site title

Canine Diseases

Vaccines in animals have come under attack recently with critics blaming adverse reactions and long-term health disorders on their wide-spread and frequent use.

But, bacteria, viruses and parasites are all organisms which constantly pose a threat to the canine body. Like all species of organisms, the canine body is equipped with an elaborate system of defense, known as the immune system, designed to protect it from these infectious enemies. Even in animals with normal immune function, invasion and damage can proceed at a rate faster than the immune system's ability to destroy the invader. The dog may succumb to the disease before the immune system can get rid of the infection, or in cases where the infection is eliminated, death may still occur as a result of damage to the body.

The immune system responds much more rapidly if it encounters an organism that it has already battled and defeated. The theory that introducing just enough antigen into the body to produce an immune response without causing disease would protect the body from contracting the disease at a later time gave rise to the procedure of vaccinating. Therefore, "vaccination," also known as "active immunization" refers to the procedure of administrating an antigen, resulting in protective immunity to the disease associated with that antigen.


Canine distemper is a disease that attacks the nervous system of a dog. It usually causes death and can affect dogs of all ages. Since puppies are the most common victims of this dreadful disease, the vaccination program every three weeks is designed to help prevent distemper. Distemper is a virus that can develop in to pneumonia as secondary bacterial infection takes over the body. The distemper virus attacks the brain within a few weeks and death or euthanasia is generally the outcome. Vaccinations are very effective in preventing this disease.


Canine Hepatitis is a viral disease which affects the liver. Fortunately, hepatitis is rarely seen today due to the effectiveness of vaccinations. Most all distemper vaccines are combined with hepatitis vaccine to control this disease.


Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that usually affects the kidneys and other organs of the body. If the kidneys are affected the puppy usually dies. Leptospirosis, like hepatitis, is not seen often. The bacteria is most often carried in the urine of rats. The disease was seen more often in farm dogs that could be exposed to rat urine. Distemper vaccine does not always have leptospirosis vaccine included.


Parvovirus is an intestinal virus in dogs. The virus can remain in the area for months and can be transmitted on your shoes or other articles.

Your dog does not have to be around a sick puppy to get parvovirus. The symptoms include depression, bloody diarrhea and vomiting. The treatment is aggressive supportive care with I.V. fluids and medicines for vomiting. Without proper veterinary care this disease is most often fatal. Vaccinations are generally very effective in preventing the disease. Dogs over one year of age rarely will contract the disease, but vaccinations are recommended as an insurance that the disease will not strike your dog.


Rabies is a scary disease that is spread mainly through the wild animal population in an area. The signs are foaming at the mouth and behavior uncommon to the animal. However, rabies can be difficult to diagnose and any abnormal behavior in a dog should be viewed with suspicion. Vaccination for rabies is a state law in all states.


Intestinal worm checks are tests done on a dog's bowel movement to see if there are any worm eggs or parasites present in the  dogs' body. A few common parasites are hookworms, roundworms, whipworms, coccidia, tapeworms, and giardia. Only two of the six worms can be seen without the aid of a microscope. Hookworms can be spread through a dog's feces or can penetrate the dog's skin, or travel through the milk to nursing puppies. They attach to a dog's intestines to feed on the blood. Hookworms can cause major blood loss which is sometimes fatal to puppies. The baby stage of hookworms are called sandworms. These baby worms can penetrate the skin of people and migrate under the skin causing a human health hazard.

Roundworms can be spread from mother to puppies or through soil that has eggs in it. They can cause bloated bellies and diarrhea and vomiting. Roundworms can be transmitted to people also and can cause some serious health problems relating to loss of sight.

Whipworms can cause diarrhea, weight loss and dehydration. They are very hard to detect and also to eliminate. Whipworms do not lays eggs very often so they can be overlooked during the worm checks performed by a veterinarian.

Coccidia are single celled organisms that infect the intestine. They are microscopic parasites detectable on routine fecal tests in the same way that worms are but coccidia are not worms and they are not visible to the naked eye. Coccidia infection causes a watery diarrhea which is sometimes bloody and can even be a life-threatening problem to an especially young or small pet.

Tapeworm lives in the small intestine of the dog or cat. It is hooked onto the intestinal wall by a structure called a rostellum which is sort of like a hat with hooks on it. The tapeworm also has six rows of teeth to grab on with. Most people are confused about the size of a tapeworm because they only see its segments which are small; the entire tapeworm is usually 6 inches or more. The tapeworm absorbs nutrients through its skin as the food being digested by the host flows past it. Older segments are pushed toward the tip of the tail as new segments are produced by the neckpiece. By the time a segment has reached the end of the tail, only the reproductive tract is left. When the segment drops off, it is basically just a sac of tapeworm eggs.

Giardia are parasitic protozoans (single celled organisms) found in the intestines of many animals. Clinical signs range from mild recurring diarrhea consisting of soft, light-colored stools, to acute explosive diarrhea in severe cases. Other signs associated with giardiasis are weight loss, listlessness, mucus in the stool, and anorexia.


These tiny pests can hop onto your dog unobserved to feed on its blood and lay eggs, producing yet another generation.

Fleas can make life miserable for people and dogs alike, disrupting your household with a nasty cycle of biting and scratching and in some pets causing flea allergy dermatitis or anemia. The flea life cycle can be as short as a few weeks or can last several months - plenty of time to be mighty irritating to you and your dog. Dogs infested with fleas may become unusually nervous and agitated and will scratch excessively.

Ticks attach to dogs to feed. You might not even notice these minute pests on your dog until the ticks have fed so much that they've become engorged. Worse yet, ticks may transmit diseases that can cause potentially serious dog-health problems. Talk to your veterinarian about the best way to remove ticks you find on your dog. You'll also want to discuss how to protect your dog from ticks that may transmit potentially serious diseases.


Prevention of heartworm disease is very simple. Heartworm preventative for dogs is usually started between 2-3 months of age and the preventative is given once each month for life (a daily heartworm preventative is also available) Since heartworms are spread by mosquitoes which are prevalent in warm climates all year long, the preventative must be given all year in many southern climates. In some other areas of the United States the preventative only needs to be given 6-9 months of each year. Heartworms are the most life threatening parasite dogs can have.

The microfilia (baby heartworms) are deposited in the dog's body by a mosquito bite. These baby worms grow and move to the heart where the damage to your pet's health is done. Symptoms of heartworms do not show up sometimes for years. but early tests performed by your veterinarian will diagnose the disease before much damage is done. Your dog should be on the medication for life with once yearly testing to make sure the preventative is doing its job.