Dogs are amazing companions who demand nothing and give everything. The worst thing we can do for our dogs is become complacent. Unfortunately, dog’s age at a much faster rate than we do and – eventually – the time is going to come to say goodbye.
There’s a lot we can do, as dog owners, to stretch out their lives in a way that’s meaningful. The following tips are designed to show you common signs and symptoms of disease because the earlier these things are diagnosed, the better the overall prognosis.
1. You Can’t Reclaim Your Dog’s Health in a Bag of Chips
This tip is specifically for me, and anyone else who uses treats to express love. I’m guilty as charged and, as a result, I have an overweight dog. I like to think that being female contributes some of the weight gain, and that her breed might be predisposed (she’s a lab), but I’m pretty sure the real reason is from me overfeeding her.
- Gradually ease off of the added treats
- Commit to walking your dog at least 4 to 5 days a week and build up to 7 days per week.
- Ask your veterinarian about the type of food you feed your dog. He/she will be able to suggest better alternatives for weight loss.
- Tell your friends and family what you’ve been doing. That way, they won’t be tempted to spoil your dog when you are not looking.
As your dog loses weight and eats a more balanced diet, you will probably notice a big shift in energy and general well-being.
2. Canine Hip Dysplasia
Have you noticed your dog limping a little when standing up for the first time after a nap or extended cuddle session? It could be the development of arthritis, but it might also be the beginning of hip dysplasia.
Hip Dysplasia is caused by the abnormal development of the hip. This condition creates instability in the joint. In severe cases, dislocation of the thigh bone is possible.
The first sign of hip dysplasia is an abnormal gait. As the condition advances, your dog may have trouble climbing stairs or suddenly won’t be able to jump into the car.
Bring your dog to the veterinarian if you notice a decrease in your dog’s mobility or sudden, stiff joints. The veterinarian may suggest a change in diet, physiotherapy, and regular (but low impact) exercise.
The tweet below introduces the next topic on mast cell tumors. The dog is gorgeous and I hope everything turns out alright for him.
3.Mast Cell Tumors and Other Forms of Cancer in Dogs
The scariest thing in the world is finding an unusual lump or bump on your dog. At least it is for me. Lumps and bumps could signify anything from a fatty tumor to a mast cell tumor. Don’t ignore any unusual protrusion! Veterinarian medicine has come a long way and a lot of these things can be fixed when caught early.
Use grooming time to look for any unusual lumps and bumps. You’ll find mast cell tumors on any part of the dog, but don’t forget to your dog’s abdomen and perineum (the area between your dog’s genitals).
Fear is a bad reason to avoid seeing the veterinarian. Remember, even a cancerous tumor can be removed early. Treatment is usually quite good in this case.
Some of the dogs most likely to develop mast cell tumors include
- Boxers *highest rate
- Boston Terriers
- Labrador Retrievers
- Cocker Spaniels
- Bull Terriers
- Staffordshire Terriers
- Fox Terriers
Don’t worry about looking silly if it turns out to be nothing. Get your dog to the veterinarian to check out any unusual lumps and bumps. There’s a good chance it’s nothing….but bring your dog in just to be sure!
4. Yeast Infections In Dogs with Weakened Immune Systems
Have you noticed your dog itching much more than usual lately? It could be a skin condition, but it might also be a yeast infection.
Dogs with weakened immune systems are more likely to develop a yeast (fungus) infection. Medicated dogs or dogs who have other illnesses may be more susceptible to these infections because of a lowered immune response.
Various strains of yeast infection include:
- Histoplasmosis (subclinical, meaning the initial symptoms are nearly undetectable).
- Valley Fever (severe – spores thrive in dry, dusty regions) Can affect the lungs.
- Cryptococcosis – spores that are inhaled. This fungus can make its way into the dog’s brain.
- Blastomycocosis – common along the eastern seaboard, Great Lakes, Mississippi, Ohio, and Missouri River valleys. This fungus lives in your dog’s respiratory system.
- Sporotrichosis – This fungus inhabits the skin after physical contact with spores from the soil. These spores gain access through breaks in the skin. Hunting dogs are mostly prone to this particular fungus.
One of the main symptoms of a yeast infection is excessive itching of the skin. You might also notice a yeasty smell.
Watch the condition of your dog’s skin and notice if he/she has been itching a lot. Pink or red skin means the yeast infection is in the early stages. If you notice a cheesy or spoiled-milk odor, you should bring your dog to the veterinarian. Treatment includes removing allergens from the home, topical ointments, a prescription, and a diet change.
5. The Importance (and Controversy) Over Vaccinations
Vaccinations are especially important when your dog is still a puppy. At about 12 weeks of age, your dog can be vaccinated for things rabies, parasites, canine influenza, and leptospirosis.
Leptospirosis is most often found in wet areas of the United States. Leptospirosis is a bacteria that can l live a long time as long as it’s wet. Think about the recent floodings in the United States and reports of their contaminated water. That is where you’ll find leptospirosis. Unfortunately, dogs will drink out of just about anything. This is where you should prevent him/her from doing that.
The next tweet explains the myths associated with vaccinations.
Watch Out For This:
Leptospirosis in dogs is transmitted when the dog:
- drinks from infected urine
- is in contact with other domestic animals who have it (through skin cuts, eyes, mouth)
- drinks or swims in urine-contaminated water (floodwater, rivers, etc.)
- interacts or lives in close proximity to infected livestock or wildlife
The bacteria lives up to six months in urine-contaminated water. Even the damp soil can harbor the bacteria. This creates a risk of infection through scratches, scrapes, open wounds, and mucous membranes. Dogs can transmit the bacteria to humans. However, the number of reported cases is relatively low.
The best fight against this serious disease is through regular and appropriate vaccination.
6. If It’s Not Rice, It’s Probably Worms
Unless your dog just sat in a pile of sticky rice, you might want to investigate those rice-like things under his/her tail. Yes, it’s disgusting, but the faster you have parasites treated in your dog, the less chance of them affecting the dog’s general health.
Tapeworms look like rice segments and are usually found on the underside of the dog’s tail, or around the anus area. A quick trip to the veterinarian will fix the problem.
Other worms to watch for include:
- heart worm
You could try homeopathic remedies for parasitic infection, but the fastest most effective way is through your veterinarian.
7. Would You Know if Your Dog Were Depressed?
Depressed dogs tend to show the same clinical signs that you or I might. They can become lethargic, not interested in food, drink, treats, or play. Has anything happened recently to cause your dog’s depression?
Dog’s can go through periods of the blues just like we do. Maybe you are away from home more often for a new job, or maybe one of your other pets has passed on. Don’t be surprised if your dog appears depressed.
Try to give your dog a little more one-on-one attention. You might have to coax him/her out of the house, but try to offer walks a few times a week. If the depression seems to get worse with increased exercise, consider a trip to the veterinarian. Other, more serious diseases can be the underlying cause of depression in dogs. Underlying ailments include:
The take-away here is to let your veterinarian give your dog a check-up. Any underlying conditions should be treated and, once that happens, your dog’s depression should go away.
8. Fatty Tumors on Your Dog
A noncancerous tumor in a dog is commonly a fatty mass called a lipoma. A lipoma usually feels soft and will not cause the dog discomfort (unless the location of the tumor disrupts movement).
A lipoma is basically a lump of slow growing fat cells which remains localized, not traveling through the body or into other tissues. Lipomas are common and rarely serious.
In fact, the following tweet “pokes” [pun intended) a little fun at fatty tumors. Hope you have a good sense of humor!
Watch for a lump or wound with pus.
Check to see if your dog has a fever.
If you’ve noticed any weight loss, lethargy, or sudden cough in conjunction with a new lump, it’s best to make an appointment with the veterinarian.
Remember! Not every lump is cancerous. Fatty tumors in dogs are soft, moveable, and usually benign.
The clinical name for a dog knee injury is anterior cruciate ligament. All you have to remember, however, is ACL for short.
The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), also referred to as cranial cruciate ligament (CCL), connects the femur above the knee to the tibia positioned below the knee thereby stabilizing the knee joint. This ligament can tear partially or fully as a result of sudden injury, damage, or progressive weakening of the ligament.
-Keep an eye on your dog and take note if he/she can put any weight on the injured leg. A torn ACL will be very painful, causing your dog to limp and favor the knee.
-A partial tear will often get worse until, eventually, it tears completely away. Any signs of knee injury should be brought to the attention of the veterinarian
-Keep your dog’s weight in check as overweight dogs are at higher risk of a torn ACL.
10. Tick Check!
If you live in an area endemic for ticks, do regular checks on your dog. Ticks carry a number of diseases, but the one we’re most familiar with is Lyme Disease. Lyme Disease can be treated with antibiotics if caught early. However, one prescription might not do the trick.
There’s no explanation needed for the next image. Deer ticks (black-legged ticks) are the ones that carry Lyme Disease, and other diseases.
Once your dog has completed one round of antibiotics, you’ll want to have him tested to make sure he is no longer carrying the antibodies
Use a special comb designed to pick up fleas and ticks, or carefully scan your dog’s skin with your fingers. Ticks tend to make their way up to the dog’s neck, so check the folds of skin there and look between the folds of the ear. If you spot an embedded tick, pull the tick out with a good pair of tweezers and swipe a little rubbing alcohol over the bite mark to keep it disinfected.
11. Horner’s Syndrome
Horner’s syndrome is caused by an injury to one of the nervous system pathways that leads to the eyes and face of your dog. One minute your dog is fine and the next one side of his face has drooped. Your dog might walk in circles, paw at his face, or walk into walls.
Don’t worry! Horner’s Syndrome isn’t always caused by something serious. In fact, 50% of the cases are considered idiopathetic which means there was no underlying cause.
Allow the veterinarian to do a series of tests. This will help to rule out any underlying causes. Things like tumors, neck and head injuries can cause Horner’s symptoms. Symptoms include:
- Droopy lower eyelid
- One eye appears sunken
- Tight or stiff jaw
- The dog might not be able to eat properly on the side of the face that is affecting him.
The important thing here is to get an accurate diagnosis right off the bat. With an accurate diagnosis, you can get straight to the heart of the matter.
I hope this guide has given you some things to watch for. No need to become a hypochondriac though! Some dogs never experience any of these things. However, it’s always a good idea to understand what you’re looking for when it comes to your dog’s health and why.
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