Having a dog as a pet can bring so much joy in the home. Their playful and always attentive nature makes them seem invincible. However, as a carer for these animals, you should be aware of common health issues in dogs so you can protect your fur babies.

4 Common Health Issues In Dogs

Kennel Cough

A complex respiratory infection, Kennel cough is a highly contagious form of bronchitis that can be viral or bacterial. It causes the inflammation of the dog’s windpipe and voice box. It is similar to the common cold and will clear up over time. 

Kennel cough spreads through airborne liquid droplets, from direct dog to dog contact or exposure to contaminated objects such as shared water and food bowls, toys and beddings. It is prevalent amongst dogs that have been in to visit a groomer, boarding kennel, doggie daycare, vet clinic or any pet accommodation facilities.

Symptoms: Coughing with a “honking” sound, foamy, white phlegm, nasal discharge, loss of appetite, lethargy, fever

Causes: The Canine Parainfluenza virus and Bordetella bacterium are two of the leading causes of kennel cough.

Treatment: Fur babies sick with kennel cough, need sufficient rest, plenty of water and nutritious food. In severe cases, the vet can prescribe antibiotics. To prevent Kennel cough, you can also have your dog vaccinated.


One of the common health issues in dogs in Australia is obesity. It’s estimated that over 40% of Australia’s pet dogs are overweight. Over time, the prevalence of unhealthy weight gain can lead to severe and debilitating conditions (e.g. arthritis, joint pains, diabetes, kidney, liver and heart disease). Have regular weight checks and visit the vet if it appears your dog is gaining too much weight and too rapidly.


Symptoms: Weight gain, abdominal sagging, excessive panting, disinterest in walks and playing, needing assistance to get up

Causes: Too much calorie intake, lack of exercise and unhealthy diet

Treatment: Changes in nutrition and exercise can help turn the obesity around. For severe cases, a vet can help you construct the right weight-loss plan for your pet. 


Much more severe for dogs than for cats, Heartworms are parasitic worms that live in the pulmonary arteries and heart. They travel through the bloodstream damaging the arteries and other vital organs. Potentially fatal, it can progress to heart failure when an infestation occurs. Unfortunately, some dogs only exhibit the symptoms in the late stages of infection.

Symptoms: Coughing, lethargy, laboured breathing, vomiting, signs of fatigue even when doing moderate exercises, collapsing and depression

Causes: Dogs become infected when mosquitoes that carry “microfilaria”, the offspring of a male and female heartworm bite them.

Treatment: Heartworm is easily preventable with a vet-prescribed chewable pill, topical medicine or yearly injection. If infected, treatment options include medications and sometimes surgery. 


Like humans, dogs can also develop cancer. The disease can be localised (confined to one area, like a tumour) or generalised (when it has spread throughout the body). Squamous cell carcinoma (growths on the skin) and Lymphosarcoma (intestine or chest cancer) are the two most common types of cancer in dogs.

Symptoms: Lumps, swelling, persistent sores, black stools, difficulty breathing, lethargy, rapid weight loss, abnormal bodily discharge

Causes: A “multifactorial” disease, there is no known single cause of cancer. Both genes/heredity and environmental factors can contribute to the development of cancer.

Treatment: Sadly, not all cancers are treatable, but for those that are, treatment can include surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and immunotherapy. Early detection is crucial so look out for unusual lumps spots or marks on their skin, eyes and ears.

Infectious Diseases

Canine Parvovirus and Canine Distemper are the most common infectious diseases. These are preventable with proper vaccinations.

Canine Parvovirus

Contagious and potentially deadly, dogs can get infected when they sniff, lick, or ingest the faeces of another infected dog. 

Symptoms: Bloody diarrhoea, lethargy, vomiting, reduced appetite

Causes: Parvovirus

Treatment: IV fluids, antibiotics, anti-vomiting and anti-pain medications

Canine Distemper

Transmitted through direct contact with urine, saliva, or blood of an infected dog, Canine Distemper affects the conjunctival membranes of the eye, respiratory, gastrointestinal and central nervous system. Often fatal, it spreads quickly, so must be treated immediately.

Symptoms: The first signs include sneezing, coughing and thick mucus discharge from the eyes and nose. Eventually, dogs will develop a fever and experience lethargy, vomiting and diarrhea, depression and loss of appetite. Partial or full paralysis, seizures, muscle twitching, can also happen.

Causes: Single-stranded RNA virus of the family Paramyxoviridae (family of the viruses that causes bronchiolitis, measles and mumps in humans)

Treatment: There is no available medication that can destroy the virus. The vet can give IV fluids, antibiotics to prevent pneumonia, and medications to control seizures.

Common Health Issues In Dogs: Prevention Is Better Than Cure

Most dog health concerns are preventable with proper vaccination that start when they’re little pups. In case your dog exhibits signs of any of these diseases, consult your vet right away so they can provide your furball with the proper medical attention.

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