Information on diseases and ailments in dogs

There are four major diseases that can seriously affect a dog's way of life. Learn about them by reading this article.


It is the responsibility of a dog owner to protect, provide for, and love their dog as it was one of the family.  Part of this responsibility is knowing the more common ailments and diseases that affect dogs.  

Many ailments can plague a dog in his lifetime, however, there are four major diseases that cannot be taken lightly.  Distemper, rabies, leptospirosis, and canine infectious hepatitis can and will have a profound effect on your dog's life as well as your own.


Distemper is an airborne virus that is highly infectious and deadly to dogs.  It can also be carried through saliva, urine, feces, and nasal discharge from an infected dog. It strikes mostly puppies and young dogs whose immune systems are more vulnerable.  Distemper has its peak periods, reaching its high in the spring, fall, and part of the winter months.  Warmer weather, say in the summer, has a huge effect on the distemper virus causing it to become dormant.  Once a dog has been exposed to the virus, it will take anywhere from 3 to 21 days for symptoms to start. 

Symptoms include the following:

*runny nose
*loss of appetite

Symptoms will persist and become worse as the disease progresses.  Prompt medical attention is advised as soon as symptoms appear.  The longer you wait, the less of a chance the dog will survive.  It is a sad truth that most dogs will not survive this disease, however, the earlier the treatment, the better your dog's chances.

Fortunately, there is a vaccination to guard against distemper.  This is a once a year injection that your veterinarian will require. 


Rabies is a very rare disease in dogs, but nonetheless serious.  Rabies affects the central nervous system and is classified as a virus.  This virus is transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal and the incubation period is about 30 to 60 days.  

Once symptoms start, a usually friendly dog may become snappy or even ferocious.  Foaming at the mouth is also a classic symptom.  If you suspect your dog has rabies, take him to the vet immediately.  If you are bitten by a rabid dog, see your physician promptly for treatment.


Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease of dogs as well as humans.  It can occur in two-forms: canicola fever and Weil's disease.  Both forms are easily transmitted from animal to human.  

Leptospirosis affects the kidneys and liver.  Dogs will have a jaundiced look to their skin.

Symptoms include:

*no appetite
*nasal discharge
*muscular stiffness
*change in bowel movements
*change in urinary habits

Leptospirosis requires immediate medical attention.  Thankfully, there is a vaccination to protect your dog and should be given when your veterinarian recommends.

Infectious Canine Hepatitis

Canine Hepatitis is a viral disease and is spread by direct contact of nasal discharge, saliva or urine of an infected dog.  Hepatitis has Distemper-like symptoms.  Listlessness, vomiting, inflamed nostrils, and discharge from the nose are all symptoms of both diseases.  However, unlike Distemper, Hepatitis gives the dog a high temperature as well as bloody stools and vomit.  This disease affects the dog's gastrointestinal tract and requires prompt medical attention.  

Contact your veterinarian for vaccination against this disease.

There are other ailments that plague dogs that are less serious than the ones mentioned above.  Some of these include diabetes, urinary tract ailments, ear troubles, eye ailments, and bad breath to name a few, but are the more common ailments.  

Diabetes occurs in dogs mostly over five years of age.  It is highly treatable through a change in diet, but requires veterinary attention nonetheless.  Symptoms include increased thirst, heavy urination, weakness, and if not treated, coma.  

A urinary tract infection can occur in dogs of all ages.  Tenderness in the kidney area and vomiting are classic symptoms. Get the dog to the vet immediately for treatment.

Long-eared varieties of dogs are more susceptible to ear troubles than other dogs.  However, it can occur in any dog.  Cuts, bug bites, and canker sores are common.  See your vet for treatment immediately.  Not treating can eventually lead to deafness.

Dogs' eyes are very vulnerable to parasites and injury.  Be on the lookout for weeping eyes and inflammation in and around the eyes.  These symptoms are some of the symptoms of major diseases like distemper.  To be on the safe side, have it checked out by your veterinarian.

Bad breath is also a common problem in dogs and is caused by any number of things including a poor diet, infected teeth or gums, or intestinal disorders.  No matter how trivial it seems, have the dog checked by the veterinarian to be safe.  Treatment may simply be to let the dog chew on hard bones to help with breath or he may require medication.  

The vast array of diseases and ailments seem endless, but if you have a general idea of what to keep an eye out for, you and your dog will be more likely to have a healthy, happy life together.