Common Communicable Diseases in Dogs

Dogs and cats are beloved companion animals for many people, but like any other pet, they can be prone to certain health issues. Knowing which diseases are most common in dogs and cats can help you spot the symptoms of illness early and take your pet to the vet for proper treatment. Whether you’re into smaller dogs like Black Cavoodle or larger breed dogs like Labrador , your dog can be vulnerable to these communicable diseases – stay vigilant and watch out for any signs that dogs your pooch meets may be infected. 

Canine Distemper

Canine distemper is a highly contagious and potentially life-threatening virus that affects the respiratory, gastrointestinal, and nervous systems of puppies and dogs. It is caused by a morbillivirus, which is closely related to the viruses that cause measles in humans and rinderpest in cattle. The virus is most often spread through contact with an infected dog’s bodily secretions such as saliva, nasal discharge, urine, and faeces. It can also be transmitted through airborne droplets from coughing or sneezing.

The initial symptoms of canine distemper include fever, lethargy, depression, loss of appetite, discharge from the eyes and nose, coughing and sneezing. As the disease progresses, it can lead to seizures and other neurologic symptoms such as circling, head tilt, blindness, and paralysis. Other signs can include vomiting and diarrhoea.

If left untreated, canine distemper can be fatal in puppies or dogs with weakened immune systems. Treatment consists of supportive care to reduce symptoms and help the dog fight off the virus. This usually includes fluids to prevent dehydration, antibiotics to prevent or treat secondary infections, nutritional support, anti-seizure medications if needed, and other medications to reduce inflammation. 

Vaccination is the best way to prevent canine distemper. Puppies should be vaccinated at 8 weeks of age with a series of boosters every 3 to 4 weeks until they are 16 weeks old. Adult dogs should receive annual boosters to maintain protection against the virus.

Canine Parvovirus

Canine parvovirus (CPV) is another viral infection that affects dogs of all ages but puppies are especially vulnerable because their immune systems are not yet fully developed. The virus can be spread through direct contact with an infected animal or indirectly through contact with contaminated objects, such as food bowls, collars, and toys. CPV is a serious and potentially deadly disease that can cause: 

  • Severe dehydration
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Fever

When an infected animal sheds the virus, it can survive in the environment for months. A dog can become infected by coming into contact with the virus in objects or surfaces that an infected dog has touched (such as a toy or bedding). The virus can also be spread through contact with an infected animal’s faeces, urine, blood, or saliva. CPV can also be transmitted from mother to puppy before birth or while nursing.

Once contracted, CPV quickly invades the cells of the small intestine and begins to replicate. This process causes severe inflammation of the intestines and leads to life-threatening dehydration due to diarrhoea and vomiting. In addition to these symptoms, affected dogs may also experience fever, lethargy, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, and depression.

The only way to definitively diagnose CPV is through diagnostic testing such as a complete blood count and faecal analysis. Early detection is critical in order to minimise the severity of symptoms and prevent life-threatening complications. Treatment typically involves aggressive fluid therapy to combat dehydration and antibiotics to treat secondary bacterial infections. In severe cases, hospitalised care may be necessary. 

Vaccination is the best way to protect your pet from this serious disease. Puppies should receive a series of vaccinations beginning at 8 weeks old, followed by boosters every 3 to 4 weeks until they are 16 weeks old. Adult dogs should receive booster vaccinations every 1 to 3 years depending on their lifestyle and risk factors.

Kennel Cough

Kennel cough is a bacterial infection that causes inflammation of the upper respiratory tract in dogs. It can also be caused by a variety of viruses or fungi. Symptoms include: 

  • Dry hacking or honking sound when breathing
  • Sneezing
  • Gagging
  • Coughing
  • eye or nasal discharge
  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite

Treatment typically includes antibiotics as well as rest and fluid therapy if necessary. Vaccinating against kennel cough is important for preventing this disease in pets that will be boarding at kennels or exposed to other animals at dog parks and shows. 

Heartworm Disease

Canine heartworm (Dirofilaria immitis) is a type of roundworm that infects dogs, cats, foxes, and other canids. It is spread by mosquitoes and is the most common worm parasite found in dogs. Heartworms are large worms that live in the chambers of the heart and the vessels that lead to the lungs. They can grow to be over 12 inches long and can cause serious damage to the heart, lungs, liver, and other organs.

Once a dog becomes infected with heartworms, it takes about six months for larvae to mature into adult worms. Adult heartworms live in the right side of the heart and major blood vessels leading to the lungs (pulmonary arteries). When these worms die off or become too numerous, they can cause blockages in these blood vessels that make it difficult for oxygen-rich blood to reach the lungs. This causes coughing, exercise intolerance, decreased appetite, weight loss, laboured breathing, fatigue or even death if left untreated.

The diagnosis of canine heartworm is made by looking at microscopic slides of your pet’s blood under a microscope. The presence of microfilariae (immature forms of adult worms) indicates an active infection. Treatment for canine heartworm involves killing both adult and immature forms of the worm with a combination of drugs administered over several weeks. Treatment options vary depending on each individual case, but typically involve oral medications such as ivermectin.

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