I’m just reading about keeping your dog healthy and the five most common canine concerns. The UK’s Kennel Club provides us with a short list of the top five most common canine concerns and interestingly you could almost say the same thing about cats.
Apparently, ear infections in dogs are very common. These take place within the ear flap (pinnae), the outside part of your dog’s ear. It can be uncomfortable or downright painful and ear infections should not be ignored because, if they are, surgery may be required.
Infections can be caused by allergies, the environment, parasites, tumours or other medical issues and sometimes, regrettably, overenthusiastic cleaning by their human caretaker.
You may be able to diagnose an infection because your dog may head shake, the ear may appear red or inflamed. It may feel warm. Your dog may repeatedly scratch their ear. The ear may smell unpleasant and there may be a waxy, brown, yellow or black discharge. Your dog may also suffer from appetite loss and have difficulties walking in a straight line or standing up.
You should ask your vet to explain how to clean a dog’s ears. Personally I think dog owners should also ask their veterinarian what to look out for in respect of ear infections.
Another common canine concern and one which affects felines often as well is oral health. Perhaps the most common health issue for dogs and cats is gum disease. It is easy to ignore or miss and can therefore progress to the point where it becomes serious causing pain, eroded gums, missing teeth and even bone loss.
Gum disease is caused by bacteria at the line between the gum and the tooth. This bacteria is in plaque. The signs for dogs are bad breath and probably loss of appetite. There might be bleeding from the gums, loose teeth and blood in saliva. There may also be strange noises when eating, pawing at the mouth or face, dribbling and difficulty picking up food.
For a cat it is nearly impossible to brush their teeth unless trained from a very young age. It is easier for dogs. Prevention of gum disease can only take place through routine brushing of your dog’s teeth. Apparently dogs can enjoy it and dog owners should ask their veterinarian to demonstrate how to do it. There are also canine dental diets which help to prevent plaque from hardening.
Anal Gland Impaction
Another fairly rare condition for cats but apparently commonplace in dogs is anal gland impaction. These are small glands on either side of a dog’s anus. They produce a thick, strong smelling oily liquid which is used for territorial marking. This is exactly the same as in cats. It’s why dogs smell other dogs’ bottoms when they meet and greet. Dogs also stand tensed with tails erect to allow other dogs to smell the glands.
We are told that if the dog’s stools are soft they do not provide sufficient pressure upon the glands to express them. As a consequence they can become impacted and sometimes infected which is a painful condition.
Dog owners can self-diagnose the problem by smelling a strong odour emanating from theit dog’s backside. The dog may also drag or scoot their rear ends along the ground.
The normal fluid from anal glands is yellow to a tan colour and watery in inconsistency. When they become impacted the material is brown or grey. It is also thick and sometimes blood is present or even puss which indicates the gland is infected.
Your dog may also lick or bite around the area. They may sit uncomfortably or even lick their paws in frustration. Your veterinarian will empty anal glands and if infected prescribed antibiotics and also pain relief where necessary. Dog owners should not try to express the glands themselves as damage can be caused.
The prevention is to provide an excellent and healthy diet together with exercise.
Finally, a common problem for canines and one which also affects cats to a lesser extent but sometimes in old age, is long nails. If a dog has over-long nails they can become split and break which makes it uncomfortable to walk. Dogs claws should be trimmed regularly to keep their paws healthy and pain-free.
When standing on a flat surface a dog’s claws should not touch the ground. If you hear claws clicking on the ground as the dog moves forward, they need trimming.
Long claws can result in the dog putting pressure on the wrong parts of the anatomy which cab cause pain and discomfort. Your dog’s gait may be altered if the claws are too long. This may have a secondary negative effect upon joints and muscles. It may affect posture. Sometimes nails can grow so long that they curl over and dig into the paw pads. This also happens to elderly cats.
Prevention is to take your dog to regular walks including on hard surfaces which naturally wear down the claws. The claws can also be trimmed once of twice per month.
This is inflammation of the joints. It is typically seen in older dogs. It causes pain and stiffness. The dog will be less keen to exercise and may be lame. A dog may lick the area to relieve discomfort. Long term medication can alleviate pain and discomfort.
Prevention includes preventing obesity and therefore weight control combined with exercise management. Lifestyle change and sometimes surgery may be indicated.
Arthritis is also fairly common but less so in elderly cats. The treatment is the same.