Canine Diseases: An Overview

Despite our best efforts, the fact remains that a wide range of diseases afflict ? and often kill - our beloved pets. The first step in protecting the well-being of your dog is to understand the threats that it faces. The following is a short list of the most prevalent and most life-threatening diseases a puppy or a full-grown dog might encounter in his or her lifetime. Dog owners must research the various diseases that affect canines and develop a routine of regular check-ups. First and probably most familiar to the general public is rabies. Not only fatal to dogs, it also affects humans and is probably the foremost threat to the health of canines everywhere. Carried by raccoons, coyotes, foxes, skunks, squirrels, cats, etc., and spread by bites, rabies invokes a violent response in the afflicted animal and, in many cases, leads to death. A three year vaccination exists for dogs and should, under no circumstances, be missed - not only for the health of the dog but for the well-being of the animal population at-large. The second most familiar disease, and perhaps the most deadly for those infected, is distemper. The AVMA considers distemper to be the most dangerous disease confronting canines today with an almost 80% death rate for those who contract the malady. Signs of infection include, but are not limited to, congested lungs, nasal discharge, weight loss, vomiting, and diarrhea. Distemper attacks the central nervous system and generally occurs in the first six months of life. While there is no cure, it can be prevented by a simple vaccination which is highly recommended. Another familiar disease to pet owners is kennel cough. Kennel cough is actually a term used to describe a number of respiratory diseases which affect canines. Highly contagious and most common in closed areas where a high volume of dog traffic occurs (such as kennels, as the name implies), the germs that carry the disease are easily contained and extinguished through proper ventilation and a good cleaning regimen. Lyme Disease is also a well-known health risk for dogs - especially those dogs that reside in heavily wooded, rural regions of the United States. A bacterial infection spread by ticks, Lyme Disease causes lethargy, joint pain, loss of appetite, enlargement of a dog?s lymph nodes and is potentially lethal. The disease is treatable through the administration of antibiotics. However, the curative components of the medication remain effective for only six months following the initial exposure. While perhaps less well-known, the following diseases present some of the more serious threats to dog owners and the health of their pets. Parvovirus is a disease that attacks a dog?s intestinal tract and usually induces death within 48 to 72 hours, especially in dogs younger than six months. The disease is spread by contact with infected feces and can be spread by shoes and crate infestation. Vaccination is a must and no cure exists. Sometimes confused with parvovirus, coronavirus is a disease contracted through direct contact with infected animal feces. Particularly odoriferous diarrhea and spastic vomiting indicate exposure to the disease. However, some infected dogs show no outward signs of infection. While a vaccine is available, most experts recommend close monitoring and the replacement of lost fluids. Another less known disease is Infectious Canine Hepatitis. ICH affects a dog?s liver, kidneys, eyes, and the cells lining its blood vessels. Spread through inhalation and ingestion, there is no cure for the affliction. However, with supportive treatment, many infected dogs recover. While vaccinations exist for a wide variety of diseases that affect canines, most of those vaccines protect the animal for only seven years after administration. Any responsible pet owner should keep a list of which vaccinations a dog has received and when the next round of boosters should be given. Moreover, pet owners should be aware of how often their dogs might come into contact with carriers of various diseases and infections. For example, remain aware of how often your dog visits dog care centers, boarding kennels, and grooming shops and the cleanliness of those facilities. Perhaps most important, consider the various places where your dog comes into direct contact with other dogs, such as dog parks, and how well those areas are maintained and the conditions of the dogs (and their owners) present.

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