You may not realise it, but your dog could be suffering from a life-threatening condition. You see, dogs are incredibly good at hiding their pain. By instinct, they are pack animals, so they hate to show any sign of weakness, it’s against their nature! Your dog’s silence allows diseases to spread or get worse, which can, in worst-case scenarios, be fatal.
We have taken a look at the four most common ailments and diseases dogs might experience, which you should be aware of, as your pup might not let on. Some don’t have symptoms, so regular health checks at the vets are extremely important to make sure your pup is not at risk!
The leading cause of death in dogs over the age of 10, is cancer, with about 50% of older dogs developing some form of this deadly disease. Some cancers can be visibly spotted when a tumour appears - when there is abnormal cell growth in the body that cluster together. However, some cancers don’t show, and even those that do produce tumours aren’t always very obvious. These ones are likely to be caught at a later stage, and can be impossible to treat.
There are different types of cancers that are commonly seen in dogs. They can affect the skin (e.g. mast cell tumours), the lymph nodes (which create tumours on the glands), and the breasts of female dogs. Female dogs who are spayed are less likely to develop cancerous tumours, but are still not exempt from them.
When found early on, cancer can be treatable through surgical removal of tissues and tumours, or chemotherapy. Of course, you want your dog to live as long as possible, but you need to decide with your vet if it’s worth putting them through surgery, as some pets could find it too traumatic. Pain relief is essential to keeping your dog as comfortable as possible during those hard times.
Symptoms may include: swollen body parts, a loss of appetite, weight loss, lethargy, breathing difficulties, digestive problems and limping. Different types of cancer would cause different symptoms, if any.
Often, heartworm disease is caught too late in our dogs, and the results can be fatal. Its symptoms aren’t obvious, and that gives the disease freedom to spread. Heartworm disease can affect the blood vessels, lungs, and heart, which can cause heart failure, lung disease, or damage to other vital organs.
Heartworm disease is one of the main killers in pets, including dogs. The disease is transmitted when the dog is bitten by an infected mosquito, which will often bite at the part of the dog with the thinnest hair coating (the stomach, for example). The disease can be found all over the world, and in the United States, for example, every state is at risk of the spread of heartworm disease in their dogs. During seasons with more mosquitos around, there’s a higher chance of your dog contracting heartworm disease, but colder months still pose a risk.
There are steps you can take to prevent the spread of the nasty mites, by having annual checkups at the veterinarian, where they can diagnose heartworm by doing simple blood tests. If your pup is unfortunate enough to have it, there are injections given to try to kill the heartworms. After this treatment, let your dog rest for a few weeks, because their organs will be recovering. There are also preventative medicines available, which can be taken in different forms – similar to how we can take malaria medication. It is best to ask your vet which type is best for your dog and the area you live in.
Symptoms won’t show until the later stages, but they may present in the forms of a constant cough, fatigue, hesitance to exercise, loss of appetite and weight loss.
Kidney disease is an incurable condition in dogs, and the onset is often correlated with the age of your hound. Deterioration of body parts occurs over time, and the kidneys are no different. When kidneys are diseased, they fail to filter out the toxins in the body, which can affect the function of other vital organs.
It is said that dogs can go months - even years - without any symptoms of kidney disease, as it could take two-thirds of the kidneys to destruct before signs appear. Since it can take a while for symptoms to show, it is difficult to know how to help your poor friend if it happens to them. Just be aware that bigger dogs age faster, so if they are going to get kidney disease, insist on a checkup from the age of 7. Smaller dogs are likely to hold off until 10 years old. (This is a rough guide - if you have concerns, take your dog to the vet).
One symptom that your dog could be developing kidney disease is if they get a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI). Ask your veterinarian to check their kidney health, which they can do through urine and blood tests. There is no treatment to fix the problem, but your dog can be given medication to slow down the progression and relieve some discomfort.
Arthritis is the inflammation of joints, and it affects a huge 65% of dogs over the age of 7 in the United States! While there are ways to reduce the amount of pain your four-legged friend might be in, there is no way to cure it (aside from joint replacements). When your dog’s joints become inflamed, they lose cartilage and fluid, which allows the bones to rub together – this wears down the bones and can be extremely painful!
It tends to happen with age or injury, so as your pooch gets older, their bones may become weaker, and joints become squeakier. It can also be caused by excess weight, so if your dog is overweight, their joints are strained. As there is a link to more pressure on the bones, it is more likely to occur in larger sized dogs, such as Labradors or German Shepherds.
You may think arthritis is just painful, but it can lead to further life-threatening problems. There is the risk of becoming overweight – if your pet is finding it difficult to be active, they’re likely to put on weight. Being overweight, or becoming obese, puts your dog at risk of heart disease, skin disease (due to the rolls in the skin causing irritation), and even worsen the joint and ligament pain they may already suffer!
Signs that your dog could be suffering from arthritis include excess licking of their joints, less movement, loss of appetite and lethargy. Dogs with joint pain can also shy away from exercise, and not want to jump, run, or play like they used to.
Whether or not you see symptoms in your dog, it is vital that you get them checked by the veterinarian on a regular basis. Your dog can’t tell you what’s hurting, nor can they fix it themselves. Keeping an eye on their behaviour will help, so note any changes and tell the vet when you see them. Keeping your dog fit and healthy is as important as it is for humans. While you can’t prevent all of these silent killers, you can take steps to relieve your furry friend from any unnecessary pain with the correct medication and let them live a longer and happier life with you.