Common Dog Illnesses and their Symptoms

Puppy asleep on blanket on sofa at home

There’s no two ways about it – dogs really are humans’ best friends. These lovable fuzzballs bring so much joy into our lives through their antics and affection, and many of us are lucky to have them by our sides.

It’s because of this connection that when our furry pals get sick, it can be a traumatic time for the whole family. Seeing your dog uncomfortable or in pain should be the immediate sign that it’s time for a visit to the vet, but sometimes the signs that something is wrong aren’t always that obvious.

To help you identify if your dog is suffering, we’ve created this list of common dog illnesses and their symptoms – if you see any of these symptoms, or if anything at all seems out of place with your dog’s behaviour, the vet should always be your first stop so that they can get a proper diagnosis.


Ring Worm


Ring worm isn’t actually a worm or a parasite at all; it’s actually a common fungal skin infection which can spread to all kinds of animals, as well as humans. Because of this ability to spread quickly, both via direct contact with an infected animal (dog’s often catch it from a cat) and through transmission on surfaces and materials, it’s important to treat ring worm as soon as you can, so that no one else can get infected.

Ringworm isn’t normally dangerous, though it can cause significant discomfort and because it can spread to other animals and humans’ treatment is required. Treatment can include coat clipping, oral anti-fungal medication, and medicated shampoos and rinses.


  • Loss of fur
  • Circular patches of red and crusty skin
  • Dandruff
  • Deformed, brittle claws


Dog Urinary Tract Infections


Just like humans and many other mammals, dogs can suffer from urinary tract infections (UTIs) that, if left untreated, can cause serious and often life-threatening complications. UTIs cover a range of different illnesses but they are all often defined by making it harder for the dog to wee.

Bacterial infections are a common cause of urinary problems in dogs, but they can also be caused by bladder inflammation, urinary stones and prostate gland issues among a myriad of other reasons. Dogs with other conditions causing their urine to be more dilute, such as kidney problems or diabetes, are also prone to developing urinary tract infections, so a full check up with your vet is essential to determine what’s causing the problem and how it can be fixed. Your vet may want to do some tests such as urine tests, x-rays, and ultrasound of the bladder. Treatment will depend on the cause of the problem, but could include antibiotics, pain killers, special diets and sometimes even surgery.


  • Straining while urinating
  • Urinating more often than usual
  • Blood in the urine
  • Lack of bladder control and accidents in the house
  • Licking the genital area more than usual


Dog Ear Infections


Ear infections are a common problem in dogs. The unique shape of a dog’s ear canal (they have a vertical part to the ear canal and a horizontal part) makes them more susceptible to infection than our own ears.  Ear infections in dogs can occur as a result of inflammation of the ear (from allergies, skin disease, foreign objects or parasites), which enable bacteria and yeast to overgrow in the ear canals.

While ear infections aren’t normally fatal, they are painful (causing earache) and very uncomfortable for your dog. If left, the ear canal can be permanently damaged and the infection can spread to the ear drum and inner ear, causing facial paralysis and deafness among other serious issues.

If you see any of the symptoms below, book your dog to be seen by your vet for a full assessment. They will be able to examine down your dog’s ear canals, take samples to find out what the problem is and prescribe appropriate pain relief, topical prescription medications and medicated ear cleansers.


  • Discharge from the ear
  • Scratching at the ear more than normal
  • Scabs and crusting in an ear
  • Redness to the inside part of the ear
  • Shaking of the head
  • Rubbing the head along the ground
  • Smelly ears


Dog Gastroenteritis


Gastroenteritis is the term used to describe an inflammation of your dog’s gastrointestinal tract (stomach and intestines) which causes vomiting and diarrhoea. Gastroenteritis can be caused by many different things, such as your dog eating something they shouldn’t have (this can be human foods, spoilt foods, or non-food items), food allergies, viral or bacterial diseases, ingesting a toxin, eating an object which has got stuck (such as corn on the cob, socks, or stones), certain cancers or underlying health problems such as liver or kidney disease.



  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Appetite loss
  • Pain in the stomach (your dog may not want to go up or down stairs and keep stretching out their belly)
  • Blood in vomit or faeces
  • Weakness


Dog gum disease


Gum disease is a common problem that can affect dogs of all ages Gum disease covers a range of issues, including gingivitis, tooth root abscesses, plaque and tartar and general dental problems, all of which are very painful and can lead to more significant problems like liver or heart disease. Keeping on top of your dog’s dental hygiene will help to keep their teeth sparkling, their breath fresh, their gums healthy and their mouth pain free.   

The key to good dental health is to have regular check-ups with the vet to ensure your dog’s gums and teeth are in order – they’ll be able to diagnose any problems and let you know exactly how you can resolve those problems. Other ways include brushing your dog’s teeth daily, dental gels and ensuring they eat a healthy diet.


  • Bleeding or inflamed gums
  • Brown material on the teeth (tartar)
  • Tooth loss
  • Broken teeth
  • Pain while chewing
  • Swellings on the side of the face
  • Excessive drooling
  • Reduced appetite


Dog Arthritis


As many dogs get older, arthritis starts to creep in, just like with us humans. Arthritis is a common condition that sees the joints of the body become inflamed, causing discomfort and pain. The cartilage between joints changes its shape which can cause bones to rub together, which is where the inflammation and pain comes from.

Despite its common connection with elderly dogs, arthritis can happen to pups of any age, including very young pooches going through bone development and those that lead particularly active lives. It can be very uncomfortable, so if you’re noticing any stiffness or other arthritis symptoms in your dog, then it’s wise to get him or her checked out by a vet, who can diagnose the problem and propose a course of action and treatment.


  • Stiffness when moving
  • Slower than usual
  • Struggling to get up from lying down, walk up/downstairs
  • Lack of interest in exercising
  • Licking at joints
  • Negative changes in behaviour


Those are just some examples of common dog diseases that can cause serious problems when left untreated. In every case, if you see marked changes in behaviour and in the health of your dog, we always recommend getting your pooch to the vet for a thorough check up – a trusted diagnosis and the right treatment are always a good idea.

For more guides on pet care and pet insurance, stay tuned to the Asda Money blog.

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