Dogs are like kids they can get sick anywhere and in order to keep them around as long as possible, it’s important to know which diseases are prevalent in dogs, what symptoms to look for and how to prevent your pup from contracting them. As a dog parent, it is important to recognize the signs and symptoms of common illnesses so you can seek veterinary help for your canine friend as soon as possible.


Heartworm is a parasitic worm that lives in the heart and pulmonary arteries of an infected animal. The worms travel through the bloodstream harming arteries and vital organs as they go ultimately completing their journey to the vessels of the lung and the heart chamber about six months after the initial infection. Several hundred worms can live in one dog for five to seven years. Common symptoms are lethargy, coughing, respiratory problems, heart disease, and weight loss. Heartworms are parasites that live in your dog’s heart, wreaking havoc on his heart, blood vessels and lungs if he gets infected. Heartworm is spread by mosquitos and has been reported in all fifty states, not just places with dry climates. Buying preventative medication is comparable to buying insurance while you may not want to spend money on it now, it’s better than not being able to afford a crisis later.

Kennel Cough

Kennel cough is a term loosely used to describe a complex of respiratory infections both viral and bacterial that causes inflammation of a dog’s voice box and windpipe. It’s a form of bronchitis and is similar to a chest cold in humans. Its symptoms are easily identifiable heavy coughing, gagging and lethargy. This disease is a highly contagious respiratory infection that causes inflammation and irritation of the airways. It’s called kennel cough because it’s a disease that can spread rapidly through animals in close proximity like shelters, dog parks, boarding kennels and doggy day cares by direct contact with an infected animal, coughing or sharing of contaminated bowls or blankets. While all dogs are at risk, puppies, unvaccinated dogs and older dogs are more likely to get kennel cough due to their weaker immune systems.


Symptoms are fever, lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration and weight loss. Canine parvovirus is a highly contagious viral disease that can produce life threatening illness. Parvo is another highly contagious virus that infects dogs that come in contact with the fecal matter of a sick dog. And, sadly, parvo’s easy to spread but hard to cure, once it attacks a dog’s internal organs.


Rabies is one of the most common disease in dogs and can be transmitted from dog to humans, it’s a viral disease that may affect the brain and spinal cord of all mammals, including cats, dogs and humans. This preventable disease has been reported in every state except Hawaii. There’s good reason that the very word “rabies” evokes fear in people once symptoms appear, rabies is close to 100% fatal. Its prognosis are fever, pain, tingling or burning at the wound and hyperactivity. It’s the disease that took Old Yeller. Rabies caused by the rabies virus, spread by a bite or saliva from an infected animal, and fatal once an animal gets it and starts showing symptoms. Due to its severity and that it’s easily spread to humans, many cities, states, parks and groomers require dogs to have the vaccine.


Although the name suggests otherwise, ringworm isn’t caused by a worm but a fungus that can infect the skin, hair and nails. This highly contagious disease can lead to patchy areas of hair loss on a dog and can spread to other animals and to humans, too. Some of the possible symptoms to this disease are runny eyes, fever, coughing, vomiting and paralysis.

Canine distemper

Canine distemper, sometimes called hardpad disease is a disease that causes its victims with a hardens dogs’ noses and footpads. Also note that it is an extremely contagious viral disease that’s transmitted through airborne exposure or contact like shared food bowls. While all dogs are at risk of contracting canine distemper, it predominantly affects puppies and dogs that are especially prone to airborne viruses.

Lyme disease

Symptoms are pain, loss of appetite, fever and limping. This disease is caused by a bacterium that comes from tick bites (most commonly deer ticks) and once it’s in the blood stream, it spreads to the joints and causes pain for your pup. And if left untreated, lyme disease can be fatal.
Lyme disease can be treated with antibiotics and prevented by getting him vaccinated and checking his body for ticks after outdoor exposure.


Symptoms are fever, muscle tenderness, lethargy, dehydration, vomiting and jaundice. This disease is caused by contact either directly or through a sick dog with Leptospira bacteria, which can be found in soil and natural water like streams, lakes, or rivers. The American Veterinary Medical Foundation (AVMA) says dogs can also come in contact with the bacteria in infected urine, urine contaminated food or bedding or a bite from a sick animal. Although vets can treat leptospirosis by providing antibiotics and supportive care, it’s easier to prevent by simply getting your dog vaccinated. If your dog ever comes in contact with the outside world, you should consider it.

Kidney disease

Although kidney disease may be rare in dogs but we should be watchful of the signs: Symptoms: weight loss, increased urination and thirst, loss of appetite and vomiting. One in ten dogs will develop kidney disease, said Dr. Roberta Relford, Chief Medical Officer of IDEXX Laboratories. “Normally, healthy kidneys are able to eliminate protein wastes, balance body water, salts and acids to produce high quality urine,” she said. “However, as dogs age, kidney disease can compromise these activities.” Although kidney disease is more often seen in older dogs and cannot be reversed or cured, its progression and debilitation can be slowed as soon as it’s found and treated.

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