Medical Conditions and Diseases | PAWS Chicago

Medical Conditions and Diseases

Being aware of symptoms will help you treat your dog faster

Medical care plays an important role in your dog's life

There are many diseases your dog can come into contact with. The good news is, you can prevent most of them with vaccinations and monthly preventatives.

Common Conditions

Kennel cough is usually caused by several infectious agents working together to damage and irritate the lining of the dog’s trachea and upper bronchi.

It will stimulate a coarse, dry, hacking cough about three to seven days after the dog is initially infected. It sounds as if the dog needs to “clear his throat” and the cough will worsen with extra activity or exercise.

Dogs who acquire kennel cough will cough every few minutes, all day long. Their general state of health and alertness will be unaffected; they usually have no rise in temperature and do not lose their appetite. Symptoms usually will last from 7 to 21 days.

Life-threatening cases are extremely rare. Most dogs will recover on their own with no medication but some cases can progress into pneumonia. Cough suppressants and occasionally antibiotics are the usual treatment selections.

There are safe oral and nasal vaccines for kennel cough that are preferred over the injectable forms. Keep your dog up to date on vaccinations to help prevent kennel cough if you are boarding or kenneling your dog regularly.

Parasites

Parasitic worms are very common in dogs and puppies. In most cases, worm detection is easy via a fecal sample and treatments are effective. Ignoring possible symptoms and necessary treatments can lead to serious illnesses and sometimes even the death of your dog, as well as the possible transmission of a worm infection to you.

Dogs adopted from PAWS Chicago have received a deworming treatment for common worms but additional treatments may be needed. Your veterinarian will work with you to determine if additional deworming treatments are required.

Giardia is a microscopic intestinal parasite that dogs contract through water or other substances contaminated with feces of an infected dog. Giardia can cause diarrhea, dehydration, weight loss and even death. If your dog is having diarrhea, a fecal test done with your veterinarian can determine if he has giardia and proper treatment can be started. While rare, giardia can be transmitted to humans from dogs.

Fleas are the most common parasite found on dogs and can lead to allergies, worms and other medical conditions. Ticks are parasites that attach to the dog’s skin and feed off their blood, causing anemia, Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Fleas and ticks are more commonly seen in warmer temperatures with ticks being prevalent in wooded areas. Many products exist on the market to kill and prevent fleas and ticks. Discuss the best product for your pet with your veterinarian. All dogs adopted from PAWS Chicago have been treated with flea and tick preventative.

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Orthopedic Conditions

Canine hip dysplasia (CHD) is a congenital disease that can affect any dog, but is often seen in large-breed dogs. The word “dysplasia” means improper growth.

Hip dysplasia can be described as a faulty or abnormal development of the hip. In CHD, the hip becomes loose and wobbly. This can eventually lead to a form of arthritis called Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD).

The degree of lameness that occurs is usually dependent upon the location and extent of arthritic changes in the hip joint. Environmental conditions, such as exercise and weight, contribute to the disease.

Typical signs of CHD are:

  • Reduced activity
  • Problems with stairs
  • Less jumping
  • Trouble getting up or laying down
  • Painful reactions to the extension of the rear legs
  • A faint popping sound or crunchy feeling coming from the hip

Treatment for CHD can include nutritional support, supplements and herbs, anti-inflammatory medications, non-concussive exercise, massage, acupuncture, and, when it is very severe, even surgery. Treatment depends on the severity of the dysplasia, discomfort and lameness, amount of DJD, the age of the dog, the size of the dog and more.

The patella is what is known in humans as the knee cap. Grooves in the femur bone along with muscles keep the patella in place. The patella guides the muscles in the leg to enable a dog to walk and the patella also helps protect the knee joint. In some dogs, the grooves in the femur are not prominent and the patella will often jump out of the groove, or “luxate”. Once a patella luxates out of position, the dog will often hold the leg up until the muscles relax and allow the patella to slide back into place.

Luxating patellas are graded based on degree of severity and many dogs live normal lives with luxating patellas. In more severe cases, surgery is indicated if the patella does not return to normal or the dog is regularly having trouble walking because of the patella issue.

Smaller dogs are more prone to luxating patellas and there are available massage therapy techniques and exercises to help improve the degree of luxation.

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Serious Conditions

Parvovirus or Parvo is a virus that attacks the lining of the digestive system. It prevents the dog from being able to absorb nutrients and liquids. Puppies are especially prone to it because they have immature immune systems.

Symptoms usually begin with a high fever, lethargy, depression and loss of appetite. Secondary symptoms appear as severe gastrointestinal distress, such as vomiting and bloody diarrhea. In many cases, dehydration and shock follow.

If your dog or puppy exhibits any of these symptoms, contact your veterinarian immediately for medical help.

Dogs adopted from PAWS Chicago have received a vaccine to prevent them from contracting Parvo but additional vaccinations may be needed. Appropriate vaccination may provide lifelong immunity. Blood tests to determine immunity are available from your vet. This can be a good way to avoid over-vaccination. Your veterinarian can work with you to determine the best vaccine schedule for your dog.

Canine distemper is a highly contagious disease caused by a virus that attacks the respiratory, gastrointestinal and nervous systems of dogs. It often crops up in seemingly healthy pets without warning and mimics benign problems like the common cold. Many cases progress to the point where they are no longer treatable before the owner even realizes what’s happened. The first symptoms of distemper include a yellowish-green or green discharge from the eyes and nose. It’s often accompanied by sneezing and general lethargy.

Another hallmark of distemper is shaking or twitching. This happens because the disease attacks the canine neurological system and makes muscles fire continuously. By the time it reaches this stage, the virus is often fatal.

If your dog or puppy exhibits any of these symptoms, contact your veterinarian immediately for medical help.

Dogs adopted from PAWS Chicago have received a vaccine to prevent them from contracting Distemper but additional vaccinations may be needed. Appropriate vaccination may provide lifelong immunity. Blood tests to determine immunity are available from your vet. This can be a good way to avoid over-vaccination. Your veterinarian can work with you to determine the best vaccine schedule for your dog.

Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection entering the body through the ingestion of infected water from ponds, lakes or puddles. Leptospirosis can affect many areas of the body, from the central nervous system, eyes, to internal organs. Antibodies in the blood can often clear up much of the bacteria, but depending on your dog’s individual immune system, the bacteria may not be fully eradicated.

Leptospirosis is often found in wet environments, or places where dogs will come into contact with the urine from other animals. Dogs of increased risk live near wooded areas or densely populated areas with vermin.

Symptoms of Leptospirosis are fever, overall weakness, stiffness, lack of appetite, increased thirst and urination, coughing, shivering, yellowing of the skin, vomiting, diarrhea, or breathing difficulties.

Leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease, which means it is something you can catch from the same sources or even from your pet, so it is very important if your dog or puppy exhibits any of these symptoms, contact your veterinarian immediately for medical help.

Most dogs adopted from PAWS Chicago have received a vaccine to prevent them from contracting Leptospirosis but additional vaccinations may be needed.

Discuss the benefits and risks of this vaccine with your vet. Your veterinarian can work with you to determine the best vaccine schedule for your dog.

Rabies is a preventable but fatal viral disease that is transmitted via saliva through the bite of a rabid animal. It primarily attacks the nervous system and causes an infection in the brain known as encephalitis.

The incubation period prior to clinical signs is extremely variable, but is generally two to eight weeks. The virus will begin shedding in saliva a short time before clinical signs develop, usually less than 10 days. 

If you suspect that your pet has been bitten or may be infected with rabies, please contact your veterinarian for immediate care.

All dogs and cats should be vaccinated against rabies according to local rules and regulations. All dogs adopted by PAWS Chicago are up-to-date on their rabies vaccinations if they are old enough to receive one. Consult with your veterinarian regarding vaccinations. 

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