Common dog diseases and how to avoid them

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A guide to avoiding common dog diseases

Updated 21 March, 2024
Written by Eliza Buglar
Reviewed by Adrian Taylor

Expert tips on choosing the right pet insurance

Our resident pet insurance expert, Adrian Taylor, has helpful tips on how to find suitable pet insurance to cover treatment costs if your dog is sick or hurt.

Adrian Taylor
Executive General Manager – General Insurance

Choose a comprehensive cover

It’s always worth opting for a comprehensive policy that covers a long list of dog illnesses and conditions. Be sure to choose pet insurance that will cover accidental injuries and a wider range of specified illnesses like cataracts, conjunctivitis, ear and skin infections, arthritis, gastroenteritis, heart disease, cancer and more. Some policies may even cover prescribed medication and diagnostic testing.

Consider a routine care add-on

Routine care cover is an optional extra that helps cover the costs of vaccinations and other preventative care expenses like periodic check-ups, worming, dental treatment and specialised therapies. Some policies even offer benefits for grooming and behavioural therapy. Keep in mind that optional extras come at an additional cost, though.

Insure your pet before they develop pre-existing conditions

Pet insurance doesn’t typically cover pre-existing conditions which is why it’s advised to insure your pet(s) when they’re young and healthy, before they develop symptoms of an ailment. A pre-existing condition is an illness or sickness developed before taking out your policy or within the applicable waiting period. Bilateral or conditions related to a pre-existing condition and vaccine-preventable diseases are also typically excluded from coverage.

Common dog diseases and how to prevent them

1. Heartworm

2. Fleas and ticks

3. Cancer

4. Diabetes

5. Kennel cough

6. Canine influenza

7. Dog arthritis

8. Skin conditions

9. Intestinal issues

10. Urinary tract infections

Other dog ailments

Dogs can also be prone to other ailments and injuries, including but not limited to:

  • Infectious/viral diseases. Some common infectious diseases are canine parvovirus (acute gastrointestinal illness), leptospirosis (bacterial infection), Bordetella (a respiratory disease) and canine distemper, which affects the respiratory, gastrointestinal and nervous system. Dogs contract these diseases through contact with an infected dog’s urine or faeces. Luckily, there are vaccines to protect your dog.
  • Cruciate ligament injuries. Dogs are susceptible to tears or sprains of their cruciate ligaments, which stabilise the knees). Cruciate ligament conditions are a common health issue among dogs, especially larger breeds.
  • Dog ear infections. When dirt, dust or an object gets lodged inside the dog’s ear canal, 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. Dog breeds with the highest cataract prevalence include terriers and miniature poodles. 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, 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.

Pet insurance can cover some costs


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

There are three main levels of pet insurance for dogs:

  • Accident-only cover. This is the most basic level of cover you can get for your pet. It can help pay for some of the treatment costs if your pet is injured in an accident.
  • Accident and illness cover. This can reimburse you for some of the treatment costs if your pet is injured in an accident or falls ill.
  • Comprehensive/optional cover. Some insurers will allow you to add one or more optional covers to your pet insurance to pay for a portion of expenses relating to your pet’s routine care, such as check-ups, dental care or even behavioural training. This type of cover will come with an extra premium.

However, a pet insurance policy will likely cover only some of your pet care expenses. Check your policy’s Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) so you know what’s covered, what your policy excess is and what the exclusions are and your insurer’s Target Market Determination to check that the policy is suitable for you.

Important to know

What vaccines do dogs need?

Is blood work necessary for dogs?

Meet our pet insurance expert, Adrian Taylor

Adrian Taylor
Executive General Manager – General Insurance

As Executive General Manager of General Insurance, Adrian Taylor knows that dogs and cats get themselves into all sorts of mischief. One part of Adrian’s work is to help empower consumers to understand how pet insurance can help save them from exorbitant vet bills when their pet gets injured or falls ill.

Greencross Vets – Heartworm disease in pets. Accessed June 2023.

RSPCA Victoria − Flea and tick prevention. Accessed June 2023.

PetMD (Fetch) – 10 symptoms of diabetes in dogs. Accessed June 2023.

Greencross Vets – Canine (kennel) cough in dogs. Accessed June 2023.

VCA Animal Hospitals – Canine influenza: the dog flu. Accessed June 2023.

Greencross Vets − Hip dysplasia in dogs. Accessed June 2023.

PetMD − Skin problems in dogs. Accessed June 2023.

PetMD − Bloat in dogs. Accessed June 2023.

VCA Animal Hospitals − Urinary tract infections (UTIs) in dogs. Accessed June 2023.

10 RSPCA Knowledge Base – What vaccinations should my dog receive? Accessed June 2023.