If you are a dog parent or considering becoming one, it is important to understand some of the common diseases found in dogs and be familiar with the common symptoms. This will allow you to keep an eye out for early warning signs and find veterinary support as soon as possible.

Heartworm

Heartworms are parasitic worms transmitted between animals via mosquitoes that can be fatal if not properly treated. Heartworms live in your dog’s heart and arteries and travel through the bloodstream to harm vital organs. Once infected, one dog can have several hundred heartworms residing in them for up to seven years.

Common signs of heartworm to look out for include coughing, vomiting, weight loss, fatigue, and labored breathing. If you notice any of these signs, take your dog to your vet immediately for a blood test and treatment.

You can easily prevent heartworm with a chewable pill or topical medication available through your vet. These are inexpensive and keep your dog safe from heartworms. Additionally, dogs should be regularly tested for heartworms via their yearly blood work.

Kennel Cough

Kennel cough encompasses a few different respiratory infections that are highly contagious and can be passed directly from dog to dog through the air or on shared objects. The mix of viral and bacterial infections causes inflammation of the windpipe and voice box, similar to a chest cold.

Common symptoms of kennel cough include a dry cough (usually accompanied by a “honking” sound), gagging, fever, and nasal drip. Kennel cough can clear up on its own, but you should consult your veterinarian on the best course of treatment. Always isolate your dog from other dogs immediately if you think they may have kennel cough.

Kennel cough can be prevented through vaccines available at your vet. We also recommend avoiding exposure when possible. Many dog daycares and kennels will not allow dogs that have not been recently vaccinated for kennel cough.

Ringworm

Ringworm in dogs is caused by a fungus on the skin, hair, and nails and is easily contagious. It can spread to other dogs and humans by touching the infected areas.

Common symptoms of ringworm include crust bald spots on the skin and skin lesions, although in some cases, dogs may not show any signs at all and still be carrying the fungus. If you suspect your dog may have been exposed to ringworm, see your vet as soon as possible to avoid further exposure to other dogs or humans.

Your vet will use ultraviolet light or culture to diagnose whether it is ringworm. They may prescribe shampoo, ointment, or oral medications for treatment if it is.

Rabies

Rabies is caused by a virus and can infect all mammals, including humans. It can be transmitted via a bite from an infected animal, and once infected, rabies is almost always fatal. Dogs often contract rabies from a wild animal or an outdoor, unvaccinated dog or cat.

Symptoms of rabies may take up to eight weeks and include changes in behavior, biting, snapping, attacking things, irritation at the bite locations, fever, hiding, foaming at the mouth, loss of appetite, paralysis of the throat, jaw, or hind legs, or seizures. There is currently no treatment for rabies once symptoms appear, resulting in death.

Rabies can be prevented through vaccination, which is required by law in many areas. It is also essential to prevent your dog from interacting with wild animals and always supervise them when playing outdoors.

Parvovirus

Parvovirus is a highly contagious virus that attacks white blood cells and can cause lifelong cardiac issues when infected at a young age. The virus can damage the heart muscles and be potentially life-threatening, especially in young dogs. It is very contagious and can live on the surface of objects for months at a time.

Common symptoms of parvovirus are vomiting, lethargy, loss of appetite, and bloody diarrhea. Medication is currently unavailable to treat parvovirus, and infected dogs usually need to stay at a hospital for intensive treatments for up to a week.

Parvovirus can be prevented via a vaccine. If you experience an infection in your home, thorough cleaning and disinfecting of all surfaces and objects is necessary to prevent reinfection.