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9 most common dog illnesses

Do you know what to diseases to look out for in your pooch? How can you spot the most common ones, and how can you treat them?

Dental Disease

Dental diseases in dogs are common and can significantly affect their well-being. Just like humans, dogs are susceptible to different conditions that can cause discomfort and complications if left untreated. One of the most common dental problems in dogs is periodontal disease: inflammation and infection of the gums and supporting structures of the teeth. This condition is caused by a buildup of plaque and tartar, leading to bad breath, bleeding gums, tooth loss, and even infections of internal organs if bacteria enter the bloodstream. Regular dental care, including brushing their teeth, providing appropriate chew toys, and scheduling professional dental cleanings, is crucial in preventing and managing dental diseases in dogs and promoting their overall oral health.

Want to know more about how to brush your dog's teeth? Read our post on Dental Hygiene.

Ear infections

Ear infections are another common health concern among dogs and can be really uncomfortable. Infections can happen in the outer, middle, or inner ear, often because of bacteria, yeast, allergies, foreign objects, or hormonal imbalances. Long and floppy ears (like spaniels or beagles) that aren't exposed to fresh air are even more vulnerable to infection. If your dog has an ear infection they might scratch or rub the affected ear, shake their head. The inside of the ear might be red or swollen, have a bad smell, and be sensitive to touch.

Quick veterinary attention is crucial to treat infections before permanent damage is done. Treatment might include cleaning the ears and medications like antibiotics or antifungal agents. Regular ear cleaning can help prevent ear infections and promote a dog's ear health.

Skin Infections

There are various types of skin problems that can affect dogs caused by bacterial, fungal, and parasitic infections. Bacterial infections can happen when the skin's natural defenses are weakened due to allergies or injury. Fungal infections, such as ringworm, can lead to round patches of hair loss and skin irritation.

Roundworm is quite infectious and can be passed on to people. Parasitic infections, like mange caused by mites, can cause intense itching, hair loss, and skin lesions.

Treatment options may include creams or pills, and medicated baths. Regular grooming, a clean environment, and parasite prevention can help reduce the risk of skin infections in dogs.

Joint Pain

Joint issues in dogs are a common health concern, especially in older or large breed dogs. The most common joint problem in dogs is osteoarthritis. Over time, wear and tear on the joints can lead to inflammation, pain, stiffness, and difficulty moving around. Other joint issues in dogs include hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, and luxating patella (moving knee caps). These conditions can be caused by a variety of issues like genetics or injury. Signs of joint issues in dogs may include difficulty getting up, limping, stiffness after rest, and a change in the way they walk.

This is something that most of our older dogs will have to deal with. Early detection and management of joint problems are crucial for your dog's quality of life. Treatment might include pain management, joint supplements, physical therapy, weight management, and in severe cases, surgical interventions. Regular exercise, controlled activity, and providing a comfortable environment can help support joint health in dogs.

Kennel Cough

Kennel cough, also known as canine infectious tracheobronchitis, is a highly contagious respiratory infection. It is typically caused by a combination of viruses, such as canine parainfluenza virus and canine adenovirus, as well as bacteria like Bordetella bronchiseptica. Kennel cough spreads easily where dogs are close together, like boarding kennels, parks, or shelters. The infection affects the respiratory system, causing inflammation and irritation inside the lungs. Dogs who have kennel cough might have a persistent hacking cough. This cough can sometimes also cause vomiting. Other symptoms can include a runny nose, sneezing, lethargy, and mild fever. While a dog might recover from kennel cough on its own within a couple of weeks, it can develop into severe complications. Vaccination against kennel cough is available and recommended, especially for dogs that are frequently exposed to other dogs.


Obesity in dogs is an ever-growing concern and can have a significant impact on their health and well-being. Just like people, several factors contribute to obesity, including overfeeding, lack of exercise, poor diet, and underlying medical conditions. Obesity puts dogs at risk for a bunch of health problems, including some listed in this post, and a shortened lifespan.

If you have difficulty in feeling the ribs or seeing the waistline, if your dog is lethargic, with decreased mobility, your dog might be obese. Managing and preventing obesity in dogs involves a combination of balanced nutrition, portion control, and regular exercise. Avoid excessive treats and definitely avoid all table scraps. Regular walks, playtime, and mental stimulation, is crucial to help dogs maintain a healthy weight.


Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially life-threatening condition that affects dogs. It is caused through mosquito bites. When an infected mosquito bites a dog, it deposits the larvae (baby heartworm) into the dog's bloodstream. Over time, these larvae mature into adult heartworms that live in the heart, lungs, and blood vessels causing severe damage. Symptoms include coughing, difficulty breathing, fatigue, weight loss, and in severe cases, heart failure. Regular heartworm medications are vital in protecting dogs from this disease, as treatment for heartworm disease can be lengthy, expensive, and risky.

Google images of heartworm at your own risk. It is quite disgusting.


Diabetes in dogs affects their ability to regulate blood sugar levels. It occurs when the pancreas fails to produce enough insulin or when the body becomes resistant to the insulin produced. Diabetes can develop in dogs of any age or breed, although it is more common in middle-aged or older dogs. The symptoms of diabetes in dogs is surprisingly similar to those in humans; increased thirst, excessive urination, weight loss despite a good appetite, increased hunger, lethargy, and recurrent urinary tract infections.

If left untreated, diabetes can lead to severe issues; cataracts, diabetic ketoacidosis, and organ damage. Treatment for diabetes in dogs may invovle regular injections given by the owner. A vet will let you know the appropriate insulin dose and provide more information on diet, exercise, and monitoring blood sugar levels.


Cancer is a devastating disease that can affect dogs, just as it does humans. The causes of cancer in dogs are not fully understood; factors such as genetics, environmental factors, and age may play a role. The symptoms of cancer in dogs can vary depending on the type and location of the tumor but might include lumps or swelling, weight loss, loss of appetite, changes in behavior, difficulty breathing, and lethargy.

Diagnosing cancer in dogs usually involves a physical exam, imaging, and biopsies. Treatment options for canine cancer may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, or a combination of these approaches. Regular vet visits (especially as your dog gets older), early detection, and prompt treatment are crucial in managing cancer in dogs and improving their quality of life.


As a dog owner, it's important to be aware of the various diseases that can affect our beloved pets. While dental diseases, ear infections, skin infections, joint issues, obesity, heartworms, diabetes, and cancer are all serious health concerns, there is hope in managing and preventing these conditions. Regular dental care, including brushing their teeth and professional cleanings, can help prevent dental diseases. Maintaining good hygiene practices and getting quick veterinary attention can deal with ear and skin infections.

A balanced diet, regular exercise, and weight management can prevent obesity and joint issues. Preventive medications and mosquito control can protect dogs from heartworm disease. Monitoring their diet, weight, and blood sugar levels, along with insulin therapy if needed, can help manage diabetes. Lastly, early detection, veterinary care, and appropriate treatment options can significantly improve outcomes for dogs with cancer.

By staying informed, working closely with veterinarians, and providing a loving and supportive environment, we can enhance the health and well-being of our dogs, giving them the best chance at a happy and fulfilling life.

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