Dogs, like humans, can get sick at any time. To ensure their health and a long and happy life, pet owners need to know the most common illnesses that might affect their dogs and how to identify them. Some of these illnesses are very common and are easily treated while some of them are a lot more serious and thus require a visit to the vet. Here are some of the more common dog illnesses and diseases and how to identify them.


Rabies is caused by the rabies virus and is spread through a bite or saliva from an infected animal, not necessarily a dog. Rabies is fatal once your dog starts showing signs and symptoms. Rabies is a very severe disease, and it can spread to humans through bites and saliva, too. Because of this, many states require that dogs get a rabies vaccine. This vaccine is also important for protecting your dog against illness since there is no treatment for rabies once your dog gets infected. A visit to the vet is important in this case for the vaccination before your dog gets infected.

Dental Disease

Dental infections are very common in dogs, and they tend to become a problem once a dog is older than three. Gingivitis and tartar are some of the most common oral issues in dogs while periodontal diseases including abscesses tend to become a problem as the dog ages.

Some symptoms to watch for include lumps on the gums and under their tongue, bad breath, refusal to eat including a refusal to eat dry foods, drooling, discharge of pus or blood from the mouth, and discolored gums or teeth.

The good news is that dental diseases and these oral issues can be prevented by ensuring proper oral hygiene for your dog which includes dog teeth cleaning. Your dog might also need a root canal or extraction in some cases, but that depends on the severity of the issues you are seeing.

Regular vet visits are also important so they can have a look and let you know if everything is OK or if they need to intervene.


Just like in humans, pancreatitis is the inflammation of the pancreas. The pancreas is responsible for the production and release of glucagon and insulin, both of which play an important role in the regulation of glucose in your pet’s body. The pancreas also secretes digestive enzymes that break down starches, proteins, and fats so they can be absorbed easily.

Pancreatitis in dogs is very painful and it does present with a number of symptoms. These include fever, dehydration, restlessness, panting, weakness, reduced or lost appetite, diarrhea and vomiting. Canine pancreatitis is a serious illness that will require a visit to the vet. The vet will check your dog and then prescribe a course of treatment that may include surgery.

Ear Infections

Ear infections are, sadly, very common in dogs. Recurring ear infections are typically caused by allergens such as soy, wheat, and corn in their food. However, these infections can also be caused by bacteria and ear mites, and these tend to be more serious.

You might notice your dog scratching their ears, shaking their heads vigorously, rubbing their ears against a surface, or losing balance if they have such an infection. Severe infections present with ear odor, hair loss around the infection site, walking in circles, hearing loss, constant barking from pain, and redness of the ears.

If you notice any of these issues, you can do your part by cleaning and drying their ears. That will provide some relief, but you still need to take them to a vet so they can prescribe some topical medication, usually aunty-fungal or antibacterial medication.

Skin Infections & Itchy Skin

Every dog scratches their coat from time to time. However, there is a problem if your dog does so incessantly. As with ear infections, a very common cause of itchy skin and coat is food allergies. Switching to foods specifically made for dogs with allergies can help. If the diet change does not make them feel better, then there is something else going on.

The second most common cause of itchy skin in dogs is infections. Bacteria and yeast infections. especially in dogs with a lot of fur and skin folds, can cause canine itching that then causes other issues. For example, they can cause painful sores or injuries as your dog bites and scratches the itchy areas.

Treatment differs depending on the cause of the itchiness, but vets typically recommend shampoos to treat itching caused by allergies and different medications for itching caused by other issues. Your doctor will also treat the other issues caused by the itching such as sores from biting.


Although it can affect any dog, arthritis is more common in older dogs. The first sign most people observe is their dog seeming stiff when they try getting up. There are many causes and types of arthritis, but the most common manifestation is two bones rubbing against each other at a joint due to the lack of cartilage and synovial fluid.

Other signs that your dog might have arthritis include lameness in one or more legs, reluctance to go up or down stairs, reluctance to be touched, unexpected aggression, reluctance to jump, and swollen, sore, or stiff joints.

Heavier dogs as well as some breeds are more susceptible to arthritis. This is something you should investigate about your dog so that you know how to prevent it from happening.

Your vet will likely recommend a change in diet if the issues are caused by weight or pain medication. They may also prescribe anti-inflammatory medication which will work in conjunction with the pain medication to make your dog more comfortable.

In addition to these interventions, also consider increasing their intake of chondroitin and glucosamine, both of which have been shown to improve joint pain.

It is important to keep a close eye on your dog so that you know when something is wrong. Knowing the different issues that could come up also lets you intervene sooner before a small issue becomes a bigger problem. Lastly, regular pet visits are invaluable in helping you identify issues early.

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