An informed owner makes for a healthy dog

The more you know…
Many of us forget that just like us, our canine friends can have health issues.  And as they age, it’s almost guaranteed they will have some sort of health problem that will require proper treatment and care.  The good news is, as an informed and knowledgeable owner, you can help prevent, identify, and treat your dog’s health issues before they become a serious problem.  Here are some health conditions you should be informed about to protect the health of your pet.

  1.  Allergic Dermatitis
  • Itching and scratching more than normal. 
  • Rough or flaky skin. 
  • Irritated or red areas of skin.
Possible Causes:
  • Allergies – Your dog may be allergic to a new brand of food you’ve purchased.  Or he may be allergic to an environmental conditions such as dust, pollen,  or mold. 
  • Parasites – Fleas, Mites, Lice, Ticks, etc.
  • Hormonal Imbalance – If your pet has too much or too little of certain hormones, it can manifest itself through skin problems.
  • Infections – If your pet has a small cut that’s gotten infected, or picked up some sort of bacterial infection, this could be the cause of skin irritation.
If you notice these symptoms, it is wise to see a veterinarian for proper diagnosis and medical treatment.  Additionally a healthy and nutritional diet can help prevent these conditions.  Ensure your pet is eating plenty of proteins, Essential Fatty Acids, and getting enough Antioxidants.
  1.  Arthritis and Joint Pain
Joints become swollen and painful.  You’ll notice your pet has a hard time getting up, running, and walking.

Possible causes: 
Typically this occurs in older dogs, but can happen with younger dogs as well.  This problem is occurs when the cartilage is worn away faster than it can be replaced.  Cartilage acts as a cushion to protect the bones and this tends to occur as your dog ages.  However, it can also occur due to your dog’s breed, excess weight, previous accidents, or infections.

Again, see your veterinarian for proper treatment and ensure your dog has a healthy and nutritional diet.
  1.  Behavioral Changes
  • House-soiling accidents
  • No longer "asks" to go outside
  • Doesn't greet family members
  • Does not want attention/petting
  • Does not recognize familiar people or places
  • Does not respond to verbal cues
  • Sleeps more during the day or less at night
  • Appears lost or confused in the house or yard
  • Wanders or paces
  • Stares into space or at walls
Possible causes:
These symptoms are almost entirely due to old age.  It can also occur if your pet has sustained a serious head injury.
As your dog ages, make sure she stays active and alert.  Play with her often and make sure she is eating a diet rich in antioxidants and essential nutrients. 
  1.  Cancer
  • Abnormal swelling that grows or persists
  • Extreme weight loss
  • Ongoing and persistent sores
  • Significant change in appetite
  • Bleeding or discharge from the mouth, nose, ears or anus
  • Offensive odor
  • Difficulty swallowing or eating
  • Loss of interest in exercise
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Difficulty going to the bathroom
  • Loss of stamina
Possible causes:
Cancer for dogs is similar to cancer for humans.  It’s important to know your dog’s genealogical history so you can be aware if this risk is higher for your pet.  Like humans, as your pet ages, the likelihood of developing some sort of cancer increases.  Some breeds have higher rates of cancer than others.  Some environmental factors may cause cancer as well.  Essentially, just like humans, it’s hard to pinpoint a cause, but important to always be aware of symptoms to catch it early to increase the probability of survival. 

A healthy and nutritional diet is treatment number one.  Early detection is one of the most valuable treatments as well.  As your dog ages, always schedule regular check-ups with your vet to keep status on any abnormalities.
  1.  Dental Disease
  • Bad Breath
  • Colorless film on your pet’s teeth
  • Plaque buildup
  • Abnormal or swollen gums
Possible causes:
Some dogs are prone to gum disease or having bad teeth, but this can typically be prevented and treated with proper oral care.
See your veterinarian for a complete oral checkup and cleaning for your dog.  Your vet will also be able to recommend special oral treatments and products that will help maintain the dental health of your pet.
  1.  Diabetes Mellitus
  • Your dog suddenly appears weak
  • Being suddenly and more than often thirsty
  • Frequent urination
  • Rapid or extreme weight loss
  • Abdominal pain
Possible causes:
  • Obesity
  • Genetic predisposition - females are twice as likely to develop diabetes
  • Poor nutrition
  • Hormonal abnormalities
  • Stress
Diabetes is generally caused by damage to the pancreas.  The pancreas produces the proper amount of insulin to control sugar levels.  If your dog's pancreas is damaged, this can cause lasting and potentially life-threatening symptoms that must be properly treated.

There is no cure for diabetes mellitus; however, veterinarians have developed ways to control it with insulin, exercise, and proper to high-levels of fiber lowers insulin requirements and blood glucose levels. Additionally, fiber makes your pet’s body more responsive to insulin.
As with other health problems, it's important to constantly provide your pet with a healthy and nutritional diet.  Keep the diet low-fat and avoid sugary treats.  This will keep your dog's metabolism level stable so she can stay healthy and strong.
Consult your veterinarian for the proper diagnosis and treatment for your specific situation.
  1.  Food Allergy
Frequently vomiting
Skin irritations
Hair loss
Possible causes:
Just like us, dogs may be intolerant or allergic to certain foods.
Pay attention to what is in your dog’s food.  You can see your vet for guidance on particular brands of dog food that are made with different sources of protein.  Try removing all extra food from your dog’s diet and slowly reintroducing them while paying attention to symptoms from the consumption of each food.
  1.  Gastrointestinal Disorders
  • Vomiting
  • Regurgitation
  • Flatulence
  • Weakness
  • Diarrhea/Constipation
Possible causes:
  • Colitis: An acute or chronic inflammation of the membrane lining the colon. This can be caused by a parasite, tumors or polyps, food allergies, etc.
  • Constipation: Frequently caused by inadequate fiber and water intake.  It can also occur from eating hair, bones or other foreign objects.
  • Diarrhea:  This can be caused by infections, internal parasites, stress, a change in pet food, eating spoiled food from the garbage and internal organ dysfunction.
  • Gastroenteritis: This is inflammation or infection of the gastrointestinal tract, primarily the stomach and intestines.  Again like many of the other gastrointestinal issues, this can be caused by eating spoiled food, swallowing foreign objects, eating toxic plants, internal parasites, stress, food allergies, and other diseases being manifest.
  • Pancreatitis:  This is an inflammation or infection of the pancreas (an elongated, tapered gland that is located behind the stomach).
A high fiber and high nutritional diet are the best way to avoid and treat these problems.  As always see your veterinarian for specific medical treatments and recommendations.

  1.  Heart Disease
  • Low-pitched cough that sometimes leads to gagging
  • Difficulty Breathing
  • Reduced ability or desire to exercise
  • Extreme or rapid weight gain or loss
  • Swelling in the abdomen
If you’ve been reading to this point, you’ve probably noticed these symptoms are similar to many other conditions, so it is important to have your pet check the following as well to ensure proper diagnosis.
  • Stethoscope exam to reveal possible murmurs or fluid in the lungs
  • Unusual pulses detected by palpitations
  • X-rays to reveal possible heart enlargement
  • KG to identify heart enlargement or irregular heart rhythms
  • Blood and urine tests to reveal heartworms
Possible causes:
Heart conditions are common to certain breeds of dogs, but also commonly developed as your dog ages.  There can be other rare problems such as heartworms as well.
Similar to humans, a low sodium diet is recommended.  Again, see you veterinarian for specific diagnosis and treatment options.

  1.  Kidney Disease
  • Loss of appetite
  • Increased thirst
  • Frequent urination or no urination
  • Vomiting
  • Poor coat appearance
  • Depression
Possible causes:
They kidney’s job is to remove waste from the bloodstream and regulate the fluids in the body.  If they don’t do their job, serious health risks can occur in your pet. 
Acute kidney failure can be caused from:
  • Blood loss
  • Shock
  • Surgical stress
  • Trauma
  • Severe dehydration
  • Poisons
  • Drugs
  • Obstructed urine flow
  • Infection
Long-term kidney failure can be caused from:
  • Your dog’s breed
  • Immune system deficiencies
  • Poor nutritional diet
Unfortunately, many times the signs of kidney disease don’t appear until more than two-thirds of kidney function has been lost.   Once chronic kidney failure develops, it cannot be reversed.  Routine veterinarian checkups are the best way for early detection and prevention.

  1.   Liver Disease
  • Loss in appetite
  • Sudden and extreme weight loss
  • Lack of energy
  • Depression
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the gums, whites of the eyes or skin)
  • Dark colored urine
  • Pale gums
  • Enlarged abdomen (often mistaken as sudden weight gain)
Possible causes:
The liver’s job is to filter toxins from the bloodstream.  Many different things can cause failure.
  • Viral and bacterial infections
  • Eating poisonous substances
  • Altered blood flow to the liver due to heart disease
  • Many dog breeds such as Bedlingtons and West Highland white terriers are susceptible
Always watch and protect what your dog is eating to avoid over consumption of toxic or poisonous substances.  Treat infections and viral sicknesses promptly and quickly.  As usual, see your veterinarian for proper treatment options.

  1.  Urinary Tract Infections
  • Straining to urinate
  • More frequent than usual urination
  • Blood in urine
  • Reduced appetite
  • Lack interest in normal activities
Possible causes:
There is no single cause of urinary tract disease.  Surprisingly, both males and females get the disease with equal frequency, however, males have a higher risk of life-threatening urethral obstruction from the crystals or stones.  Small dogs are more susceptible than large dogs.  Other possible causes could be a lack of exercise or reduced water intake.
Additionally, something to keep in mind, is that foods high in magnesium, phosphorus, protein and calcium have been linked to stone formation. 

Veterinarians believe giving your dog a diet with restricted amounts of magnesium, phosphorus, protein and calcium can help prevent stones forming in your pet’s urinary tract.  And if your pet has already be diagnosed with a urinary tract infection it’s important to remember they are now at a higher risk of contraction one again, so watch closely for the indicators and see your veterinarian promptly if you notice any recurring symptoms.

Now that you know….
Now that you are more aware of potential health issues your pet may have or develop, you can quickly spot abnormalities and symptoms.  It’s important to always pay attention to your pet’s health and remember, if untreated, their problems may lead to further complications and higher veterinary bills.  So avoid the bills and stay informed so you can help your dog live a happy, healthy, and long life!

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