Just like us humans, dogs are susceptible to illnesses as well. Whether you’ve just adopted a dog during Adopt-A-Dog-Month or are a seasoned pooch parent, please take the following into consideration. We’ve asked some of our veterinarians here at the Animal Rescue League of Boston and Boston Veterinary Care to list 5 of the most common illnesses that they come across in their work to help you be have a better understanding of your dog’s health.
1. Dental Disease affects dogs, just as it does humans. It starts off as gingivitis, which is an inflammation of the gums caused by tartar build up on the teeth, which can lead to an infection. If this goes untreated it will likely develop into periodontal disease where the roots of the teeth become infected. This can be very painful for a dog. This disease can cause pain during eating and can make your dog reluctant to eat. Ways to prevent dental disease in dogs are: to give them treats that clean teeth. Brush the dog’s teeth on a regular basis, if you can’t use a toothbrush, use your finger and apply special toothpaste as suggested by your vet. If tartar buildup occurs the dog’s teeth should be professionally cleaned by your veterinarian. *Note that small breeds tend to be more susceptible to tartar buildup.
2. Obesity, which can lead to orthopedic problems, is just as much of a concern in dogs as it is in people. Obesity in dogs is caused by a combination of factors including genetics, exercise, food management and stress. It is imperative that your dog receive the proper amount of exercise and that he/she has a healthy diet. To determine the adequate levels of food and exercise for your dog speak with your veterinarian. If canine obesity goes untreated it can lead to orthopedic problems, which can be taxing on the quality of your dog’s life.
3. Ear Infections, “also known as otitis externa, are a very common ailment in dogs” says Dr. Quigley. “Although many medical conditions can contribute to ear infections, yeast, bacteria, and allergies are some of the most common causes. All breeds of dogs are susceptible to ear infections, however the large, floppy-eared breeds tend to suffer from this condition more frequently. It is important to seek treatment from your veterinarian promptly if you see excessive head shaking or scratching or if you notice discharge coming from the ear canal.”
4. Lyme Disease is transmitted to dogs from infected ticks. The most common symptoms of Lyme disease is lameness and swollen joints that are painful to the touch, but others include weakness, loss of appetite, and weight loss. If untreated Lyme disease can lead to kidney problems and in rare cases an acute cardiac syndrome, both of which are fatal. Please note that most dogs exposed to Lyme disease do not become ill. The way to test for Lyme disease is by having your veterinarian take a blood test. Most importantly if your dog spend a lot of time outdoors they should be on a flea/tick preventative.
5. Diarrhea is characterized by liquid or loose stools and can have a short duration or can last for weeks even months. Dr. Shophet-Ratner suggests that “for simple diarrhea, the owner should [do the following:] Withhold food for a few hours. Supply the dog with plenty of water or add some low sodium chicken broth to the water. Give the dog a small amount of bland diet, more frequently. If the diarrhea continues more than 24 hours and the dog does not feel well he/she should be seen [by a veterinarian] as there are many causes of diarrhea, from parasites to poisonous plants to systemic diseases, etc.”
If you have questions that you would like to ask our veterinarians, please comment on our “Ask The Vet” blog post. We’re launching a new “Ask The Vet” section on our blog and need your input! Submit your question and it just might get be answered by one of our skilled veterinarians.