel cough, boarding kennels, pet sitters, groomers, and doggy daycare locations require doggie clients to be vaccinated for parvo. Symptoms of parvo include vomiting, fever, and severe diarrhea that can become bloody. Treatment is possible but very expensive, and many dogs die anyway. So if you are wary of vaccinations, this is one worth discussing with your vet.

Kidney disease

This disease can be managed with diet and exercise. While not contagious, some breeds are more prone to developing kidney disease (German shepherds, bull terriers, English cocker spaniels), and it’s not uncommon for dogs to develop kidney disease during their senior years. 

Symptoms of kidney disease include weight loss, pale gums, changes in water intake, reduced urine flow or dark urine, and breath that has a chemical smell. Your veterinarian is the best resource for treating kidney disease, which often involves changing to a kidney-friendly diet and feeding your dog smaller meals more often.

Canine influenza

There are a variety of flu viruses that cause doggie flu. There are vaccinations to protect dogs from some of them, but most canine influenza resolves on its own in healthy dogs. That said, it is contagious, so pay attention to your dog’s body language. If they show signs of the flu (lethargic, coughing, sneezing, and snotty nose), it’s worth checking in with the vet. These symptoms also mimic kennel cough, so confirmation is key either way. Keep your dogs at home, away from doggie parks and other social settings, and they’ll typically recover independently.


If you have an older dog or a dog with kidney disease, you may be familiar with pancreatitis as they frequently accompany one another. Pancreatitis is an inflammatory response in the pancreas. It makes dogs very sick, causing a lack of appetite, loss of interest in activity, and upset stomachs. 

Some of the most common risk factors or causes associated with pancreatitis are high-fat diets, too many human-food snacks, obesity, hereditary predisposition to metabolic issues, cancer, surgery or trauma, and the ingestion of known canine toxins (chocolate, organophosphates, lilies, zinc, etc.). Treatment for pancreatitis requires fasting, IV fluids for hydration, pain medications (typically anti-inflammatories), and medicine to help with related diarrhea or vomiting.

Poisoning or ingesting toxic substances are also common dog diseases

Dog poison comes in many guises. There are the obvious ones, like antifreeze, fertilizers, and herbicides, or any poisons used to kill snails, slugs, rodents, etc. However, most dogs are poisoned by unknowingly ingesting things their owners exposed them to, like chocolate, grapes/raisins/currants, macadamia nuts, sweets containing xylitol, and so on.

We know it’s hard to resist, but your dog is better off eating dog-specific food and treats. Giving them human food puts them at risk for toxicity due to ingredients you didn’t realize were poisonous.

Ear infections

Trapped moisture and bacterial growth create the perfect storm for ear infections. Certain breeds are particularly prone to them, like retrievers, spaniels, and hounds. Dogs that grow hair rather than fur (like poodles) are also susceptible if their ears aren’t groomed regularly. This is a simple example of why choosing the right dog breed for your lifestyle is critical. It’s difficult for everyone when a dog’s breed-specific and instinctual needs aren’t met.

Signs of an ear infection include repeated shaking of the head (hence the ears), scratching the ears, or rubbing them repeatedly along the floor or ground. They may whine or groan more than usual. You’ll also notice a foul odor coming from their ears. A trip to the vet and prescription drops are the standard fix, and your vet may also provide tips for preventing ear infections.


Dogs are involuntary hosts to several parasites, some of which take their toll on a dog’s health. This includes:

  • Tapeworm
  • Roundworm
  • Hookworm
  • Heartworm
  • Ticks
  • Fleas

Most veterinarians prescribe a tasty treat-like medication, taken once a month, to eliminate these parasites. You can also use a monthly pill to prevent worms while using monthly topical treatments to repel fleas and ticks year-round or as the seasons dictate.


Dogs do not have sweat glands. As a result, they only regulate body heat by panting, via their paw pads, nose, and ears (another reason to keep those ears clean and hair-free), staying in the shade, sleeping during the warmest portions of a hot day, standing or lying in the water, and drinking plenty of water. If they are hot for too long, they suffer from heatstroke, which can be fatal. Dogs with short noses or smushed faces are particularly vulnerable. 

If you like to bring your dog everywhere with you, including car rides while running errands, we advise you to leave them at home on days that creep into the 70s or higher. A car that feels remotely warm to you can feel like an oven to a dog without access to all its desired cooling mechanisms. Signs of canine heatstroke are excessive panting, drooling, anxious behaviors, dark red or even purple gums, and collapse. Without immediate cooling and support, dogs die quickly from heatstroke.

Alternative Canine Training Supports Healthy Dogs & Owners

The Alternative Canine Training team supports dogs and owners to be as healthy and happy as possible. It starts with selecting the right dog for your household, providing them with a healthy lifestyle, using a preventative care approach whenever possible, and ensuring they’re well-trained and socialized in a variety of settings. Contact us for assistance with any or all of the above.

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