8 Potentially Deadly Dog Diseases And How To Avoid Them

No owner wants their own dog to get sick – and possibly even die. Even so, there are many diseases and dangers that dogs can face during their lives. And some of them can be avoided.

How do the most common dog diseases spread? When are they fatal and how can we protect our dogs from them?


Parvovirus is a highly contagious viral disease in dogs that can be fatal. If the puppies are already sick, it can attack their heart muscle, resulting in lifelong heart problems. Because the disease is so contagious, dogs in animal shelters and breeders are, particularly at risk.

Typical symptoms of parvovirus:

  • lethargy
  • Vomit
  • Loss of appetite
  • bloody diarrhea with an unpleasant odor

The best defense against parvovirus is to vaccinate puppies against it. At the same time, owners are helping to contain the spread of the disease because parvovirus is highly contagious and is transmitted in the feces of infected dogs.

Since pathogens can also survive on surfaces, a home with infected dogs should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected. If this does not work, for example with a dog toy, it should be replaced.

Stomach Upset

If dogs eat their food too quickly, they can get stomach upset. Four-legged friends often develop symptoms very quickly, including:

  • Vomiting
  • bloated belly
  • anxiety
  • Salivation

In general, it can affect any dog, but some breeds are more susceptible to it. Especially large, deep-chested dog breeds such as Great Danes, German Shepherds, Boxers, Labradors, Bloodhounds, and Weimaraners. But smaller Basset Hounds and Dachshunds are also at increased risk due to their long and wide chest.

Make sure your dog is eating slowly.

Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is spread by ticks and is relatively easy to prevent. For this, good protection against ticks is important, for example in the form of special collars. In addition, owners should avoid areas with many ticks and look for dogs after every walk.

Failure to detect Lyme disease in time can lead to kidney problems and even kidney failure. This is why good prevention is important. Otherwise, Lyme disease can be treated well with antibiotics in most cases.

First signs:

  • Lameness
  • Loss of appetite

Renal Failure

Renal failure is most common in older dogs, but it can also be the result of infectious diseases such as the aforementioned borreliosis. Unfortunately, chronic kidney disease is often difficult to prevent – with one exception: dental disease.

In an advanced stage, bacteria can enter the bloodstream from the gums and, for example, damage the kidneys. This is not the only reason good dental care is important, including brushing your dog’s teeth.

On the other hand, acute kidney disease can result from poisoning, infections, or drug reactions. In this case, the symptoms are often severe and acute. Including:

  • heat
  • Vomit
  • drinking behavior has changed
  • altered appetite

Thus, owners must keep anything that could be toxic to dogs out of reach. For example, medicines for humans or antifreeze.

Heart Worm

Heartworms are as dangerous as they sound: The parasites live in the heart and pulmonary arteries of infected animals. Traveling with the bloodstream, they damage arteries and vital organs before reaching the heart after about six months. A dog can contain hundreds of heartworms at the same time for several years.

Parasites are transmitted from animal to animal only by mosquitoes. This is why a good mosquito repellent is extremely important to your four-legged friends. For example, there are certain monthly pills that your dog can eat. In addition, dogs are at a higher risk in hot and humid regions because mosquitoes are most comfortable there.

Signs of heartworm include:

  • Shortness of breath, cough
  • Vomit
  • Weight loss
  • Lethargy and exhaustion after light movement

However, some dogs show no signs at all that might indicate a late infestation of parasites. Since heartworms can be fatal, prevention is the best option. If the dog has already caught the parasites, it can be treated with injections, often you have to go to the veterinary clinic.

Poisoning with Chocolate

Even a small amount of chocolate is toxic to dogs – Fortunately, most dog owners are aware of this. Even so, dogs may accidentally eat a piece of the leftover candy. Especially dangerous: dark chocolate.

Symptoms of chocolate poisoning include:

  • Vomit
  • diarrhea
  • anxiety
  • Gasping for breath
  • Tremble

In severe cases, cardiac arrhythmias, seizures, heart attacks, and even death can occur. Therefore, if you think your dog may have been eating chocolate, you should immediately take your dog to a veterinarian.

Cancer Disease

Dogs, like humans, can develop different types of cancer. In particular, older dogs are often diagnosed. But some breeds are also more prone to certain types of cancer. For example, Boxers, Boston Terriers, and Golden Retrievers are particularly likely to develop mast cell tumors or lymphomas. On the other hand, larger dog breeds such as the Great Dane or St. Bernard are at increased risk of developing bone cancer.

Cancer often occurs for more than one reason. It is now known that there are both genetic and environmental factors that contribute to the development of the disease. This is why there are usually only a few ways to prevent cancer. For some cancers, castration reduces the risk.

The most common symptoms include:

  • knot
  • Swelling
  • constant pain
  • unusual discharge from any part of the body
  • bad breath
  • lethargy
  • rapid weight loss and/or loss of appetite
  • sudden limp
  • black, tarry droppings
  • Difficulty breathing, urinating, or pooping

Some cancers are resistant, others are not. Owners can work with the veterinarian, for example, to decide on surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or palliative care.

Kennel Cough

The most common respiratory condition in dogs is called cone cough and is similar to bronchitis in humans. Young and old are especially affected. But also dogs that are in close contact with other relatives, for example, in an animal shelter.

Since the nursery, cough is transmitted, among other things, by aerosols in the air and can therefore easily spread in closed, poorly ventilated areas. Even if dogs share the same bowls and water bowls, they can infect each other.

This indicates a kennel cough:

  • persistent dry cough
  • strangle
  • white mucous sputum
  • heat
  • Nasal discharge

Often, four-legged friends seem to do well, aside from a cough. Vaccinations are available for certain pathogens that cause coughing, but owners should discuss with their veterinarian individually if they are beneficial to their dog. If the dog already has a conical cough, in most cases it is sufficient to give the dog enough rest, food, and water and wait until the illness clears up on its own.


Rabies is transmitted primarily through the bites of infected animals and manifests itself, for example, in behavioral changes, quick clicking, fever, hypersensitivity, and foaming at the mouth. Once rabies breaks out, the disease is fatal and there are no treatment options.

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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