Like humans, dogs are also prone to sickness, infections, and health issues. Since they could not express how they feel, it is up to dog owners to assess any physical or personality changes that may indicate some medical conditions that could require a trip to the veterinarian’s clinic. Being equipped with as much information as possible could help detect these signs early on to prevent serious complications.
How To Tell If Your Dog is Sick
Strange behavioral changes are one of the first indicators that a dog may be sick and needs some medical attention. Dog owners who are most familiar with their dog’s habits could tell right away if their canine friend is not feeling well. Here are some common behavioral signs:
- Sudden loss of interest in games or usual activities;
- Lack of energy or enthusiasm;
- Restlessness or irritability;
- Sudden clinginess;
- Frequent changes in position or location;
- Uncharacteristic urination or elimination.
If these sudden changes are observed, dog owners should check for accompanying physical manifestations in order to determine the underlying problem.
Common Dog Diseases
Even the most well-cared dogs are susceptible to diseases and infections. As a dog owner, you need to be aware of the common ailments that afflict canines and to be able to identify the presenting signs and symptoms so that veterinary care can be sought immediately. Here are some usual canine medical conditions and the symptoms to watch out for:
Heartworms are parasites (Dirofilariaimmitis) that live in a dog’s heart and infest the arteries. These parasites can grow to several inches and produce young ones that spread throughout the dog’s bloodstream.
A dog can get infested with heartworms when he is bitten by a mosquito with microfilaria. The larvae are deposited on his skin where they breed and enter the bloodstream through the veins. They grow into adult worms and reside in the dog’s heart. If the condition is left untreated, the dog could develop heart failure.
The symptoms of heartworm disease include persistent coughing, difficulty breathing, weakness and fatigue, depression, loss of appetite, and fainting. The illness can be diagnosed by using a simple blood test to check for the presence of microfilaria in the blood.
To treat heartworm infestations effectively, the dog usually has to be hospitalized. The vet would inject anti-heartworm drugs to kill the parasites. The treatment can be dangerous because when the adult worms die, they continue to reside in the heart chamber and the arteries where they eventually decompose. As a result, some dogs develop severe inflammation and respiratory failure that could lead to death.
Canine parvovirus (CPV) is a highly contagious viral disease that can be life-threatening. It attacks the dog’s cells and causes severe harm in the intestinal tract and the white blood cells. It can cause damage to heart muscles that lead to cardiac diseases.
It especially affects puppies and adolescent dogs that have not been immunized against the virus. Some breeds including Rottweilers, Doberman pinschers, Labrador retrievers, American Staffordshire terriers, and German shepherds have been found to be at increased risk of contracting the disease.
CPV is manifested through physical signs such as severe vomiting, loss of appetite, bloody and foul-smelling diarrhea, fatigue, fever, and enlargement of lymph nodes.
Some diagnostics need to be performed to ascertain whether a dog has been infected with CPV. These tests are:
Complete Blood Count
Dogs infected with CPV usually have low white blood cells. A result indicating below normal WBC count is indicative of the disease.
Fecal Antigen Test
The Canine Parvovirus Antigen Test Kit can detect any pathogenic strain of CPV in the dog’s fecal matter. It is highly recommended to test if puppies or unvaccinated dogs have been infected.
Currently, there are no drugs that can kill the virus. The remedies available only provide management of the symptoms to prevent secondary infections. Most dogs do not recover from the disease.
Fortunately, the infection can be prevented by vaccination which usually administered at 6 to 8 weeks of age with booster shots given until the puppy reaches 16 to 20 weeks of age.
This is one of the diseases that scare dog parents the most but sadly, it is also becoming more prevalent among the canines, especially among older dogs. Certain breeds such as Boxers, Boston terriers, and Golden Retrievers have been observed to commonly develop a type of cancer called lymphoma.
The presenting signs of this complex disease include the appearance of lumps, persistent sores, abnormal discharges, bad breath, lethargy, unexplained weight loss, black stools, loss of appetite, sudden lameness, and difficulty of breathing.
To diagnose cancer, the veterinarian has to perform a needle biopsy to collect a sample of the tissues where the lump is located. The specimen is sent to a pathologist who conducts a thorough examination to determine whether there is a malignancy and to assess the stage of the disease. Other laboratory exams such as x-rays, MRIs, CT scans, ultrasounds, urine tests, and blood tests are also helpful in arriving at the diagnosis.
Treatment options include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and immunotherapy.
Diabetes is a complex disorder that is also common among dogs. It is characterized by increased levels of blood sugar that are caused by either underproduction of insulin (Type 1) or inadequate response to insulin (Type 2). Type 1 diabetes is more common.
The symptoms of the disease include changes in appetite, weight loss, increased thirst, dehydration, increased urination, vomiting, urinary tract infections, fatigue, cataract formation, and blindness. If left untreated, complications such as kidney disease and renal failure can result.
To arrive at a diagnosis of diabetes, the veterinarian will usually order laboratory exams such as blood tests and urinalysis. Meanwhile, a test kit called the PetConfirm Canine Combo can check for conditions such as diabetes, kidney diseases, and urinary tract infection. The kit also comes with a reusable P-Scoop Urine Collector, which makes urine collection hassle-free.
Another wellness kit which is non-invasive and pain-free is the PetConfirm – Instant General Wellness Health Home Testing Kit for Dogs. It can detect blood, glucose, and protein in the dog’s urine. It is also recommended for the screening of conditions such as diabetes, kidney diseases, and urinary tract infections.
Diabetes can be managed with oral medications, insulin injections, and dietary changes.
Urinary Tract Infections
Urinary tract infections are also common among dogs, with the females being more susceptible. Infections can occur in the lower urinary tract, in the bladder, or in the kidneys.
UTIs are caused by various types of bacteria or fungi that have entered the bladder or urethra. If left unchecked, the infections could spread to the kidneys and cause serious ailments.
Among the symptoms of UTIs are frequent urination, painful urination, incontinence, increased thirst, low-grade fever, fatigue, and depression.
To detect UTI, a urinalysis is usually performed. Dog owners can also resort to home test kits such as the PetConfirm – Instant Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) Early Screening Home Urine Testing Kit For Dogs, which can detect early signs of UTI. Urine samples may be conveniently collected using the P-Scoop Extendable Dog Urine Collector.
The infections are normally treated using antibiotics to kill the bacteria. Some herbal remedies are also helpful.
When a dog has kidney failure, his body becomes unable to remove wastes from the blood. This causes toxins to build up in the blood, a condition called uremic poisoning. The disease can be acute or chronic.
Acute kidney failure occurs suddenly and is often an offshoot of a type of poisoning or a reaction to certain drugs. This type of disease is highly fatal and requires hospitalization.
Chronic kidney failure develops gradually and is more common. It is caused by a diet high in phosphorus and low in calcium. It may also occur secondarily to other conditions such as urinary tract infections, diabetes, cancer, and autoimmune diseases.
The common symptoms of acute kidney failure include dehydration, walking with stiff legs, arched back, and little or no urine output. On the other hand, chronic kidney failure may manifest signs such as increased thirst, frequent urination, pale appetite, weight loss, nausea or vomiting, constipation, and fatigue.
Kidney failure may be detected through a blood test that measures the concentrations of the blood urea nitrogen (BUN) and creatinine levels. A veterinarian may also order a urine test.
Home test kits such as those mentioned in No. 4 are helpful for homeowners who can perform the screening in their homes before going to a veterinarian for confirmation tests. Because kidney failure can be fatal, early detection through regular screening can save or prolong the dog’s life.
Treatment of kidney failure includes fluid therapy to address dehydration. Dietary changes are also necessary. The dog must be fed foods that are low in protein, phosphorus, calcium, and sodium. These foods include eggs, cottage cheese, and milk.
Dogs are also prescribed Vitamin D supplements to improve phosphorus and calcium absorption.
Rabies is a deadly viral disease that is transmitted through a dog bite or through contact with the saliva of an infected animal.
The typical symptoms of rabies include irritability, aggression, restlessness, biting or snapping, fever, hypersensitivity, loss of coordination, seizures, paralysis of the jaw muscles, paralysis of the hind legs, foaming at the mouth, excessive salivation, weakness, and loss of appetite.
There are no tests to confirm rabies in live animals so it is best to be aware of these symptoms. If the dog has been bitten by a wild animal, the veterinarian should be contacted immediately.
There are also no treatments for rabies and the infection results in death. However, the disease is preventable through vaccination.
These are some of the most common diseases that afflict canines. Knowing them helps the dog owners to recognize the symptoms and be prepared to administer the remedies when they become necessary. Also, understanding breed predispositions could provide information about what probable diseases to expect, and how to prevent them.
However, it is important to maintain regular check-ups, screenings, and vaccinations or booster shots to ensure that the pet has a strong immune system to avoid as well as combat infections. Dog owners should invest in health and veterinary services to keep their dogs healthy.
Observing proper nutrition, regular exercise, supplementation regimens, and good habits are also some of the best ways to prevent dog diseases.