Dog illnesses come in all shapes, sizes and disguises!
And if your puppy or dog gets sick it’s worrying, even frightening.
Plus, because he can’t tell you how he feels (or what hurts) it can often be tricky to figure out what’s wrong!
To make matters worse, a young puppy or un-vaccinated dog can get very sick, very fast.
And many symptoms can be the same in the early stages of both minor AND major illnesses.
Of course your pup is totally dependent on YOU to get him the help he needs to get better.
So it’s hugely important to learn how to recognize the symptoms of various illnesses, diseases or conditions……… and to have a plan of action in place, just in case the worst happens.
Why prevention is the key to keeping your dog healthy and safe
There are a handful of symptoms of dog illnesses that crop up over and over again.
Sometimes they’re a sign of something simple such as a tummy upset from last night’s raid on the kitchen trash, but they can also be the early warning signs that a serious, even deadly, disease is taking hold.
If you’re a first time dog owner it’s almost impossible to know the difference, and even with years of experience ‘under your belt’ it’s still very tricky.
I always tend to err on the side of caution and get a professional veterinary opinion if one of my ‘babies’ isn’t feeling well and I’d strongly recommend that you do the same.
Taking a ‘wait and see’ approach MIGHT be okay, but it could literally cost your puppy or dog his life if he has something serious like Parvo. I definitely wouldn’t advise taking the risk!
Here’s a quick overview of the most common signs of dog illnesses that you might see….
And here’s a look at what some of these symptoms could mean….
Runny nose – Eye discharge – Fever – Cough
Parvo is an extremely contagious viral disease that attacks the intestines, lymph nodes and bone marrow. Rarer variety can attack the heart resulting in sudden death.
Easily transmitted through contact with infected feces, either directly or on shoes, hands etc. Black and tan breeds such as Doberman Pinschers and Rottweilers tend to be especially vulnerable, as are Pitbulls.
This disease is probably the biggest threat to a young, unvaccinated puppy’s health and one that claims the most lives during those early months.
Symptoms: include extreme lethargy, loss of appetite, and severe vomiting and diarrhea (often bloody) which results in dehydration.
Treatment: is mainly supportive and relies heavily on intravenous fluids to counteract dehydration and intravenous antibiotics to attack sepsis infection.
Coccidiosis is one of the parasitic dog illnesses which affects the intestinal tract of puppies (most often seen in pups between 2 and 12 weeks of age).
Caused by the presence of the coccidian protozoa. Transmitted through feces. Many adult dogs and puppies are carriers of this disease but don’t show symptoms and eventually build up an immunity to it.
If a young puppy is stressed, or unwell, this disease can ‘flare up’ as a result.
Symptoms: include diarrhea, often pale grey to white in color and very smelly! Vomiting, lethargy and loss of appetite are common. These can be mild to severe.
Treatment: is supportive, with fluids being given to combat dehydration. Plus the use of a sulfa-based anti-biotic to treat the disease, usually a 5 – 7 day course.
Canine Coronavirus is a highly infectious viral disease that affects the intestines. Transmitted through feces.
Symptoms: include diarrhea, lethargy, loss of appetite and dehydration.
Treatment: is supportive and concentrates on treating the dehydration.
Canine Distemper is a highly contagious viral disease. Can be transmitted through discharge from eyes or nose, through the air, or on shoes, hands etc.
Affects the lungs, intestines and central nervous system.
Symptoms: include runny nose or eyes, coughing, vomiting and/or diarrhea, lethargy, loss of appetite. Can advance to include partial paralysis or seizures and behavioral problems.
Treatment: is basically ‘supportive care’ such as encouragement to eat, fluid administration, antibiotics and veterinary care for seizures.
Giardia is another parasitic dog illness, also sometimes known as ‘Beaver Fever’.
Caused by protozoa Parasites called Giardia, which are found in rivers, streams, lakes and other bodies of water that contain traces of animal feces.
Symptoms: Many dogs with Giardia are ‘a-symptomatic’ which means that they don’t show any symptoms, but continue to ‘carry’ and transmit the disease. However, the main symptom is diarrhea, which is often watery and foul-smelling. Vomiting, weight loss and lethargy may also occur.
Treatment: antibiotics are required, and the most commonly used medications are Metronidazole (known as Flagyl) and Fenbendazole (Panacur). Both are effective, but your pup may need more than one round of treatment to eliminate the problem. Giardiosis can be transmitted to humans, so avoid swimming in water that could be infected, and follow excellent personal hygiene precautions if your dog gets this disease.
Highly contagious viral disease which affects the liver.
Starts in tonsils, spreads to lymph nodes, bloodstream and liver. Can be transmitted through urine, feces and saliva.
Symptoms: are similar to Distemper. Severe cases can progress rapidly and cause sudden death.
Treatment: is supportive care which may include IV fluids and medications.
Canine Kennel Cough is a highly contagious bacterial and/or viral infection which affects the upper respiratory system. Transmitted through saliva or nasal discharge.
Symptoms: a persistent hacking cough, sneezing, nasal discharge, sometimes fever.
Treatment : in mild cases can just be supportive, but in severe cases or when secondary infections are present (such as pneumonia) antibiotics are used.
Leptospirosis bacterial disease affecting the urinary system, including liver and kidneys. Mainly transmitted through infected urine.
Symptoms: include loss of appetite, vomiting, lethargy, fever. More advanced symptoms include jaundice, increased thirst and dehydration due to frequent urination.
Treatment: early antibiotic treatment can lessen the severity and/or duration of this illness.
Ringworm is a fungal infection (NOT worms) which affects the skin and hair.
Symptoms: circular patches of hair loss and red, inflamed or scaly skin. If left untreated these patches can eventually spread across the dogs’ whole body.
Treatment: Medicated shampoos and dips. Sometimes oral medications are also prescribed.
Lyme Disease is a bacterial infection that’s transmitted to your dog through the bite of an infected deer tick.
Can affect the heart, kidneys and joints.
Symptoms: include swollen and/or painful joints, limping, lethargy. A ‘bullseye’ type rash may appear at the site of the tick bite, but is unusual in canine lyme disease.
Treatment: is usually several weeks on antibiotics
A highly infectious viral infection of the respiratory system. Easy airborne transmission through coughing and sneezing.
Symptoms: include a runny nose, cough and fever.
Treatment: is mostly supportive, with antibiotics being given for secondary infections.
One of the most well-known dog illnesses.
A severe and usually fatal viral disease that affects the brain and nervous system. Transmitted through saliva. Once symptoms appear this illness is always fatal to both dogs and humans.
Symptoms: are behavioral and usually include unusual, irrational and frenzied aggression (if your dog was very shy you may see a increased affection or acute shyness if previously friendly). You may also see lack of co-ordination, seizures and the classic foaming at the mouth.
Treatment: There is no treatment for Rabies and the disease is always fatal.