Common Dog Illnesses and How to Prevent It

As much as we care for our pets, dogs get sick too like us humans. As a dog owner, it is very essential to know the different illnesses your dog might encounter in order for you to take part in precautions to prevent them from getting a disease. Dogs need guidance as much as kids in order for them to be safe and illness-free. Today, we will talk about the most common dog illnesses. Thus, the symptoms, treatment, and prevention will also be discussed alongside the definition. Knowing these elements will give you awareness so that you can take care of your dog properly.


Dog lying on the floor

Common Dog Illnesses

1. Canine Parvovirus:

Commonly known as “parvo,” it is a disease that was discovered in 1967 and known to be the most serious and deadliest disease a dog could ever get. The virus mostly affects your dog’s bone marrow and intestinal tract. Thus, this virus is highly contagious, threatening most dogs below adolescence who are unvaccinated. However, even though your dog is above the adolescence age, they can still get affected especially if they are not treated with vaccines. This virus isn’t airborne, yet it spreads quickly as it can be found on different surfaces of their surroundings. The virus is mostly found on contaminated feces, on the ground, on people who have been contaminated with the disease, on dog’s fur and paws if they get in contact with contaminated ground and feces. 


  • Diarrhea
  • Weight loss
  • Depression
  • Lethargy
  • Weakness
  • Dehydration


  • Prescribed medications
  • Prescribed painkillers
  • Antibiotics
  • Plasma and blood transfusions


  • Vaccination
  • Proper hygiene
  • Proper guidance from owners; keeping them on leash when outside


vet vaccinating adult tan pit bull terrier

2. Distemper:

Distemper is one of the most fatal dog illnesses that can affect dogs and other wildlife such as ferrets, skunks, foxes, coyotes, wolves, and racoons. It is a very contagious disease that targets three systems of animals– nervous, gastrointestinal, and respiratory systems. This disease can affect dogs (and other wildlife mentioned) regardless of their age and it can be transmitted through airborne exposure and direct contact. Since distemper is airborne, it can be transmitted through coughing, sneezing, or barking. The risk of getting this disease is very high considering that respiratory particulates and aerosol droplets released into the environment can be spread up to 25 feet, which can also contaminate food, water bowls, and other objects and surfaces.


  • Fever
  • Clear nasal discharge
  • Lethargy
  • Anorexia
  • Coughing
  • Vomiting
  • Purulent eye discharge (watery eyes)
  • Diarrhea



Unfortunately, canine distemper has no cure. However, you can still consult your veterinarian to give you recommendations for symptom treatment, as well as supportive care. Diagnostic tests can also be performed to prescribe your dog antibiotics, probiotics, and painkillers.



  • Complete anti-distemper vaccination
  • Keep your dogs away from animals infected with distemper
  • Keep your dog on a leash wherever you go outside
  • Keep a close watch on your dog whenever they play in an unfamiliar surrounding (parks, outside property, etc.)


Lady holding a dog

3. Obesity:

Yes, obesity is one of the most common dog illnesses that can be prevented if you monitor your dog’s diet regularly and give them a healthy everyday routine. Based on statistics in North America as of 2020, roughly around 56% of the general canine population is considered obese. This illness is a major threat that is often ignored by dog owners. It is important to keep a close eye on your dog’s weight because excessive weight and body fat can lead to more serious illnesses. Thus, obesity can also shorten your dog’s life span and could most likely give them a heart disease, cancer, diabetes, etc. 


  • Tiredness
  • Excessive panting
  • A bigger face
  • Laziness
  • Lagging behind
  • Sagging of abdomen


  • Dietary changes
  • Exercise
  • Caloric restriction
  • Avoid giving too many treats


  • Give them physical activities
  • Healthy food intake
  • Choose the appropriate food for your dog
  • Use interactive feeding toys
golden retriever dog on grass

4. Dog Tapeworms:

To put it simply, tapeworms are flat, white worms/parasites living inside your dog’s guts. Even though they do not normally cause serious and life-threatening health problems, these may irritate your dog and cause them to vomit. Your dog can get infected with these parasites when they get in contact with fleas through their skin or mouth. These fleas carry the tapeworm’s larvae that will eventually grow into adult tapeworms which can live inside your dog’s intestines. Tapeworms may grow from four inches up to eight inches long and chances are, you might not be able to see them. 


  • Weight loss
  • Lethargy (lack of energy)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Dull coat



  • Prescription medication
  • Deworming drugs as prescribed (through shots or tablets)



  • Flea control
  • Proper hygiene
  • Keep your dog away from unclean surroundings
  • Wash your hands before and after you play with them (tell other people as well)


Bulldog under a blanket

5. Ear infections:

Another health concern of most dog owners is ear infections that are mostly caused by allergies, bacteria, yeast, ear mites, and many more. Accordingly, about 20% of the general dog population has an ear disease. Thus, due to the shape of their ear canals, they are very prone to some kind of ear diseases and infections, so prevention is the key to avoid this problem. Even though ear infections are not as fatal compared to the other common dog illnesses mentioned in this article, they can cause massive discomfort to our dogs and we want to avoid that. 


  • Pain
  • Itchiness
  • Odor
  • Redness
  • Swelling of the ear
  • Crusting of the ear
  • Dark discharge
  • Scratching
  • Head shaking


  • Ear cleanser
  • Topical medications
  • Oral antibiotics
  • Anti-inflammatory medications


  • Cleansing your dog’s ears thoroughly
  • Drying your dog’s ears after bathing them


Dog with long ears

Key Insights

Dogs get sick as much as we do, so proper care and guidance should be practiced. Most of all, prevention is a cure so make sure that they’re in a clean environment, they have a good diet, and have proper guidance. Furthermore, frequent visits to the veterinarian can also be helpful as they can guide you on how to take care of your dog properly. Remember, if your dog suffers from any of these common dog illnesses (and other diseases), it is best not to self-medicate but rather, go to the experts to get your dog treated.

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