Common Dog Diseases

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By Travelers
3 minutes
A person embracing a healthy Saint Bernard dog.

Because our canine companions can’t talk, it’s up to us as pet parents to look out for common illnesses that can affect our dogs. To help you keep your four-legged friend healthy, here are some common dog health issues and some ways to deal with them.1

Common Dog Health Problems

While the list that follows identifies some common dog illnesses, it is by no means comprehensive. If your dog shows signs of illness, contact a veterinarian immediately for guidance on what to do.


Unfortunately, dogs are not immune to cancer. Dogs, especially older dogs, can develop cancerous growths that are either localized or spread throughout the body. There are a range of treatment options that vary depending on the type and stage of cancer and the type of dog. Different veterinarians may have different opinions on treatment of the disease, so consider getting a second opinion after you’ve had your dog examined by your family vet. Consider consulting a veterinary oncologist, and carefully review your options.


Dogs get heartworm disease after being bitten by a mosquito that is host to these parasitic worms’ larvae, which then grow in the dog’s heart and arteries. The worms can travel through the bloodstream, causing damage, including heart failure and lung disease.

While heartworm disease can be fatal, it typically is preventable with inexpensive oral or topical medication. Because treatment can be risky and painful for your dog, be sure your dog has routine checkups, and administer preventive medicine regularly.

Kennel Cough

Kennel cough is a blanket term used to describe a dry honking cough in dogs. Typically, the cough may be an indication of a viral or bacterial respiratory infection similar to bronchitis or a chest cold in humans. While kennel cough usually clears up on its own, it can be highly contagious to other dogs. If your dog develops symptoms, immediately isolate from other dogs and call a veterinarian.


Diabetes in dogs typically is caused by a lack of insulin or an inadequate response to insulin. This can lead to high blood sugar (hyperglycemia), which can damage the body over time if left untreated. The good news is that diabetes is manageable. Proper diet and regular exercise typically help fend off the development of the disease.


Rabies is a viral disease that affects the nervous system of all mammals, and while it is preventable, it is usually fatal once symptoms appear. The most common risk factor for rabies is exposure to infected wild animals such as bats, raccoons, skunks and foxes, as well as unvaccinated dogs and cats. The key to helping to keep your dog healthy is vaccination, which helps protect your dog as well as those in contact with your dog.


Canine parvovirus is a highly contagious, life-threatening viral disease that attacks a dog’s intestinal tract, white blood cells and heart muscle. The virus is especially dangerous because it can be transmitted to any person or animal that comes into contact with an infected dog’s feces. It can also live for months on inanimate objects like food bowls, carpet, floors and favorite toys.

Treatment options for parvovirus are limited, so vaccination should be your first line of defense. If an infected dog has been in your house or yard, you’ll need to clean everything. Commercial disinfectants may not be strong enough, so consider using a solution of one ounce of bleach for every 32 ounces of water.

What to Do If Your Dog Is Sick

No one wants their dog to get sick, but if that happens, consult a veterinarian. Making preventive care a priority can also help protect your dog from many painful and dangerous conditions.

Looking for ways to manage the cost of veterinary care? Learn more about Pet Insurance from Travelers.


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