It’s important to be familiar with the most common dog health problems. This way you can watch out for the telltale signs and symptoms and seek appropriate treatment.

We all get the odd health problem or concern from time to time. Without a doubt, we’d probably rather ignore the signs but we don’t; we seek appropriate medical health. Likewise, it’s important that animals get the treatment they need in a timely fashion to avoid health complications.

This is where the role of a pet professional comes in. Whether you’re a vet (who would obviously spend a lot of time fielding pet health questions), a dog walker or pet sitter — it’s important to educate yourselves and your clients about common dog health conditions. Here are a few common conditions to consider.

1. Kennel cough

Kennel cough, also known as canine cough, is quite common‑particularly amongst dogs that have stayed in pet accommodation.

It’s a bit like the common cold for dogs, so — just like the cold or flu — it’s highly contagious.

Similar to human flu, kennel cough can be spread through droplets released when an infected dog coughs. Kennel cough can be transmitted through direct contact with a sick dog or via contaminated objects. This includes food bowls and toys.

One of the issues with kennel cough is the fact that during the contagious period it’s not uncommon for dogs to show no signs of illness. This makes it difficult to prevent the spread.

2. Heartworm

Given that some pet owners don’t recognise the need to administer ongoing heartworm prevention medication to their pets, it’s an important topic to educate on.

Heartworm is transmitted by the bite of an infected mosquito. The infected mosquito bites the dog and, in doing so, infects them with heartworm larvae.

The larvae make their way to the heart and lungs to mature (this can take approximately six months), and in doing so can impact the free flow of blood between the heart and lungs, causing serious damage.

One of the issues with heartworm is the fact that dogs show no clinical signs of heartworm during the initial months as the larvae develop. It is not until the disease progresses that dogs can start to display symptoms. Signs include lethargy and weakness, intolerance to exercise, weight loss and a dry, persistent cough.

Teaching pet owners that timely administering of preventative heartworm medication is key to keeping their dogs healthy is vital.

3. Tick-borne disease

Once considered to be quite rare, in recent years the spread of tick-borne disease (AKA Ehrlichiosis) has increased. Since May 2020, when it was first detected, it has been found in more than 500 dogs across northern Australia and certain parts of South Australia and New South Wales.

The disease is caused by a bacterium and is rapidly spread from dog to dog through the bite of a brown tick. As such, the key to preventing tick-borne disease is to deter ticks from biting in the first instance.

Signs of infection include fever, lethargy, weight loss, enlarged lymph nodes, loss of appetite, discharge from the eyes and nose, cloudy eyes, swollen limbs, as well as anaemia and bleeding disorders.

Unlike traditional tick products that kill the tick once it has bitten the dog, owners are being urged to use a product that keeps ticks at bay.

The Seresto Collar for Dogs has been approved by the veterinary medicines regulator Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Management Authority (APVMA) under a special permit to help prevent the spread of this nasty disease.

The Seresto repels and kills ticks on contact, so they are killed before they bite.

4. Arthritis

Arthritis is fairly common in animals and so it’s important to be aware of the signs. The most popular symptoms of arthritis in dogs include stiffness, lameness and pain, which may be shown via moaning, restlessness, altered behaviour and/or reluctance to jump or exercise.

Recognising the underlying causes of arthritis can help people to spot the signs and seek timely help. Potential risk factors include hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, broken bones, patella (knee cap) dislocation and fractures.

Additional risk factors include obesity, being a large-breed dog, poor nutrition, genetic and suffering from repetitive stress injuries.

Thankfully, there are a growing number of treatments for arthritis from weight control and activity management to rehabilitation, pain medication and physiotherapy.

So while osteoarthritis is a progressive disease, dogs with arthritis can live a happy and comfortable life following diagnosis.

5. Cataracts

The rate of cataracts in cats is surprisingly low compared to cataracts in dogs, which is why it pays to look out for telltale signs.

Of course, the most common hallmark symptom of cataracts is an opaque or cloudy eye lens. Unfortunately, this also tends to be indicative of the late stage of the condition.

Another challenging aspect of cataracts is that it can progress very slowly over many years or cataracts can come on very quickly, leading to blindness within a few days or weeks.

Certainly, signs that may indicate cataracts include clumsiness, reluctance to climb stairs or jump onto furniture, eye irritation/redness, discharge or blinking, as well as rubbing or scratching of the eyes.

While cataracts isn’t completely preventable, pet professionals can encourage owners to have their dog’s eyes checked regularly.

Also, Given that diabetes is a primary cause of cataracts in dogs, it is helpful to educate pet owners on the importance of keeping their pet’s weight at a healthy level.

6. Obesity

Obesity is recognised as one of the most common form of malnutrition in Aussie pets. Yet, sadly, the number of overweight or obese pets is increasing.

According to the Pet Food Industry Association Australia (PFIAA), 41% of dogs in Australia are either overweight or obese. The sad thing is, obesity is avoidable. It all comes down to too much food and not enough exercise!

Pet professionals can play an essential role by making pet owners aware when a dog is overweight. This is vital, as many owners don’t even realise their fur pal is overweight.

You can also educate pet owners of the dos and don’ts, such as not feeding table scraps, measuring out food, making the time for regular exercise and not allowing multiple dogs to eat together.

Keeping our pets at a healthy weight is part and parcel of responsible pet ownership. It will also help ensure our furry friends enjoying a long and healthy life.

What dog health-related questions do you commonly get asked?

Image source: Roberto Nickson on Unsplash

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Liz has a passion for all things cat and dog, and was one of the first in Australia to bring Pet Insurance to the market. She has headed up Petsecure for the past 12 years, and is committed to promoting and supporting the amazing work done by rescue groups around Australia, and those who work to promote a better life for all animals.

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