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Top 10 Most Common Dog Ailments - How To Spot And Treat Them

Posted by Henry Jackson on

We here at Pet Food Plus more often find ourselves getting asked questions about our customer's pet's health - and we're more than happy to help! Though we are not vets, our staff are very knowledgeable and can, most of the time, identify what issue your pet may be facing when they begin to show unusual behavior (and, more importantly, how to help treat your pet as a result). In today's article, we will cover 10 of the most common ailments that a dog can face, what behavior to look out for, and how we recommend that you get your dog treated. 

First of all, let's begin by looking at stomach-based illnesses. It isn't usual for a dog to vomit, but if your dog has been doing this frequently, it is an obvious sign that something's wrong, and the likelihood is that it's a problem with their stomach. If this is a recurring problem that lasts for several weeks, it is primarily an indication of stomach inflammation or food allergies. Your best bet of trying to help your dog is by changing it's food during this time and seeing if that seems to solve the issue. If not, it is very important to visit a vet as soon as possible, as these medical issues can be very serious, and there are no guaranteed 'over-the-counter' solutions.

Secondly, let's examine skin allergies and other related issues. Many people neglect to think about their dog's skin, as it is not often seen from beneath the dog's coat, but the truth is that their skin is still just as important as our own. If you notice that your dog is scratching, biting, and licking themselves in multiple areas, your first thought might be that they are suffering from fleas, but if you have investigated and do not believe that to be the issue, your dog may have a skin issue. This can be caused by many different things, such as the weather drying the skin out, an allergy to a material present in the house or within their food, or may be due to a more direct cause such as the usage of a new grooming product. Because of these possibilities, it is important to make your first reaction to start thinking about whether anything may have recently changed that could be a direct cause (e.g, do you have a new carpet?), and, failing that, you may have to consider whether your dog may now need skin care or a different type of food. Unfortunately, just like in humans, dogs can develop allergies to almost any substance at any time in their life, and similarly they can develop skin problems such as dry skin for seemingly no reason at all. If you have ruled out all other possibilities, it may be worth first considering a direct skin treatment, such as a skin-friendly shampoo (such as Johnson's medicated or skin-calm shampoos) or skin soothing creams such as tea tree cream or Supersoothe. If the issue is with the skin itself, one of these treatments should hopefully work for your dog. However, if this does not solve the problem, the issue may lie within the food that you are feeding your dog, as they may have become allergic to something inside of it. In that case, it may be a good idea to try them on some hypoallergenic food, such as Royal Canin Hypoallergenic or Arden Grange's Adult food. If problems still persist after trying these solutions, it is often best to then visit a vet.

Another one of the pervasive health conditions that your dog may begin to suffer from is a set of urinary issues. Many dogs can develop problems with their urinary tract, such as the formation of bladder stones or bacterial infections, amongst a few other possible issues. This can lead to further infections, a great discomfort, or sometimes a life-threatening situation if the dog is unable to urinate at all. Some of the most telling signs of such a problem includes incontinence, straining during urination, or the presence of blood within the dog's urine. If you notice any of these, it is very important that you make a trip to the vet as soon as possible. If a vet does find that your dog has urinary tract problems, they will likely suggest to you that you switch their food to a urinary care variant, such as Royal Canin Urinary S/O. It's important that you do feed your dog these if they need them, or else the problem will come back. These foods are designed to have low amounts of the substances that crystallise within the dog's urinary tract, meaning that they will be more certain to prevent future blockages and/or infections. 

The next medical issue that many dogs can suffer from is digestion-related illnesses. Many dogs suffer from either constipation or diarrhoea at many points throughout their life, and this can cause great discomfort, as well as potentially leading to greater future medical issues. For example, diarrhoea can cause problems due to it causing high levels of dehydration. There are a range of reasons that they problems can occur. The first for consideration is once again assessing whether it could be an allergic reaction to the dog's food, so if you had changed their food recently, or if it seems to be a persistent problem, then it is likely that you need to ensure that you do not continue eating the food that may be giving them the problem. Further, it is worth noting that a dog's digestive system can be very sensitive, and that if you do intend to change their food, you need to do so slowly by gradually mixing in more of the new food into their old food, and if you have not done this then that could explain why your dog may be suffering from one of these problems. If it does not seem to be a food issue, then it is likely a passing issue that is the result of an infection or minor illness. As the issues can still be unpleasant, uncomfortable for your dog, and potentially damaging towards their future health, it is still a good idea to treat these problems. One immediate way to treat them might be to look for over-the-counter solutions, such as Pro-Kolin+  for dogs with diarrhoea. However, this can be somewhat expensive and may not work for some dogs (in the same sense that some medication can work for some people but might not for others), and so sometime it may be preferable to instead focus on increasing the amount of fiber that your dog intakes. Fiber can help speed up the processing speed of a dog's intestines to help constipated dogs, can also can help solidify stools in dog's diarrhoea, helping to solve both issues. The most reliable way of doing this is to mix wheat bran in with their food, though introducing other foods high in fiber will also have the same effect.

The next health issue that many pets face is from parasitic infections. This distinction includes many different things, from fleas, to ticks and worms. Fleas are the most commonly found parasite, but also the most easily spotted. if your dog frequently scratches and bites and his fur, it is often a good idea to try to comb through their fur and look for fleas. During this process, you may disturb some of the fleas and notice them jumping, or similarly you may notice black spots on your dog's skin or at the base of their hair than can be rubbed away. This is called 'flea dirt', and is a clear indication that a flea has made your dog it's home. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to deal with fleas. If your pet is usually fine, you may only be concerned with tackling the current infestation. In this case, it is often a good idea to use a spot-on treatment that will kill all of the fleas currently living on your dog, such as Frontline, and for extra certainty get something that will kill any fleas that are hiding in your home, such as Frontline Plus (only available in-store). However, it is best to take a preventative course of action, and to protect your dog from fleas at all times, which can be done through the use of collars, such as Johnson's Flea Collars, or tablets such as Johnson's 4fleas Dog Tablets. For more information about how to combat fleas, click here to see our full article on the subject. However, don't forget that fleas are not the only parasites that can infect your dog! Many types of worms, such as ringworm and heartworm, can also make your dog it's home, and unfortunately there aren't many outward symptoms for these until it is too late. Because of this, it is important to preventative treat your dog for all types of parasitic worms at all times. This can be done in a variety of ways, such as through the use of tablets, such as Bob Martin Worming Tablets, or granules and syrups, such as Beaphar Worming Syrup. Either way, be sure to keep your pet protected.

One of the most under-treated set of medical issues that your dog may be facing stems from stress. Continuous stress can cause the same kind of issues in a dog that it can in a human, in terms of the development of heart, stomach, or sometimes psychological issues. This means that long-term stress has to be dealt with in order to prevent future illnesses, which could result in big vet fees! Like with people, pets react to stress in different ways - some will hide up, some will try to cuddle up next to you or their other animal friends, some will stop eating, and some may start eating more. The most telling is to monitor their behavior and see if it is different from the past and to look out for sudden future changes. You can also anticipate that certain events may cause stress, such as fireworks, thunderstorms, visits outside of your home or territory that your pet won't be familiar with (including moving to a different home) or other possibly upsetting events. If you think that your pet is constantly stressed, it is a good idea to look into a calming diffuser, such as the Adaptil Diffuser exclusively for dogs, or th Pet Remedy Diffuser for any animal. This will make any room you place it in a much more calming environment for your pet, and so will reduce the amount of stress they feel. On the other hand, if you anticipate future situations which could cause your pet a lot of press, it is also possible to get products that can calm them on the spot for the duration of the event, such as Pet Remedy Calming Wipes or Pet remedy Calming Spray, which should leave them chilled out and less prone to developing future health issues.

Next up is Arthritis. Just like us humans, dogs can begin to suffer from stiff and painful joints as they begin to get older, and this can begin to show within their activity levels. As they get older, many dogs will become less and less active and will prefer to do little else than lounge around the house. In some respects, this can be considered a normal part of the aging process for a dog, but if this is taken to the extreme, to the point where the dog seems to avoid as much activity as possible, as well as other accompanying signs being present, such as slowness and a thorough dislike of using part of their body or having that part of their body moved, it is likely that this is beyond just normal aging and is actually a symptom of Arthritis. The main cause of Arthritis is the damaging of the animal's joints, where, for whatever reason, the substances keeping their joints lubricated has started to become ineffective, and so the two ends of the joint have began to rub together during movement, causing pain, discomfort, and sometimes a lack of smooth motion. The best treatment for such problems is to immediately look into medical treatments specifically for aiding a dog's joints. Some examples include Vetzyme tablets (also has a high strength variant available) and Gro Wells Joint Aid. If problems persist besides these treatments, it is advisable to make a trip to your vet.

The next issue to be aware about is a dog's dental health. A dog's teeth is incredibly important to them, and so a great amount of attention is needed to care for this part of their body. After all, a dog cannot simply receive dentures or fillings like we do from our dentists, and so the best course of action here is to take a preventative approach and make sure your dog keeps it's teeth healthy at all times. The signs for such problems are mostly obvious, as if you think your dog's teeth look unhealthy, it is highly likely that they are. The most subtle sign, as well as potentially the first one you will spot, is bad breath. Usually, a dog won't suffer from terribly bad breath, but if you notice that your dog has a particularly bad smell to their breath, it can be an early warning sign of a dental disease. Bad breath can be easily combated by using short-term solutions, such as by feeding your dog Charcoal Cobbs or Charcoal Granules, but leaving your dog open to the possibility of a dental disease can be very bad for their over all health, as this can extend beyond just their mouth and can even get circulated throughout the body, leading to many other possible health issues. Therefore, it is best to nip the problem in the bud by utilizing products designed to bolster and protect your pet's dental health. For many dogs, Dentastix is a favorite, with similar and cheaper brands being available such as Whimzee Stars. These chews are designed to get between a dog's teeth as they chew on them, and will scrape off the plaque (the substance that is most likely to be damaging your pet's dental health) to keep their teeth clean. Alternatively, for when such solutions may present an issue, it is also possible to get toothpaste for dogs, and corresponding toothbrushes too. These work just as human toothpaste does, but has a taste that dogs will enjoy, making it easy for you and fun for them.

Another common problem many dogs suffer from is from ear infections. Now most of us (understandably!) don't tend to examine the inside of our dog's ears too closely, but it's not unusual that a dog can suffer from ear infections without regular treatment. This can come in two forms - ear mites and regular infections. Ear mites, like with most parasites, can latch onto your dog while they are out and about and start feeding off of them, which can cause discomfort for your dog in terms of itchiness, but can also lead to a further infection from the mite's bite. The key behavior to identify this is if your dog frequently scratches at their ears, shake their head, or place their ears into puddles or other small bodies of water. Dogs often do the later of these behavior in an attempt to 'drown out' the mites. Otherwise, infections can sometimes be the result of ear blockages or a general lack of cleanliness of the dog's ears. In order to treat ear problems, it is often better to look for over-the-counter solutions. Your best bet is to go with Otodex ear drops, as this product will both clear excess earwax as well as killing any potential ear mites, eliminating both possible causes at the same time, though if the problem is the result of an infection, be aware that it may still take a few days for the problem to clear itself up. As with most medical issues, it is also always best to be preventative towards this problem, which can be done with some products such as Bamboo Stick Ear Cleaners, which are sticks that are used in a similar way to cotton buds, but are designed to be appropriately sized for any dog.

Finally, obesity is one of the greatest and most common health problems that dogs can face. We understand - we really do - that you want to spoil your pet, but unfortunately it's possible to take this too far. Like humans, dogs can get obese too, and this can create a lot of health problems, including some already mentioned on the list, such as arthritis, and some others such as heart disease and diabetes. This can even work in a circular fashion - an obese dog will naturally put more stress on it's joints, causing arthritis, which makes it more reluctant to move and join in with activities, which in turn leads to less activity and a further increase in weight. As with a lot of illness, the best course of action is to be preventative and stop the dog from ever getting obese to begin with. The simplest way of doing this is by ensuring that your dog is fed an appropriate amount for his size (most dog food bags will include this information) and that they get a decent walk every day. If this doesn't appear to be enough, it is often simplest to reduce the amount you are feeding them until they return to a healthy weight, and then increase it again slightly so that they maintain that weight. However, sometimes you may find that you just need to replace their food with something that will be less fattening for them. In these cases, food labelled as 'light' or 'weight management' will be what you are looking for, such as Arden Grange Light. These foods will typically be made in such a way that your dog can continue to eat the same amount of food as before, but the food is made to be much fewer in calories, meaning your dog will feel fuller for a lower caloric intake. Don't forget that it's also a good idea to replace their treats with low-fat alternatives such as Wagg low fat treats, so that you can keep giving them nice treats without spoiling their diet! 

And with that this article has now come to a close. We here at Pet Food Plus More hope that you have found the article insightful and can take the information away for future use, if you haven't already found it useful! If there is anything in this article that has raised any questions for you, be sure to visit our contact page by clicking here and sending us your inquiry - we'll be more than happy to help! 

Hope to be seeing you again in-store sometime soon.
Henry Jackson, head of IT for Pet Food Plus More. 


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