Common Ailments in Dogs
There comes the moment in most pet parent’s life when your little furry one’s tail stops wagging.
He isn’t feeling well and is looking to you with big sad puppy dog eyes, counting on you to help.
Unfortunately, there are a number of common ailments in dogs that your faithful friend is bound to get at least one of (unless he’s a REALLY lucky dog).
Here’s a look at some of the conditions and suggestions for remedies as well:
Worms in Dogs
Your puppy has been eating more but weighing less. You teasingly made the remark, “He must have a tapeworm. He eats all the time but is as skinny as a rail.”
Now, you’re standing over his fresh pile of poop, in disbelief what you are seeing. Worms! If you weren’t so worried, you’d be totally grossed out. But, your pet parenting skills spring into action. Your pup needs you to be strong.
Worms in dogs is not a new story. In fact, it is estimated that at least 19% of dogs in Canada and the United States have hookworms alone, not to mention other types.
But now, your pup has fallen prey and it is ultimately up to you to get rid of the problem and to do so as quickly as possible.
Where do you start?
The first step you will want to take is to identify the worms. Backing up a half-step, if you only suspect your dog has worms but have not discovered any, yes, you will need to examine his poop.
Once you get a good look, you’ll need to determine the species or, you can arrange to take the specimen into your dog’s veterinarian.
Here’s a brief description of the most common types of worms that affect dogs:
One of the main symptoms can be easily missed. Hookworms in dogs are nasty parasites that can do a myriad of damage to your poor pooch. Pet parents everywhere get a kick out of watching their dog in a grassy area as he flips and wiggles to scratch his own back.
It’s a hilarious site but did you know that if he does it often, it might be a sign of hookworms?
What Exactly Are Hookworms?
“Ancylostoma caninum” is the scientific term for hookworms in dogs. The condition is also known as “ground itch”. Hookworms are parasites of the intestines that actually hook on to the intestinal lining. These hook-mouthed 3-millimeter critters have teeth and feed on the intestinal small blood vessels.
The hookworm begins as an egg and then turns to larvae. Then, it becomes a full-fledged adult that can cause tremendous damage.
The eggs come out through the passing of feces and hatch, contaminating the ground. Surviving up to months in the area, they can infect your dog by traveling through his system to his intestine where they latch on, live off his blood and begin the life cycle again, delivering eggs through his feces.
Causes of Hookworms
Dogs can get hookworms one of four ways. They can ingest them orally into their systems, come into contact with them directly onto their skin, get them in utero, or contract them through their mother’s milk.
When an embryo is exposed to hookworms or they are passed through the mother’s milk, the situation is even more concerning as there is a high fatality risk.
Symptoms of Hookworm Infestation
It is imperative to catch hookworm infestation as early as possible so your furry friend has the best chance at a full recovery.
Below are some signs and symptoms to watch for that may indicate your dog has hookworms:
- Gums that are pale in color
- Losing weight
- Paws and body that itch
- Diarrhea that is bloody
- Poor development and growth
Diagnosis, Treatment, and Prevention of Hookworms in Dogs
To determine if your dog has hookworms or not, his vet will do a fecal float test on his stool sample.
If he does have them, it is likely an anthelmintic or de-wormer will be recommended and prescribed.
These oral drugs are fairly safe but only kill off the adult worm. For this reason, you’ll most likely be advised to repeat the treatment in a few weeks.
If your dog suffered from an extreme case, he may require a transfusion of his blood to build it back up from a severe anemic level.
If there are other animals in the household, you may want to go ahead and deworm them as well. Humans can get hookworms too.
Although they cannot infect people, they can burrow under the skin and cause complications such as blindness and damage to internal organs.
While there are not one-shot hookworm prevention cures like a spray to apply to your yard, there are preventative measures that can be taken.
Since they thrive in warm and moist environments such as un-kept, overcrowded dog kennels, make sure to avoid taking your dog where he would be exposed to such.
Of course, you don’t want to forbid your pup from playing and laying in the yard but you can oversee the areas he goes to and be certain they at least look respectably free of feces.
If you have a puppy, roundworms are something you really want to keep your eyes out for. Any growth deficiency might be a sign your dog has roundworms.
Although they can definitely affect dogs of all ages, the harm is most prevalent in younger dogs who are still developing and growing.
What Are Roundworms?
“Toxascaris Leonina” and “Toxocara Canis” are the two types of dog infesting roundworms. They feed off of partly digested contents of the dog’s intestines. They are shaped round, almost tube-like. Their life cycle is a complicated one which makes on-site detection complicated as well.
Causes and Symptoms
“Where and how did my puppy get roundworms?” is a common question from any pet parent whose dog has been diagnosed with the condition.
Dogs who are infected shed eggs of the adult worms then other dogs can come into contact with the eggs through licking, sniffing, or can be exposed through carrier animals like birds and rodents or even bugs such as earthworms and roaches.
Oddly, the carrier hosts only house the roundworms. The worms only mature into adults inside the dog.
It is while inside the dog that the roundworm goes through the complicated cycle of life. Traveling from body tissue to body tissue, it finally ends up in the intestinal tract.
Larvae can also migrate throughout the body which can be especially harmful or fatal in a female dog if she becomes pregnant. The larvae can also transport through her milk once the pups are born.
Symptoms Which May Indicate Roundworms in Dogs
Stunted growth is the main problem associated with roundworms although it is certainly not healthy for an adult dog to have them, it is not as threatening as it is with young dogs who are still developing.
Here are some signs to watch for to determine if your dog or puppy might have roundworms:
- Stunted or slow growth
- Immune disease (the condition makes dogs susceptible to roundworms)
- Puppies with potbellies
- Re-occurring or constant diarrhea
Diagnosis of Roundworms
Since roundworms don’t always produce eggs or larvae in the system, your dog’s stool may or may not show visible signs.
Your dog’s veterinarian can diagnose through a telescopic look of your dog’s feces.
Treatments and Prevention of Roundworms
The treatment of roundworms is a simple one. In fact, there are numerous treatments available.
There are many brands of heartworm preventative medications. It is recommended that dogs are given regular doses to keep them from getting the worms, especially since humans can get them too.
It is possible for dogs to be the source of the worms for humans in an indirect manner.
Further prevention measures include immediately removing your dog’s poop from the yard (playground, park, or wherever else he might “go”) to prevent infestation of other animals or humans or re-infestation of your dog.
Controlling rodents is important as they are carriers of roundworms. Dogs who are pregnant should be given a roundworm de-wormer late in their pregnancy.
Tapeworms in dogs most commonly occur in households where there are one or more cats or in situations where fleas abound. Some segments are quite long and others resemble the appearance of a cucumber seed or a grain of long rice. Usually, they are moving.
They don’t always come out in the feces but if they do, you’ll probably know and should treat or have your dog treated right away.
What’s a Tapeworm?
A tapeworm is flat in shape and is made of multiple segments that measure a quarter to a half inch in size. They live attached inside the intestinal wall where they hang on with their hook-like mouths. The most common of this type of worm is the Dipylidium Caninum. They can grow up to 8 inches long.
The different segments of the parasite move down the body as maturing takes place. In the end, a segment is disposed of through the dog’s feces.
It can be quite alarming to find one. If you do though, a quick call to your dog’s vet is the first step to remedy the situation.
Oftentimes, if you simply describe what you have found, a prescription can be given without a visit. Some vets don’t like to prescribe anything without personally seeing their patient, however.
How Dogs Acquire Tapeworms
Unlike many other kinds of worm parasites, tapeworms can’t infect your dog by simple ingestion.
The worm has to be passed through a flea (intermediate host) first. In short, dogs get tapeworms from fleas.
A cat may very well be involved if there is one in the family or if your dog comes into contact with one because cats are known for getting fleas.
Tapeworm eggs that are infected are released into the environment, all around. When a flea eats one, the egg develops as the flea develops until they both reach maturity.
If your dog nips at a flea and catches it in his mouth and swallows it or if he ingests one during his grooming process, he suddenly has... a tapeworm. And one tapeworm gives way to many tapeworms.
Indications Your Dog May Have Tapeworms
Although tapeworms are generally very problematic for dogs, they still are definitely not a good thing for him to have. Here are some signs your dog may have tapeworms:
- Dragging or scooting his bottom
- Swollen anal sacs (usually caused by scooting)
- Stunted growth (in severe cases)
- Intestinal blockage (in extreme cases)
- Segments in his feces
Diagnosis, Treatment, and Prevention of Dog Tapeworms
There are several ways you or your veterinarian may make the diagnosis of tapeworms in your dog.
The segments may be seen in his feces or around his anus area. They may be missed in his routine fecal exam so don’t totally rely on that method.
The treatment of tapeworms is effective and simple. A tablet of parasiticide can be given to your furry one or, it can be administered through an injection.
The parasite worm will then pass through his stool after it has dissolved. The medications commonly used are considered to be safe without side effects.
If there are other animals in the household, it is advisable to give them a dose of the medication too. Your vet will quite possibly suggest it or you can inquire.
Preventative measures that should be taken against tapeworms include controlling the flea population around your dog’s area.
There are flea collars, flea powders, flea shampoos, and natural flea remedies to keep fleas from infesting him and to kill them off should they get on him. Keeping him away from flea-ridden locations and making sure his bedding is flea-free are other preventative actions you can take.
If your dog is a hunter and eats a rat or rabbit that has tapeworms, the tapeworm will complete its cycle in your dog so do your best to keep him from hunting creatures known to host tapeworms or at least keep an eye out for signs he is infested or...infested again.
You are probably wondering if you, or your family members, can get tapeworms from your dog. You cannot get them directly from him. But, you can get tapeworms if you swallow a flea. It actually happens.
Keeping the flea population under control can help prevent one from ending up in your sandwich or in your protein shake where you might just accidentally...swallow the flea.
Just the name “whipworm” sounds as brutal as it is. Whipworms in dogs can literally beat your dog up. Finding out what they are and how to get rid of them is your best defense as a concerned pet parent.
What Exactly Are Whipworms?
Whipworms in dogs is a common parasite of the intestines. They live in the cecum which is where the large and small intestines meet.
Soil and other matters can contain the worms and when your dog ingests them, the cycle is underway.
Signs of Whipworms in Dogs
One of the most dangerous things about whipworms is the lack of symptoms and signs.
Once they get severe and have all but taken over your dog’s intestines, he may exhibit symptoms like:
- Bloody diarrhea
- Extreme lethargy
- Other illnesses due to his vulnerability to sickness
Diagnosis of Whipworms in Dogs
Whipworms are one of the most difficult parasites in dogs to diagnosis. It’s a good idea to ask your dog’s vet to run a feces test on him each time he has his annual exam.
Treatment and Prevention of Whipworms
A veterinarian can prescribe a prescription that will kill the whipworms and your dog will poop them out. Preventative medications are also available. The treatments are believed to be effective and safe.
In addition to preventative medications, keeping your dog’s feces picked up immediately after he poops is wise.
Whipworms are injected through other dog’s poop that is infected and by infested soil so make sure your dog stays far away from such things is imperative if you want to ensure he doesn’t get whipworms.
Bloat in dogs is a condition that sounds so minor...but isn’t. It is, for sure, on the “pet parent beware” list. It can become fatal if it lasts too long. Dogs have perished after just a few hours of it.
What is Dog Bloat?
Dog bloat is a medical condition called gastric dilation and volvulus (GDV). Many things about the malady are still a mystery to veterinarians.
What they do know is that when bloat takes place, the stomach begins to twist up and fills up with gas. The order in which it happens is not known.
The process applies pressure to the diaphragm and in turn, breathing problems arise.
Pressure can then cause the returning blood flow being cut off from the heart. The undue stomach stress can result in tissue death and the spleen may twist as well.
We do know what happens by why is not known. Bloat is no respecter of breeds or sizes. It has been diagnosed in all sorts of dogs.
Symptoms that May Be Signs of Bloat in Dogs
Bloat isn’t easy to spot right off because it can mask as other medical ailments. Here are some signs, though.
If you notice your dog doing one or more of these things, call his vet immediately:
- Making sounds of pain and/or discomfort
- Swollen stomach
- Tender abdomen
- Excessive drooling
- Unusual panting
- Pacing about
- Attempts to vomit without success
What if Your Dog Does Have Bloat?
There is no publically known home treatment that has been proven to be successful so if you suspect your dog has bloat, call the vet and get him in as soon as possible.
Time is everything. If the vet diagnosis bloat, stomach and/or spleen surgery will most likely be performed. Sadly, one-third of all dogs with bloat don’t make it.
Surgery for bloat is considered major. After surgery, your dog will heavily rely upon you to help him out. He may be fearful, irritable, distressed, in pain, less active, and he may try to tear or lick the site of the surgery.
Much patience and love are needed so you can keep him calm and comfortable. Your vet will send you home with some pain relief medication and antibiotics as well. Remember, it’s alright to spoil your baby during times like these.
Prevention of Bloat
There are a few things that you can do in order to help decrease the chance your dog will get bloat.
Since some dogs are more likely than others to get it, if you know your dog is high risk, you will want to take preventative measures before any symptoms ever arise.
There are some veterinarians who suggest performing a surgery for dogs who don’t have bloat but are good candidates to get it.
The surgery is called a prophylactic gastropexy. The decision is, of course, up to you as the pet parent.
Other, less drastic, bloat prevention measures include:
- Avoiding large meals and opting for smaller, more frequent ones instead.
- Not feeding him dry dog food kibbles
- Encouraging him to drink a lot of water
- Reducing his stress level, especially at and around his mealtime
Fleas are a major irritation when it comes to dogs (and humans). They are pesky little boogers and...they bite. They can also bring a world along with a world of problems like tapeworms.
What Do Fleas Look Like?
Fleas are so tiny, you may not even know what one looks like. Since there are other tiny insects as well, it’s important to know how to distinguish a flea.
A flea measures about 3 millimeters long and is brownish-red. Their bodies are flat-like and they suck blood which creates an insane itch. They can make life miserable for dogs and humans alike.
The bites make little red spots which, depending upon where the bite is, may or may not be detectable on your furry friend.
What Medical Conditions Can Fleas Cause for Dogs?
There are five main maladies that fleas tend to cause in dogs:
- Bartonella Infection - Also known as “cat scratch fever”, dogs (and cats) can cat this horrible disease from the bite of a Bartonella infected flea. Symptoms generally include vomiting, seizures, lymph node swelling, diarrhea, and fever.
- Hot Spots - Hot spots are caused by extreme sensitivity to the bite of a flea and the chewing and scratching that takes place by your dog afterward. Hot spots are painful but can be remedied with soothing shampoo, lavender essential oil products for canines, and even hydrocortisone.
- Allergic Reactions - Skin allergies due to fleas is very irritating and can turn into a nasty mess. If your dog is actually allergic to the flea’s saliva, real problems can surface causing swelling and welps. Although it may sound like a small thing, allergic dermatitis can rack up a vet bill along with a lot of pain and discomfort too.
- Tapeworms are carried by fleas and if your dog ingests a flea that is carrying a tapeworm, true problems begin. Scooting his bottom and constant licking can be signs your dog has tapeworms.
- When there is blood loss due to bloodsuckers, like fleas, there is always a risk your dog might come down with anemia. Anemia can cause extreme lethargy, medical complications from unhealthy blood and even death.
Prevention of Fleas
As mentioned in the tapeworm section, prevention of fleas is a measure that should be taken to prevent problems they can cause for your dog.
There are products that detour fleas but some are not healthy for your dog to be around any more than the fleas are. Natural remedies such as solutions of essential oils are remedies you may want to check into.
Keeping his bedding fresh and keeping him away from cats that may be infected are helpful actions to prevent flea problems in your pup as well.
Medicine use on Dogs
Your dog is your baby, bottom line. You get to make the decisions for his health care with the exception of any vaccines or birth control measures that are required in your area.
The fact that you have the freedom to make choices for him also means you have a heavy responsibility. Should you treat him with conventional medicine or opt for natural measures?
Should you take him to the vet up the street that your friend hates because he “killed her dog”? Or, should you shop around?
These questions and more are all part of pet parenting. It is a lot to take on but worth every bit of it.
Choosing a Veterinarian for Your Dog
When medicine is involved for dogs, it is best to leave it to the professionals. Veterinarians have studied for years in order to be able to treat your dog. If you choose to self-treat him, you risk getting it wrong.
To find a vet near you, search online for “veterinarian near me” and you should have a number to choose from.
It’s a good idea to meet a few before making a choice as to which one you trust the life of your fur-baby to. You never know when your dog’s vet will be in a situation where his or her skills and knowledge might save your dog.
Be certain the chemistry between the vet and your pupper is good. It’s important that your dog takes to the other staff members in the clinic who may be interacting with him as well like the front desk receptionist who will be the first person he will encounter, the vet tech who may do a good portion of the procedures, the kennel tech who will take care of him after hours should he ever require surgery, and any other vet who shares the office and might be on call.
You will want to check the vet’s rates too. One may give a great deal on vaccines but be sky high on emergency services. Weight it all out and go with your gut.
If the fees are a little higher at the clinic your dog loves the vet and staff at, it may be worth the extra change to take him there anyway.
You will also want to consider the distance to the vet. While you may not mind making a drive on a sunny summer Saturday when there’s not much else going on, you might not be as happy about traveling to the clinic if the roads are snowy and you certainly wouldn’t want to trek across town in the event of a medical emergency.
Traditional Dog Medicine
Veterinarians are usually in general medicine practice, meaning they use typical veterinary medicine and perform surgeries in the manner in which conventional human doctors do, with chemical-based prescriptions, general anesthesia in surgical cases, etc.
Here are some of the commonly prescribed traditional medications and their uses:
Prednisone is a corticosteroid which simply means it is used to treat inflammation. It can also be administered for the treatment of autoimmune diseases.
The substance is metabolized in the liver and begins to work thereafter. Prednisone side effects may include: nausea and vomiting, increase of inflammation, panting, excessive thirst, frequent urination, fatigue, and an increase in appetite.
Meloxicam for dogs reduces inflammation in a natural way because it decreases the hormones that actually cause pain and cause inflammation as well.
It is nonsteroidal which is a comfort to many pet parent who does not wish to give their dog a steroid based medication.
Metronidazole for dogs can be used in the effective treatment of such conditions as Trichomonas, Balantidiium, Giardia, and Entamoeba.
It is also sometimes quite effective for bowel diseases that involve inflammation.
Benadryl for dogs, like Benadryl for humans, can be used for allergic reactions and to diminish pain.
Benadryl dosage for dogs is suggested at 1 mg of Benadryl per pound of dog body weight. It can be given 2-3 times per day and usually comes in 25 mg tablets.
Zyrtec is a medication that can ease or stop allergic-type reactions such as excessive itching, sneezing, and watery eyes.
It is used commonly to fight and treat doggie dermatitis. It is best to give it to your dog after or before a meal rather than on an empty stomach.
Flagyl is an oral antibiotic which can be used for dogs. It is made specifically for the treatment of parasites and bacterial infections.
Nexguard is a flea and tick formulation for dogs (and cats). It kills the fleas of adults prior to the laying of eggs so it is a very effective preventative as well.
It is one of the few remedies that kills the American Dog tick, Black-legged ticks, and the Lone Star tick.
Gabapentin is used in the treatment of pain that is chronic in nature, especially pain with neuropathic type origins. It has a short half-life which can be useful so it can be given every 2-4 hour.
Gabapentin side effects may include: eyes bulging, mild to severe depression, wobbling, extreme lethargy, vomiting and/or diarrhea, and lack of coordination.
Petexec is a powerful performing program for all things pets like all things as pet sitting, pet grooming, pet grooming, training, and retail.
More and more pet parents are turning to natural remedies for dogs. The realization that medicines are not always the answer has led to finding equally successful solutions within the realms of nature.
Cost and the dangers associated with chemical medications are also reasons many turn away from traditional medicines and lean to nature instead.
If you are going the natural route, here are some alternative solutions you will probably encounter:
You may have heard the word tossed around but, what is melatonin, really? Melatonin is a natural neuro-hormone that has been used as an aid for sleep for decades.
The hormone is secreted by way of the pineal gland when it is in the body of animals and humans alike. It calms and promotes sleep in a natural manner. Sometimes, the glad doesn’t produce enough though.
Melatonin supplements are beneficial for calming anxiety that might be caused by conditions like thunderstorms, fireworks, and other disturbances. If your dog has issues with separation anxiety, melatonin may help that condition.
Dogs with Cushing’s disease are good candidates to try melatonin as well. It is very important to consider your dog’s ideal melatonin dosage correctly. A typical rule is that only 1 mg. should be given to dogs weighing in at under 10 pounds.
Dogs weighing 10 to 25 pounds can usually handle 1.5 mg, 26-100 pound dogs should get 3 mg. and those that are over 100 pounds can be administered 3-6 mg. Never give melatonin to dogs in excess of 3 times per day.
Glucosamine for dogs is a natural way to remedy joint issues that can be painful and debilitating for your dog. Glucosamine is a naturally occurring substance that should be found in a dog’s cartilage but isn’t always inadequate supply.
Adding it to his diet is beneficial for improving the flexibility of his joints and helping to diminish or eliminate swelling, inflammation, and pain.
Probiotics for dogs, like probiotics for humans, are friendly, beneficial microbes that live in guts. The word itself comes from two Greek words meaning “pro-life”.
Our health depends on these bacteria and yeasts in order to fight off disease and function properly. Dogs are often in need of a gut boost. Some dog foods provide them but sometimes, even more is beneficial.
What is the best probiotic for your dog? You can give him live cultured yogurt or kefir, homemade or purchased from the store, or opt for probiotic enhanced chews, capsules, or powders.
Signs your dog is needing probiotics are foul breath, stomach issues, diarrhea, cramping, gas, and stress.
Usually a symptom of bacteria imbalance or infection, these issues can often be remedied by probiotics because the underlying cause is being treated.
Other Alternative Treatments for Dogs
Essential oils are all the rave for humans and now, they are being used on canines as well. The benefits, according to many essential oil fans, are enormous.
There are some that are considered to be safe for dogs, like frankincense to heal him and lavender for calming. Others are not, however. Tea tree essential can be harmful to dogs as can pine essential oil.
As with all areas of caring for your furry beloved friend, knowing the facts is imperative.
Chiropractic care for dogs is becoming a common practice. For years, acupuncture has served humans and horses well. So, why not use chiropractic measures on dogs too?
From cranial work to repositioning out of whack discs, chiropractic remedies are chemical free and all natural.
Acupuncture for dogs is another alternative treatment where positive results are being reported. Allergies are treated with acupuncture and it can also help with medical conditions like painful joints and also for emotional stress.
There is a myriad of alternative remedies for dogs these days. Hypnosis and psychology sessions are available for those who want to try them.
The sky seems to be the limit to the new and re-emergence of the old remedies used before the medical age came to be.
You’ll find information online about things you never dreamed would ever be available for dogs if you take a little time to search them out.
When your dog has a problem, it’s up to you as his pet parent to fix it, or to at least try your best to.
Because we love our pets, it is our heart to make them feel better. Acquiring knowledge before an emergency situation occurs is always the best plan.
Learning about the most common ailments in dogs is a great place to start. Hopefully, you will never have to use your knowledge. But, if you do, being equipped is half the battle.