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The Most Common Dog Illnesses: Symptoms and Treatment

Common illnesses in dogs and their associated symptoms can raise concerns, and prompt treatment is crucial as some can be fatal! Our Pittsboro vets provide advice on the most common health problems in dogs, including their symptoms and treatments.

Common Dog Illnesses

Dog parents should stay vigilant and be prepared to take their dogs to the veterinarian for a physical exam and, if necessary, a diagnosis. Here are three common illnesses in dogs, along with their symptoms and a brief overview of the typical treatments that vets use.


Advances in veterinary medical care and vaccinations have enabled our dogs to live longer than ever before. As a result, it is increasingly common for them to experience diseases such as cancer during their extended lifespans.

Causes & Symptoms

Different types of cancer - from skin, bone, and breast cancers to malignant lymphoma and soft tissue sarcomas - can plague dogs as they enter their elder years. Cancer is more common in some breeds than in others because of genetic factors. Environmental factors can also occur.

Though early detection can sometimes be difficult if little to no symptoms appear, classic symptoms of cancer include:

  • Lumps or bumps
  • Abnormal bleeding
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Wounds that don't heal
  • Lameness or swelling in bones or other parts of the body


Depending on the type of cancer your dog has developed, veterinarians may perform surgical removal of tumors, and there may be options to treat or cure the disease or extend your dog's life. In addition to addressing the cancer itself, your dog may require veterinary attention to alleviate the pain and discomfort caused by this condition. These treatments may involve the use of hot and cold packs, acupuncture, or topical medications tailored to your pup's specific needs.

Survival in cancer cases depends heavily on early detection and treatment. Therefore, scheduling routine wellness exams is crucial to preserving your dog's life and identifying diseases like cancer in their earliest stages.

Ear Infections

If your dog suddenly scratches their ear or shakes their head more often, whines, or shows other relatively new forms of concerning behavior, a vet can examine them to determine whether they may have an ear infection.

Potential causes include moisture in the ears (a breeding ground for bacteria and yeast), allergies, autoimmune disorders, wax buildup, and more.

Causes & Symptoms

In addition to the signs mentioned above, symptoms include:

  • Swelling or redness in the ear canal
  • Dark discharge
  • Pain
  • Odor
  • Itchiness
  • "Crustiness" or scabs


If your dog receives a diagnosis of an ear infection, the vet will clean your dog's ear using a medicated cleanser and prescribe any necessary antibiotics or anti-inflammatory medications to address the infection. Additionally, your veterinarian might prescribe a topical medication and provide instructions on how to apply it to your dog's ear at home.

In the early stages of treatment, an uncomplicated ear infection typically clears up within just a week or two. However, if your dog's ear infection is more severe or stems from an underlying health condition, resolving the issue may be more challenging and could extend over several months. In many instances, such severe cases may lead to chronic ear infections in dogs or recurrent ear infections throughout the pet's lifetime.


Infected dog feces or virus particles in the environment can transmit this highly contagious viral disease to dogs. The virus can survive for months. Although those who have not received all their vaccines are most susceptible, timely and prompt treatment can save many dogs, both people, and dogs alike.

Causes & Symptoms

Symptoms include:

  • Reduced appetite
  • Dehydration
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea (usually bloody)
  • Fever
  • Weakness


Preventing Parvovirus is best achieved through puppy vaccines and booster shots. It is crucial to take proactive measures as Parvovirus can cause bone marrow damage, bacterial pneumonia, chronic heart disease, and even sudden death.

In the unfortunate event that your dog contracts Parvovirus, there is no cure. However, your vet will provide supportive treatments to address symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea. Ensuring adequate hydration and nutrition for your pup is essential for a Parvovirus recovery.

Due to the weakened immune systems in dogs with Parvo, secondary infections are common. Your vet will monitor your puppy's ongoing condition and may prescribe antibiotics to combat any developing bacterial infections.

What to Do if Your Dog is Sick

If you see any of the symptoms of the above three illnesses in your dog, you must get them in to see a vet as soon as possible. At Hope Crossing Animal Hospital, we have the services and diagnostic capabilities to help treat your dog's most challenging health conditions. 

Are you seeing signs of illness in your dog? Our veterinarians at Hope Crossing Animal Hospital are experienced in diagnosing and treating serious illnesses. Book an appointment today.

Welcoming New Patients

Our vets at Hope Crossing Animal Hospital are now accepting new patients! Our talented veterinary team is passionate about caring for the pets of Pittsboro. Contact us today to book your first appointment. 

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