While every dog owner wants to provide the best possible life for their dog, not everyone is aware of the most common health problems in dogs. All owners need to know how to prevent and recognize the top health conditions their dog may face.
- Obesity – Just like humans, dogs can struggle with weight issues. The number of overweight dogs continues to increase every year, as everyone indulges in a more laidback lifestyle. Dogs that do not get regular exercise or lack the ability to exercise, are overfed, or have a tendency to retain weight are most at risk of being overweight. Obesity can lead to a shorter life and damaged organs, as well as a higher risk of diabetes, joint pain, and liver disease. If you cannot feel your dog’s backbone or ribs without pressing down, it’s likely they are overweight. Your veterinarian will examine your dog and his or her medical history, comparing your dog’s weight to the breed standard to determine a weight loss program. To help your dog lose weight and prevent future health issues you will need to begin exercising your dog more frequently and reduce the amount eaten; your vet may suggest a specific diet plan for your dog that includes food high in dietary protein and fiber, but low in fat.
- Skin Conditions – Nearly every dog will suffer from a skin condition at some point in his or her life. Skin issues can be caused by allergies, infections like ringworm, or parasites like ticks, fleas, and mites. They may also be caused by certain grooming products, hormonal problems, stress, or boredom. Signs your dog may be suffering from a skin issue include, scratching and chewing at skin, hot spots, flaky skin, licking, scabs, and hair loss. In diagnosing the issue your veterinarian may do allergy testing, skin biopsies, blood tests, or microscopic examination. To prevent future skin conditions you should brush your dog regularly, use flea and tick preventatives, administer a healthy balanced diet, use hypoallergenic dog specific shampoos, and keep a clean home with calm, living conditions.
- Ear Infections – Unlike people, dogs cannot clean their own ears, so they become the perfect site for infection. Ear infections can be caused by water inside the ear, excessive hair, allergies, or mites. If your dog frequently shakes his or her head, scratches and rubs his or her ears, has red, swollen, or scabbed ears, has hair loss around the ears, loses balance, develops hearing problems, or produces a strange odor from the ears, your dog may have an infection. Your vet will examine your dog’s ear drum and canal to diagnose the issue and develop a treatment plan. To avoid ear infections you should always keep water out of the dog’s ears, regularly clean inside of ear flaps with a prescribed ear cleaner or one bought from a pet store, dry your dog’s ears after swimming, and frequently check the ears for any abnormalities.
- Dental Problems – You know the importance of brushing your own teeth, but what about your dog’s teeth? While dogs may not be as susceptible to the same amount of dental issues as people, their dental health is equally important. Without proper treatment, dogs can suffer from periodontal disease (infected gums) and tooth root abscess (when the root of the tooth becomes exposed and infected with bacteria). If untreated, these infections can lead to heart disease, kidney disease, and diabetes. Signs that your dog may be suffering from dental problems include facial swelling, loose teeth, red and/or bleeding gums, bad breath, lumps in the mouth, frequent sneezing, crying when yawning or eating, chewing on one side of the mouth, turning head away from being touched, and difficulty eating. To prevent dental issues you should regularly brush your dog’s teeth with dog specific products and bring your dog for annual oral examinations.
- Arthritis – As they get older, many dogs begin suffering from arthritis in varying degrees. Arthritis in the joints can make activities your dog used to enjoy now difficult or impossible. Symptoms of arthritis include limping, a lack of flexibility, walking stiffly, discomfort and difficulty when getting up from lying down, swollen joints, hesitancy jumping, running, and going up stairs, and experiencing pain when touched in certain areas on the back and legs. Arthritis can be caused by aging, dislocation, hip dysplasia, obesity, joint infections, and injuries. While there is no cure or sure fire prevention, you can alleviate the chance and slow the progression of arthritis by regularly exercising your dog and feeding him or her a nutritional diet.