Dogs, like humans, can suffer from a variety of illnesses. Dog diseases can range from minor illnesses to serious, life-threatening diseases.

As a dog owner, understanding these potential health issues is key to ensuring your pet lives a healthy and happy life.

A dog lying down, looking lethargic with droopy ears and watery eyes. Its fur is dull and patchy, and it's scratching itself frequently

Regular veterinary check-ups and preventative care can significantly reduce the likelihood of your dog contracting many of these diseases.

Knowing the signs and symptoms of common dog ailments can help you take timely action and seek appropriate treatment.

This article aims to provide crucial information on various dog diseases, highlighting what you need to know to keep your furry friend in the best possible health.

1) Canine Parvovirus

Canine parvovirus, often called parvo, is a highly contagious virus that affects dogs, particularly puppies. The virus attacks the intestines and immune system, leading to severe symptoms.

Dogs with parvo typically show signs like vomiting, diarrhoea, and extreme tiredness. These symptoms often appear suddenly and can escalate quickly.

Parvovirus can be fatal if not treated promptly. It damages the lining of the intestines, making it tough for the dog to absorb nutrients.

As parvo progresses, you may notice your dog becoming very weak and dehydrated. Their gums might turn darker or paler than normal. Infected dogs need immediate veterinary care.

Spread through contact with infected faeces, the virus can survive in the environment for months. Unvaccinated dogs are at high risk of infection.

Treatment usually involves hospitalisation, where the dog receives intensive care. This can include fluids, medications to control vomiting, and support for their immune system.

Vaccination is the most effective way to prevent parvo. Make sure your dog receives all recommended vaccinations to reduce the risk of infection.

For more detailed information, visit PDSA’s page on parvovirus or Blue Cross’s guide.

2) Kennel Cough

Kennel cough is a common respiratory infection in dogs. It is caused by various bacteria and viruses. It often spreads in places where many dogs gather, like kennels and dog parks.

The main symptom is a forceful, hacking cough. This can sound like your dog has something stuck in their throat. The cough can be dry or produce mucus.

Infected dogs may also sneeze, have a runny nose, or show signs of tiredness. Puppies and older dogs can be more severely affected.

Most cases of kennel cough are mild and clear up on their own in a few weeks. However, it can sometimes lead to complications like pneumonia, especially in young or weak dogs.

You can help prevent kennel cough by vaccinating your dog. It’s also wise to keep your dog away from infected dogs and areas known to have infections.

If your dog shows symptoms, keep them comfortable and well-hydrated. In some cases, a vet may prescribe antibiotics to prevent secondary infections.

For more detailed information, you can visit Blue Cross or The Kennel Club.

3) Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is a serious infection caused by bacteria called Borrelia. It’s mainly spread through the bite of infected ticks, especially the deer tick, also known as the black-legged tick. Only a small percentage of these ticks carry the bacteria, but the disease can still cause significant issues in dogs.

Common symptoms in dogs include fever, loss of appetite, and low energy. You might also notice lameness that shifts from one leg to another and joint stiffness. These signs can appear weeks or even months after a tick bite.

In some cases, Lyme disease can affect your dog’s kidneys. This condition, known as Lyme nephritis, is quite serious and requires prompt veterinary attention. It’s important to watch for symptoms like vomiting, diarrhoea, and weight loss.

Tick prevention is key in reducing the risk of Lyme disease. This can include using tick-preventive products and regularly checking your dog for ticks after walks, especially in wooded or grassy areas.

If you suspect your dog has Lyme disease, see your vet. They can perform tests and start treatment, which often includes antibiotics. Early detection and treatment can help manage the disease and reduce complications. For more detailed information, you can visit PDSA or AKC.

4) Canine Distemper

Canine distemper is a highly contagious viral disease that affects dogs. It’s caused by the canine distemper virus (CDV). This virus spreads through the air and by direct contact with an infected dog. It can also spread via shared items like food bowls and bedding.

Initial symptoms of canine distemper include fever, coughing, and a runny nose. Dogs may also exhibit eye discharge and a loss of appetite. As the disease progresses, it can cause vomiting and diarrhoea, making the dog very ill.

In severe cases, the virus can affect the dog’s brain, leading to muscle tremors, twitching, and seizures. This stage of the disease can be particularly distressing for both the dog and its owner.

Vaccination is key to preventing canine distemper. Puppies should receive their first vaccination at 6-8 weeks of age, with follow-up doses. Keeping your dog’s vaccinations up to date is crucial to avoid this dangerous disease.

If you suspect your dog has distemper, consult a vet immediately. Early treatment may help manage symptoms and improve the chances of recovery. For more info on canine distemper, you can visit the PDSA and Blue Cross.

5) Heartworm Disease

Heartworm disease is caused by a parasite called Dirofilaria immitis. This parasite is transmitted through mosquito bites. When an infected mosquito bites your dog, it can deposit heartworm larvae into your dog’s bloodstream.

These larvae travel to the heart and lungs where they mature into adult worms. Adult heartworms can be quite long and cause serious damage to your dog’s heart and lungs. If left untreated, the disease can be fatal.

Symptoms of heartworm disease include coughing, fatigue, weight loss, and difficulty breathing. It’s important to note that some dogs may show no symptoms until the disease is advanced.

Diagnosis is done through a blood test to detect heartworm antigens. Vets recommend yearly testing, even if your dog is on preventive medication, to ensure early detection.

Preventive medication is the best way to protect your dog from heartworm disease. These medications are usually given monthly and can effectively prevent the disease if administered correctly.

Treatment for heartworm infection can be lengthy and expensive. It often involves a series of injections to kill the adult worms, along with several weeks of restricted activity for your dog to avoid complications.

For more detailed information, you can visit the American Heartworm Society and VCA Animal Hospitals.

6) Rabies

Rabies is a deadly viral disease that affects the central nervous system of mammals, including dogs. The virus spreads primarily through saliva from the bite of an infected animal. In rare cases, it can also spread if an infected animal’s saliva gets into an open wound.

Symptoms in dogs include behavioural changes, such as aggression or unusual friendliness. As the disease progresses, dogs may experience paralysis and difficulty swallowing. Once symptoms appear, rabies is almost always fatal.

The best way to prevent rabies is through regular vaccination. Dogs should receive their first vaccine at around three months old, followed by boosters as recommended by a vet. Vaccinated dogs are much less likely to contract or spread the virus.

Rabies is a zoonotic disease, which means it can transmit from animals to humans. Humans can get rabies through bites or scratches from infected animals, or if saliva from an infected animal touches an open wound or mucous membranes like eyes or mouth.

If you suspect your dog has been exposed to rabies, seek immediate veterinary care. Early intervention is crucial. For more detailed information, you can visit this page on rabies in dogs. Regular vaccination and prompt action can help protect both your pet and your family.

7) Leptospirosis

Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that affects dogs by damaging vital organs like the liver and kidneys. The bacteria, called Leptospira, can spread through urine.

Dogs typically catch it from infected wet ground or fresh water, such as rivers and lakes.

All dogs are at risk, regardless of where they live, their breed, or age. Symptoms can range from mild to severe, including lethargy, fever, vomiting, and increased thirst.

In severe cases, leptospirosis can cause acute kidney injury or respiratory problems, which can be life-threatening.

Veterinarians diagnose leptospirosis using serologic tests or by identifying the bacteria in tissues, blood, or urine.

Treatment usually involves antibiotics like doxycycline, which are effective in clearing the infection. Early diagnosis and treatment are crucial to improve the chances of recovery.

Vaccination against leptospirosis is highly recommended for all dogs. Vaccines protect against multiple strains of the bacteria, although no vaccine offers complete protection.

Annual vaccination is advised to maintain immunity.

For further details on leptospirosis in dogs, you can visit the PDSA or the Merck Veterinary Manual.

8) Bloat

Bloat in dogs, also known as gastric torsion or Gastric Dilation Volvulus (GDV), is a severe and life-threatening condition. It occurs when a dog’s stomach fills with gas and twists, which cuts off the blood supply.

Symptoms include a swollen tummy, retching without producing vomit, and obvious signs of pain. A dog with bloat may also appear restless and unable to get comfortable.

Bloat requires immediate medical attention. If you suspect your dog is bloated, contact your vet or an emergency vet right away. The condition can become fatal within hours if left untreated.

Keeping your dog calm and in a cool area can help while you seek urgent care. Rapid intervention is crucial to saving your dog’s life.

Certain factors can increase the risk of bloat. Stressful events, a history of intestinal disease, and specific breeds such as Great Danes and German Shepherds are more prone to this condition.

For more detailed information, you can refer to the Blue Cross or The Kennel Club.

Recognising the symptoms and knowing the risk factors can make a vital difference. Always be vigilant and act fast if you see the warning signs.

9) Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is a common ailment in dogs where the hip joint does not form correctly. This often leads to pain and arthritis.

It usually affects medium to large breeds. The hip joint is a ball-and-socket joint. In dogs with hip dysplasia, the ball does not fit well into the socket, causing instability.

Puppies typically show signs of hip dysplasia while they are growing. Symptoms include difficulty rising, reluctance to run or jump, and swaying gait.

As the dog ages, these symptoms often worsen, leading to decreased mobility.

Genetics play a significant role in the development of hip dysplasia. Dogs can inherit this condition from their parents.

Besides genetics, factors like diet and exercise can also influence the onset. Ensuring that puppies have a balanced diet and proper exercise can help.

Diagnosing hip dysplasia involves a physical examination and X-rays.

Treatment options vary based on the severity. Mild cases may be managed with weight control and medication. Severe cases might require surgical intervention.

For more detailed information, you can read about hip dysplasia in dogs from PDSA.

10) Pancreatitis

Pancreatitis occurs when the pancreas, an organ near the stomach, becomes inflamed. This condition can be acute or chronic.

Symptoms of pancreatitis in dogs often include vomiting, nausea, and pain. Some dogs may also experience diarrhoea and weight loss.

In severe cases, other systems in the body can be affected, leading to potentially life-threatening complications.

Dogs with acute pancreatitis often show clear signs of abdominal discomfort and gastrointestinal upset. Chronic pancreatitis is less obvious but can still affect your dog’s health over time.

A low-fat diet is crucial for managing this condition. Providing low-fat treats and meals can help minimise flare-ups.

Identifying and treating any underlying diseases or risk factors is also important.

If you suspect your dog has pancreatitis, seek veterinary care immediately.

Early treatment can prevent more severe problems and improve your dog’s chances of recovery. For further information, you can visit this pancreatitis in dogs page.

In some cases, pancreatitis can cause jaundice if the bile duct is involved. Jaundice is a yellowing of the skin and eyes that requires prompt medical attention.

Common Dog Diseases

Dogs can suffer from various diseases that can affect their health and wellbeing. Canine parvovirus (CPV) and kennel cough are two of the most prevalent and concerning illnesses.

Canine Parvovirus

CPV is a highly contagious viral illness that primarily affects puppies and unvaccinated dogs. The virus targets the intestines, causing severe vomiting and diarrhoea, often leading to dehydration.

Early symptoms include lethargy, loss of appetite, and fever.

As the disease progresses, symptoms may become more severe. Infected dogs usually have a distinct foul-smelling diarrhoea which can be bloody.

Transmission occurs through direct contact with an infected dog or contaminated faeces. The virus can survive in the environment for long periods, making it hard to eradicate.

Treatment typically involves intensive veterinary care, including hydration, anti-nausea medication, and antibiotics to prevent secondary infections.

Vaccination is the best prevention, so ensure your dog is up-to-date with its shots.

Kennel Cough

Kennel cough is a respiratory infection caused by a combination of viruses and bacteria, noticeably Bordetella bronchiseptica. It spreads easily in places where dogs are in close quarters, like kennels and dog parks.

Symptoms include a persistent dry cough that sounds like a goose honk, nasal discharge, and in some cases, mild fever.

The cough can last for several weeks and pairs with gagging or retching.

Dogs can contract the infection through contact with an infected dog or through the air. Kennel cough is most common in environments where ventilation is poor.

Treatment often depends on the severity. Mild cases may resolve with rest and good nutrition, while more severe cases may require antibiotics or cough suppressants.

Vaccination can help prevent kennel cough, so discuss it with your vet, especially if your dog frequents social places.

Preventing Dog Diseases

A veterinarian administers vaccines to dogs in a clean, well-lit clinic. Posters with information on preventing dog diseases line the walls

Preventing dog diseases involves keeping up with vaccinations and scheduling routine health checks. By staying proactive, you can keep your dog healthier and happier.


Vaccinations are crucial for preventing many dog diseases.

Start vaccinations when your dog is a puppy, typically around six to eight weeks old.

Core vaccines include rabies, distemper, parvovirus, and canine adenovirus. These protect against common and severe diseases.

Non-core vaccines are optional and depend on your dog’s lifestyle and exposure risks.

These might include vaccines for Bordetella (kennel cough), Lyme disease, and leptospirosis. Your vet will recommend the best plan for your dog.

Keep a vaccination schedule. Missing vaccines can leave your dog vulnerable.

Booster shots are needed regularly to maintain immunity. Check with your vet about the timing of these boosters.

Routine Health Checks

Routine health checks help catch diseases early, increasing the chances of successful treatment. Schedule a vet visit at least once a year for a comprehensive examination. For older dogs, more frequent check-ups are recommended.

During these visits, your vet will check your dog’s weight, teeth, ears, and overall condition. They might also perform blood tests and other diagnostics to identify hidden issues.

Regular health checks also include parasite control. Dogs can get parasites like fleas, ticks, and worms. Your vet can recommend treatments to prevent infestations and keep your dog healthy.