Pet owners talk to their dogs all day but can’t say much back. That’s why paying attention to your dog’s behavior is so important.
A mood change could point to an underlying health problem. Even though dogs seem so happy-go-lucky, they are still vulnerable to illnesses, just like we are!
What are some common dog health problems?
Dogs can suffer from many illnesses, like stomach problems, skin infections, viruses, etc. Owners can handle some of these sicknesses with preventative healthcare. Other times, you need a vet to help cure the problem.
Not all illnesses cause primary concern; you can fix some with a simple diet and lifestyle change!
Still, staying on top of your dog’s well-being is your responsibility as a pet owner. Keep your eye out for these common dog health problems to get your pup feeling as good as new.
8 Common Dog Health Problems
When I worked for a local veterinarian, I saw dogs with all sorts of problems. From rare diseases to insane injuries, we treated pups with various issues and sent them home feeling much better.
Even so, we saw the same few problems more often than others. Some illnesses would come up several times in one day! While these problems may cause owners to worry, you can relax knowing they are familiar with and have accessible solutions.
Everyone loves a chubby puppy. However, did you know that obesity is a massive problem in most domesticated animals?
Even though fat pups are lovely to snuggle with, extra weight can cause many health problems. For example, obese dogs may have more joint and arthritis issues because of the added strain on their bones.
If your dog is overweight, you’re not alone. Just look at this chart we put together with obesity statistics!
|% of dogs who are overweight1
|% of dogs who lost weight after diagnoses2
|Breeds most prone to obesity3
3. Golden Retriever
4. English Springer Spaniel
Even though obesity is a huge problem, that doesn’t mean you can’t solve it. Dogs lose weight in similar ways to humans. We’ll discuss how to solve this problem towards the end of this article.
Does your dog scratch their ears often? If so, they might be dealing with an uncomfortable ear infection.
Otitis externa, the medical term, is common in breeds with long ears, like Cocker Spaniels and Basset hounds. However, ear infections in dogs don’t discriminate; even your cropped-eared Doberman can suffer from painful ears!
Take a peek inside your dog’s ears. Do you see redness, swollen skin, or brown discharge? Does it smell bad? These are classic signs of a canine ear infection.
If your dog is suffering from otitis externa, don’t worry! There’s usually an easy fix. However, ear infections can cause permanent hearing loss if you don’t treat them quickly, so call your vet ASAP.
If you notice your pup scratching or chewing on themselves, they may struggle with skin allergies. This could also be the case if your dog sheds so much that you could make a second pet out of their fallen hair.
Dogs suffer from both food and environmental allergies. Pollen, grass, and mold may cause inflammation on their skin.
If your dog has a food allergy, it’s usually to the protein source. You may need to do an elimination diet to identify the trustworthy source of your furry friend’s itch.
Breeds with chronic skin issues may have an overabundance of yeast on their skin. If that’s the case, a specialized grooming routine and medication regimen should help ease their discomfort.
Pups of all shapes and sizes are so cute! However, this doesn’t excuse them from the occasional gross bout of vomiting or diarrhea.
Gastrointestinal problems occur when your dog ingests something they aren’t supposed to. They may also arise in stressful situations, like a move or a routine disruption. Many boarding facilities see increased diarrhea when pets spend the night in an unfamiliar place.
Vomiting, loose stool, and weight loss could also point to something more serious, like pancreatitis. You’ll need a vet to diagnose and treat serious illnesses. Never let your dog go for more than 24 hours with gastrointestinal problems before seeking help.
Do you run for the hills every time your pup tries to lick you? Puppy kisses wouldn’t be so bad if their breath weren’t so terrible!
Bad breath is usually a sign of dental disease in canines. Your dog’s breath smells bad because of plaque, tartar, and bacteria in the mouth.
Less than 2% of pet owners brush their dog’s teeth regularly, so don’t feel bad. Low-grade dental disease is easily manageable with chemical and mechanical dental chews.
Your vet will sedate your pup to treat severe dental disease and scrape off any nasty buildup. After that, it’s up to you to keep your dog’s breath minty fresh!
Microscopic criminals are taking a toll on your dog’s health, and they’re called parasites. These tiny organisms use your pup’s body as a host to steal nutrients and repopulate.
Parasites come in many different forms. For example, heartworm disease in dogs occurs when infected mosquitos transfer larvae via blood. These creepy crawlers grow in your dog’s heart and cause severe health problems.
If your dog scoots on the carpet, it may have a different kind of parasite called a tapeworm. These bugs invade your pooch’s system when they swallow a flea. Tapeworm segments exit the body through feces and may irritate the anus, causing scooting.
Parasite prevention is crucial in eliminating these pesky pests. It will help if you keep your dog from drinking from dirty water sources and eating other animals’ fecal matter. Monthly flea and heartworm medications will protect your dog from these infiltrators.
Humans aren’t the only living beings that suffer from diabetes. You might think this disease is rare in domesticated animals, but it’s more common than many realize.
Some sure-fire signs that your dog has diabetes include:
- Rapid weight loss with increased hunger
- Extreme thirst with excess urination
- Depressed energy
Diabetes often leads to kidney, liver, and eye diseases later in life. While it doesn’t have a cure, it’s easily manageable if you catch it early.
Almost all humans have experienced the common cold. Dogs also fall victim to viruses that affect their physical health.
Raspy cough, runny nose, excessive sneezing- sound familiar? While your dog might not have a cold, they could have something similar, like kennel cough or canine influenza.
Some illnesses are more serious, like the canine parvovirus. Parvo is common in puppies and is often fatal if you don’t seek medical help immediately.
The good news is that these viruses have life-saving vaccines. Your puppy will need a few rounds when they’re young and several boosters throughout their lives. However, a tiny pinch every few years is worth a lifetime of happiness with your furry friend.
How to Solve Your Dog’s Health Problems
If all of this sick talk has you worried, relax! These common dog health problems are easy to treat. Some of them have simple cures, like ear infections and skin allergies.
However, you won’t fix your pet from wishful thinking alone. You’ll need to work to get them good as new.
Monitor Their Behavior
Dogs can’t tell us verbally when they’re feeling sick. However, they can tell us about their behavior when something’s wrong.
Is your ordinarily energetic Retriever slow to move around? Does your usually hungry Boxer only eat half of his breakfast?
These are classic behavioral signs of illness that you should look out for. Dramatic shifts in mood and personality almost always indicate a deeper health problem.
Check out this video for more examples of sick behavioral signs in dogs.
Watch What They’re Eating
Food plays a massive role in your dog’s physical condition. Please take note of how much they’re eating every day. Something might be up if they skip meals or start starving after a regular portion.
The type of food they also eat matters. If your dog’s tummy is always upset, you might need to feed them a higher-quality diet.
The same goes for chronic loose stool and diarrhea. Your pooch may benefit from kibble with higher fiber levels. The same goes for chronic loose stool and diarrhea. Specialized diets for gastrointestinal problems, allergies, and diabetes can help control specific health conditions.
If your dog is obese, putting them on a diet and exercise plan will help them shed the weight. Feed them weight-conscious kibble that is low in calories and vital nutrients.
Keep a Health Log
Some owners find it helpful to keep a health log for their pets. This way, they can look back, notice any changes, and give accurate reports to their veterinarians.
Track food and water intake, bowel movements, urination, and behavior. Document dates and note how long symptoms occur. Since your dog can’t speak, a health log will help you be their voice.
Talk to a Vet
Of course, talking to a vet is the best way to solve common dog health problems. Your veterinarian has the knowledge and resources to treat any health conditions.
They’ll also help with education so you can care for your pet at home. Good healthcare starts when your pup is young; you should see your vet once a year at minimum and twice a year if your dog is a senior.
Can a sick dog give another dog an illness?
Yes! Dogs always pass parasites, bacteria, and viruses to each other. To prevent this, ensure your pooch is fully-vaccinated before taking them to dog parks and other animal-friendly places. Never bring your dog out in public while recovering from an illness.
Can dogs pass diseases to humans?
Yes! Zoonotic diseases are illnesses that humans can catch from animals, including dogs. For example, pets can pass ringworm and leptospirosis to their owners without proper treatment.
Does a dog’s breed cause health issues?
Yes! Some breeds are more prone to certain diseases than others. Cocker Spaniels are notorious for skin problems, Bulldogs for respiratory issues, and Pomeranians for seizures.
As you can see, these typical dog health problems aren’t anything to be afraid of. As long as you’re paying attention and seeking proper care, your pet will recover quickly.
Certain illnesses like ear infections and skin infections have easy treatments. You need a vet to take a look and prescribe medication.
Other health concerns, like obesity, diabetes, gastrointestinal issues, and dental disease, need a little more intervention.
Of course, viral infections and parasites are easily manageable with preventative healthcare. Regardless of your battle, talking to a vet and keeping a close eye on behaviors will set things straight.
Once you have everything under control, you can go back to spoil your furry friend with tons of love and cuddles.
- Krista Williams and Robin Downing, “Obesity in Dogs,” vcahospitals.com.
- Tony McReynolds, “Pet Obesity is an Epidemic,” ahaa.org, AHAA Publications, 2/6/2020.
- Pegram, C., Raffan, E., White, E., Ashworth, A.H., Brodbelt, D.C., Church, D.B. and O’Neill, D.G. (2021), “Frequency, breed predisposition and demographic risk factors for overweight status in dogs in the U.K.,” J Small Anim Pract, 62: 521-530.