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15 Common Dog Health Problems and Solutions for Dog Parents

Medically Reviewed by

Tracy Isenberg, LVT

Finding out your dog has a health problem can be scary for pet parents. The good news is, there are plenty of treatment options for most conditions that can keep your dog happy and healthy.

In this article, we'll cover:

  • Factors that contribute to dog health problems
  • 15 common dog health problems (and treatment options)
  • How to keep your dog happy and healthy

Factors that contribute to dog health problems

Dogs experience health issues for different reasons. Some pups are more prone to disease and illness than others. Here are some factors that can play a role in common dog health problems:

  • Age: Like humans, aging can affect your dog’s health. Older dogs and young puppies are more likely to develop health problems because their immune systems are weaker than healthy, middle-aged dogs.
  • Weight: Your dog's weight can cause health problems if it becomes unhealthy. Maintaining a healthy weight is important for keeping your dog’s hips, joints, and heart healthy.
  • Genetics: Your dog’s body composition, size, and genetics can play a role in their health. Some health problems can even be passed down through birth.
  • Breed: Some breeds are predisposed to health problems. But, many dog health problems are not breed-specific.
PRO TIP:

Symptoms can look similar from one dog health problem to the next. So, be sure to take your pup in for regular check-ups to stay on top of their health and wellness.


15 common dog health problems and treatments

1. Fleas

fleas

Fleas and flea infestations can affect you and your dog if left untreated. Fleas spread easily between non-treated animals. And, they can be tricky to get rid of.

If your pet has a flea problem, they may show signs like itching and redness on their skin. This is because fleas bite your dog’s skin to suck their blood.

Fleas can also carry diseases that can be harmful to your pet. And, flea season isn’t just during the warmer months. When the weather gets colder, fleas can find shelter inside your house year-round.


SUGGESTED TREATMENT

Flea and tick prevention is the best way to protect your pup from flea infestations. Protect your pet every month with a treatment in one of these forms:

  • Topical treatments
  • Oral medications
  • Wearables (flea collars)

Talk to your vet about which method of flea and tick treatment is best for your dog.


2. Intestinal parasites

Intestinal parasites

Internal parasites can infect your dog and lead to life-threatening conditions. Most parasites typically spread through:

  • Insect bites
  • Ingestion
  • Contaminated surfaces
  • Fecal matter

The most common types of parasites found in dogs are hookworms, roundworms, and tapeworms.

Hookworms

Hookworms are one of the most common parasites found in dogs. Hookworms live in your dog’s intestines and can cause serious health conditions like anemia, weakness, lung damage, and pneumonia.

Roundworms

Roundworms can stunt young puppies’ growth and development. And, they can cause other issues like gastric upset.

Roundworms do not need an intermediate host to spread from dog to dog. This means your dog can contract roundworms from direct contact with an infected dog.

Tapeworms

Tapeworm spreads from dog to dog through intermediate hosts like fleas or rodents. An abundance of tapeworms in your dog’s system can lead to intestinal blockages — a life-threatening condition for your pup.


SUGGESTED TREATMENT

There are different treatment methods for different parasites. External parasites have a different treatment plan than internal parasites. Plus, some cases are more severe than others.

In serious cases, intestinal blockages require surgical removal. Deworming medication can treat other, less serious conditions.

Some parasites are difficult to prevent. But, your dog can get vaccinations to protect them against parasites. Some forms of heartworm prevention protect your dog from heartworms, roundworms, and hookworms.


3. Heartworm disease

Heartworm disease

Heartworm infection spreads through infected mosquitoes that bite your dog. If your dog has heartworm infection, they may experience symptoms like:

  • A mild, persistent cough
  • Reluctance to exercise
  • Fatigue after light exercise
  • Decreased appetite
  • Weight loss

Heartworm in dogs is a serious condition and can lead to heart failure, lung damage, and even death. That’s why getting your dog tested for heartworm every 12 months and protecting them with heartworm prevention 12 months a year is important.


SUGGESTED TREATMENT

The best protection against heartworm disease is through monthly prevention. Heartworm prevention works retroactively to stop the development of heartworm larvae.

If your dog is already infected with heartworm disease, treatment looks a bit different. A series of injections with antibiotics and surgical removal are the most common treatments for an infected dog.


4. Oral health issues

Oral health issues

When your pet eats, food adheres to their teeth and gets lodged along the gum line. Over time, the buildup of food and plaque can harden and turn into tartar. This can be an issue for your pet, because tartar buildup is difficult to remove. It can also cause bad breath and dental disease.

Dogs are susceptible to many different oral health issues, including:

  • Bad breath
  • Periodontal disease
  • Dental disease

Bad breath

Bad breath in dogs can come from their diet or a larger, more serious health issue. The best way to learn where the smell is coming from is by talking to your vet as soon as possible.

Periodontal disease

Periodontal disease is another name for gum disease in dogs. Excessive buildup of plaque and tartar causes periodontal disease.

Dental disease

Dental disease is most common in older dogs and can lead to other fatal infections in your dog’s heart, kidneys, and liver. 

Some breeds are more susceptible to dental disease and oral health issues than others. Smaller dogs typically have a higher risk of dental disease due to their small teeth that are difficult to clean.


SUGGESTED TREATMENT

Getting your dog’s teeth cleaned by a professional every few months can help keep their teeth and gums healthy. Or, you can brush your dog’s teeth at home with a pet toothpaste and finger brush.

In addition, you can supplement your pup’s dental care routine with dental gels, bones, treats, or chews. Be sure to choose a dental product that is safe for your dog’s breed, size, and age.


5. Allergies

Allergies

Like humans, many dogs can experience allergy symptoms. Every type of allergy has different triggers. And, there are many ways to treat each type.

The most common types of dog allergies include:

  • Food allergies
  • Environmental allergies
  • Skin allergies
  • Seasonal allergies

When dogs have allergies, they may have symptoms like chewing and licking their paws, itching, sneezing, or respiratory infections.


SUGGESTED TREATMENT

Pet owners can treat some of their pet’s allergy symptoms with over-the-counter medications like Benadryl and Claritin. Ask your vet which medicines are right for your pet’s condition.

More serious allergies need stronger medication prescribed by a vet. When you bring your pet in for a check-up, your vet may suggest a prescription medication to relieve their symptoms.

Allergy shots can be helpful to build immunity against specific allergens in your dog’s environment. Although costly, allergy shots can help relieve symptoms and keep your dog itch- and sneeze-free for longer periods of time.


6. Skin infections and hot spots

skin infections and hot spots

Hot spots and skin infections can leave your dog feeling itchy and cause red, flaky skin. Your dog’s fur and skin may even stink if they have an infection.

This health problem is fairly common for dogs, but skin infections typically indicate an underlying health issue. Common causes of skin infections includes:

  • Environmental allergies
  • Food allergies
  • Skin parasites
  • Endocrine diseases

SUGGESTED TREATMENT

If your dog has a skin infection, flush and clean the affected areas on their skin. Antibacterial pet soaps and shampoos can help soothe your pup's skin and reduce irritation.


7. Ear infections

Ear infections

Bacteria, ear mites, and fungus cause ear infections in dogs. If your dog has an ear infection, they may have symptoms like:

  • Scratching their ears
  • Tilting or shaking their head
  • Wobbling when they walk
  • Redness
  • Swelling

SUGGESTED TREATMENT

If your dog has an ear infection, visit your vet for a diagnosis. Your vet may prescribe special ear drops or antibiotics to treat your dog’s condition.

There are also things dog owners can do to help prevent ear infections from happening in the first place. After splashing in the pool or lake, be sure to dry your dog’s ear canal thoroughly with a towel. 

If your pup is prone to ear infections and spends a lot of time in water, try dog ear plugs. Regular ear cleanings are another way to prevent ear infections.


8. Kennel cough

Kennel cough

Kennel cough is a respiratory illness spread between dogs in close quarters. Young puppies and older dogs are most susceptible to kennel cough.


SUGGESTED TREATMENT

When your dog reaches six weeks of age, they are eligible to receive a Bordetella vaccination at the vet. This vaccination is the strongest defense against kennel cough. 

If your pup has Bordetella, your vet will prescribe a medication to treat their condition. In healthy adult dogs, Bordetella is typically not life threatening.

Consistency is important to stay protected against kennel cough. Adult dogs should get Bordetella booster vaccinations every six to twelve months to prolong protection through their adult life.


9. Hip and joint issues

Hip and joint issues

Hip and joint issues in dogs can appear in different forms, and are caused by different triggers. Dogs can develop hip and joint issues from:

  • Aging
  • Injury
  • Genetics
  • Breed predisposition

The most common hip and joint issues dogs experience are arthritis and hip dysplasia.

Arthritis

When the cartilage that protects your dog's joints starts to deteriorate, your dog may develop arthritis, also known as degenerative joint disease.

Most dogs with arthritis experience other symptoms like:

  • Pain
  • Inflammation
  • Lethargy
  • Weight gain
  • Decreased range of motion
  • Bone spurs

Hip dysplasia

Canine hip dysplasia is the abnormal development and growth of a dog's hip joint. It causes a hip deformity in dogs that leads to hind-end pain, stiffness, and weakness.


SUGGESTED TREATMENT

There are plenty of methods for treating hip dysplasia and other joint issues in dogs. Adding a hip and joint supplement to your dog’s diet can help prolong their joint health. If your dog is already suffering from hip and joint issues, physical therapy and acupuncture can help relieve your dog’s symptoms.


COMMONLY AFFECTED BREEDS

Hip and joint issues most commonly occur in large-breed, active dogs. Large dog breeds can have excessive growth rate hormones which cause them to grow faster than other breeds. 

But, joint issues can also affect smaller breeds and cats. Some commonly affected breeds include:

  • Golden Retrievers
  • Great Danes
  • Mastiffs
  • German Shepherds
  • Labradors
  • Saint Bernards
  • Boston Terriers
  • Pugs
  • Large mixed-breed dogs

10. Obesity

obesity

Obesity occurs when your dog has an abundance of body fat. If your dog isn't fed a healthy diet or lacks a regular exercise routine, they may be at risk of developing obesity.

According to VCA Animal Hospitals, dogs are obese when they weigh more than 20% above their ideal body weight. Obesity can shorten your dog’s life and make them more susceptible to diseases and dog health issues like diabetes, hip and joint problems, and cancer.


SUGGESTED TREATMENT

Visiting your vet for regular body condition assessments can ensure your dog is maintaining a healthy weight for their age, size, and breed. Feeding your dog with nutritional food and providing regular exercise can also help maintain their body weight.


11. Stress and anxiety

Stress and anxiety

Past experiences and stressful environments or situations can trigger stress and anxiety in dogs. Whether it’s exposure to a new environment or adding a new pet to your household, dogs can experience stress and anxiety just like humans.

If your dog is in distress, they may show other symptoms like:

  • Pacing or shaking
  • Whining or barking
  • Yawning, drooling, and licking
  • Hair loss
  • Excessive panting
  • Changes in bodily functions

SUGGESTED TREATMENT

If your dog is feeling stressed, there are ways to help keep them calm. Calming treats, anti-anxiety medication, and natural calming products can be quick fixes to help your dog calm down. For chronic conditions, special training can help your dog feel less anxious day-to-day.

12. Heart disease

Heart disease

Heart disease in dogs is either developed or present at birth. It affects your dog’s ability to exercise, eat, and live a healthy life. Pets often live for many months without showing symptoms. That's why the disease is difficult to detect.


SUGGESTED TREATMENT

Because it is difficult to detect, be sure to bring your dog to the vet for regular dog check-ups. If your dog has heart disease, your vet may suggest treatment options that are right for your dog’s condition. Serious cases of this condition may require surgery, while diet changes can treat mild cases.


13. Urinary tract infections (UTIs)

Urinary tract infections

UTIs are fairly common in dogs. Female, diabetic dogs and dogs with bladder stones are more likely to develop a urinary tract infection. Giant breeds are also more susceptible to UTIs.

Here are some common symptoms of urinary tract infection in dogs:

  • Straining to urinate
  • Crying out while urinating
  • Blood in urine

SUGGESTED TREATMENT

Your vet will suggest a treatment method depending on your dog's case. Diet changes, medication, and supplements are all common treatments for UTIs in dogs.


14. Kidney disease

Kidney disease

Kidney disease is most commonly associated with aging. Large dogs may experience kidney disease at an earlier age than small dog breeds.


SUGGESTED TREATMENT

Treatment of kidney disease depends on the severity of the case. In serious cases, treatment can be ineffective. But, if a case is caught early, dogs can live a normal, healthy lifestyle for many months or years with medicinal treatment.


15. Cancer

cancer

Cancer is the result of the uncontrolled growth of cells in the body. If these cell growths are not found quickly, the condition can worsen quickly and affect other areas of your dog’s body. 

There are a variety of cancers that dogs can develop. The most common types of cancer in dogs include:

  • Hemangiosarcoma
  • Mast cell tumors
  • Lymphoma
  • Melanoma

Cancer is the leading cause of death for dogs 10 years of age and older. But, some forms of cancer in dogs are treatable if caught early.


SUGGESTED TREATMENT

Several factors come into play when choosing a treatment method for cancer in dogs including your dog’s:

  • Age
  • General health
  • Cancer type
  • Cancer stage

Treatment for cancer in dogs is similar to treatment for cancer in humans. Chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery are the most common ways to treat it. If your dog has cancer, your vet can suggest a treatment plan that is right for your dog’s condition.


How to keep your dog happy and healthy

1. Get routine vet exams.

Regular dog check-ups can help you stay ahead of any potential dog health issues. Pet parents should bring their dog to the vet for a check-up every year for testing and vaccine boosters (if needed).

2. Stay on a consistent vaccination schedule.

Vaccinations protect your dog from otherwise avoidable dog health issues. Plus, they help keep other dogs and pets safe from diseases.

Here are the core vaccines dogs need:

  • Rabies
  • Canine distemper
  • Parvovirus
  • DHPP

3. Feed your dog a healthy diet.

Your dog’s diet is a contributing factor when it comes to keeping them healthy. Pet parents should feed their dogs a proper diet. Depending on any food allergies or sensitivities, you may need to make adjustments to their meals.

You can also supplement your dog’s diet with a multivitamin supplement. Supplements can help your dog get all the nutrients they need (and may not be getting in their food).

3. Maintain good health care and treatments.

Staying up-to-date on your dog’s medications and monthly treatments can keep them healthy and prolong their life. Brush your dog's teeth regularly, make sure they get regular exercise, and protect them from fleas, ticks, and heartworms every month.

5. Cover your expenses with pet insurance.

Emergency vet visits and procedures can be costly out-of-pocket. Pet insurance helps cover big expenses up front so you can focus on taking care of your pet.

There are plenty of pet insurance providers for pet parents to choose from. Talk to your insurance agent about which pet insurance coverage plan is right for you.

Treating your pup’s health problems doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Be proactive and stay on top of any potential issues with regular check-ups and the right pet care products.

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