common dog health conditions and symptoms

7 Common Dog Health Conditions & Symptoms

Kennel Cough

What is kennel cough?

Kennel cough is highly contagious through airborne droplets. Like whooping cough in humans, it is an inflammation of the upper airways. It is typically a mild disease but it can advance to a life-threatening pneumonia.

What are the symptoms?

  • Hoarse cough
    • Begins 3 to 10 days after exposure
    • Loud honking
    • Sometimes cough up phlegm
  • Depression
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Discharge from the nose or eyes

Where is your dog at risk of being exposed?

  • Boarding kennels
  • Grooming facilities
  • Dog training classes
  • Dog parks
  • Animal shelters
  • Veterinary clinics

Vaccinate to Protect

A simple vaccination, called Bordetella, every six months can help protect against kennel cough.


Heartworm is a condition in dogs caused by a certain type of parasite transmitted by mosquitoes.

What are Heartworms?

This disease is called heartworm because the parasites tend to invade the heart of dogs. The eggs are deposited into the bloodstream and are transported into the rest of the body until they reach the heart. Once the parasites find their way into the right ventricle, they will duplicate in number. An abundance of them can cause an extreme hazard to the dog’s vital organs. Failure of the heart could mean failure of the whole circulatory system.

Heartworm is a very dangerous disease. It can kill your dog if you don’t do something about it. Even more disturbing is the fact that this disease is very prevalent in the US, more particularly in the West where there are large open fields.
Mosquitoes are common in rural areas and in the countryside. If you are living in an area where there are lots of mosquitoes during the night, it is very important that you seriously consider heartworm prevention measures for your dog. The moment heartworm-transmitting mosquitoes bite your dog, the larvae will be transferred into its bloodstream. It will incubate there for several days, which is the onset of the disease. If left ignored, the parasites will eventually cause your pet a lot of harm. As such, it has to be treated right away.


Heartworm in dogs can easily be prevented, yet very challenging to treat. The good news is that this disease is rather seasonal so it is much easier for pet owners to protect their dogs from it.

There are many ways to prevent heartworm in dogs. Preventives come in the form of injections and oral medicines. The injection is usually given to the dog on a monthly basis, quite diligently during the heartworm peak season. Examples of such vaccines are Ivermectin, Milbemycin, Lufenuron, and Selamectin. Talk to your vet as to how your dog can use these medicines to keep heartworm away from their system.


The initial symptom of heartworm is coughing. As the parasites find their way from the heart and into the lungs, it will cause a group of symptoms similar to a pulmonary disease like lung cancer. Hemoptysis and chest pain come along with it. This makes heartworm in dogs a very difficult disease to detect.


Even a veterinarian may find it hard to diagnose your dog’s disease, and to provide the necessary cure for it. Unlike most parasites, these ones don’t affect the coat or the fur of your dog. They affect your dog’s internal organs instead, which compounds the problem.
Heartworm can infect the rest of your dog’s vital organs, not just the heart and lungs. It can cause the veins to work abnormally and the liver to shut down its normal operation. There are many dogs that have died from heartworm – don’t let your dog become the next victim.
Provide your dog with the necessary care it needs. If you live in a place where mosquitoes grow in number during the summer or a particular time of the year, be sure to consult your vet for the best preventive measure against this disease.


What are hookworms?

Hookworms are a common intestinal parasite found in dogs. This tiny parasite sucks large amounts of blood from the pet. Dogs may become infected in one of the following ways:
  • Ingesting immature parasites (called larvae) from contaminated soil or water
  • Eating tissues from an infected animal
  • Larvae can penetrate a dog’s skin
  • Larvae can infect young pups via their mother’s milk

How do I know if my dog has hookworms?

Checking a pet’s stool for parasites is an important part of veterinary care. Diagnosis is made by finding the eggs in feces. Microscopic examination of the stool will identify the species of hookworm present.

Are hookworm infections serious?

Because hookworms feed on blood, they may cause anemia, stunted growth in young animals, weakness, diarrhea, or a dull and dry haircoat.

How is hookworm infection treated?

Safe and effective dewormers are available to treat your dog for hookworms. Treatment will need to be repeated in 2 to 4 weeks since these drugs kill only adult hookworms and not any migrating larvae. Any feces in the yard should be picked up daily to help prevent reinfection.

Can hookworms affect people?

Hookworm larvae can penetrate a person’s skin (usually bare feet) and migrate. This disease is called “cutaneous larva migrans.” Lesions appear as a red line beneath the skin and may cause severe itching. Occasionally, larvae may make their way through the skin and enter deeper tissues, causing lung disease or muscle pain and inflammation.

Your veterinarian can discuss the risks of hookworms to your dog and preventive measures to help avoid it. Regular examination of your dog’s feces and treatment with a dewormer will help protect your dog’s health and help prevent the spread of hookworm.


The term “otitis” can be used to describe a wide variety of problems associated with the ears. All of these can be divided into two basic categories:

Primary otitis is caused by a problem within the ears themselves. For example, ear mites cause primary otitis; they directly cause discomfort to the pet as they colonize the ears.
Secondary otitis results from an underlying problem that affects the ears. Allergies are a good example; dogs may scratch and rub their ears because they are generally uncomfortable. When the allergy is treated, the scratching and rubbing stops and the ears improve.
Ear problems are very common in dogs. Bacterial and yeast infections, ear mites, allergies, immune mediated diseases, and tumors are just a few of the many causes. Your veterinarian will want to determine if the otitis is primary or secondary so that an effective treatment plan can be developed.


In cases of bacterial, yeast, and parasitic infections, you may need to apply medication directly into your pet’s ears to kill the organisms responsible. Other topical medications can help decrease pain and redness. Sometimes oral medications may also be prescribed.

It’s important that the ears are cleaned before any topical medication is applied. In ears that contain a large amount of discharge, the medication may not be able to get to where it needs to be. Clean your dog’s ears only as your veterinarian has instructed. Remember to be gentle when cleaning painful ears. After the ears are clean, apply the amount of medication prescribed by your veterinarian into the opening of the vertical ear canal and gently massage it to distribute the medication throughout the entire ear canal.


The best way to prevent otitis is by keeping your dog’s ears clean. Speak to your veterinarian about the types of ear problems likely to be experienced by your dog and other ways to help prevent them.

The part of the ear that extends from the head is called the pinna; it comes in many different shapes and sizes depending on the breed. Inside the ear, there is a vertical canal that opens to the outside and makes an inward 90 degree bend to become the horizontal canal.


What is Parvo?

Parvo is a common and potentially serious viral disease in dogs. Parvovirus attacks the lining of the digestive system which causes dogs and puppies to not be able to absorb nutrients and or liquids. Puppies are especially prone to it because they do not have a fully developed immune system.

What are the symptoms?

  • High fever
  • Lethargy
  • Depression
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea with a particularly foul scent.

How is Parvovirus infection diagnosed?

This disease is diagnosed by physical examination, signalment (age, vaccination status, breed, etc.), and a fecal Parvo (ELISA) test. Additional diagnostics include bloodwork and radiographs. Dogs infected with Parvo will typically have a low white blood cell count. Radiographs help rule out other potential causes for vomiting and diarrhea.

How is Parvovirus spread?

Parvovirus is spread through contact with feces containing the virus. The virus is known to survive on inanimate objects – such as clothing, food pans, and cage floors – for five months and longer in the right conditions. Insects and rodents may also serve as vectors, playing an important role in the transmission of the disease. This means any fecal material or vomit needs to be removed with a detergent before the bleach solution is used. The bleach solution should be used on bedding, dishes, kennel floors and other impervious materials that may be contaminated.

The normal incubation period (time from exposure to the virus to the time when science is the disease appear) is from 7 to 14 days. The virus can be found in DC several days before clinical signs of disease appear, and may last for 1 to 2 weeks after the onset of the disease. Adult dogs may be infected carriers without showing any clinical signs.

Rattlesnake Vaccination

A rattlesnake bite is a veterinary emergency. When an unprotected dog is bitten, the toxins in the snake venom are painful and have serious consequences. Even if the dog survives the immediate effects, it can be permanently injured by the venom.

Treatment of snakebites can include anti-venom, intravenous fluids, and other medicines that can cost thousands of dollars.

Red Rock Rattlesnake Vaccine can help reduce the impact of snakebite. It was developed specifically to stimulate an animal’s immunity against rattlesnake venom, but it can also protect against copperheads, too. Even after a vaccinated dog has been bitten it needs to go to the veterinarian for evaluation because antibiotics may still be necessary.


What are roundworms?

Roundworms belong to a family of intestinal parasites found in dogs of all ages, most commonly in puppies. Puppies get the infection from their mother before they are born. All female dogs, even the best cared for, transmit roundworms to their puppies. Once the pups are born, the immature roundworm completes its development and female roundworms begin laying eggs. Adult dogs become infected by ingesting infectious roundworm eggs found in soil or immature roundworms found in prey.

How do I know if my dog has roundworms?

Checking a pet’s feces for parasite problems is an important part of routine veterinary care. A microscopic fecal examination by your veterinarian can detect roundworm eggs in your dog’s feces. The presence of eggs means that your dog is infected with roundworms. The size and shape of the eggs can help your veterinarian identify the particular species present. Additionally, adult roundworms may be observed in the pet’s feces.

Even if no eggs are present on fecal examination, your veterinarian may recommend treatment anyway, particularly for puppies. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) recommend puppies be dewormed regularly to protect them from roundworm infections and reduce the risk of transmission of disease-causing organisms to humans.

Are roundworm infections serious?

It depends on how many roundworms are present. Some dogs may harbor low numbers of roundworms but show no signs of illness, while more severely affected dogs may have problems like vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, poor hair coat, and an unthrifty “potbellied” appearance. In extreme cases, some dogs may require hospitalization and treatment. In rare situations, dogs may also develop an intestinal obstruction, which is a life-threatening emergency requiring immediate surgical intervention.

How are roundworm infections treated??

Safe and effective medicines called “dewormers” are available to rid your dog of roundworms. Many of these dewormers are effective against other types of parasites as well. Because most dewormers kill only adult worms and not immature stages that may be found in an infected pet, it is important to repeat deworming 2 to 4 weeks after the initial treatment.

Can roundworms affect people?

Yes, roundworms can be a significant human health hazard. People, usually children, acquire roundworm infections by ingesting soil that contains infectious roundworm eggs. Roundworm infections can lead to serious problems in the liver, lung, eye, and brain. Our veterinarian can discuss the risks posed by canine roundworm and ways to avoid contact with it. Routine examination of your dog’s feces and regular deworming will not only protect your dog but may also help prevent the spread of roundworm.