The Five Most Common Dog Physical Problems


What are the most common dog diseases and health problems? In 2008, a popular pet health insurance provider (VPI) evaluated this issue and released the following results, listed in order of frequency:

The most common health problems in dogs are:

  1. Ear Infections
  2. Skin Allergies
  3. Pyoderma/Hot Spots
  4. Gastritis/Vomiting
  5. Enteritis/Diarrhea

Rounding out the top ten in their survey were: urinary tract infections, benign skin tumors, Osteoarthritis, eye inflammation and Hypothyroidism.

These ten dog health problems accounted for nearly 25% of all dog health insurance claims.

Not included in VPI's list but other highly prevalent canine health concerns are: parasites (worms, fleas, ticks), Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus ("GDV") - commonly known as bloat, and obesity.

It is recommended that you make a list of these health concerns (the ten in VPI's survey plus parasites, bloat, and obesity) and bring them with you to veterinary appointments. Ask your vet for more information on common dog ailments and symptoms of each.

Preventative care can significantly reduce or eliminate the risk for many of these health problems. Obesity is best avoided by regulated, measured feedings combined with safe and appropriate exercise. Parasites can be prevented by keeping your dog's immune system strong through a carefully chosen, species appropriate diet, by keeping your dog clean and well-groomed, and through the use of preventatives, which include a wide array of products from flea and tick collars to spot on treatments, essential oil blends, and diatomaceous earth. Ear infections can be prevented or significantly reduced in frequency through appropriate and consistent cleaning of the ears.

While all of the mentioned canine health problems can affect a dog of any breed, some tend to appear more frequently in certain breeds and types. Bloat is most frequently seen in dogs with deep chests, and occurs most commonly in Great Danes, followed by Saint Bernards and Weimaraners. Since bloat is a medical emergency and can effect a dog of any breed or mix, it is worth asking your vet about tips for preventing bloat and how to recognize the symptoms in case, despite your best efforts, your dog bloats.

Similarly, ear infections are most common in dogs with floppy ears and appear more rarely in dogs with prick ears. However, any dog can get an ear infection, so it is well worth every dog owner's time to learn the correct method for cleaning ears, to be diligent about keeping a dog's ears clean, and to watch for symptoms of ear infections (shaking of the head, sensitivity about ears being handled, incessant scratching at the ears, etc.).

Also consider your dog's age - older dogs are more likely to bloat and have arthritis. Certain parasites seem to appear more commonly in puppies than in adult dogs.

Certain health problems on the list may increase the risk factor for other canine maladies, creating a veritable domino effect of dog health problems. Skin allergies and flea bites can both contribute to the development of hot spots. Obesity is a contributing factor in the development of arthritis. Hypothyroidism can contribute to obesity and skin problems. Ear infections, if left untreated, can lead to disorientation and vomiting, bloat can make a dog "dry heave." Diarrhea and vomiting can be symptomatic of internal parasites.

External parasites can cause internal parasites (fleas can transmit tapeworms, mosquitoes can transmit heartworm). Additionally, some parasites common to dogs can be transmitted to humans, like hookworms and roundworms.

Some of the health problems on the list (diarrhea, vomiting, urinary tract infection) are also popular reasons for human vet visits. If you suspect your pet has a urinary tract infection (symptoms include: discomfort when urinating, urinating very frequently, blood in urine, excessive water intake), your vet will likely ask you to collect a urine sample from your dog and bring it to your visit for testing. As with humans, a prescription antibiotic is generally advised in the treatment of UTIs.

Just like there can be dozens if not hundreds of reasons for diarrhea and vomiting in humans, there are a variety of reasons these maladies can occur in the family dog. Your dog may have gotten into the garbage and consumed something that did not agree with her, you may have recently changed her food and she is having difficulty adjusting to the new diet, she may have eaten too much, or too rapidly. Dogs can get diarrhea when they are extremely nervous, or vomit due to carsickness. Vomiting and diarrhea are not illnesses; they are symptoms of another problem.

Plan for Wellness: Work closely with your veterinarian to make a plan for total wellness, which should include a high quality, high-meat content diet, sufficient and appropriate exercise, veterinary visits at least once a year, and mental stimulation in the form of training and play. The happiest, healthiest dogs are in good behavioral and physical condition.

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