Common Health Problems To Look Out For In Your Dog

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This article was updated on August 24th, 2021

As a dog owner, it’s important to be wary of certain common health problems that your dog may develop. This can help you to spot the signs early and get treatment. There could also be ways of preventing these health problems. A few examples of common health problems that affect dogs are listed below.

Ear infections

Many dogs develop ear infections throughout their lifetime. These can be caused by bacteria or yeast, usually following an injury, ear mites or simply getting something stuck in the ear like grass seeds. Ear infections can be very painful and a dog will usually display signs that it is in discomfort such as shaking its head or excessively scratching its ear.

A vet may be able to treat an infection by prescribing antibiotics or ear drops. Regular ear cleaning can often prevent infections – you can learn to do this yourself, but it can often be a procedure best performed by a vet.


Dogs can also be prone to getting worms. These parasites take many forms including tapeworms and heartworms. Worms are sometimes visible in a dog’s poop, however, in other cases, they can go unnoticed and become very dangerous. Symptoms to look out for include loss of appetite, diarrhea, coughing, vomiting or skin itching.

A vet will be able to administer treatment to get rid of worms. This tends to be cheap and simple – except in the case of heartworm. Preventative treatment is often the best option, which could involve feeding your dog de-worming tablets.


Fleas are another parasite that dogs are susceptible to. A clear sign that your dog has fleas is constant itching. You may even be able to see the fleas themselves by looking through your dog’s fur.

To get rid of fleas, you may need to give your dog an injection. Alternatively, you can go through your dog’s fur with a comb and flea ointment to get rid of any existing fleas. You should wash bedding and any other fabric your dog may have come into contact with. Fleas are often easier to treat when spotted early.

Food poisoning

Certain foods that are safe for humans to eat such as grapes and chocolate can be toxic to dogs. Meanwhile, there are many other substances that dogs can consume that are toxic. When dogs have food poisoning, they will usually display vomiting, fever or diarrhea. This can develop into kidney disease if left untreated – which can be fatal.

You should see a vet straight away if you suspect that food poisoning is taking place. If caught early, your dog can usually be forced to vomit it out. To avoid food poisoning, be wary of the foods that you eat and lock away any chemicals that a dog may be able to get hold of.  

Tooth decay/gum disease

Dogs can also get tooth decay and gum disease. This is usually visible when opening your dog’s mouth. Unusual chewing behavior or loss of appetite could also be a sign that your dog has a toothache.

Tooth decay may require the extraction of a tooth or antibiotics. You can prevent tooth decay by brushing your dog’s teeth daily.


Arthritis is a joint disease that can commonly affect older dogs. A dog may have trouble walking or refrain from running if they have this disease.

Arthritis isn’t treatable, but there may be forms of pain relief that you can use. Overweight dogs are more likely to get arthritis – regularly exercising your dog and giving your dog a healthy diet is recommended for this reason. Discouraging your dog from running on wooden floors or climbing stairs may also prevent joint problems from occurring.


Dogs can also develop diabetes. Increased urination and excessive thirst are usually clear signs of diabetes. Some dogs may also lose weight, despite consuming more food.

As in humans, diabetes is directly linked to an unhealthy diet and being overweight. You can prevent your dog from developing diabetes by encouraging a physically active lifestyle. Diabetes can easily be controlled by taking your dog to a vet.


Cancer is common in dogs – especially in older age. Strange lumps and bumps are the most obvious sign of cancer. However, this disease can sometimes go unnoticed with no clear visible signs – your dog may simply act tired or display disinterest in physical activity.

The cause of cancer in dogs is unknown. While it can be scary to discover this disease in your dog, it can be treatable if caught early enough. Surgery to remove tumors can be expensive and having pet insurance is worthwhile in case such treatment is ever needed.

Heart disease

Dogs can also commonly develop heart disease later in life. A dog may act unusually tired or have breathing problems. Heart disease is, unfortunately, the biggest killer and sometimes goes unnoticed until a heart attack occurs.

Lifestyle can play a big part in the risk of developing heart disease. If your dog is overweight, it’s much more likely to develop this disease. As a result, you should encourage exercise and a healthy diet to reduce the risks. If your dog already has heart disease, a vet may be able to offer treatment to keep it under control. Surgery may also be an option in some cases. 


  • Dr. Winnie, Veterinarian

    Dr. Winnie earned a Master in Biology from St Georges University, and graduated from the University of Pretoria's Veterinary School. She is a full-time Veterinarian specializing in internal medicine for companion animals.

Disclaimer: This website's content is not a substitute for veterinary care. Always consult with your veterinarian for healthcare decisions. Read More.

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