Health Issues in Dogs
Dogs can suffer from a whole host of diseases and other serious health problems. Some of these conditions are inherited, while others are caused by viruses; still others are related to lifestyle and environmental influences. Because veterinary costs can run into the hundreds or even thousands of dollars, current and prospective dog owners alike need to be well-informed about the various medical maladies that can strike a seemingly healthy dog at any moment. Beyond these financial factors, a beloved family companion could end up suffering terribly from these serious illnesses and disorders, and anyone who cares about the health and welfare of their four-legged friend needs to know about all the dangers that may be lurking.
Genetic ConditionsIn purebred dogs in particular, there are a number of genetic time bombs that may be lying in the weeds waiting to manifest in any dog unfortunate enough to have lost the genetic lottery. When acquiring a dog from a breeder, it is important to try and find a responsible seller who can provide genetic information about the parents, and even the grandparents of every dog they are offering for purchase. If a breeder is not able to provide such information, then he or she should not be considered a trustworthy merchant and anyone buying a dog from such a person is likely to find themselves with an animal that will suddenly begin to develop significant health problems later on.
No matter what precautions dog owners try to take, however, it is inevitable that genetic disorders of many types will continue to express themselves, causing pain and suffering to dogs and many worrisome moments for their caring human companions. One of the most well-known and notorious genetic disorders is hip dysplasia, which is found in many larger breeds of dogs in particular. Hip dysplasia is a misalignment of the hip socket that causes degeneration of the joints, eventually leading to painful arthritis that makes it difficult for dogs suffering from this condition to move about. This disorder is extremely painful, and it is one of the primary genetic conditions that breeders try to screen out before they breed dogs and put their offspring up for sale. Dogs suffering from hip dysplasia may be treated with canine arthritis drugs (usually by way of injection), and in some extreme cases they may need hip replacement surgery to restore their mobility.
Von Willebrand’s disease is a condition that can strike many breeds. Dogs with this condition lack a protein factor that interferes with the body’s ability to form blood clots. It is not unlike hemophilia in humans. Dogs with von Willebrand’s disease can suffer significant blood loss or even bleed to death if they are cut or suffer some kind of internal injury.
Canine atopic dermatitis is a chronic skin disorder that causes extreme itchiness for dogs so inflicted. Labrador and Golden retrievers are especially vulnerable to atopic dermatitis, as nearly 50% of these dogs will suffer from this inherited disorder. There are a number of medications available from veterinarians that can be used to help dogs deal with the severe itching associated with atopic dermatitis.
Viral DiseasesDistemper is probably the greatest disease threat that dogs face. Up to 80% of all puppies who are infected with this disease perish, which is why all dogs should be vaccinated against distemper as soon as possible after being brought home. Distemper shows up as symptoms that imitate a cold or the flu, but eventually this virus will attack the nervous system leading to seizures that resemble an epileptic fit or a stroke. This is a highly contagious disease that can be passed from dog to dog by saliva, or through contact with fecal matter and urine.
Heartworm has an interesting pattern of development. It starts out as micro larvae in the body of dogs, which can be passed to mosquitoes and then back to dogs again when the mosquitoes feed. These larvae will hatch in the body of the mosquito, and when they are passed back to the dog they gravitate toward the heart as they grow into worms that can reach lengths of 14 inches. Untreated heartworms can damage the heart and other organs and ultimately bring death to an infected dog. Tests exist for heartworm, so it can be caught and treated during periodic check-ups.
Canine parvovirus dates to only to the late 1970s. This relatively new virus can be easily passed from dog to dog through contact with fecal waste, and it is a fast-acting virus that can cause death in two or three days. A vaccine has been developed that has reduced the ravages of this terrible affliction, but there are still areas of the country where canine parvovirus represents a significant threat.
Diseases Related to Lifestyle and EnvironmentAs a result of poor diet, obesity, inactivity, and old age, dogs can develop the same kinds of conditions that human beings experience – cancer, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis and so on. Healthy diet, exercise, and vitamin supplements can help reduce the incidence of these diseases, and help those afflicted with them recover to live a healthy and active life.
Dogs have a lot of skin problems as a result of exposure to and infestation by parasites like fleas, ticks and mites. There are a number of products available in pet stores or from veterinarians that can help treat these disorders; but there is a good chance that most dogs will face attack by parasite on multiple occasions throughout their lives.
Constipation and diarrhea are common in dogs, just as they are in humans. Processed foods lacking moisture can lead to problems with the former, while a dog eating something he shouldn’t – which is unfortunately a frequent occurrence – can lead to the latter.
Prevention is the Best DefenseThis is just a sampling of the kind of health problems that plague dogs and bedevil dog owners. Regular medical check-ups, vaccinations and genetic records acquired from breeders are the primary weapons that dog owners have at their disposal to try and combat these health problems. However, almost every dog will suffer from some health problems during his or her lifetime, and anyone planning to get a dog should be prepared emotionally and financially to deal with this reality.
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