Common Dog Diseases - Help For Owners of Older Dogs

All reputable rescue shelters provide their wards with proper veterinarian care. Diseases such as distemper, parvo, rabies, leptospirosis, are detected and treatment administered if treatment exists and does not come too late to offer a cure. The mission of these shelters is to find loving, caring homes for these unfortunate creatures; and, delivering an unhealthy animal serves no one. But, it is advisable for the perspective adopting family to be aware of the signs and the prognosis of the most common ailments in the event that something was overlooked at the shelter. The sooner detection occurs, the better chance for a full recovery.

So, here is a brief primer that will help you screen for any unhealthy condition your new family member could possibly be harboring. Please understand that this is in no way a substitute for veterinarian care. I try to cover a very broad range of maladies so all have been given only cursory coverage. Hopefully enough that will enable you to at least suspect your dog may require treatment and what that treatment might entail and how serious the infirmity is.

Distemper 

Look for symptoms similar to the common cold - like runny nose and eyes, coughing, high temperature, and diarrhea. These are early symptoms. If the disease has progressed, you may observe nervous twitching, convulsions and even paralysis. This is a very serious disease for which no treatment or cure exists. Canine distemper is caused by a very contagious virus transmitted by air. Dogs are normally vaccinated against distemper. So, a neglected rescue dog may not have had such treatment.

Parvovirus

If your pup or dog is lethargic, feverish, exhibits vomiting, bloody diarrhea and rapid dehydration, he could be suffering from canine parvovirus. It is spread by contact with infected stools. It is deadly and highly contagious. Treatment will entail rigorous intravenous fluids to combat the diarrhea and resulting dehydration. Supportive therapy may also be required. Like distemper, cared for animals are vaccinated against parvo.

Tracheobronchitis (aka Kennel Cough)

This ailment is caused by a variety of viruses and bacteria. It attacks the respiratory system and inflicts a chronic, dry, hacking cough. Its very transmittable but generally remains a mild infection. However, in young pups and older dogs, if untreated, it could develop into pneumonia. There is treatment and recovery is the norm. Shots can be administered as a prevention.

Leptospirosis 

Infects the kidneys and is caused by bacteria and spread through contact with mucous, urine or saliva of infected animals. Leptospirosis is of particular concern since it can infect humans. Symptoms in dogs include vomiting, diarrhea, and jaundice (detected by yellow color to gums, whites of the eyes and skin, excessive drinking, and extension of the dog's abdomen).   Intensive care treatment requires antibiotics and intravenous fluids. Animals that do recover are often left with permanent kidney damage. Vaccinations do exist, but the multitude of strains of this disease often thwart the effectiveness of preventive measures.

Canine Infectious Hepatitis (Adenovirus) 

Transmitted through most animal excretions - urine, feces, saliva. Look for fever, depression, loss of appetite, coughing, and a tender abdomen. It affects the liver and kidney as well as the blood vessels. Intensive care will most likely be required which may include blood transfusions. A complete recovery is not at all certain.

Corona (Canine coronavirus)

This disease is far more prevalent in puppies since older dogs have built up immunity. Very similar in symptoms to parvovirus, except it is normally milder and more treatable. It's highly contagious and attacks the gastrointestinal tract. It causes moderate to severe vomiting and diarrhea and will lead to dehydration if not treated. Loss of appetite and depression and blood in the stool are also signs of the disease. It may even mimic poisoning. Treatment generally attempts to prevent the symptoms from worsening. Specifically, dehydration needs to be prevented through IV fluids, or even force-fed water.

Rabies 

A well-known viral infection of all mammals, including man, transmitted by the bite of an in­fected animal. Rabies attacks the central nervous system and causes encephalitis, and infection of the brain. It's a slow moving disease that causes the animal to go through several stages of varying symptoms, starting with nervousness, anxiety, and solitude. Next comes restlessness, irritability and extra sensitivity to noise and light. Then over salivation and difficulty swallowing. Finally, deep labored breathing, paralysis, and respiratory failure. If a dog isn't vaccinated and contracts rabies, death is certain.

A primary responsibility of a conscientious owner of a rescue dog is to maintain your new dog's health. While many of viral and bacterial diseases are fatal if left untreated - and several cannot be treated at all after contraction - early detection certainly increases the chances of a successful cure, if one exists. Knowing the symptoms will help you with this early detection. I strongly recommend you immediately take your dog to the vet should you observe any unusual behavior or any of the aforementioned symptoms. Best of luck.
 
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