New dog owners should take the time to learn the signs of potential health problems that might develop as a puppy matures into an adult dog. Here are some of the conditions to watch for:
In dogs, allergies often show up as skin conditions, itchy ears, head-shaking, scratching, or bald or raw spots, though they can also cause runny eyes and nose, sneezing, coughing, vomiting, and diarrhea. Dogs can be allergic to many of the same things people can: dust, pollen, grasses, mold, flea bites, and many foods. If you think your dog has an allergy, talk to your vet about how to determine what she’s allergic to and what you can do.
Anal sac conditions
Anal sacs are tiny organs, on either side of the lower half of the dog’s anus, which produce a liquid thought to help dogs mark their territory. The ducts that lead from the sacs to the anus can become blocked or infected. If your dog starts scooting his bottom along the ground and licking his anus, this may be the reason. Your vet can clear the ducts or show you how to squeeze the glands yourself.
Gastric dilatation volvulus is a very serious condition that can rapidly kill an otherwise healthy dog. The stomach inflates (usually with gas or fluids) beyond its normal size, twists around, and can press on the major arteries of the torso, disrupting blood flow, and sending the dog into shock. It can be precipitated by exercise two or three hours after a large meal or drinking large amounts of water. Signs include distended abdomen, excessive drooling, dry retching, restlessness, and depression. Signs of shock are weak pulse, rapid heart rate, pale gums, or short, rapid breathing. If you suspect bloat or shock, take your dog to the vet immediately. Large breeds and breeds with deep chests tend to be susceptible. Feed your dog several small meals throughout the day and restrict water intake and exercise soon after eating.
Colitis is an inflammation of the colon or lower bowel and has many different causes, from bacterial infections to allergies. Since causes vary, so do symptoms and treatments. Generally, you might see feces with mucus or blood in it, bloody diarrhea, or unproductive straining after passing feces. Severe dehydration can kill a dog quickly, so immediate veterinary care is crucial.
When the body stops making insulin or stops responding to it, it can no longer process sugars in the blood efficiently. The kidneys will release sugar into the dog’s urine, which makes her urinate more and have to drink more. The primary symptoms of diabetes are excessive drinking and urination, sometimes accompanied by weight loss despite increased appetite, or blindness or numb limbs. Treatment is available, and early detection is crucial.
Usually in the hip or elbow, dysplasia is a deterioration of the joint. A loose or ill-fitting joint will cause damage and a resulting immune response within the joint. Stiff movement, pain or slowness getting up, or swollen joints are symptoms. Consult your breeder and vet about the possibility of dysplasia and what can be done to help.
Dogs can have seizures just like people, and the causes can be varied. There are several stages of a seizure, which in dogs are generally expressed (to varying degrees) in these ways: changes in mood or behavior, sometimes for several days before a seizure; the “aura,” which signals the start of the seizure, can include nervousness, whining, trembling, salivation, excessive affection, wandering, restlessness, hiding, and general apprehension; the seizure itself, lasting a few seconds to a few minutes, in which the dog may fall to the ground, lose consciousness, gnash teeth, thrash his limbs, bark, paddle his feet, and lose control of his bladder
and bowels; and the “anelean” stage, after the seizure, in which the dog may pace, become temporarily blind or deaf, and eat or drink excessively. If you suspect your dog may have had or be having a seizure, consult your vet.
There are many types of heart disease, but symptoms to watch out for include coughing, weight loss, pale mucous membranes, palpable vibrations of the chest wall, exercise intolerance, episodes of passing out, accumulation of fluids anywhere in the body, and abnormal heart sounds such as a heart murmur.
Obesity is just as dangerous for dogs as it is for humans. Fat dogs are at higher risk in surgery, more prone to injury, as well as to metabolic disorders such as diabetes, and have more stress on their heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, stomach, intestines, and joints. Consult your vet about a reasonable diet for your dog.