A guide to dog ailments and illnesses

We always want to make sure our canine companion is in the best of health. But just like us humans, occasionally – and especially when they get older – our dogs slow down a bit and become more prone to complaints and illnesses. So that you’re aware of what to look out for when playing with your pet, here’s a brief guide to the most common dog illnesses, and how you and your vet can help man’s best friend overcome them.

Regular check-ups

One of the best things you can do to keep your buddy in peak dog health is to make time for regular check-ups.

Your vet will typically give your pet an examination when you take them in for their annual booster - and it’s a good idea to have check-ups every six months, especially if your dog has any health issues or is older.

Even a quick once-over lets your vet check a number of body systems to make sure everything is OK, so they'll notice if your dog has lost some of its vitality, or if the way it moves isn’t quite right.

Common dog ailments

The important thing to know is that the most common and most dangerous dog illnesses are preventable by following sensible vet advice and keeping on top of vaccinations. If you aren’t able to see a vet, you can call vetfone for free for pet advice.

Lungworm, parvovirus, leptospirosis, canine distemper, hepatitis and kennel cough can all be picked up from your dog’s natural environment (going for walks, encountering other dogs, swimming in puddles and ponds etc.) but can be treated or vaccinated against. Keeping up with your dog’s vaccines and worming will help prevent certain illnesses or diseases.

Ticks, fleas and worms

Meanwhile, many critters loiter in your pup’s environment and it would be nothing short of a miracle if they didn’t pick up one or two in their lifetime.

While they are common, they can also cause serious, life-threatening illness. The good news is these are easily prevented with products you can buy from your vet.

For example, ticks - which can cause Lyme disease - can be taken out with a tick twister, which is a specialised yet affordable tweezer. Remember that you need to treat for ticks all year round, and many products need to be used monthly to work effectively.


One of the biggest dog health problems to hit in recent years is simply that many are getting too fat! Whether it’s a soft-hearted owner passing down bits of chicken from the dinner table or a greedy monster in the pack who is snaffling his companions’ food as well as his own, owners have to be on guard to make sure their pet is eating only its fair share.

Lack of exercise is also a problem. Many dog breeds require far more exercise than some owners appreciate. A stroll round the local park with a tennis ball is only appropriate for some of the smallest breeds. An excitable collie or retriever needs a good run over a long distance for an hour at a time and multiple times a day. Yes, it’s practically a full time job taking them out! Do be careful not to over-exercise a new puppy however – it takes some time for their bones to properly develop.

If you have a full time job and your pup is going to be lying around in a basket for most of the day, it might be worth using a dog walker to make sure they get their exercise.


While dogs can become diabetic for no obvious reason (but is often breed-related), they can also become diabetic in later years as a result of obesity, the same way us humans do.

Many of the symptoms are also the same, including being very thirsty and hungry, needing to wee a lot and also losing weight. As diabetes progresses they can then lose their appetite and become very sleepy, so be aware of that too.

Again, treatment is similar to humans, but never use human medicine on a dog, whatever the illness. Only ever use medicine – and food for that matter – that has been designed specifically for dogs and only follow prescriptions that are for your own pet.

Joint pain

Dogs begin to slow down and creak a little as they get older, and the advice to aid this is generally the same as the above – keep their weight down, give them as much exercise as is comfortable, and see the vet if it you notice anything out of the ordinary (like lack of appetite and extreme lethargy).

Walks are still very important, but softer ground such as a well-kept park may be easier on a dog’s bones than lots of pounding on tarmac or scrambling over rocks. A good swim, provided that your dog has always been able to swim, takes the weight off the joints too.

If your dog’s joints become particularly sore, the vet may prescribe an anti-inflammatory to keep the swelling and pain to a minimum.

In summary, a combination of vaccinations, some flea/worm/tick treatment, keeping an eye on his or her diet and environment, and having a close relationship with your vet should mean that you and your dog get to enjoy many happy and healthy years together.

Find out more about Dog Insurance from More Than.

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