Dog Health – Common Health Problems in Dogs and How to Have a Healthy Dog
Nobody likes feeling sick, right? Your furry companion is no different. Dogs rely heavily on their owners to ensure that they stay in peak health, which is why you should at least be familiar with some of the common health problems dogs have and how to deal with them.
The Healthy Dog
Apart from addressing health problems as they arise, there are other things that you can do to ensure your dog’s health and wellbeing.
- Keeping your dog at a healthy weight: Your dog’s health can be negatively affected if they’re either under or overweight. While the health consequences of being underweight are obvious, the Veterinary Centers of America (VCA) suggests many people fail to consider the health aspects of having an overweight animal. Speak to your vet if you think your pooch isn’t at their ideal weight.
- Exercise: Dogs need exercise, no matter the breed. Some dogs do require more exercise than others, but even the laziest couch potato will benefit from an hour or two half-hour walks per day. Not only is it good for their physical wellbeing, but it’s also important for their mental health as well.
- Vaccinate: Many very harmful infectious diseases can affect dogs, including distemper, parvovirus, rabies, and kennel cough. Luckily, these can be prevented by a simple vaccination that will keep your dog protected.
- Prevent parasite infections: Dogs are susceptible to many different types of parasites, from intestinal worms to ticks, fleas, and heartworms, all of which can make your dog very sick. There are many medications on the market that can help keep your dog free of these parasites, so speak to your vet about your options.
- Sterilize your canine: There’s a lot of misinformation about spaying or neutering. Many people avoid neutering their dogs due to concerns about their ability to play and how sterilization affects their personality.
Sterilization has no impact on your animal’s personality and will, according to a study by the Sydney School of Veterinary Science, curb many unwanted behaviors, such as humping and running away. It also prevents the development of several cancers and other health problems, such as uterine infections and prostatic hyperplasia.
Common Dog Health Problems
There are some health issues that crop up in dogs of all sizes and breeds. While they may not be lifethreatening, they can result in discomfort and pain for your furbaby, so it’s essential to keep an eye out for the signs that your dog may not be feeling 100%.
Ear infections have a number of causes, ranging from ear mites, hair growth, and even allergies. The symptoms are relatively similar in all cases and include:
- Head shaking
- Lack of balance
- Redness of the ear canal
- Discharge from the ear
- Bad smell coming from the ear
In most cases, your vet will be able to treat an ear infection by cleaning and medicating the ear canal using a specialist liquid.
Dogs can pick up worms from anywhere, and worms can have a pretty severe impact on their health. In fact, some worm infestations, such as hookworm or heartworms, can be fatal in puppies. Keep an eye out for symptoms, including:
- Unexplained weight loss
- Change in appetite
- Just looking worse overall
Treatment of worms tends to include a course of oral medication followed by a checkup. You can use a dewormer to prevent worms, but once your dog has actually picked up a worm infestation, it’s a good idea to visit the vet for medication specifically targeted at the worm your pooch has picked up.
Hot spots are a common skin condition that can appear unexpectedly and result in severe skin infections. Many hot spots are caused by simple irritations that your dog has licked and chewed to pieces, which has allowed bacteria to start infecting the wound.
Hot spot treatment will depend on the severity of the hot spot and how much pain your furbaby is in. Don’t leave these spots alone and hope they’ll go away, as they tend to stick around and often require specialist care.
Dog Anxiety: Is it Curable?
It’s a completely natural response for any animal to feel fear, especially when they’re being threatened. However, some dogs take anxiety to an entirely different level, and a dog with severe anxiety can develop a whole host of unhealthy and dangerous behaviors.
Some dogs will only show a fear-based response in reaction to some form of stimulus, either a loud noise or strange situation that they aren’t familiar with. Dog anxiety, on the other hand, is a chronic condition where your K9 is constantly anticipating future unknown dangers.
Anxiety can be caused by a vast array of factors, including a lack of puppy socialization, genetics, traumatic experiences, and even age-related health conditions. One of the most common forms of anxiety is separation anxiety. It is more common in dogs that have either had multiple owners, have been abandoned or neglected, or have been rehomed recently.
When it comes to addressing anxiety in dogs, there are multiple approaches to help your dog deal with fear. When you speak to your vet, they’ll first perform tests to ensure that the anxiety isn’t due to an underlying medical condition, such as brain or adrenal disease. Afterward, they’ll discuss a variety of options with you, depending on your pooch’s particular situation.
In some cases, anxiety can be managed by anti-anxiety medication, but the American Kennel Club also recommends treatment include behavioral treatment such as counter-conditioning and desensitization. The good news is that these treatments are actually quite effective at reducing anxiety in dogs. However, treatment often takes six months to a year and requires an owner who is willing to put in the time and effort to help cure their dog’s anxiety.
Arthritis in Dogs
Most dogs will develop arthritis in their old age, especially if they aren’t of a long-lived breed. Arthritis can be caused by calcium deposits in joints, areas with missing cartilage, and even instances of scar tissue, all of which can leave your dog in pain.
Unfortunately, canines are their own worst enemy when it comes to arthritis. As they are very good at hiding their pain, the signs of arthritis are challenging to detect. It’s only when the pain becomes severe that you’ll notice that your dog is limping or sensitive on a particular joint.
Unfortunately, the only treatment for arthritis is to surgically treat the joint, which is why many dog parents choose to manage the condition instead. There are numerous treatments that can reduce joint inflammation and pain without surgical intervention. The underlying issue will remain, but your dog will be much more comfortable.
Your vet may prescribe a number of different treatments, all aimed at reducing inflammation of the joint as well as managing pain. These can include:
- NSAIDs, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. These are commonly used to treat arthritis in dogs, but it’s important to note that the FDA cautions NSAIDs for human use can have serious side-effects in your K9 companion. Stick to doggy NSAIDs prescribed by your vet.
- Corticosteroids. In the short-term, corticosteroids are great at reducing inflammation and swelling, but long-term use has been shown to have serious side effects, including additional joint damage.
- Physical therapy. Many types of physical therapy can help improve your dog’s mobility and comfort, especially when used in combination with other medications.
Hip Dysplasia in Dogs
Hip dysplasia is a common ailment in larger dogs, and some breeds seem to be more predisposed to developing dysplasia than others. Hip dysplasia is caused when the hip ball and socket joint is malformed. This leads to a loose joint which can easily pop out, and eventually, the joint becomes completely non-functional.
In addition to genetic factors, environmental factors can play a role in the development of the disease. These factors can include nutritional factors which lead to a massive increase in weight, which puts a strain on the hip joint. If your dog has been injured and hasn’t been able to walk, the decrease in pelvic muscle mass can also promote the development of hip dysplasia.
Treatment for hip dysplasia depends on the severity and progression of the disease. Physical therapy is usually a good start for most dogs, followed by weight control and finally, surgery of the joint.
Seizures are an extremely scary health problem in dogs and are, unfortunately, the most common neurological health issue found in dogs. Dog seizures can vary in causes, types, and severity. How you treat the seizure will usually depend on what type of seizure it is.
The most common type of seizure is the grand mal, which is generalized throughout the body. The dog loses consciousness and then begins to convulse. The entire episode can last between a couple of seconds and a couple of minutes.
Focal seizures are less dramatic and are usually limited to one limb or one side of the body. In some cases, these seizures can then progress to grand mal seizures.
Finally, according to a study by the Department of Veterinary Biosciences at the University of Helsinki, psychomotor seizures result in strange behavior, such as your dog attacking an imaginary object or chasing their tail. It can be hard to tell if your dog is having a seizure or just being a goof, but these seizures will always result in the same behavior. If you notice any new, unusual behavior, it’s best to see your vet—better safe than sorry, right?
Seizures can be caused due to a large variety of health or environmental factors. Common causes include:
- Liver disease
- Kidney disease
- Electrolyte issues
- Poison ingestion
- Brain cancer
The treatment will depend on the type of seizure your dog has, as well as the cause of the seizures. In many cases, your vet will prescribe anti-seizure medication to help manage the condition if they’re unable to address the root cause.
Cancer in Dogs: What You Need to Know
If you’ve got an aging furbaby, you need to be on the lookout for cancer. Cancer is the leading cause of death in dogs aged ten and up, but if identified early, can be curable.
Cancer develops as the DNA in cells gets gradually damaged over time. This damage results in several processes in the cell going wrong, which results in cancerous cells which then multiply rapidly and take over the body’s resources. The Merck Veterinary Manual postulates this may be why cancer is more common in older dogs and those that have a genetic susceptibility to a certain form of cancer.
Symptoms of cancer in dogs are very similar to the symptoms of cancer in humans. Usually, cancer will start as a small lump or a wound that doesn’t heal. By taking your pooch to the vet the moment you notice something unusual, you can hopefully identify the cancer before it’s too late.
CBD Oil for Dogs: What are the Benefits?
Since the legalization of hemp, CBD oil has rapidly become the trendiest catch-all cure for many conditions. CBD oil is derived from hemp and contains a cannabinoid called cannabidiol. This compound has been shown to treat pain and reduce anxiety in humans.
While there have been no formal studies about the effects of CBD on dogs, there is plenty of anecdotal data to suggest that CBD is effective in managing pain and controlling seizures in dogs. It also has a relaxing effect, which can help calm anxious dogs.
If you’ve got a K9 companion that suffers from chronic pain, seizures, or anxiety, CBD oil for dogs can be a good supplement to their existing treatment plan. However, it is important to note that the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) poison control line notes overdose can cause minor complications. Be sure to speak to your vet about the benefits, correct dosing, and risks of using CBD oil for your pooch.
Summing it Up
A healthy dog is a happy dog, which is why it’s essential to keep a vigilant eye on your dog’s health. Dogs are really good at hiding their pain, so it’s up to you to make sure that they stay healthy and well looked after.
Many people are reluctant to go to the vet with minor health issues, assuming that either the vet will laugh at them or that the price of healthcare will be too high. This is a mistake. Don’t be shy to visit your vet whenever you suspect your pooch has a health issue—many problems can quickly spiral into something more severe.
Being aware of the health problems your dog could encounter is the first step to a healthy pooch— and you’ve made it—but you can also continue your research by checking out more of the in-depth health-related articles here on K9 Kare.