The Most Common Dog Diseases And How To Treat Them

On 11th March 2020, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the outbreak of COVID-19 a global pandemic. Nations across the world faced orders from country leaders demanding they stay home to prevent coronavirus spread.

Few excuses for leaving home were deemed valid; children fled school, parents escaped work, and medical staff faced arguably more stress than ever before.

Communities across the globe entered a state of shock, with many refusing to leave the house, even for essential shopping. Terms such as ‘furlough’ and ‘social distancing’ became more prominent than ever.

Yet, amongst the feared, shocked, and bored communities were pet owners.

At the time, scientists knew very little about the coronavirus.

‘Can dogs contract coronavirus?’
‘Is my cat vulnerable to the virus?’
‘Is it safe to walk my dog?’

However, the hysteria surrounding animal-related coronavirus cases only suffocated the numerous other infections, diseases and misinformation that animals may face.

Below are the most common diseases and infections that a dog can face.

But before we discuss them, we must understand the root cause of disease, infection and allergies to treat them.

What Causes Diseases?

The two main causes of disease are organisms and antibiotic resistance;


Firstly, the cause of infectious diseases stems from organisms such as bacteria, fungi, viruses or parasites. Typically, the majority of these are harmless and cause no issues. Some of them even help with general bodily functions, such as the digestive probiotic Lactobacillus.

This doesn’t mean you should allow your pet to encounter as many organisms as possible.

Some bacteria, such as those found in flawed and imperfect food, can cause severe and fatal infections in dogs. Salmonella, for example, can be found in uncooked food.

Even if your dog doesn’t exhibit any symptoms, they can be carriers of the bacteria, shedding salmonella in their stool and saliva. The disease can then spread around the home to other people and pets in the household.


Disease-causing fungi

An example of the most common fungi – mushrooms


Bacteria as viewed through an electron microscope

Antibiotic Resistance

We use antibiotics to treat bacterial infections. The most common canine antibiotics are:

  • Amoxicillin
  • Cephalexin
  • Metronidazole

As always, it is imperative to follow the instructions for the medication provided by the prescribing veterinarian. But it is more so important when giving your dog antibiotics.

For example, suppose a dog does not finish a course of antibiotics.

In that case, germs such as bacteria and fungi may develop the ability to defeat the drugs designed to eradicate them.

In simple terms, this means the germs are not killed and continue to grow. In severe cases, they are impossible to treat.

We can prevent drug-resistant infections through precautionary steps.

Good upkeep of essential immunisations, safe food preparation, hand washing, and using antibiotics as directed can all help reduce resistance.

This will keep you, your pet, and other animals safe.

What Spreads Diseases?

A disease transmits or ‘moves’ in several ways. The more methods of transmission mean the condition has a higher chance of contraction.

Airborne Transmission

The primary method of transmission is airborne transmission. This occurs when there is exposure to ‘breath droplets’ that contain smaller particles of the disease. Often, they remain suspended in the air over long distances and time.

Let’s look at kennel cough;

Kennel cough acquired its name through the ease of transmission in dog kennels.

It is a very contagious and infectious disease, with severe cases requiring veterinary treatment. Nowadays, you may hear dog owners referring to this as the ‘COVID-19 of dogs’.

Symptoms include a chesty, hooking cough, occasionally followed by a stomach retch.

Airborne Disease

Infectious airborne particles

It is highly likely for the disease to spread if an infected dog has shared air near another dog. Furthermore, kennel cough can pass through dog toys, food bowls, and other shared objects.

Dog Diseases

Direct Contact

Another standard method of transmission is through direct contact. Particles containing the germ may exhibit on infected, unsanitary surfaces. This can also include unwashed hands.

The canine parvovirus causes Parvo in dogs and is caught through direct contact. For example, through the nose and mouth when a dog sniffs or licks a surface contaminated with faeces.

As puppies discover the world through smell and mouthing, we can see how an intrigued puppy could contract Parvo.

Symptoms of Parvo include severe, bloody diarrhoea, lethargy, anorexia, dehydration, and more. It is a potentially fatal virus that requires intensive care.

As with all diseases and symptoms, you should contact your nearest vet for emergency care if you are concerned. The sooner your dog is diagnosed and cared for, the better.

Kennel Cough

Other Methods Of Transmission

Now we know the two leading spreads of diseases, we can attribute the contraction of them to specific scenarios.

It is always good advice to socialise your dog, not only at an early age but throughout their life. Yet, we mustn’t disregard the potential for infection.

As with kennel cough, discussed above, it is unfortunate that more social dogs have a high chance of contracting such infections. Appropriate care and boundaries must be in place when socialising your dog with others.

We must observe body language and signs of illness in other dogs where possible. This can reduce the risk of contraction.

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Finally, here is a list of some of the most common canine diseases/infections.

Ear Infections

It is not unusual for 9/10 dogs to face some ear infection in their lifetime.

Fortunately, the resulting symptoms are usually harmless and only cause distress.

This does not mean we shouldn’t treat the illness.

It is essential to speak with a veterinary professional if you have any element of concern; some illnesses share symptoms and therefore are easily confused.


Symptoms May Include:
  • Excessive head shaking
  • Consistent scratching of ears
  • General irritability scratching of the head area
  • Whimpering/whining whilst scratching
Symptoms May Include:
  • Itching
  • Hypersensitivity
  • Bald patches (heat spots)
  • Diarrhoea

Food Allergies

Unsurprisingly, one culprit of distressing symptoms in dogs can occur through food allergies.

Whilst not a disease or infection by name, it can often be mistaken for such.

Common allergenic foods:

  • Chicken
  • Beef
  • Change in diet (although not entirely allergenic, dogs may exhibit similar symptoms)
  • Cheap, nutritionally-lacking food
  • Dry kibble

By recognising and understanding food allergies, it is easier to differentiate between infection and disease.

External Parasites And Vectors

External parasites (fleas, ticks, mange, etc.) are all typical dog issues. Ticks come from the environment, fleas from other dogs and the environment, and mange from other dogs (particularly dog gatherings).

These parasites can act as a medium/vector for diseases, such as tick-borne diseases, tapeworms. They can infest your home if your pets carry them.

Unlike other diseases, there are many products approved to prevent and treat parasitic infections in dogs effectively.

You should speak with your local veterinarian for more information on the best treatment products.

Symptoms May Include:
  • Itching
  • Diarrhoea
  • Constipation
  • More than one affected animal

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