Whether you’re new to dog ownership or want to brush up your knowledge, having an understanding of common dog illnesses is an important part of being a responsible dog parent.
We all love our pets: from tiny Chihuahuas to Great Danes, and every breed in between. Whether they’re intelligent or dopey, cuddly or shy, our dogs deserve the world. That’s why, here at Swinton Insurance, we’re encouraging all dog owners to familiarise themselves with the most common illnesses in dogs. Being armed with this knowledge could save your pooch’s life!
Speak to a vet as soon as possible if you are worried about your pet. Some vet appointments are available at short notice, and even if your pet becomes ill after hours, it’s possible to speak to an emergency vet (although you should be prepared to pay more than the average price for this service).
Please note: Although the information in this blog is correct, it is not a substitute for professional veterinary care. All pet owners who suspect that something is wrong with their dog should seek the advice of a vet immediately.
Most common health problems in dogs
1. Dental disease
Owners should regularly check their dog’s teeth and gums for infection or signs of disease. Dental disease is a painful issue, and if it goes untreated, it can result in problems with the kidneys and can even lead to heart disease.
Poor dental hygiene is the leading cause of tooth and gum disease in dogs — so brush your dog’s teeth daily and give them dental chews to ensure that they stay healthy.
Pain or difficulty eating
Plaque and tartar
Red or bleeding gums
Wobbly, missing or broken teeth
Swelling on the face
If you suspect that your dog has dental disease, you should immediately get them checked over by a vet. Your dog may be prescribed anti-inflammatory pain relief to make them comfortable, as well as antibiotics to fight infection. In bad cases, some dogs may require dental surgery to remove teeth. In these cases, your dog will need a general anaesthetic.
Dog obesity is a huge problem for UK pet owners, and it can have long-term effects. Being obese can put your dog at risk of health problems and is likely to shorten their lifespan.
Each breed of dog will have a different ideal shape and weight, so familiarise yourself with what your particular dog needs so that you can recognise if your dog is starting to put on weight.
Lack of exercise
The best way for your dog to lose weight is to decrease their calorie intake and increase the amount of exercise they do. Try stepping up from one walk a day to two, and with the advice of your vet, look to decrease portion sizes and change feeding times. You can also begin to try different types of treats.
As with anything to do with your pet’s health, it’s always a good idea to consult a vet, who can suggest a diet for your dog and will support you throughout the weight loss process.
3. Ear infections
Ear infections are the second most common health problem that dogs may face, and male dogs are at a higher risk of having an ear infection than female dogs may be. Many things can cause an ear infection, including ear mites, skin problems or excess ear wax.
dog ear infections only affect the outer ear canal, but if they are left untreated, the infection can spread into the middle or inner ear and become more difficult to remedy.
Loss of balance
If you suspect your dog has an ear infection, you should contact your vet straight away. This painful infection needs prompt treatment to ensure that your four-legged friend can feel their best.
Your vet may prescribe ear drops, anti-inflammatory pain relief, antibiotic tablets, or treating the underlying cause. Although you may be instructed to clean your dog’s ears, you should never use cotton wool buds — this can make the problem worse. Always take your vet’s advice on how to clean their ears.
Arthritis is a common condition that can result in stiff or swollen joints. It can be very painful and can result in reduced mobility. Arthritis will get worse over time, so it must be treated to slow the disease’s progression.
Whilst most bones in a joint have a smooth surface, an arthritic joint has an uneven surface, which means that the bones rub together — causing pain to your dog. Over time, arthritic joints become thickened with the production of new bone.
Narrowing of the hips and rear
Some breeds of dogs are at a higher risk of arthritis than others. Labradors, German Shepherds and Springer Spaniels should all be monitored for arthritis. However, sensible exercise may alleviate the risk.
If you suspect your dog to have arthritis, visit a vet to receive a proper diagnosis and to work out a treatment plan. Your dog may be prescribed anti-inflammatories, joint supplements, hydrotherapy or even surgery to remedy the issue.
Just like humans, dogs can develop allergies. Allergic reactions are triggered by day to day encounters with allergens.
If you believe your dog is suffering from an allergy, you must seek urgent veterinary attention. Whether it’s a skin allergy, a food allergy or a severe allergic reaction, being aware of the symptoms could save your dog’s life.
Diarrhoea or excessive flatulence
If you suspect your pet is having any type of allergic reaction, you must seek urgent veterinary assistance. Acting quickly can save your pet’s life.
Less worrisome symptoms will result in your dog being prescribed medication like steroids or antihistamines before being monitored. However, if your dog is experiencing severe reactions, they will need intensive lifesaving treatment via a fluid drip.
6. Kennel Cough
Kennel Cough is an infection of the airways that can cause a bad cough in dogs. Some dogs may also experience a high temperature or a loss of appetite as a result of the condition. This is a contagious condition, and so dogs with suspected kennel cough should be kept away from other pets in the home, as well as staying away from public areas.
Persistent hacking cough
Most dogs that have kennel cough will recover at home within 1-3 weeks, without any medication.
However, if your dog appears unusually unwell, you should visit your vet. The vet may prescribe anti-inflammatories for your dog. In most cases, antibiotics will not work to treat kennel cough as the illness is caused by a virus.
Vomiting and diarrhoea can be common symptoms in dogs, often caused by eating something harmful. However, there are many causes to consider, so careful monitoring is vital to ensure that the problem doesn’t get out of hand.
In most cases, vomiting and diarrhoea will clear up without treatment within 24 hours, but some cases will require treatment from a vet.
Twisted stomach (GDV)
If your dog has diarrhoea or has vomited once, but is otherwise behaving normally, you may want to try treating them at home. This means feeding them a bland diet in small portions, as well as rehydrating them with plenty of water. Once your dog is feeling better — usually 1-2 days — you can begin to give them normal food again.
However, if the period of diarrhoea and sickness is lasting longer than this you should seek veterinary treatment, as your dog may quickly become dehydrated and weak.
Conjunctivitis refers to the swelling of the eye — a symptom that can be caused by many different illnesses such as bacterial infection, allergies or injuries. If your dog has red, itchy or weeping eyes, they likely have conjunctivitis.
If your dog has anything wrong with their eyes, you should immediately contact a vet. Your dog’s sight is crucial to the way that they live their lives, so don’t take any risks.
Pink or red eyes
Not eating properly
If you notice that your dog is suffering from any of the above symptoms, you should immediately contact a vet. Conjunctivitis can have long-term effects including damaged sight or the loss of an eye, so you must have this treated in the right way. Your vet will be able to check for the cause of conjunctivitis to treat the root of the problem as well as the symptom.
If you have noticed wet patches on your dog’s bedding or fur, they may be suffering from incontinence. It’s important to know that even in an older dog, incontinence is not normal.
Discomfort when passing urine
Urinating more frequently than usual
Stiffness in the back legs
Licking back end
Drinking more than usual
Changes in appetite
Incontinence can often be a symptom of another problem. To treat it, a vet will need to find the root cause. Many muscles and nerves may affect the urinary tract, so whether it’s a congenital problem, a urine infection or a spinal issue, it’s important to get a proper diagnosis and treatment from a vet.
The Kennel Club Back Office, n.d. Common health problems in dogs. Available at: <https://backoffice.thekennelclub.org.uk/health-and-dog-care/health/health-and-care/a-z-of-health-and-care-issues/common-health-problems-in-dogs/> [Accessed 30 June 2021].
Royal Veterinary College VetCompass, 2021. Get brushing: Dental disease tops the list of most common problems in UK dogs, according to new study by the RVC. Available at: <https://www.rvc.ac.uk/vetcompass/news/get-brushing-dental-disease-tops-the-list-of-most-common-problems-in-uk-dogs-according-to-new-study-by-the-rvc> [Accessed 30 June 2021].
Mills, G., 2021. What are the most common disorders in dogs?. Veterinary Record, [online] 188(5), pp.170-171.[Accessed 30 June 2021].
Royal Veterinary College VetCompass, 2019. New evidence for health-related welfare prioritisation of canine disorders. Available at: <https://www.rvc.ac.uk/vetcompass/news/new-evidence-for-health-related-welfare-prioritisation-of-canine-disorders> [Accessed 30 June 2021].
O’Neill, D., James, H., Brodbelt, D., Church, D. and Pegram, C., 2021. Prevalence of commonly diagnosed disorders in UK dogs under primary veterinary care: results and applications. BMC Veterinary Research, [online] 17(1). Available at: <https://doi.org/10.1186/s12917-021-02775-3>.
Royal Veterinary College VetCompass, 2018. RVC collaborates to reveal health issues in different dog breeds. Available at: <https://www.rvc.ac.uk/vetcompass/news/rvc-collaborates-to-reveal-health-issues-in-different-dog-breeds> [Accessed 30 June 2021].