What are the most serious infectious diseases of dogs?

April 13, 2012

There is a common notion that as long as the puppy is inoculated before the immunity passed on by the dam wanes, the pup will be prevented from getting sick. This is why after getting a puppy the excited new dog owner would immediately schedule a consultation with the vet. This notion however, is not true. Although immunizations are the dog’s first line of defense against infectious agents, diseases cannot be totally prevented. The inoculation may be given at the wrong time when the pet still posses sufficient maternal immunity so that the immunization will fail to boost the dog’s immune system. Dogs are constantly being exposed to a variety of infectious disease-causing pathogens. These pathogens can be bacteria, virus, fungi, parasites or protozoa. Dogs with weakened immune system will be more susceptible to diseases. As diseases cannot be totally prevented, it is a dog owner’s responsibility to know the most serious infectious diseases that can be transmitted to the dog. A fair amount of knowledge would be invaluable in saving the life of the pet.

The development of infectious disease occurs when pathogens enter the body. Infectious diseases are at times called transmissible or communicable disease because they are highly contagious. These diseases are passed on from one dog to another directly or indirectly. Some of these diseases are even transmitted to humans (zoonotic). Rabies, parvovirus, distemper, hepatitis, adenovirus, parainfluenza and neonatal canine herpesvirus are serious viral infectious diseases. Dog owners dread these life threatening diseases. Rabies is virtually incurable. The virus attacks nerve tissues and cause the inflammation of the brain so that infected dogs would suffer from neurological problems and show erratic behavior. Once clinical symptoms of rabies are shown, treatment will not be possible. Parvovirus is a fatal infectious disease that attacks the intestinal tract and bone marrow. Vomiting, chronic diarrhea, inappetance and depression are the typical signs of this disease. Dogs with parvovirus would need immediate medical attention. Adult dogs may survive but parvovirus is a fatal disease for puppies and young dogs. Distemper is another serious infectious disease. Dog owners may ignore the condition of the pet as symptoms are very similar to human’s common cols. The virus attacks every tissue of the dog. The respiratory, nervous and gastrointestinal systems are affected. Most dogs affected by distemper causative virus succumb to the disease. Dogs that recover from distemper are commonly euthanized because of severe and permanent brain damage. The virus that causes hepatitis causes severe damage to the liver and to the other vital organs. Infected dog can die in a matter of hours.

Bordetella bronchiseptica infection, leptospirosis, trench mouth and brucellosis are some of the most serious infectious diseases that develop when bacteria attacks the dog’s systems. Toxoplasmosis is caused by a microscopic parasitic protozoon. Immunosuppressed dogs are more susceptible to this infectious disease that causes myositis or skeletal muscle inflammation and seriously affects the dog’s central nervous system. Ringworm results from fungal infection. Although this skin disease is non-life threatening it is considered as one of the serious infectious diseases because of the discomfort the infection causes the affected dog.

Some of these infectious diseases can snuff the life of the pet in a matter of days or even hours. These infections usually progress rapidly causing the death of the dog before any treatment is administered. A fair amount of knowledge about the symptoms and the possible treatments would be necessary. These serious and highly contagious infectious diseases are preventable by vaccinations. Vets would always advice pet owners to keep the shots of the pet current. Vaccination though would not be enough to keep the dog free from infectious agents. Basic hygiene is as well important to prevent the spread of infection.