Common canine ailments

Caroline Cassidy

Your dog is part of the family - a friend, companion and beloved pet. Unlike humans, however, dogs cannot tell you what is wrong and it can be worrying for any owner when their pooch is obviously off colour.

common canine ailments
common canine ailments

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By recognising the symptoms of some of the most common canine ailments, however, you'll know more about how to care for your pet.

Ear infections
These are common amongst dogs - those with large, floppy or hairy ears are more prone to infection but they can occur in any breed. Symptoms include shaking the head and scratching the ears, while the ear itself will often appear red and inflamed and may give off an unpleasant odour.

There are several kinds of bacteria and fungus that can cause an ear infection, not to mention ear mites (most common in puppies) and foreign bodies such as ticks. If you suspect an ear infection, a trip to the vet is in order - not only will your dog be in discomfort but getting the right course of treatment is essential.

The infection can usually be cleared up with a course of ear drops.

Skin allergies
Also common amongst the canine community are skin problems. Allergies in dogs usually manifest as itching but the cause may be environmental (ie dust mites, insects, pollens or moulds), food-related or as a result of parasites such as fleas.

While it is natural for your dog to scratch, chewing, licking or frenzied scratching that stops your dog in his tracks may point to an allergy. The skin can become red and inflamed or even broken, and continued scratching can lead to bald patches.

If your dog is suffering, your vet will most likely want to rule out parasites such as fleas first and prescription medication such as Frontline should be a regular part of your pet's health regime. If the animal and the house have been treated and the symptoms remain, it is likely your dog has an allergy.

Food allergies can be difficult to diagnose - often you will be referred to a specialist who may suggest an exclusion diet in order to find the trigger. Once this has been established, the specialist will help you to find a diet that will suit your dog and ease or eliminate the problem.

Dogs can also suffer from environmental allergies to insects, dust mites, pollen or mould. Skin testing may be required to find the cause of the problem but with treatment (often lifelong use of antihistamines) the dog should lead a normal, happy life.

Kennel cough
Caused by a combination of infectious viruses and bacteria, kennel cough can quickly spread between dogs in close contact, hence its name. An affected dog may seem off colour for a few days before the coughing starts and it may cause a mild temperature.

Though the problem may well resolve itself within three to four weeks, in severe cases, it can lead to pneumonia.

If your dog is displaying the symptoms of kennel cough, avoid excitement as this will exacerbate the cough. It is also essential to avoid contact with other dogs as the virus is extremely contagious, so it is best to call your vet to explain the symptoms before arranging an appointment. Treatment usually includes something to suppress the cough, thereby reducing the damage to the windpipe, and antibiotics to clear the bacteria.

You will, however, need to avoid contact with other dogs until the coughing has completely stopped and this can take anywhere between five days and four weeks. A vaccination is available to protect against kennel cough so ask if your vet if you are concerned or if your dog is due to go into kennels.

This is a term used to describe a number of doggie ailments relating to the stomach. A virus, bacteria, infection or allergy may be the cause and symptoms include vomiting, diahorrea, vomiting, loss of appetite, lethargy or fever.

The good news is, most stomach problems in dogs are highly treatable but a visit to the vet is essential in order to prevent further infection and, most importantly, dehydration.