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4213 Calgary Trail NW

Edmonton AB, T6J 5P4

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Your Local Vet Clinic and Animal Hospital

Common Diseases In Dogs

common diseases in dogs

Understanding common diseases in dogs is crucial for any dog owner or pet care professional. Just like humans, dogs are susceptible to a variety of illnesses that can affect their health, longevity, and quality of life. However, many common canine diseases are preventable with the right knowledge and care. By learning about these diseases and their prevention, dog owners can take proactive steps to protect their furry companions. This guide will cover some of the most common diseases affecting dogs today, including their symptoms, how they are transmitted, and, most importantly, how they can be prevented. Our goal is to empower dog owners with information that can help keep their pets healthy and happy for years to come. Routine examinations and checkups are recommended and should you have any questions our Edmonton Vet Clinic on Gateway is always here to help you 7 days a week.

Canine Parvovirus

Canine Parvovirus (CPV) is a highly contagious viral illness that strikes fear in the heart of dog owners due to its severity and high mortality rate, especially in puppies. Among the most common diseases in dogs, the virus targets the dog’s gastrointestinal tract, leading to symptoms such as severe vomiting, bloody diarrhea, lethargy, and loss of appetite. CPV is spread through direct contact with an infected dog or contaminated feces, surfaces, or even human clothing and tools.

Prevention Strategies:

  • Vaccination: The most effective way to protect dogs from CPV is through vaccination. Puppies should receive their first parvovirus vaccine between 6 to 8 weeks of age, followed by booster shots as recommended by a veterinarian.
  • Hygiene Practices: Maintaining a clean environment is crucial. Regularly disinfect areas where dogs play, eat, and sleep. Use bleach solutions, as it’s one of the few disinfectants known to kill the virus.
  • Isolation of Infected Dogs: To prevent the spread, dogs infected with CPV should be isolated from other dogs until they are no longer contagious.
  • Responsible Pet Ownership: Avoid taking unvaccinated puppies to public places where they could be exposed to the virus, such as parks, pet stores, and kennels.

Canine Distemper

Canine Distemper is a highly contagious and serious disease caused by the canine distemper virus. It affects dogs’ respiratory, gastrointestinal, and central nervous systems, and in severe cases, it can be fatal. Symptoms include high fever, nasal discharge, coughing, lethargy, reduced appetite, and in later stages, seizures and paralysis. The virus spreads through airborne exposure (from coughing or sneezing) or by sharing food and water bowls with an infected dog.

Prevention Strategies:

  • Vaccination: Vaccination remains the cornerstone of preventing canine distemper. Puppies should receive their first distemper vaccine at 6-8 weeks of age, with booster shots following the schedule advised by a veterinarian. Adult dogs should maintain regular booster vaccines as recommended.
  • Minimize Exposure: Avoid contact with infected animals. This is particularly important for puppies and unvaccinated dogs. Be cautious about where your dog interacts with other dogs, especially in areas known for outbreaks.
  • Quarantine Infected Animals: If a dog is suspected of having distemper, it’s crucial to quarantine them immediately to prevent spreading the disease to other animals. Follow your veterinarian’s advice for care and treatment.


One of the more well know common diseases in dogs, Rabies is a fatal viral disease that affects the brain and central nervous system of all mammals, including dogs, cats, and humans. The virus is most commonly transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal. Symptoms in dogs include behavioral changes, fever, hypersalivation, difficulty swallowing, paralysis, and ultimately death. Rabies is preventable but not curable, making vaccination essential for prevention.

Prevention Tips:

  • Vaccination: Rabies vaccination is mandatory in many countries including Canada due to its zoonotic nature (transmissible to humans). Puppies can be vaccinated for rabies at around 12 weeks of age, with a booster shot a year later and then regularly as prescribed by local regulations and veterinary advice.
  • Legal Requirements: Adhere to local laws regarding rabies vaccination and ensure your dog is vaccinated on schedule.
  • Control Exposure: Supervise your dog, especially in areas where they might encounter wild animals. Avoid allowing your dog to roam ly in areas known for rabies cases among wildlife.
  • Wildlife Interaction: Discourage your dog from interacting with wild animals. Secure trash cans and pet food to avoid attracting potentially rabid animals to your property.

Heartworm Disease

Heartworm Disease is a serious and potentially fatal condition caused by parasitic worms (Dirofilaria immitis) living in the arteries of the lungs and sometimes in the right side of the heart of dogs, cats, and other species of mammals, including humans. Dogs are natural hosts for heartworms, which means the worms live, mature, and reproduce within a dog’s body. Symptoms can include coughing, fatigue, weight loss, difficulty breathing, and heart failure. The disease is transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito.

Preventive Approaches:

  • Regular Medication: The most effective way to prevent heartworm disease is through regular preventative medication. Heartworm preventatives are available in various forms, including monthly chewables, topicals, and injectables. These medications are highly effective when given consistently on schedule.
  • Mosquito Control: Since heartworms are transmitted by mosquitoes, reducing exposure to these insects can help prevent infection. Use mosquito repellents approved for dogs, and manage the environment by eliminating standing water where mosquitoes breed.
  • Annual Testing: Even with regular use of preventatives, annual testing for heartworms is recommended by veterinarians. Early detection is crucial for successful treatment.

Fleas and Ticks

national tick awareness month
Fleas and Ticks are a source of common diseases in dogs

Fleas and ticks are not just a source of irritation for dogs; they can also transmit diseases such as Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Moreover, fleas can cause allergic reactions, anemia, and in severe cases, death. Ticks are capable of carrying common diseases in dogs that affect both pets and humans alike. The key to controlling these parasites is prevention.


  • Regular Use of Preventatives: Flea and tick preventatives come in several forms, including topical solutions, oral medications, collars, and shampoos. Consult with your veterinarian to choose the best option for your dog.
  • Environmental Management: Keep your lawn trimmed and remove brush and leaf litter where fleas and ticks might live. Regularly clean your dog’s bedding, kennel, and other areas where they spend time.
  • Check Your Dog Regularly: Especially after walks in wooded or grassy areas, check your dog for ticks. If you find a tick, it’s important to remove it properly or consult a veterinarian for removal to reduce the risk of disease transmission.

Vaccines are requirements for Dogs in Alberta

Core vaccinations at a young age prevent common diseases in dogs such as kennel cough and rabies.

In Alberta, core vaccinations for dogs include protection against several critical and common diseases in dogs. The core vaccines are designed to prevent canine distemper, parvovirus, adenovirus (which is responsible for canine hepatitis), and parainfluenza. Additionally, the rabies vaccine is administered as a separate injection, which is crucial given the seriousness of the disease to both animals and humans​.

Core Vaccinations List For Common Diseases In Dogs

  1. Canine Distemper – A viral disease affecting dogs’ respiratory, gastrointestinal, and nervous systems.
  2. Parvovirus (CPV2) – A highly contagious viral illness that attacks the gastrointestinal tract.
  3. Adenovirus (Canine Hepatitis) – Affects the liver, kidneys, spleen, and lungs.
  4. Parainfluenza – A respiratory virus contributing to the kennel cough complex.
  5. Rabies – A fatal viral disease affecting the central nervous system; vaccination is legally required in many areas.

Non-Core Vaccinations (Based on Risk Assessment) For Common Diseases in Dogs

  • Bordetella (Kennel Cough) – Recommended for dogs that frequent kennels, dog parks, or doggy daycare.
  • Lyme Disease – Considered for dogs in or traveling to areas where Lyme disease is prevalent.
  • Leptospirosis – Recommended for dogs with a higher risk of exposure to wildlife or standing water where the bacteria may thrive.

The vaccination schedule typically begins when puppies are around 6 to 8 weeks old, with boosters given at approximately 12 and 16 weeks of age to ensure adequate protection. Some puppies may receive an additional booster at around 20 weeks old. The timing for the rabies vaccine is usually between 12 to 16 weeks of age. After the initial vaccinations, dogs should receive boosters for core vaccines every three years, though the specific schedule for rabies boosters may be dictated by provincial regulations, with some requiring annual and others triennial boosters​ (VcaCanada)​.

Non-core vaccines, such as Bordetella (for kennel cough), Lyme disease, and leptospirosis, are recommended based on the dog’s exposure risk, which can be determined by factors like geographic location and lifestyle. For instance, dogs that frequent kennels or are exposed to wildlife may have different vaccine recommendations compared to primarily indoor pets​ (Reader’s Digest Canada)​.

It’s important to discuss your dog’s individual needs with a veterinarian, as they can provide tailored advice based on your pet’s health status, lifestyle, and risk factors for certain diseases. This personalized approach ensures your dog receives the most appropriate protection without unnecessary vaccinations.

Expanded Preventive Health Care Strategies To Avoid Common Diseases In Dogs

Maintaining your pet’s health to avoid common diseases in dogs requires a multifaceted approach that extends beyond vaccinations and parasite control. At the core of preventive health care are regular veterinary check-ups, which are indispensable for early detection of potential health issues. These visits allow for timely interventions that can significantly improve the outcome for the dog. Nutrition also plays a critical role in a dog’s health.

A balanced diet tailored to the dog’s age, breed, and any specific health conditions ensures they receive the necessary nutrients to maintain their health and energy. Furthermore, exercise is not just beneficial for a dog’s physical health but also for their mental well-being. Adequate physical activity helps manage weight, reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, and can improve behavioral issues by providing an outlet for excess energy. Collectively, these strategies form the foundation of preventive health care, aiming to enhance the quality of life for dogs by preventing diseases before they can develop.

Conclusion: Key Strategies for Preventing Common Diseases in Dogs

In summary, safeguarding your furry friend from common canine diseases requires a proactive approach to their health and well-being. From the perilous Canine Parvovirus and Distemper to the deadly Rabies, and from the insidious Heartworm Disease to the pesky problems caused by Fleas and Ticks, understanding and implementing preventive measures can significantly reduce your dog’s risk of illness. Regular vaccinations, maintaining a clean environment, employing parasite prevention strategies, and ensuring your pet receives regular veterinary check-ups are paramount. Additionally, providing a balanced diet and regular exercise can fortify your dog’s health, making them less susceptible to diseases.

Embracing these preventive health care strategies is not just about avoiding illness; it’s about enhancing the quality of life for your beloved pet. Early detection and prevention are key to managing health risks and ensuring your dog enjoys a long, happy, and healthy life. Remember, a comprehensive approach to health care, tailored to your dog’s specific needs, is the most effective way to protect them from common diseases. By staying informed and vigilant, dog owners can play a crucial role in the prevention of these common canine diseases, embodying responsible pet ownership and deepening the bond with their loyal companions.

Stay proactive in your dog’s health care regimen and consult with your local Edmonton veterinarian to tailor the best prevention strategies for your dog, ensuring they lead a robust and joyful life by your side.

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