It’s always a horrible, heart-wrenching moment when we realise that there’s something the matter with our dog. Our faithful companions spend most of their lives bringing us joy, trying to get us to play with (or pay attention to) them, and, if we’re being completely honest, flat out on their backs on the sofa, so the discovery that something might be wrong is a real shock to the system. A canine illness can range from the extremely mild to severe, and as a pet owner it’s important to be well informed and well prepared. In many cases, the illness is extremely treatable and a change in behaviour and habits (we’re talking about you the owner as well as the pup’s!) can go a long way to ensuring a healthier dog.
Here are a few of the most common illness that dogs face throughout their lives, and some of the ways that you can help look after them.
Watch For Worms
When we talk about worms in dogs, we’re talking about four different types that are commonly found in the UK: Hookworms, tapeworms, whipworm and roundworm. Each presents different symptoms and each can be contracted in different ways. The most serious is roundworm, which will make its way into the poor dog’s intestinal tract. There are two different kinds but both are set on absorbing nutrients from the host, are long and white, and can make their way from the intestine to other parts of the dog. Tapeworms are more common in the UK than hookworms and whipworm, and is less harmful but quite alarmingly long.
If left untreated, intestinal worms can cause a number of illnesses in your dog, including diarrhoea, vomiting, lethargy and dehydration. Very severe cases can lead to a blocked intestine, and serious cases of roundworm can lead to pneumonia. They can be passed on from their mother during pregnancy or feeding, or from ingesting soil containing these parasites. If your dog has been for a big sniff around a patch of dirt before cleaning itself, it could have ingested eggs that will hatch later on.
All this sounds very serious and rather gruesome, but the good news is that most worming treatment is all very matter of fact. De-worming treatment is widely available in tablets, injections and spot treatments, and it’s always worth checking with your vet on the right course of action. Something to bear in mind is that puppies need regular worming treatments as they are high risk, and you should be worming an adult dog at least four times every year. Remember: it’s vital to clean up your dog’s faeces as this such a common method of contamination.
Keep An Eye Out For Ear Infections
If you own a dog, there is a very high probability that they have already had an ear infection. It’s estimated that 20% of dogs have an ear disease of one form or another and, unlike a worm, it can be very easy to spot when your pet is suffering from one. You may have already seen the tell-tale signs of an ear infection, such as crusting or scabs in their ear, a lot of head shaking, and scratching at the infected spot (as all dog owners know, if they’re scratching at it, you’re going to want to take a closer look!) There can also be an unusual smell or a dark discharge to let you know that something is not right.
The reason why dogs are so prone to ear infections is biological: the shape of their ears holds more fluid than a human’s does because it’s an L. Anything nasty that gets in there is likely to stick around and cause trouble, and that can be yeast or bacteria. The conditions that might predispose your dog to these illnesses include that favourite of bacteria everywhere: Moisture. It can also be brought on by an injury or too much cleaning, and allergies can also prompt an issue.
Your vet will be able to prescribe the right treatment for an ear infection and it’s always vital to stick to the dosage and duration of what they’ve given you. If you stop short on a treatment, the problem will just come right back. There are several steps that you can take to help prevent an ear infection and save your dog some discomfort, so: make sure to dry their ears when they’ve got wet or been in the water, and clean those ears when you start to notice a build-up.
Be Alert To Pancreatitis
This is an illness that can be relatively mild or extremely serious. Pancreatitis in dogs occurs when their pancreas is inflamed, and stops producing the enzymes that help with digestion. As a consequence of this, the intestine becomes inflamed, which in turn worsens the inflammation in the pancreas. The pancreas can also start attacking itself in all the confusion.
Common symptoms of pancreatitis in dogs include diarrhoea and vomiting (and subsequent dehydration), abdominal and back pain, breathing difficulties, and a loss of appetite combined with restlessness. Look for a “downward dog” or “prayer” position, as the poorly pet tries to relieve that pain in its abdomen. This can be brought on if the dog is overweight or has eaten some fatty foods that have not been digested properly. We’re talking about those heavily processed foods and carbohydrates, many of which contain grains in addition to the oxidised fats, that put a lot of strain on a digestive system that’s not equipped to handle them.
As always, if you see these symptoms in your dog then it’s vital to consult a vet as soon as possible. Fasting will help the overworked digestive system regain control, and when it’s time to them to start eating again, try switching to a non-processed source of dog food. A brand like Bella & Duke offers a range of raw dog foods that are free from unpleasant preservatives, grains and fillers and is full of what your pet’s body actually needs.
Just like all of us, dogs are prone to having serious issues with their teeth and while it’s a problem that starts in the mouth, it can lead to more serious health issues like heart and kidney disease. While some of these problems come about naturally as your dog gets older, there are several issues that can be curtailed with a little pre-emptive care. You might start to notice that your dog’s breath has got significantly worse, that they’re only going for the soft food, or that they’re only chewing on one side of their mouth instead of diving into the bowl with their usual gusto. More drooling than usual is often a sign that something’s wrong, as is swelling and bloody saliva.
Your vet will be able to tell you if it’s a case of gingivitis or something more serious like a cracked tooth, and they may need pain medication as well as antibiotics or surgery. To help stop things getting this far, you can start your dog on a better regimen of dental hygiene. Avoid giving your dog sugary treats (no matter what kind of faces they make!), give them some dental toys that clean their mouths, and you must never be afraid to brush your dog’s teeth. Remember that human toothpaste isn’t suitable for dogs, so check with your vet about a good brand. If you start them early, they’ll get used to it as part of their usual grooming.