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The Most Common Health Issues Dogs Experience

The Most Common Health Issues Dogs Experience

Critter Culture Staff



When your canine bestie is under the weather, it can be stressful. Thankfully, many of the most common doggy health problems in the U.S. are preventable or easily treatable. As soon as you get a puppy, you'll want to take it for a check-up and establish a relationship with your local vet. The more time you spend with your pooch, the better you'll get at telling mild symptoms from severe ones and figuring out the issues more prevalent in your dog breed.


Ear infections

There are various causes of ear infections, including but not limited to allergies, excess moisture (swimmer's ear), yeast, hair growth in the ear canal, and parasites. Ear infections trouble about 20% of dogs, especially those with long, floppy ears like beagles, cocker spaniels, golden retrievers, and Labradoodles. You might observe your dog shake its head, paw at its ears, move its eyes strangely, or seem a bit off balance. And there may be a discharge or an unusual smell coming from the ear. Your vet will clean the ear and provide you with medicated drops to treat the infection.

adorable bracco italiano puppy scratching outdoors Ksenia Raykova / Getty Images


Dental issues

Has your dog lost its appetite and some weight recently? It could be down to dental issues. Periodontal disease can lead to gum inflammation, cavities, and loose teeth, and harmful oral bacteria can even damage organs like your heart. Bad doggy breath is not normal, and it's no joke—there's only so long you can reject your fur baby's kisses before you start to hurt its feelings. Plaque is the biggest enemy here, just as it is with humans, and an excellent oral hygiene routine and diet will spare your dog and your nose a world of pain.

Cleaning your dog’s teeth for maintaining a good dental hygiene. Daily routine when living with pets. Bonding with pets concept. Oscar Wong / Getty Images



Uh oh. Your dog's throwing up like it's come home after a bender, but you know for a fact that it's a teetotaler, so what's going on? Although vomiting and diarrhea are common among dogs, multiple bouts coupled with weakness or other symptoms should warrant a trip to the vet to prevent dehydration. Your dog might have ingested something toxic or have gastroenteritis, stomach inflammation, or a GI blockage that requires surgery. Snow melt products can cause poisoning, so watch out for those during winter walks.

Elderly Dog Catherine Falls Commercial / Getty Images


Internal parasites

Because dogs explore the world with their mouths and will taste most things, they're at a high risk of acquiring parasites like tapeworms and roundworms like hookworms and ascarids. You may notice tapeworms around your dog's anus or in your dog's stool, but a vet check-up is your best bet to confirm a diagnosis. Dogs can get hookworms in utero or via their moms' milk. Your dog will need deworming treatment or perhaps even blood transfusions in severe cases of hookworms. Lastly, heartworms come from being bitten by a mosquito with exposure to an infected dog and can cause much damage. Your vet can put your dog on a preventative treatment during mosquito season.

family give a caress to the dog franckreporter / Getty Images


Blocked anal glands

Oof, this one can be rough. Dogs have two pouches on either side of their anuses that produce a stinky liquid. This liquid marks their territory and helps them identify each other by sniffing bottoms. These sacs normally empty when your dog poos, but they can get blocked, which makes them more malodorous than usual and causes discomfort. You might notice your dog sitting down abruptly or dragging its butt along the floor for some relief. Your vet will prescribe antibiotics and possibly more fiber in the diet. Owners can learn to express the glands if the condition is chronic.

Rear of Corgi dog sticking out of duvet Westend61 / Getty Images


Kennel cough

This type of bronchitis is super contagious via airborne droplets or contaminated surfaces but often resolves within a couple of weeks without intervention. The bacterium Bordetella bronchiseptica is primarily to blame, and parainfluenza virus and coronavirus are also possible causes. If you have more than one dog, you'll need to quarantine the one doing all the high-pitched coughing and retching. And keep an eye on puppies or immunocompromised doggies who can progress to pneumonia. Antibiotics may be necessary if the infection spreads to the chest.

Wet dog was waiting with the hope to find love and warmth. Fortyfour / Getty Images



Arthritis isn't reserved for older dogs. Even younger pups can become injured or experience wear and tear in their joints, affecting mobility. When smooth cartilage deteriorates, there's less of a buffer between bones, and it hurts like crazy. Larger dogs like Rottweilers or breeds with hereditary hip dysplasia like German Shepherds are more likely to suffer from arthritis, and it can be heartbreaking to see dogs who love running and playing start to limp or wince when moving. Pain meds can help, and surgery may be an option in some cases.

A senior woman with a dog and coffee sitting outdoors on a terrace on sunny day in summer. Halfpoint / Getty Images



Excessive body fat or obesity causes many health conditions in humans and also affects a dog's quality of life. Between 30% and 60% of canines weigh too much due to hormonal issues, poor diet, or a lack of exercise. Your dog may tire quickly, sleep a lot, become less tolerant of heat, or struggle to breathe when walking. It can develop joint disease, diabetes, or heart disease too. Neutered animals are more likely to develop obesity.

Funny pug dog sitting on a flor posing vadimmmus / Getty Images



In August 2022, Michigan saw an uptick in canine parvovirus deaths. Parvovirus is a GI condition that primarily affects unvaccinated puppies. Without a swift response and treatment, dogs can die within three days of exhibiting symptoms such as vomiting and bloody stool. Parvovirus is highly contagious to other pups and spreads via dogs' hair and paws, by consuming infected feces, or by coming into contact with contaminated objects such as water bowls and clothing. Early immunizations and booster vaccines are recommended, and parvo disinfectants help too. Certain breeds like Doberman pinschers, American Staffordshire terriers, and Labradors have a higher risk of parvo.

Pet Under Blanket In The Bed. Portrait Of Sad Dog Warms In Cold Weather Aliaksandr Barysenka / EyeEm / Getty Images


Hot spots

Your dog can develop acute moist dermatitis if it scratches incessantly and licks itchy areas. These 'hot spots' get bigger quickly and often have an underlying medical cause, such as an infection, bite, or allergy, which a vet needs to treat before your dog gets an e-collar or similar barrier. You'll notice red, inflamed lesions that sometimes contain pus. These spots tend to appear near the head, hips, and legs. Regular grooming prevents matted fur, leading to airless wet conditions that hamper healing. Consider also whether your dog is getting enough enrichment. Boredom can sometimes lead to hot spots.

Cute siberian husky puppy scratching anurakpong / Getty Images


Overgrown nails

Female dogs are more likely to struggle with nail disorders. The prognosis for nail and nail bed issues is generally good, and treatment often involves antimicrobial soaks or ointments. Be sure to cut your dog's nails regularly. Overgrown nails mean potential splitting, which can be painful. And standing on long-clawed feet can give rise to lameness because the dog is forced to put pressure on the wrong parts of its paws.

human holding dog paw IRYNA KAZLOVA / Getty Images



Your dog can pick up fleas from grass or from interacting with other animals. You may notice tapeworms in your dog's feces, black spots or flea dirt on the fur, and hair loss from scratching. Fleas can suck enough blood to cause anemia in puppies or elderly dogs. They are a nuisance because your dog will look ready to bite its skin off, and once you administer vet-approved treatment, you'll have to vacuum and thoroughly clean the areas where it hangs out. This clean-up gets rid of flea eggs and prevents re-infestation.

A husky dog is resting in the green grass on a summer evening andryslukowski / Getty Images


Heat stroke

It's no secret that dogs are very susceptible to heat stroke. Many states have laws related to leaving a pet unattended in a parked vehicle due mainly to the high risk for heat stroke and death within a short period, even in shaded spots. In some states, breaking into a car is legal to rescue an animal in distress. Heat stroke can present with abnormally colored gums, lethargy, heavy panting, drooling, vomiting and diarrhea. Flat-faced breeds are at particular risk of overheating. Always err on the side of caution on hot days and take your dog for shorter walks during cooler parts of the day, water source in hand.

Black dog looking at a desk fan, enjoying the breeze. Catherine Falls Commercial / Getty Images


Pink eye

Have you ever had pink eye? If yes, you'll know how uncomfortable and unsightly it is. Dogs can get pink eye too. If Fido blinks or squints more than usual, and one or both eyes are red and swollen, it could be conjunctivitis. You may also notice a discharge from the eyes and nose in addition to coughing and sneezing, but the outlook bodes well. Your vet can help you narrow down the cause and prescribe oral or topical meds.

Close up of a dog receiving eye drops during medical exam at animal hospital. skynesher / Getty Images


Bladder issues

E Coli bacteria can cause bladder infections, but they're not the only cause. If your dog is constantly thirsty, suddenly peeing in inappropriate places, or whining when going potty, it could have a UTI. You might also want to check whether the urine is bloody or strong-scented. Your vet will conduct a urinalysis to determine the way forward.

Dog Marking Territory Lindsay Maiko Pflum / Getty Images


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