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4-H Companion Animal Health


Common Dog Diseases and Health Problems

Whether your dog is a working companion, cham- pion show animal, hunting partne , or just a best friend, the kindest and most responsible thing you can do for him is to provide proper health care. Knowing about common dog diseases and being aware of appropriate prevention and treatment can better help you provide that care.

Many Diseases Can Be Prevented

Some of the most common and serious dog diseases have been made less common through vaccines; however, these diseases continue to threaten a dog that lacks proper immunization. Puppies may be vaccinated as early as 4-6 weeks, depending on each situation and the veterinarian’s advice. Through mother’s milk, puppies receive disease-fighting antibodies, which last 6-16 weeks. Vaccinations then take over. Yearly boosters should be given throughout your dog’s life, including old age when your dog may become more susceptible to some diseases. The following diseases can be prevented through vaccinations.

Distemper. Canine distemper is caused by a highly contagious, airborne virus. It affects the dog’s respi- ratory, gastrointestinal, and nervous systems. Early symptoms are those of a “cold” — runny eyes and nose, fever, cough, and often diarrhea. Later in the course of disease there may be nervous twitching, paralysis, and seizures (convulsions). There is no successful treatment.

Hepatitis (Adenovirus). Canine infectious hepati- tis is a viral disease transmitted by urine, feces, or saliva of infected animals. It affects the liver, kidney, and blood vessels. The signs are fever, tissue swelling, and hemorrhage. Treatment may require

blood transfusions and intensive care; often it is not successful.

Leptospirosis. Canine leptospirosis is caused by bacteria spread through contact with nasal se- cretions, urine, or saliva of infected animals. The disease also can infect humans. Lepto infects the kidneys and causes fever, vomiting, diarrhea, and jaundice. Treatment requires antibiotics, intensive care, and intravenous (IV) fluid therapy. Dogs that recover may be left with permanent kidney damage.

Kennel Cough. Canine infectious tracheobronchitis is caused by several viruses (including parain- fluenza) and bacteria (including bordetella). This highly contagious disease attacks the respi- ratory system, causing a chronic, dry, hack- ing cough. It is generally a mild infection, but it may progress to severe pneumonia in young pups or old dogs. Treatment can be helpful.

Parvo. Canine parvovirus is a deadly contagious viral disease that is spread by con- tact with infected fecal material. The virus is difficult to kill and is easily spread. It attacks the gastroin- testinal system, causing fever, lethargy, vomiting, bloody diarrhea, and rapid dehydration. Treatment requires intensive IV fluid and supportive therapy and has a variable rate of success.

Corona. Canine coronavirus is a highly contagious viral infection attacking the gastrointestinal tract. Signs are similar to parvovirus infection, except it is generally milder and more effectively treated.

Rabies. Rabies is a viral infection of all mammals, including man. It is transmitted by the bite of an in- fected animal. The virus infects the central nervous system, causing a brain infection (encephalitis), which is always fatal. There is no treatment for dog or man after symptoms appear. However, a vaccine

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