Most Common Dog Illnesses, According to Vets (Symptoms, Treatment Options)

Many pet parents view their animal companions as family members. So, it’s only natural to want to do everything possible to keep them healthy and happy. To help you out, here’s a list of the most common dog illnesses vets see and what symptoms to look out for.

1. Parvovirus

This highly contagious disease affects puppies and young dogs. The virus attacks the cells lining the gut, leading to life-threatening dehydration. Symptoms include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea (often bloody)
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss

The cause of death in severe cases of parvovirus is typically dehydration due to vomiting and diarrhea. Treatment includes hospitalization for fluids and antibiotics. Make sure your pets are updated on their vaccinations, which start at 6-8 weeks of age, followed by boosters every 3-4 weeks until they’re 16 weeks old.

2. Kennel Cough

Also called Bordetella, this is a respiratory infection caused by several different viruses and bacteria. Unfortunately, kennel cough is extremely contagious and can be passed from dog to dog through coughing and sneezing.

Symptoms include:

  • A harsh, dry cough
  • Sneezing
  • Nasal discharge
  • Loss of appetite

Kennel cough’s treatments are often antibiotics and rest. Your dog may also need to be isolated from other pets to prevent the spread of the infection.

3. Gastroenteritis

This condition is an inflammation of the intestines and stomach caused by a virus, bacteria, or parasites. It’s often referred to as “stomach flu” in humans. Once your dog has contracted the virus, it can take up to 10 days for symptoms to appear.

Symptoms include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea (often bloody)
  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Dehydration
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss

Treatment for gastroenteritis depends on the underlying cause. If your dog is dehydrated, they need to be hospitalized for fluids. Antibiotics may also be necessary if the reason is bacterial. Dogs with viral gastroenteritis usually recover on their own with supportive care at home, like rest and a bland diet.

Your vet may also require intestinal biopsies to see if there are any obstructions. If this happens, surgery is necessary to remove the obstruction. Make sure to choose a reputable animal hospital or clinic for this procedure to ensure your pet’s safety. When looking online, visit their surgery page and look for testimonials of previous patients.

4. Distemper

According to statistics, about 50% of adult dogs with distemper die, while it reaches up to 80% of infected puppies pass away.

Distemper is a viral illness that primarily affects puppies and young dogs but can also occur in older dogs who haven’t been vaccinated. The virus attacks the respiratory, gastrointestinal, and nervous systems.

Symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Runny nose
  • Watery eyes
  • Coughing
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite

Treatment for distemper includes aggressive supportive care, like fluids and antibiotics. Note that distemper doesn’t have a cure, so treatment focuses on relieving symptoms and supporting the dog’s organs until they recover. Like any other disease, prevention is key, so make sure your pet is updated on their vaccinations.

5. Lyme Disease

This is a bacterial infection transferred by ticks. It can cause a number of serious health problems if left untreated. Lyme disease is commonly seen in the Northeastern US, but it has also been reported in other parts of the country.

Symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Joint pain or stiffness
  • Muscle pain
  • Kidney problems

You can prevent this disease by using tick preventatives and regularly checking your dog for ticks. The best treatment option for Lyme disease is antibiotics. If your pet shows any signs of kidney failure, they may need to stay in the hospital for supportive care. 

If you have multiple pets, keep them up to date on their vaccinations and flea/tick preventatives. This helps in preventing the spread of disease among your animals. If you often take your pet to a dog and cat boarding, ask their staff about other guests’ vaccinations though they usually have a strict policy on vaccinations to protect all pets.

6. Heartworm Disease

Heartworm disease is often serious and potentially deadly, caused by parasites that live in the heart and lungs of dogs. The worms are transmitted through mosquito bites, so if possible, use mosquito repellent on your dog and keep them away from standing water.

Symptoms include:

  • Coughing
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Lethargy
  • Weight loss
  • Collapse
  • Difficulty breathing

One popular treatment option for heartworm disease is a series of injections that kill the worms. The treatment can be expensive, so you should prevent the disease in the first place. In addition, there is no cure for heartworm disease, so prevention is key. Your dog must be on year-round heartworm prevention and get tested annually.

Keep in Mind

If you believe they have these diseases, immediately bring your dog to a reputable and experienced veterinarian, such as Rocklin Road Animal Hospital. These conditions can be serious and can lead to death if left untreated. Early diagnosis and treatment are essential for the best possible outcome.

However, preventing these diseases in the first place is the best way to keep your pet healthy and happy. Vaccinations, tick/flea preventatives, and heartworm prevention are all important ways to help protect your dog from these potentially deadly diseases.