The Top 4 Scariest Dog Diseases

by Chelsea Dogs

Dogs can catch and transmit many different diseases. Many canine diseases can be treated successfully or even prevented with relevant vaccinations. Here, we want to share with your the top 4 scariest dog diseases with their symptoms, treatments and prevention methods.

1. Canine Parvovirus

Canine Parvovirus (or parvo) is one of the most horrible diseases that your dog can catch. This highly contagious virus is most commonly seen in dogs (hence its name) and is spread from dog to dog by direct or indirect contact with their feces. Parvo can be extremely severe in puppies that are not protected by maternal antibodies or vaccination.

Parvo disease has both a cardiac and an intestinal form, the intestinal form being most common. Dogs that develop the disease show symptoms of the illness within 3 to 10 days.

Canine Parvovirus

Symptoms of Canine Parvovirus:

  • lethargy
  • vomiting
  • fever
  • diarrhoea (usually bloody)

Diarrhoea and vomiting result in dehydration and secondary infections can set in. The cardiac form of Parvo causes cardiovascular and respiratory failure. Other symptoms could include loss of appetite and depression.

Prevention and treatment:

Infection of Canine Parvovirus can be prevented with vaccines but when a case of the canine parvovirus is left untreated, it has a mortality rate approaching 91%. Vaccines against Parvo are given to puppies at 8 and 10 weeks of age and then at regular annual intervals.

Vet hospitalisation is required to treat parvovirus, not only will they isolate your dog from other to prevent the spread of the disease but they will also administer various treatments. Treatments will vary between patients but will most likely include:

  • Intravenous fluids (a drip) and nutrients to help the dog combat the severe dehydration and electrolyte imbalances that result from vomiting and diarrhoea.
  • Antibiotics to counteract the secondary bacterial infections.
  • Medications to control nausea and vomiting.

2. Leptospirosis

Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease which can affect many animals, not only dogs. Leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease which means it can be passed from animals to humans. Leptospirosis is transmitted by the urine of an infected animal and is contagious as long as it is still moist. Although rats, mice, and moles are important primary hosts, a wide range of other mammals including dogs, deer, rabbits, hedgehogs, cows, sheep, raccoons, opossums, skunks, and certain marine mammals are able to carry and transmit the disease as secondary hosts. Dogs may lick the urine of an infected animal off the grass or soil or drink from an infected puddle.

Leptospirosis in dogs signs symptoms and treatment

Symptoms of Leptospirosis:

Signs and symptoms will vary, some dogs will show no symptoms and others will have terrible reactions. Symptoms include:

  • fever
  • joint or muscle pain – this may manifest as a reluctance to move
  • decreased appetite
  • weakness
  • vomiting and diarrhoea
  • discharge from nose and eyes
  • frequent urination – may be followed by lack of urination
  • yellowing of the gums, membranes around the eyes, and skin (jaundice)

Prevention and treatment:

There are vaccines against Leptospirosis that are normally given to puppies at 8 and 10 weeks of age but they do not provide immunity so need to be given at regular annual intervals throughout the dogs life.

Antibiotics are used to kill the Leptospira bacteria and are often given in two stages: one type of antibiotic to treat the initial infection, followed up with a different kind of antibiotic to fight the shedding of bacteria in the urine. The earlier treatment is started, the better.

3. Canine Distemper

Canine distemper is a highly contagious and sometimes fatal disease that is seen in dogs. Thanks to vaccinations, canine distemper has diminished greatly but some cases and outbreaks are still seen. Canine distemper is caused by the canine distemper virus that can also infect several other species including ferrets and wild animals. Dogs usually become infected by direct contact with virus particles from the secretions of other infected animals (generally via inhalation). The virus can be still be shed by dogs for several weeks after recovery.

canine distemper 2

Symptoms of canine distemper:

Canine distemper causes symptoms in multiple body systems, including the gastrointestinal tract, respiratory tract, the brain and spinal cord. Signs and symptoms will vary between cases but any of the following could be seen:

  • fever (often one episode a few days after infection that may not be noticed, followed by a second episode a few days later when the other symptoms begin to show up)
  • discharge from the eyes and nose
  • loss of appetite
  • lethargy
  • vomiting and diarrhea
  • coughing
  • labored breathing
  • hardening of footpads and nose (distemper has sometimes been called hardpad disease)
  • inflammation of various parts of the eye
  • secondary bacterial infections
  • neurological symptoms are variable

Prevention and treatment:

Treatment of canine distemper depends on the symptoms shown by the dog but may include fluids to combat dehydration, medication to reduce vomiting, antibiotics and other medications to treat pneumonia, antibiotics for secondary infections, and anticonvulsants to treat seizures. Neurological symptoms may get progressively worse and not respond to treatment, and even with recovery some neurological effects may persist.

Canine distemper can be prevented with a vaccination, like the other diseases mentioned so far, puppies are vaccinated at around age 6 and 8 weeks and then the vaccine is given at regular annual intervals throughout adult life.

4. Heartworm

Heartworms are a scary disease for dogs. Heartworm disease is caused by a parasite, a worm known as Dirofilaria immitis. This worm lives inside of the heart and the blood vessels. Heartworms are spread through mosquitos that carry the infective heartworm larvae. These larvae migrate from the bite wound through the dog’s body until they reach the heart and blood vessels of the lungs, this takes around six months.

Heart worm in dogs

Symptoms of heartworm:

Some cases will show no symptoms apart from the occasional cough. Other symptoms include:

  • intolerance to exercise
  • anemia
  • fainting spells
  • heart failure

Prevention and treatment:

Most infected dogs are hospitalised to receive administration of an adulticide designed to kill the adult heartworms. Heartworm can be prevented with heartworm medication.

Please note: this article just gives facts and advice about the top 4 scariest dog diseases. If you have any doubts about your dogs symptoms or behaviours please contact your vet immediately.

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