What’s your best guess as to the most common dog health problems that people think are serious enough to bring their pups to the vet?
As a veterinarian, I see an awful lot of tummy upsets, ear infections and itchy dogs — oh yes, and anal glands. How could I forget anal glands?
(Approaching things the other way round, the most common condition dogs have — but their people are not concerned about — is a dirty mouth and dental disease.)
I was therefore interested to come across this list of the 10 most common canine conditions. This list was compiled by a pet insurance company and its analysis of the reason for claims.
10 Most Common Dog Health Problems
10. Soft Tissue Injuries
This covers everything from strains and sprains to skin lacerations and dog fight wounds.
This group of conditions is largely “accidental” and part of being an active dog. So, don’t let the risk of injury prevent you from taking your dog out and about — after all, it’s what being a dog is all about.
9. Dental Disease
What we’re talking about here is dental disease so severe that it requires medical and surgical intervention. This might be a broken tooth, gum disease or tooth root infection.
A huge percentage of dogs are walking around with unrecognized dental disease.
To check your dog’s dental health, do this simple sniff test:
- Put your nose next to the dog’s mouth, and what do you smell?
- If you recoil in disgust or start gagging, then odds are the dog has a dirty mouth that needs attention (and they’re just not complaining). Go visit your vet!
8. Urinary Tract Infections
Signs of a urinary tract infection or cystitis include the frequent need to urinate, discomfort when urinating or blood in the urine. If you notice any of these signs, seek urgent veterinary attention for the dog.
Not only is cystitis uncomfortable, but also the signs can be nonspecific. A dog may strain to urinate or try more often. More serious still is if a bladder stone or a plug of debris blocks the exit to the bladder. This needs urgent treatment, so don’t delay getting help.
Diarrhea is a symptom rather than a diagnosis and has a wide variety of causes, some of which include:
If there’s no blood in the diarrhea and the dog is bright, then withhold food for 24 hours and reintroduce a bland diet for a few days.
However, if there’s blood, vomiting or lethargy — or the dog seems otherwise unwell — then don’t wait. Get them checked by a vet.
Our dogs are living longer, so they are more likely to suffer from this common condition.
The good news is that there are now more ways than ever to give arthritic dogs back their quality of life. From recognizing pain and relieving it with appropriate medications and nutraceuticals that nourish the joints to trying physiotherapy, laser therapy or stem cell therapy, there are lots of options that can make a significant difference.
Some vets have special arthritis clinics to advise on how best to manage the patient’s mobility.
Again, there are a surprising number of ways you can help at home, so if your vet isn’t clued in, ask to be referred to a veterinary physiotherapist.
Vomiting in a dog should be taken seriously — the dog can quickly become dehydrated, which introduces a whole new set of problems.
As a rule of thumb, visit the vet if the dog is depressed and vomiting, vomiting for more than 4 hours and also has diarrhea, or if you see blood.
This is another case of vomiting being a symptom rather than a diagnosis. Causes include:
- A foreign body in the gut
- Garbage gut
- Disease elsewhere in the body that is causing toxicity (such as pyometra or kidney disease)
4. Benign Tumors
That this scores so highly up the list is actually quite encouraging because it indicates that people are being vigilant for lumps and bumps.
The good news is that it appears that when the majority of those lumps were investigated, they were less serious. It is pleasing to see that malignant cancer (aggressive cancers that spread and cause death) didn’t even make it into the top 10 most common dog health problems.
This means benign lumps are far more common than malignant ones (although you should never be complacent — always get any lump checked out).
3. Hot Spots and Skin Infections
This just goes to prove how surprisingly fragile dog skin is.
Canine skin is much thinner and less sophisticated than human skin, and when scratched or damaged, it’s more prone to infection. This makes sense — dogs also have a fur coat to protect their skin, making abrasions less likely.
However, you can help reduce the risk of skin infections by keeping their skin clean:
- Bathe the dog with a mild, moisturizing shampoo that helps wash bacteria from the skin’s surface and keep them cleaner.
- Also, if the dog gets a scratch or abrasion, bathe it with salty water to help prevent infection.
2. Ear Infections
Ear infections are whole topic in themselves. Indeed, we covered treatment in this expert guide: “Ear Infection Treatment: From Ear Drops All the Way to Surgery.”
OK, ready for the No. 1 most common dog health problem? It’s next on the list…
1. Skin Allergies (Atopy)
Wow! So our dogs’ most common problem is allergic skin disease. Interesting!
Actually, skin allergies have a strong hereditary basis, so it looks like we’re breeding more and more from dogs who have sensitivities and allergies.
Signs of skin allergies in dogs include:
- Excessive paw licking
- Scooting and excessive bottom licking
- Thickened skin
- Hair loss secondary to scratching
- Recurrent skin or ear infections
If your dog is super-itchy in the spring and summer but fine in the colder months, then they might well have allergic skin disease. It can only be controlled rather than cured.
Helping a dog with allergies means a multifaceted approach: avoiding allergens, improving skin health and administering medication to reduce inflammation.
Try brushing your dog’s teeth at home to avoid painful dental problems:
Final Thoughts on the Most Common Dog Health Problems
I wonder how skewed this list is because it was compiled by an insurance company.
If you think about it, those little things, such as a runny eye or broken dog nail, may require only one visit. This means that a person is unlikely to put in a claim, so it won’t show on the insurance company’s data.
So, what would be my guess of the most common condition that doesn’t show up on the stats? I’d say garbage gut that settles after one visit. Or full anal sacs.
Yep. Definitely anal sacs.
This pet health content was written by a veterinarian, Dr. Pippa Elliott, BVMS, MRCVS. It was last reviewed Feb. 8, 2019.
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