7 Common Health Problems in Dogs

terrier mix wrapped in a green blanket

Good breeding can go a long way in preventing some genetic health issues from being passed on to puppies. However, even with good breeding and good care, dogs, just like humans, can still end up with many different health problems throughout their life. As a dog owner, knowing what can happen and what to look for can be a big help. Here are a few common health problems in dogs:

1. Ear Infections

Every dog can develop ear infections and they are a common health problem for all breeds of dogs. Dogs with floppy ears are more prone to ear infections, but ear infections can occur in any dog regardless of the type of ears they have.

Often, ear infections are caused by bacteria, ear mites, excessive wax, yeast, allergies, and more. Checking your dog’s ears on a weekly basis and knowing how to clean your dog’s ears when you need to do so can go a long way in preventing ear infections or catching them early if they are starting.

When you check your dog’s ears, you want to make sure they are clean, dry, clear of debris, and free of pests. If you see redness, obvious irritation, smelly or discolored discharge, excessive wax or moisture, or something else that is concerning, it’s time to visit the vet.

Your dog may also scratch their ears a lot, rub them with their paws, and shake their heads a lot more than normal. They may also yelp or pull away from you when you try to touch their ears. These actions are also a cause for concern and should warrant a visit to the vet.

Your vet will be able to identify the source of the infection and provide the appropriate treatment. Depending on what this is, it could be a standard cleaning with some medication or medicated ear drops. Some infections may require strong antibiotics and advanced infections may require surgery. If you’re regularly checking your dog’s ears, infections should not get to this point unless something else is going on.

2. Skin Allergies and Hot Spots

Skin allergies and hot spots are common skin problems with dogs and can be why your dog is itchy. Skin allergies tend to cause general irritation, itchiness, and rashes, which can lead to hot spots as your dog scratches the area. Hot spots are patches of inflamed and irritated skin that are caused by a bacterial infection.

When a dog has a hot spot or is experiencing an allergic reaction on their skin, they will often scratch, chew, lick, and rub the area frequently to try and get relief. This can cause hair loss to the area as well as cuts, scrapes, and scabs that can become infected.

Treatment at the vet often involves shaving the area, antibiotics, and topical medications. This also often means your dog will need to wear the “cone of shame” while their skin recovers. If their skin issue is caused by an allergic reaction, it can be managed by diet changes, environmental changes, and the right medication depending on the allergy.

3. Worms

Worms are another one of the common health problems in dogs. There are several different types of worms your dog can get and they can come from a lot of different sources. Tapeworms, roundworms, whipworms, and roundworms are common in dogs during their lifetime. Heartworms are also a common type of worm that you can avoid with consistent preventive medication.

Worms can make your dog sick and, if left untreated, can become fatal. Puppies are especially vulnerable when they get worms. A lot of the signs your dog has worms overlap with symptoms you should never ignore in your dog, so if you see any of them, it’s time to go to the vet.

If your dog has diarrhea, is vomiting, and/or is losing weight despite eating, it’s time to visit the vet. When your dog has worms, their coat may be duller and they may scoot their bottom across the floor frequently to try and get relief.

Different types of worms require different types of medication to heal, so it’s important to visit your vet. They will be able to take your dog’s symptoms into account, examine your dog, run tests, and determine the type of worms they have as well as the best treatment for them.

4. Fleas and Ticks

Fleas and ticks are more common health problems for dogs. Even with year-round protection, it’s still important to check your dog regularly and do other things to protect your dog from fleas and from ticks.

Excessive scratching, hair loss, black spots and debris in their coat, and more are all signs that your dog might have fleas. Treatment for fleas usually includes medications, shampoos, and spray as well as a preventive topical medication.

You also want to prepare your dog for tick season. Thankfully, many of the preventive medications used for fleas also include protection from ticks. But, preventive medication only works if your dog is already using it before they come into contact with ticks. This is important for your dog and for you as ticks can carry Lyme Disease, which can infect both of you.

5. Obesity

Another one of the common health problems in dogs, especially as they get older, is obesity. As dogs get older, they may start slowing down and getting less exercise. In these cases, a dog that is overfed can easily become overweight.

Many dog breeds are also at a higher risk of becoming overweight if their diet and exercise are not managed properly. On top of that, certain illnesses can contribute to weight gain. Over time, this can put pressure on your dog’s joints and organs, which can contribute to heart problems, arthritis, and more.

There are many ways to help overweight dogs get healthy. The first stop is usually the vet where they can evaluate your dog and their current diet and exercise. Then, they can recommend a plan to help them. Oftentimes, a special diet, a specific walk length, games outside, and even canine hydrotherapy and swimming are part of the routine.

6. Gum Disease

Gum disease is one of the most common health issues in dogs and it is often due to a lack of good dental care throughout a dog’s life. Some dog breeds are more prone to gum disease than others. But, because good dental care for dogs is often overlooked, this is one of the common health problems in dogs across all breeds and it can show up as early as 2-3 years old.

Just as you will develop gum disease if you don’t care for your teeth, the same is true for your dog. The difference is that your dog needs your help in order to take care of their teeth and gum disease in dogs is no joke! Over time, it can lead to gum recession, tooth decay, tooth loss, and other serious problems. It’s an infection, which means it can spread to other areas of your dog’s body over time, cause secondary infections and diseases, and can become fatal.

7. Bloat

Bloat in dogs can become very serious, very fast if it results in gastric torsion, where the stomach twists and flips. Bloating alone is uncomfortable for your dog, but is not necessarily dangerous. But, as air builds up in your dog’s stomach, it can flip upside down, which is called Gastric Torsion or Gastric Dilation-Volvulus.

When this happens, air and fluid cannot escape from your dog’s stomach, which can become fatal in 1-2 hours and as quickly as 30 minutes! Deep, barrel-chested dogs are at a higher risk of bloat. Most of the time, these are large dog breeds like Boxers, Labs, Dobermans, and more. However, smaller broad-chested breeds like Dachshunds and Basset Hounds are also at risk.

The biggest signs of bloat in dogs is a swelling or swollen stomach. When this is paired with excessive drooling or respiratory problems, it’s time to get to the emergency vet immediately. The best thing to do is to know what to look for and also to try and prevent bloat from occurring.

It’s helpful to slow your dog down when they are eating and drinking to reduce the amount of air that is being gulped into their digestive system. As such, slow feeder bowls and using a water bowl designed to prevent gulping can help reduce the chance of bloat. Avoiding gas-inducing foods and limiting exercise after eating can help as well.

These are just a few of the common health problems in dogs. The good news is that many of them can be avoided with proper care, regular checks, and general maintenance. Plus, if you’re regularly checking in on your dog and keeping up with regular vet visits, you can often catch anything that is happening early and get it treated before it can become something more serious.