Common Canine Diseases


Leptospira are found in wild and domestic animals. The bacteria are spread in the urine, often making their way into water sources and remaining infective in the soil for up to six months. Rats, pigs, raccoons, cattle, skunks, and opossums appear to be the primary reservoirs. Dogs who spend a lot of time in the water are at increased risk, as are dogs who drink out of puddles and those who spend time in yards that get a lot of runoff or stay wet after it rains. It can also be zoonotic (infect humans).

Symptoms: Fever is present in the early stage. Other signs are loss of appetite for several days, vomiting, lethargy, depression, muscle pain, and sometimes diarrhea or blood in the urine. Leptospirosis primarily affects the kidneys and/or the liver, this may turn the whites of the dog’s eyes yellow.

How it’s spread: Through infected urine and water sources. A dog may become infected through a break in the skin or drinking contaminated water sources.

Treatment: Severely ill dogs should be hospitalized for public health reasons and to provide more intensive care. Antibiotic combos are commonly used. Supportive fluid and nutritional therapy should also be used.

Prevention: Vaccination. Leptospirosis vaccination is usually started after 12 weeks of age and given twice to puppies. It should then be repeated at least annually as the immunity imparted is not long-lived.

Canine Distemper

Canine distemper is a contagious and serious viral illness with no known cure. The disease affects dogs and certain species of wildlife, such as raccoons, wolves, foxes, and skunks. Young, un-vaccinated puppies and non-immunized older dogs tend to be more susceptible to the disease.

Symptoms: High fever, reddened eyes, and a watery discharge from the nose and eyes. An infected dog will become lethargic and will usually become anorexic. Persistent coughing, vomiting, and diarrhea may also occur. It may also cause the footpads to become very hard and thick which is why it is sometimes also referred to as “hard pad” disease. In the later stages of the disease, the brain and spinal cord are affected, and the dog may start having fits, seizures, paralysis, and attacks of hysteria.

How it’s spread: Infected dogs shed the virus through their feces, saliva, urine, ocular and nasal discharge. Dogs may also be infected by aerosolized respiratory secretions.

Treatment: No specific therapy is available. Usually supportive care and treatment of any secondary infections is the best that can be done. Fluids and nutritional needs should be met.

Prevention: Newborn pups usually get protective immunity from their mothers’ milk for the first few weeks of life. This immunity starts to decline around 6-8 weeks. At this time vaccinations should be begun and then boosters every 2-3 weeks until 18 weeks or older. For adult dogs an annual or a triennial vaccine are both available.

Kennel Cough

Canine infectious tracheobronchitis, also called “kennel cough” is a highly contagious respiratory disorder spread from other dogs.

Common symptoms: A non-productive dry cough or hacking cough. The owners may make the mistake and think that they are choking on something that they ate.

How it’s spread: kennel cough spreads very rapidly through places where dogs are in close proximity like boarding facilities, shelter or dog shows. Dogs who get infected usually have a recent history of being around other dogs.

Treatment: Of course, the best treatment is prevention. However, once an animal is infected, antibiotics might be recommended for the bacterial component of the cough but there is no specific treatment for the viral component. For dogs with a more severe cough, a mild cough suppressant may be used. Rest is highly recommended to decrease the possibilities of spreading the diseases.

Prevention: Vaccines are available to protect against the main infectious agents. Because the immunity offered by the vaccine is not 100% or permanent, boosters are highly recommended. Many kennels, and grooming facilities will require this vaccine.

Canine Parvovirus

Some studies show that certain dog breeds are more susceptible- Rottweiler, Pit Bull Terrier, Labrador Retriever, German Shepherd and Doberman Pinscher. Puppies less than 5 months of age are usually the most severely affected and the hardest to treat.

Symptoms: May vary but include fever, anorexia, severe and possibly bloody diarrhea and vomiting.

How it’s spread: Can be spread through direct or indirect contact. This virus is very persistent and stable in the environment. It is resistant against heat, detergent and alcohol. It may be carried by shoes, clothes or any other fomite (contaminated object).

Treatment: Usually focuses on the damage done to the body by the virus, so it usually includes fluid therapy, electrolyte replacement and prevention of septicemia.

Prevention: Vaccination as puppies and boosters every few weeks until at least 18 weeks of age and then yearly. Make sure to disinfect contaminated areas properly!