Common Dog Illness

Common Dog Illnesses

Last week, we looked at severe dog diseases that you should watch out for in your pup. This week, we’re considering common dog illnesses that may be less severe but still require care and treatment to restore your dog’s health and comfort.

Kennel Cough

Kennel cough is similar to a chest cold for humans. It causes inflammation in a dog’s voice box and windpipe, leading to bronchitis. Kennel cough is highly contagious, is typically airborne, and comes with symptoms such as:

  • A dry cough
  • Gagging
  • Nasal discharge
  • Fever
  • White, foamy phlegm from the cough 

Bordetella and parainfluenza are common causes of kennel cough. Most vets recommend vaccinating your dog against these two strains, especially if you plan to keep your pup in a daycare, kennel, boarding home, or similar setting where they will have contact with lots of other dogs. 

Most dogs recover from kennel cough quickly, but you should still call your vet just to be sure you can keep your dog at home. It’s crucial that you isolate your pup from other dogs as soon as you suspect they have kennel cough. 

To treat kennel cough, keep your dog at home, provide them with lots of good food and water, and keep them away from smoke or other breathing irritants. You can provide a humidifier or vaporizer to help ease their breathing and offer a cough suppressant or antimicrobial if your vet prescribes one. Use a harness over a collar if your dog usually pulls at the collar while walking, as this causes strain on their throat. 

Kennel cough can develop into pneumonia if left untreated, so be sure to speak with your vet. If your dog is struggling to breathe, seems lethargic, or refuses to eat, take them to the vet right away.


Giardia is caused by a small parasite that thrives in damp environments. Many dogs pick up Giardia from drinking infected water or from interacting with poop from an infected dog. Many dogs show no symptoms with giardia, but the illness can cause some signs of illness, including:

Diarrhea is the most common symptom of Giardia. Most dogs will not be severely harmed by this illness, but puppies, older dogs, or dogs with compromised immune systems have a higher chance of dehydration, intestinal damage, and possibly even death. 

If you notice the symptoms of Giardia in your pup, speak to your vet as soon as possible to get a diagnosis. Thankfully, there are some good treatments for Giardia, including fenbendazole and metronidazole. 

If your vet finds the Giardia parasite in your dog’s poop, they will probably prescribe one of these drugs for three to ten days. If your dog is severely dehydrated or suffering other symptoms, they may require further treatment.


Insulin is a crucial hormone secreted by the pancreas that carries glucose throughout the body. If your dog cannot produce insulin or is unable to appropriately produce and use it, they may be diagnosed with diabetes. 

As you may know, diabetes is a common issue for humans as well. Dogs primarily suffer from Type I Diabetes, or a failure to produce enough insulin. Some common symptoms of diabetes include:

  • Excessive thirst
  • Appetite changes
  • Weight loss
  • Increased urination
  • Fruity or sweet-smelling breath
  • Dehydration
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • UTIs
  • Cataracts or blindness
  • Chronic skin infections

Some types of diabetes are inherited, but obesity is thought to be a contributing factor for dogs who do not inherit the illness from their ancestors. The best way to prevent diabetes is to feed your dog a healthy diet and give them lots of exercise. 

If your dog does show symptoms of diabetes, talk to your vet to get a diagnosis. Hopefully, your dog will be able to start home treatments right away, but some dogs who are seriously ill may need time in the hospital to rebuild their strength and start healing. 

In addition to increasing the fiber in your dog’s diet, your vet may prescribe various medications and daily insulin injections. If you have a female dog, your vet may also encourage you to spay her to prevent her female sex hormones from affecting her blood sugar levels.

Lyme Disease

If your dog spends a lot of time outdoors, they may be susceptible to Lyme Disease, which is carried by ticks. Lyme Disease is a bacterial illness that can cause damage to organs and an overall feeling of illness in dogs. 

Lyme Disease ranges from severe to fairly mild and comes with a variety of symptoms, including:

  • Fever
  • Appetite loss
  • Stiffness and pain
  • Lameness, often recurring
  • Reduced energy
  • Joint swelling 

In serious cases, your dog’s cardiac system, neurological system, or kidney could suffer severe damage from Lyme Disease as well.

Thankfully, most dogs can recover from Lyme Disease with antibiotic treatment. If your dog shows signs of the disease and has been around ticks recently, check with your vet to get your dog tested and started on a 30-day antibiotic treatment. In some situations, your dog may need prolonged treatment to manage ongoing symptoms. 

If ticks are common in your area, always keep your lawn short and check your dog for ticks after hikes or walks in areas with long grasses, bushes, and trees. You can also pick up Lyme Disease, so be sure to know what ticks look like and check your body and your dog’s body as often as necessary.

Dental Disease

Oral infections and dental diseases are extremely common in dogs. Periodontitis, or gum disease, fractured teeth, gingivitis, oral tumors (benign), and deciduous teeth complications are all common oral illnesses that dogs tend to get. 

Some oral diseases and infections can spread to the bone, causing more severe problems for your pet. Keep an eye out for symptoms such as:

  • Bad breath
  • Swollen gums
  • Bleeding from the mouth
  • Reluctance to eat, especially solid foods
  • Frequent pawing at the mouth
  • Drooling
  • Discolored teeth or gums

Preventative care is always best, especially when it comes to your dog’s mouth. It’s important that you take your dog in for regular dental cleaning as often as your vet recommends. You can also buy toys, treats, and foods that are made to help keep dogs’ teeth and gums clean and healthy. 

If your dog does get oral disease, your vet will likely prescribe medication, cleaning, and potentially even root canals or surgery, depending on the type and severity of the disease. Since these treatments are usually quite expensive, it’s best to get regular cleanings to prevent any serious illness in the first place.

Ear Infections

Ear infections are fairly common for dogs because their L-shaped ears and long ear canals make them susceptible. Usually, bacteria, yeast, or a food allergy leads to an ear infection in a dog, while ear mites may also attack puppies.

Sometimes, dogs who are allergic to corn, wheat, soy, or other grains may suffer recurring ear infections. In addition, wax buildup, excessive ear cleaning, endocrine or autoimmune disorders, moisture, and injury can increase your dog’s chances of coming down with an ear infection.

Typical symptoms of ear infections include:

  • Head shaking
  • Rubbing head and ears against the floor or other objects
  • Scratching at the ear
  • Odor
  • Discharge
  • Pain
  • Swelling and redness of the ear canal
  • Itchiness
  • Scabs or crusting in the ears
  • Hair loss around the ear
  • Walking in circles or loss of balance

In general, if you notice these symptoms, you’ll want to take your dog to the vet to get either an antifungal or topical antibiotic treatment to help your dog recover from their ear infection. Most infections clear up within one or two weeks.

Urinary Tract Infections

Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) are common in dogs, especially older female dogs or dogs who have diabetes. UTIs are caused by a buildup of bacteria that travels up the urethra into the bladder. Some dogs will get bladder stones as well as a UTI. 

In general, the symptoms you can expect from a UTI include:

  • Urine with a strong, offensive odor
  • Frequent urination
  • A break in house training
  • Blood in urine
  • Straining to urinate
  • Excessive licking of the genital area

If you notice these symptoms, you need to take your dog to the vet for treatment. Once your vet has ruled out diabetes or other more serious issues, they will likely prescribe antibiotics and potentially other supplements that can help prevent further infections. You may also need to change your dog’s diet to help them fight bacteria more effectively in the future.


If you can’t feel or see your dog’s rib cage, there’s a good chance that your dog is obese. Obesity itself isn’t necessarily an illness, but it can lead to many illnesses and issues including diabetes, heart disease, cancer, osteoarthritis, and hypertension, among others. It can also be a symptom of Cushing’s Disease, hypothyroidism, or other illnesses.

Obesity can shorten your dog’s life and make daily living more uncomfortable for them, so it’s important that you treat obesity as soon as you can. In general, the easiest way to counteract obesity and help your dog live longer and healthier is to provide them with more exercise and a healthier diet. 

If you’re unsure how much or how often your dog should be eating and exercising to maintain health, be sure to speak with your vet.

A Healthy and Happy Dog

As you can see, dogs can come down with a wide variety of illnesses and most will experience one or more of these illnesses at some point in their life. However, most of these illnesses are common and easily treatable. 

To keep your dog healthy, make sure to feed them a healthy diet, take them out for regular exercise, and provide them with a safe, clean environment in which to live. 

If you’d like help picking up your dog’s poop to keep their yard safer and cleaner, our team would be happy to help! Check out our services to learn more about how we can scoop your dog’s poop.