Top 10 most common dog illnesses and conditions

New research carried out by Everypaw Pet Insurance has compiled a list of the top 10 most common dog illnesses and conditions to help people spot symptoms at an early stage and treat their pets.

Kennel Cough takes the top spot followed by Dog Fleas and then Pancreatitis. It comes as online searches for both “Kennel Cough” and “Dog Fleas” start to rise at this time of year, peaking in August – September. 

1. Kennel Cough

Kennel cough is a common disease that is very contagious and will spread rapidly. It is caused by a combination of viruses and bacteria, which irritate the windpipe. Sufferers have a dry hacking cough and occasionally a high temperature.

Affected dogs should be kept in a warm environment, have restricted exercise, and kept away from other animals to prevent spreading. Treatment is not necessary as the cough gradually resolves after 2-3 weeks. But antibiotics can be given if the infection spreads to the chest.

There is a vaccination that can be given to protect your dog from this disease.

2. Dog Fleas

Fleas are small, reddish-brown insects that feed on dog’s blood. They lay their eggs in dog’s fur, which will then fall off and hatch into larvae.

Dogs with fleas will scratch, bite and lick themselves to relieve the itching. Dogs that are allergic to fleas will suffer from crusty rashes and hair loss.

To prevent flea infestations you will need to regularly treat your dog and home. There are tablets, powders, sprays, spot-ons and shampoos available to kill adult and immature fleas. You will need to wash your dog’s bedding and hoover flooring to get rid of eggs.

3. Pancreatitis

The pancreas helps with the digestion of food by producing digestive enzymes. Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas, which causes the digestive enzymes to leak into the pancreas and self-digest.

Clinical signs range from none to severe abdominal upset and even death. Dogs with pancreatitis are often miserable and refuse to eat. If you are concerned about your dog’s health it is best to get them checked by a vet.

Pancreatitis is a painful condition that requires pain relief to ease symptoms. Mild cases may recover in a few days without treatment. More severe cases will need to be hospitalised for intensive care and undergo an operation.

4. Ringworm

Ringworm (also known as dermatophytosis) is a fungal infection, caused by Microsporum canis. It is highly contagious and can be passed from dogs to other animals or humans.

Sufferers of ringworm will develop skin lesions on the face, ears and limbs. Many dogs show no clinical signs but can pass the spores on to others. Young dogs, under 1 year of age, are most commonly infected.

Treatment involves isolation, oral and topical medication. Gloves and protective clothing should be worn when treating the dog to prevent the spread of infection. The dog’s environment will also need thoroughly cleaning.

If a human develops skin lesions, they should see a doctor to be treated appropriately.

5. Dog Diarrhoea

There are many causes of diarrhoea including changes in diet, bacterial infections, poisonous chemicals, or damage to the digestive system. It occurs when there is a disturbance to the normal function of the large bowel (intestine).

Dogs suffering from diarrhoea may need to empty their bowels more frequently and will have softer than normal stools. Feed your dog a diet of plain chicken and rice, and it should improve in 1-2 days. Take your dog to a vet if they haven’t started to improve after 24 hours. Puppies with diarrhoea dehydrate quickly, so should be seen by a vet sooner.

6. Dog Ear Infections

Inflammation (redness and discharge) of the ear canal is a sign of an external ear infection, which can then progress to middle or inner ear infections. Allergies, ear mites, foreign bodies, skin disorders, thyroid disease, and tumours or polyps in the ear cause ear infections.

The ear becomes painful, itchy and can produce a bad smell. Affected dogs will shake their head, scratch their ears, or rub up against the floor or furniture. They may also groan or cry out.

Most ear infections can be treated with ear drops and regular cleaning of the ears. But the primary disease will also need to be treated to prevent a recurrence.

7. Blocked Anal Glands

Anal glands (sacs) are two small pockets positioned either side of the dog’s bottom. They produce a fishy-smelling substance that coats the faeces to leave a territorial scent.

Blocked anal glands occur when the sacs fail to empty, usually due to loose faeces or if the dog’s gland ducts are too narrow. Affected dogs will excessively lick the area, drag their bottom on the ground, and sit down abruptly clamping their tail.

A vet or owner (if shown how) can manually empty the anal glands. But chronic blockages need to be drained, flushed and treated with antibiotics. Adding more fibre to the diet may help to prevent a recurrence.

8. Conjunctivitis

Conjunctivitis refers to the inflammation of the conjunctiva – the pinkish surface that surrounds the eyeball. This causes the eye to become red, sore and usually produces discharge. The conjunctiva may be swollen and partially cover the eye.

Many conditions can cause conjunctivitis, some are easily treatable, but others are more difficult. These conditions include irritants, trauma, immune system diseases, foreign bodies in the eye, or other eye problems such as eyelid deformities.

A vet will need to examine the eye to determine the cause of the problem. Most cases are treated with eye drops or ointments, but some will require antibiotic treatment. There may also be a need to treat underlying problems.

9. Mange

Mange is caused by an infestation of tiny mites on the dog’s skin, causing hair loss and itching. Sarcoptic mange (scabies) is caused by Sarcoptic scabei, which burrow into the outer layers of the dog’s skin causing itchiness. Dog’s will scratch and chew to relieve the itch, causing damage to the skin. They are highly contagious and can easily pass onto other dogs.

Demodectic mange (demodex) is caused by Demodex canis, which live in the hair follicles. They are generally only passed from mother to pup via muzzle. Mange can be treated using drugs, anti-parasitic shampoos, dips and spot-ons.

10. Poisoning

Poisoning can happen when a poisonous substance is swallowed, breathed in or absorbed through the skin. When this happens, the substances damage the cells in the body, causing side effects such as:

Vomiting or diarrhoea
Salivation or drooling
Breathing difficulties

A rapid response is critical if you suspect your dog has been poisoned. You must take them to the vet immediately for treatment to give it a better chance of survival. Most cases of poisoning are accidental so make sure all poisonous substances are kept out of reach of your dog. The most common poisonous substances for dogs are:

Slug pellets
Adder bites
Rat poison
Food items (raisins, onions and chocolate)