There are various dog diseases in Australia, and it’s worth understanding their various symptoms and treatments.

We recommend every dog owner visits their local veterinarian annually to make sure vaccinations against common diseases are up to date, and your dog retains a good physical condition.

Regular check-ups with your vet combined with preventative care are the best way to ensure your dog remains healthy and active.

Treatments for dog diseases include antibiotics, parasite control, pain management, and disease prevention with vaccines. Advances in companion animal health care and education should protect your dog against the various dog diseases in Australia.

Common Dog Diseases in Australia

Below we’ll run through the most common dog diseases in Australia:

Canine Cough (Kennel Cough)

More often referred to as kennel cough as the historical name, canine cough is highly infectious and common where dog populations are closely socialised. Boarding kennels show common outbreaks, but the disease will also spread readily in dog parks, shows, or training classes.

Most cases of canine cough are not serious if treated properly, but it is essential you speak with your vet if your dog displays any symptoms.

Canine cough is a combination of bacterium bordetella bronchiseptica, common in respiratory infections, and canine parainfluenza virus. It is common for a dog suffering canine cough to display symptoms of other viruses as well.

Symptoms of canine cough are a harsh, dry cough which may result in gagging. The cough may persist for many weeks, often months, despite treatment.

In severe cases a dog with canine cough may display fever symptoms as well, so lets address all possible symptoms:

  • Harsh, dry cough, possibly resulting in gagging.
  • Fever symptoms
  • Lethargy
  • Reduced appetite

The condition may worsen when a dog becomes excited or undergoes exercise. Your vet may find coughing worsens with slight pressure to the throat.

Vaccination is the best preventative measure against canine cough, with puppy vaccination usually at 12 weeks. For puppies in a high risk environment it is possible to vaccinate against canine cough from 6 weeks.

Booster vaccinations against canine cough will be recommended by your vet.

Antibiotics are a common course of treatment for dogs with canine cough. In more severe cases a cough suppressant may be used to reduce discomfort.

Canine Distemper

Canine distemper is a virus, particularly affecting puppies (especially prior to vaccinations) and unvaccinated adult dogs.

Early symptoms of canine distemper may include common fever-like symptoms:

  • High temperature
  • Lethargy
  • Lack of appetite (inappetence)

Left untreated, canine distemper may develop to display further symptoms:

  • Discharge from the eyes and nose
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Coughing

It is possible for a dog with canine distemper to develop pneumonia. In severe cases, if canine distemper is left untreated, a dog may develop muscle spasms, convulsions, and progressive paralysis. Permanent nervous system damage may occur, or death.

As a result of vaccines, canine distemper is far less common than it once was. Unfortunately outbreaks do still occur, especially in dog communities with a low vaccination rate. Outbreaks in puppies can be fatal with this serious viral disease.

Mitigating the risk of canine distemper can be as simple as commencing a puppy vaccine program at 6 to 8 weeks of age. Your vet will also recommend boosters for adult dogs are suitable intervals.

Canine Parvovirus

Canine parvovirus is one of the most common dog diseases in Australia.

As a highly contagious virus vets often find multiple cases occur in localities, and symptoms can be severe. The virus can survive in an environment for as long as a year, and easily transmitted via contaminated faeces, soil, or shared water bowls (particularly in a local dog park).

Dog parks, kennels, and showgrounds are commonly linked to outbreaks of canine parvovirus, although it is not necessary for a dog to come into contact with other dogs to become infected.

Canine parvovirus affects the gastrointestinal tract, and it is common for a dog to show fever symptoms alongside.

Symptoms of canine parvovirus may include:

  • High temperature
  • Excessive vomiting
  • Excessive diarrhoea
  • Signs of severe gastrointestinal pain and discomfort, with possible yelping

It is important to note the severity of this highly infectious virus with a high mortality rate. Treatment in intensive care for several days is common, and not always successful.

Vaccination against canine parvovirus is highly recommended, commencing at 6 to 8 weeks for a puppy, with boosters available for adult dogs.

Canine Osteoarthrits

Canine osteoarthritis, or arthritis, is prevalent in many dogs in Australia. Symptoms may appear in later years, but young seemingly healthy or active dogs may also be affected.

1 in 5 dogs in the Australian dog population suffer arthritis.

Arthritis is caused by inflammation of the joints. The condition can degenerate over time, especially when left untreated, and can prove painful and sometimes debilitating for your dog.

Causes of arthritis in dogs may be multifactorial, from poor diet, ageing, or injury. A good diet or supplements such as 4CYTE for dogs are a good preventative measure against arthritis developing. There are no cures for arthritis in dogs.

Symptoms of canine osteoarthritis:

  • Stiffness in joints / decreased mobility
  • Reluctance to walk or exercise
  • Visible discomfort

Unfortunately our dogs are not very good at verbalising pain, so it is essential for you as their owner to recognise symptoms of arthritis.

There are many methods of treating canine arthritis, but proper diet and exercise is the best preventative and often the best treatment. Pain medication and anti-inflammatories may reduce discomfort for your dog, and joint supplements are often available over the counter.

Infectious Canine Hepatitis

Infectious canine hepatitis is caused by canine adenovirus, and can be highly contagious in unvaccinated dog populations.

The virus particularly affects young dogs and can prove fatal in puppies.

It is possible for a dog to recover from infectious canine hepatitis, although the virus can continue to spread via urine for as long as half a year.

Symptoms of severe infectious canine hepatitis may include:

  • High temperature and fever symptoms
  • Loss of appetite
  • Depression
  • Diarrhoea
  • Tonsillitis
  • Abdominal pain (and possible yelping)

Acute abdominal pain can be caused by an inflamed liver. Following infection it is possible for a condition known as corneal opacity to develop, which is sometimes referred to as “blue eye”.

Severe cases of infectious canine hepatitis may prove fatal, with death occurring within 36 hours. It is therefore recommended you contact your veterinarian if your dog displays any of the above symptoms.

Vaccination against infectious canine hepatitis is highly recommended, commencing at 6 to 8 weeks for a puppy, with boosters available for adult dogs.

Tetanus

Tetanus in dogs can prove fatal, so in all cases should be treated as a serious disease. Infection may occur in a wound, with common scenarios being puncture wounds such as a nail prick or splinter. Tetanus may also occur in small, unnoticeable wounds, so may develop symptoms when you are not aware of any obvious wounds.

The disease is bacterial, caused by clostridium tetani, a toxin. When clostridium tetani is present in damaged body tissue the disease can readily develop.

Early symptoms of tetanus in dogs may occur within days of an infected wound:

  • Stiffness of joints and muscles (often starting in the area of an infected wound). Neck muscles are often an early sign.
  • Stiffness of jaw muscles (lockjaw)

More severe symptoms may include:

  • Muscle spasms
  • Sensitivity to touch

If untreated, tetanus in dogs may result in breathing muscles being paralysed, and death.

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