Man’s best friend. Whether you think of them as a faithful pet or the child you never had, dogs are a vital member of many people’s families. But dogs aren’t humans. They age faster than we do and lack our communication skills.
So while they suffer some of the same ailments we do, if you’re not paying attention, they may develop more serious issues and symptoms before they can be treated. Here are the most common and problematic health concerns dogs – and their owners – face.
Canine obesity is prevalent – and almost entirely avoidable. But that hasn’t stopped human obesity either. Canine obesity leads to more serious health issues like heart disease, canine diabetes, and orthopedic problems.
Thankfully, it is easily prevented – and corrected, once it presents itself. The answer – same as it is for humans – diet and exercise. Check with your veterinarian for specific advice, but these suggestions can get you started.
Cut down on treats. Store-bought snacks can be especially high in fat. Instead, experiment with baby carrots, broccoli, snap green beans or celery. Dogs love crunchy treats. Avoid meat, pasta, and, yes, table scraps. Measure out your dog’s kibble and try to stay consistent. Then add some extra walking. You can take them to a local dog park to explore, but just a brisk walk around the block a couple of times a day can be beneficial for both of you.
Just like us, dogs can get inflammation of their joints, leading to pain. Especially as dogs age, they’re more susceptible to osteoarthritis. Certain breeds, like German Shepherds, are predisposed to hip dysplasia. Old injuries can also impact a dog’s mobility and health.
As soon as you notice your dog slowing, favoring one of his legs or paws over another, or struggling to move or get up, head to your local vet to see what treatment options are available and avoid further damage.
As much as you don’t want to think about it, dogs have several parasites that tend to show up to plague them. Tapeworms, hookworms, and roundworms are three pervasive dog afflictions. All of them can be dangerous or painful for your dog. Hookworms in particular are deadly for puppies. Heartworms are likely the most dangerous for adult dogs. All are treatable if prevented or caught early.
Signs of worm infections include diarrhea, scooting their butts on the ground, a rough, dry coat, a change in appetite and weight loss, and a poor appearance. If you see any of these signs, visit a veterinarian as soon as possible for the proper treatment.
Vomiting & Diarrhea
There are many issues that can cause stomach discomfort for dogs, but thankfully, they present rather obviously. While indigestion or eating something that doesn’t agree with their stomach can cause vomiting or diarrhea, that will only be one or two instances. Persistent problems should be seen by the vet right away, in case it’s a more serious issue like pancreatitis or Parvovirus. Allergies can also cause the issue, so get your little guy or girl checked out.
An often overlooked area of a dog’s health may be one of the most noticeable ones. Dogs do not normally have bad breath, so if you’re getting knocked down when your canine companion offers kisses, take note. Periodontal disease can be dangerous if not treated promptly. Plaque and tartar on your dog’s teeth can keep harmful bacteria in their mouths. If left untreated, it can even invade their bloodstream, causing much larger problems – kidney failure and heart disease.
Examine your dog’s teeth periodically. Gently lift their lips and check their teeth and gums for buildup, bleeding, loose and missing teeth. Ask your vet for their recommendation on brushing your pet’s teeth. A soft bristle toothbrush can work, or there are finger appliances you can use to scrub your canine’s canines. Your veterinarian can recommend a dog toothpaste that will maximize the effectiveness of the process.
Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)
Unfortunately, this may be difficult to immediately identify in puppies that are still being housetrained. But if your dog is frequently or inappropriately urinating, or if you see blood in the urine or the dog drinking more than usual, they may have a larger problem. These symptoms can also be indicative of canine diabetes and kidney disease – either way, take your dog to the vet to get checked out sooner rather than later.
If your dog is repeatedly scratching their ears or shaking their head, they might have some deeper issues. First check for fleas, then see if they have any ear discharge or a bad odor coming out of their ears. If you notice those symptoms or your dog shows signs of an ear infection for a couple of days or more, take them to the vet. Any type of infection can lead to more serious issues. Ear infections may also accompany skin issues or allergic reactions.
Sure, dogs love to scratch. But if their skin is red and inflamed, flaky, scaly, dry, is losing patches of hair, or their coat gives off an odor, there is more going on than a little itch or bug bite. Because of the variety of issues that can cause skin ailments, you definitely want to get your veterinarian involved sooner rather than later.
You wouldn’t want any other member of your family to suffer. Take care of the four-legged family member with the same care – remembering that they can’t let you know as easily when they’re hurting or need help.
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Paul Rose Jr has worked as TV News Producer, Forensic Analyst, and Train Conductor, among many other things. He’s the former TV Editor for Infuzemag.com and owns more books, DVDs, and comics than most people have seen in their lifetimes. When he’s not writing articles, he exercises his creative muscle writing screenplays and acting in film and television in Los Angeles, CA.