As dog lovers, we all want to provide the best possible care for our pets, especially when they’re ill or in pain. Yet, some common health problems can be hard for the untrained eye to spot, while others are often misattributed to other causes.
Here we’ll look at 5 common canine health issues that are often overlooked, and offer some tips on their diagnosis and management.
Dogs And Chronic Ear Infections
Recurring ear infections in dogs often go unnoticed by owners. Caused by bacteria that grow within the dark moist folds of the outer ear and ear canal, these infections can be quite painful and without treatment may become serious. Unless you know what to look for, the cause can remain obscured. After all, all dogs scratch their ears. So how can you tell a simple itch from signs of infection?
If you suspect an itch is more than just that, check the folds of your dog’s ears. If you notice a dark, gritty buildup of material, a foul odor from the ear, or a quick pain response from your pet, you’re probably looking at an ear infection.
Fortunately, your vet can confirm the diagnosis and prescribe topical or oral antibiotics to resolve the infection. If your dog is prone to recurrent ear infections or is of a breed that is particularly vulnerable (like poodles and spaniels), you might consider regular home ear-cleanings for your pet.
Tip: Gently removing dirt and oils from the ear folds with a damp cloth can help make your pup’s ears a less inviting place for harmful bacteria to attach and grow.
Obesity In Dogs
Most dogs self-limit their food consumption and tend to work off any extra calories during walks and play. However, for some, obesity can be a problem—one that can exacerbate other health issues. And while we love to pamper our pets with treats, overfeeding an already obese animal isn’t doing it any favors.
Obesity in dogsputs added strain on joints, reduces mobility and willingness to exercise, and can lead to cardiovascular disease and arthritis. A regimen that combines regular exercise and a healthy diet can help your pup achieve a healthy and sustainable weight. Your vet can recommend a diet containing ingredients that are high in protein and low in carbs and fillers. And because your dog’s metabolism and exercise habits change with age, your vet can work with you to develop a healthy diet based on your pet’s breed, age, weight, and overall health.
Tip: If you want to get in shape with your dog, here are training tips for teaching your dog to walk or run with you.
Arthritis in Dogs
Arthritis in dogs is often overlooked as simply a feature of the aging process. Joints ache, become stiff, and discourage your pet from healthy exercise and play. But just because a condition is labeled “chronic” doesn’t mean it’s untreatable.
Even temporary symptomatic relief can often have profound results. Dietary supplements, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), controlled exercise, and a healthy diet can help to reduce the inflammation that accompanies arthritis and can help your pet stay active longer. Adjusting your pet’s environment can help too. Providing a warm dry place to rest, well cushioned to ease pressure on sore joints, can also ease inflammation and calm symptoms.
Tip: Ask your vet about the latest medical and non-medical interventions used to treat canine arthritis. Here are some DIY care tips on caring for your dog with arthritis.
Dogs And Parasites
When we think of parasites and pets, we typically think of fleas, ticks, and mites that attach themselves to our pets outdoors. But gastrointestinal parasites that live inside our pets’ bodies can be harder to detect. Tapeworms, roundworms, hookworms and bacteria like giardia can all affect a dog’s health from within. Gastrointestinal parasites—most often transmitted when a dog inadvertently eats the eggs of a parasite species—can rob their hosts of valuable nutrients, resulting in weight loss, anemia, and other health problems.
You may notice worms in your dog’s stool or vomit, but many parasites give few obvious signs of their presence. If you notice sudden weight loss, lethargy, pale gums, or gastrointestinal disturbances like vomiting or diarrhea in your pet, schedule a veterinary appointment as soon as possible. You vet has the tools and meds needed to identify and eradicate the parasite responsible for your pet’s symptoms.
Tip: Some canine parasites can be avoided with routine vaccinations. Find out more about immunizations for your dog here.
Heart Disease in Dogs
As in humans, heart disease can often be a silent killer in dogs. The most common cardiovascular conditions seen in dogs are valvular disease or cardiomyopathy. These conditions may offer few or no outward signs, so vigilance is essential. If your dog displays pale gums, reluctance to exercise, or labored breathing, underlying heart disease may be the culprit—especially in senior animals.
Tip: A thorough exam by your vet is the only way to be sure, so if you suspect heart disease in your dog, schedule a veterinary appointment as soon as possible.
We hope with these tips, you’ll be able to spot potential health problems with your dog earlier.
Cecily Kellogg is a pet lover who definitely has crazy cat lady leanings. Her pets are all shelter rescues, including the dog, who is scared of the cats. She spent eight years working as a Veterinary Technician before becoming a writer. Today she writes all over the web, including here at Figo.