DogsHealth and Nutrition

How to Identify and Treat 6 Common Dog Health Problems

None of us likes it when our best friend isn’t feeling well. Listed below are 6 common health problems that dogs experience, how you can identify and treat them.

Ear Infections

Can be caused by allergies, yeast, ear mites, bacteria, hair growth deep in the ear canal, and more. Symptoms your dog may have with an ear infection include head shaking or head tilting. Ear odor. Vigorous scratching. Lack of balance. Unusual back-and-forth eye movements. Redness of the ear canal. Swelling of the outer portion of the ear. Brown, yellow, or bloody discharge. In most cases, cleaning and medicating the ear canal will quickly clear up an infection. However, surgery can be needed for chronic infections or if forceful head shaking results in the rupture of a vessel within the outer part of the ear.


Tapeworms, roundworms, hookworms, and whipworms are common internal parasites in dogs. And although any worm infestation can make your dog uncomfortable, some, like hookworms, can be fatal in puppies. Signs your dog may have worms include diarrhea (may be bloody). Weight loss. A change in appetite. A rough, dry coat. Scooting on his bottom. Vomiting (with roundworms in particular). An overall poor appearance. Treatment depends on which type of worm your dog has, but generally includes an oral medication and may require follow-up. Don’t try treating worms yourself: A medication that kills roundworms, for example, doesn’t kill tapeworms.


It takes just three weeks for one flea to turn into an infestation of 1,000 biting bugs. Fleas are easy for your dog to pick up, and they’re also easy to treat. Signs your dog may have fleas include excessive scratching, licking, or biting at the skin, hair loss, hot spots, allergic dermatitis, tapeworms (which are carried by fleas), and flea dirt (looks like small black dots) against your dog’s skin. Untreated, fleas not only make your dog uncomfortable, but they can also cause allergic reactions, infections, and even lead to anemia from blood loss.

Hot Spots

The medical term for those bare, inflamed, red areas you often see on dogs is acute moist dermatitis, a bacterial skin infection. Anything that irritates your dog’s skin enough to make him scratch or chew can lead to the pain and itch of hot spots, which, if left untreated, can quickly grow larger. A hot spot’s location can help your vet diagnose its cause. Fleas, for example, may be the source of a hip hot spot, while a hot spot at the ear might point to ear problems. Treating hot spots may involve shaving and cleaning the irritated area, antibiotics, anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), steroids, or topical medications, depending on how bad the hot spots are, and how much pain your dog is in.


This has dozens of possible causes, from infection or intestinal parasites to pancreatitis, kidney failure, heatstroke, an obstruction in the stomach or intestine, or poisoning. Symptoms are basic: abdominal heaving and drooling caused by nausea. If your dog also has diarrhea, blood in the vomit, seems lethargic, continues vomiting, or can’t hold down liquids, contact your vet right away to prevent life-threatening dehydration. Treatment depends on what’s causing a dog’s distress, and may include fluid therapy, drugs to control vomiting, and homemade foods like well-cooked skinless chicken, boiled potatoes, and rice.


As with vomiting, this can have lots of causes, including stress, infections like parvo virus, intestinal parasites, and food problems. Symptoms are obvious, loose, watery, or liquid stool. Because diarrhea can easily lead to dehydration, be sure your dog has plenty of clean water available, then take your dog to the vet if the diarrhea persists for more than a day, or immediately if there’s also fever, lethargy, vomiting, dark or bloody stools, or loss of appetite.

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