6 Common Dog Diseases & How to Treat Them

While no one wants their dog to get ill, there are numerous diseases that can befall even the healthiest of canines. Many of these are preventable through vaccinations and diligence; however, it’s important to be aware of common diseases and their symptoms so that you can seek help before it’s too late.

Canine Distemper

Caused by a highly contagious virus, canine distemper is a fatal illness that can be transmitted through particles in the air or via respiratory secretions. Typical symptoms include fever, vomiting, diarrhea, runny eyes and nose, coughing, seizures, and paralysis. Luckily, there is a vaccine for canine distemper, so make sure you visit to get your dog protected against this disease.

Canine Parvovirus (parvo)

Canine parvovirus (also known as parvo) is another highly contagious virus that is transmitted via fecal matter. The difficulty with parvo is that it is easy to spread but difficult to treat once it’s invaded your dog’s organs. Symptoms of parvo include vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, weight loss, fever, and lethargy.

Vets can prevent parvo with vaccinations; they can also treat the condition by providing fluids, electrolytes, and secondary infection prevention. However, as parvo can be fatal, you should do your bit by ensuring your dog stays clear of fecal matter.

Canine influenza (dog flu)

Like humans, dogs can also catch the flu. Caused by the canine influenza virus, this illness is relatively new and is spread through respiratory secretions and contaminated surfaces such as bowls, collars, leashes, etc. Symptoms of dog flu consist of coughing, fever, and a runny nose. While there is a vaccine for canine influenza, it is not recommended for every dog; see your vet to find out more.


Heartworm is a common canine illness caused by parasites that invade a dog’s heart and cardiovascular system. Characterized by lethargy, heart disease, respiratory problems, coughing, and weight loss, heartworm is spread by mosquitos all over the US. To treat heartworm, vets typically prescribe a regimen of steroids, antibiotics, and an organic arsenic injection. You can also prevent heartworm by getting annual blood tests and giving your dog heartworm, tick, or flea medication.


Anyone who has seen the classic film, Old Yeller, will recall how rabies tragically kills the family’s beloved dog. However, rabies in modern times is preventable with vaccinations (and these shots are often required by law).

Spread through saliva, rabies is a viral infection that causes fever, difficulty swallowing, excessive drooling, staggering, seizures, and even paralysis. Any mammal is susceptible to the rabies virus, but the best way to protect your dog is to keep them away from wild animals such as raccoons or skunks.

Kennel cough

One of the more common canine illnesses is kennel cough. This highly contagious respiratory infection is spread rapidly through proximity to other dogs in shelters, dog parks, or boarding kennels (hence the name). Symptoms of kennel cough include gagging, heavy coughing, and lethargy.

Vaccinations are the main preventative measure, as is keeping your dog away from other sick pooches. While all dogs are at risk for catching kennel cough, older or unvaccinated ones are most susceptible due to their weaker immune systems.

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