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Dog Diseases Explained

Information about the most common dog diseases

  • Canine Distemper
  • Canine Parvovirus
  • Infectious Canine Hepatitis
  • Leptospirosis
  • Kennel Cough

Canine Distemper

  • Canine distemper often causes death or permanent disability and occurs most frequently in young, unvaccinated puppies.
  • Distemper is the most serious disease of dogs because the chances of survival are poor and dogs that survive often have nervous signs such as fits.
  • The disease is usually caught through direct contact with an infected dog, often beginning with high temperature, runny eyes and nose, a dry cough and diarrhoea. Dehydration, weight loss and nervous signs may follow.

Canine Parvovirus

  • Canine parvovirus first appeared in the late 1970’s as an epidemic which caused many deaths.
  • Spread through contact with an infected dog or its faeces, the virus can survive in the environment for many months.
  • This means that it can be transported on shoes and other objects so that even puppies that have been kept indoors, away from other dogs, may be at risk.
  • Dogs of all ages can be affected but it is often fatal in young dogs causing sudden onset of sickness, fever and severe, bloody diarrhoea.

Infectious Canine Hepatitis

  • ICH Mainly causes liver damage although it can also cause respiratory infections. In severe causes death often occurs rapidly after diagnosis leaving little time for treatment.
  • ICH is a very contagious viral disease spread through contact with infected dogs.
  • In addition to providing protection, vaccination helps minimise the spread of disease because those dogs who do survive infection can become symptomless carriers, posing a risk to unvaccinated dogs.


  • Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection that primarily affects the liver and kidneys
  • The disease is mainly spread through contact with infected urine, e.g. at a lamp-post!
  • A severe case can be fatal, or can cause permanent kidney damage which may lead to disability and death later in life.
  • Leptospirosis can be passed to humans.

Kennel Cough

  • Kennel Cough commonly occurs when dogs are brought together in groups, e.g. at dogs shows or in Kennels.
  • The condition may last for several weeks.
  • Caused by many agents, either alone or in combination, Kennel Cough is not usually life threatening, generally causing an uncomfortable harsh, dry cough and possibly a nasal discharge.
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