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With 40% of Australian households owning at least one dog, it seems our country has puppy love.1

But what would happen if your pooch needed urgent medical attention? Would you see the signs? Do you know how to prevent certain ailments?

In this page, we outline the most common dog diseases and illnesses and provide tips on how to ensure your canine companion lives a long and healthy life.

Let’s get started!

Five common dog diseases and illnesses in Australia

1.      Heartworm

Transmitted by mosquitos, heartworms are long, parasitic worms that grow inside a dog’s heart and lungs – eventually causing organ failure and death. Symptoms of heartworm include coughing, wheezing, lethargy and weight loss. Treatment for heartworm in dogs can be dangerous and costly, so prevention is paramount.

Prevention: Get your dog an annual heartworm vaccination from the vet or a monthly medication in the form of an oral tablet or chews. The cheaper option will depend on whether your vet charges a consultation fee and the medication brand you use. In addition to medication, it’s wise to keep your dog away from mosquito-infested areas, such as swamps, wetlands and stagnant water.

2.      Fleas and ticks

Fleas are external parasites, living in the dog’s coat and feeding on their blood. Flea bites are irritating and painful for dogs, and they can cause skin conditions, anaemia and infections. Symptoms include scratching, biting, and hair loss around the affected area. Treatment for fleas come in shampoos and even tablets – which are reasonably priced.

Ticks, on the other hand, are much more serious than fleas and can cause blood poisoning and, in some cases, death. Tick symptoms include paralysis of the hind legs, a change in the dog’s bark and vomiting. Treatment ranges from tablets or chews to topical treatments, all available from your local pet store or vet.

Prevention: For fleas, you can use tablets, flea collars, regular bathing and grooming to minimise the risk. For ticks, there are topical treatments, sprays and tick collars available. It’s also helpful to complete daily checks by running your fingertips or a fine comb through your dog’s coat.

3.      Cancer

Just like humans, dogs can get cancer. Common types include lymphoma, melanomas in the dog’s mouth and mass cell tumours on the dog’s head, body or lungs. Cancer symptoms in dogs include lethargy, loss of appetite and weight loss. Dog cancer is treated with surgery, chemotherapy and radiation – which can amount to thousands of dollars. That said, it’s worth noting that some cancer growths are benign and not life-threatening.

Prevention: Like all cancers, it’s important to catch it early. Keep an eye out for unusual lumps, spots on your dog’s mouth, face and body. Also, monitor any changes in appetite or energy.

4.      Kennel cough

Kennel cough is a form of bronchitis, which causes inflammation in the dog’s windpipe. In human terms, it’s the equivalent of the common cold. Dogs typically pick up kennel cough from cold temperatures, poorly ventilated environments and other infected dogs.

You can spot kennel cough when your dog sounds like they’re choking – which can sound awful. Typical treatments include rest, good food and access to plenty of water. Antibiotics are often needed in severe cases.

Prevention: A highly contagious illness, you can get your dog vaccinated against kennel cough. Also try and keep your dog away from large groups of dogs or dogs unknown to you.

5.      Dog arthritis

Arthritis or osteoarthritis is prevalent among older dogs. If your dog has arthritis, you’ll notice they’re slow to get back up on their feet and less active then they once were. The use of exercise, weight control and medication can ease your beloved dog’s pain.

Prevention: You can reduce the chances of dog arthritis through a quality diet, comfortable bedding, weight control, supplementation and deterrence from laying on hard surfaces, such as concrete and floorboards.

dog insurance for dogs

Other ailments your dog may encounter

  • Infectious diseases. Two common infectious diseases are parvovirus and distemper. Dog’s contract these diseases through contact with an infected dog’s urine or faeces. Luckily, there are vaccines to protect your dog.
  • Dog ear infections. When dirt, dust or an object gets lodged inside the dog’s ear, it can lead to an infection. This infection is often remedied with antibiotic ear drops from the vet.
  • Diarrhoea. Sometimes diarrhoea is a sign of bad food or a minor allergic reaction, other times it’s a sign of something more sinister. Contact your vet if symptoms persist.
  • Dog cataracts. If left untreated, a cataract can leave your dog blind. A dog cataract can only be removed surgically.
  • Broken bones. If your dog is in an accident or falls from a height, then they may have broken a bone. Your brave companion will try and hide the pain, so look out for limping or protruding lumps.
  • Obesity. Overweight dogs are more likely to develop heart disease, kidney disease, arthritis and other debilitating illnesses. To avoid dog obesity, ensure your dog is exercised daily and fed a maximum of only twice per day.

Read more about dog care and disease prevention.

Understanding vaccinations and preventative medications for dogs

When your dog is a puppy, their immune system is still developing. Therefore, it’s important to get them vaccinated early, typically between six to eight weeks old.

In Australia, there are core and non-core vaccines. Often the core vaccines are grouped in what’s called a ‘C3’ vaccine. This vaccine protects your dog against deadly infectious diseases like parvovirus. Non-core vaccines for kennel cough and heartworm will incur additional costs.

Consult your local vet on a vaccination schedule for your furry friend.

Need some peace of mind? Try Pet insurance!

Pet insurance is a type of insurance that can help to cover some of your pet’s critical healthcare costs due to injury or illness.

There are three levels of dog insurance:

N.B. A pet insurance policy is unlikely to cover all your pet care expenses. Check your policy’s Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) so you know what’s covered and if you’re required to pay an excess or co-payment.

Safeguard your beloved dog’s future today!

Do you want the peace of mind knowing your dog is covered in the event of an accident or illness?

Don’t be left with significant vet bills; get dog insurance today! It only takes a few minutes, and your dog’s welfare may depend on it. Use our free online comparison tool to compare Pet insurance in a convenient side-by-side view.


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