4 “Silent Killers” That Every Dog Owner Needs To Know
March 18, 2019 | 3 min read
Updated March 18, 2019
By Clara Hallifax
Published: March 18, 2019
Updated: October 11, 2022
Summary: Dogs are excellent at masking pain, and therefore if you're asking "is my dog sick?", it can be tricky to tell! However, there are some serious conditions that your dog may be doing their best to hide, so as responsible pet parents, we should know what to look for...
Dogs are incredibly good at hiding their pain. By instinct, they are pack animals, so they hate to show any sign of weakness, it’s against their nature! Unfortunately, though, your dog’s silence allows diseases and conditions to spread or get worse, which can, in worst-case scenarios, end up being fatal!
Here at PetLab Co., we've taken a look at the four most common and serious ailments and diseases dogs may experience, which you should be aware of, as your pup might not let on their developing symptoms. Some pups won't even display symptoms, so regular health checks at the vet are extremely important to attend to make sure your pup is not at risk...
The leading cause of death in dogs over the age of 10 is cancer, with about 50% of older dogs developing some form of this deadly disease.
Some cancers can be visibly spotted when a tumor appears - when there is abnormal cell growth in the body that cluster together. However, some cancers don’t show, and even those that do produce tumors aren’t always very obvious. These ones are likely to be caught at a later stage, and can be impossible to treat.
There are different types of cancers that are commonly seen in dogs. They can affect the skin (e.g. mast cell tumors), the lymph nodes (which create tumors on the glands), and the breasts of female dogs. Female dogs who are spayed are less likely to develop cancerous tumors, but are still not exempt from them.
When found early on, cancer can be treatable through surgical removal of tissues and tumors, or chemotherapy. Of course, you want your dog to live as long as possible, but you need to decide with your vet if it’s worth putting them through surgery, as some pets could find it too traumatic. Pain relief is essential to keeping your dog as comfortable as possible during those hard times.
Symptoms Of Cancer In Dogs
Symptoms of cancer in dogs may include: swollen body parts, a loss of appetite, weight loss, lethargy, breathing difficulties, digestive problems, and limping. However, different types of cancers can cause different variations of symptoms, if any. Yearly check-ups with your vet are essential as your vet will be able to observe them with a professional, experienced set of eyes.
Often, heartworm disease is caught too late in dogs, and the results can be fatal. Its symptoms aren’t obvious, and that gives the disease freedom to spread. Heartworm disease can affect the blood vessels, lungs, and heart, which can cause heart failure, lung disease, or damage to other vital organs. So, if you're asking "is my dog sick?", heartworm symptoms are definitely ones to know about!
Heartworm disease is one of the main killers in pets, including dogs. The disease is transmitted when the dog is bitten by an infected mosquito, which will often bite at the part of the dog with the thinnest hair coating (the stomach, for example). The disease can be found all over the world, and in the US, every state is at risk of the spread of heartworm disease in their canines. During seasons with more mosquitos around, there’s a higher chance of your dog contracting heartworm disease, but colder months still pose a risk.
There are also preventative medicines available, which can be taken in different forms. It is an essential part of owning a dog that you administer regular, de-worming treatment to them. This protects them, your home, your family, and your community from the different types of intestinal worms in dogs. Consult with your vet about which is the best course for your pooch, as there is a variety of prevention methods available from injection and tablet forms to spot-on treatments. It is best to ask your vet which type is best for your dog and the area you live in.
Heartworm Symptoms In Dogs
Symptoms won’t show until the later stages of a heartworm infection which is why prevention is key. But, if your dog is sick with a heartworm the symptoms may present in the forms of a constant cough, fatigue, hesitance to exercise, loss of appetite, and weight loss.
Kidney disease is an incurable condition in dogs, and the onset is often correlated with the age of your hound. Deterioration of body parts occurs over time, and the kidneys are no different. When kidneys are diseased, they fail to filter out the toxins in the body, which can affect the function of other vital organs.
It is said that dogs can go months - even years - without showing their owners any symptoms of kidney disease, as it could take two-thirds of the kidneys to destruct before signs appear. Since it can take a while for symptoms to show, it's difficult to know how to help your poor friend if it happens to them. Just be aware that bigger dogs age faster, so if they are going to get kidney disease, insist on a checkup from the age of 7. Smaller dogs are likely to hold off until 10 years old. (This is a rough guide - if you have concerns, take your dog to the vet).
Symptoms Of Kidney Disease In Dogs
One symptom that your dog could be developing kidney disease is if they get a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI). Ask your veterinarian to check their kidney health, which they can do through urine and blood tests. There is no treatment to fix the problem, but your dog can be given medication to slow down the progression and relieve some discomfort.
Arthritis is the inflammation of joints, and it affects a huge 65% of dogs over the age of 7 in the United States! While there are ways to reduce the amount of pain your four-legged friend might be in, there is no way to cure it (aside from joint replacements). When your dog’s joints become inflamed, they lose cartilage and fluid, which allows the bones to rub together – this wears down the bones and can be extremely painful!
It tends to happen with age or injury, so as your pooch gets older, their bones may become weaker, and joints become squeakier. It can also be caused by excess weight, so if your dog is overweight, their joints are strained. As there is a link to more pressure on the bones, it is more likely to occur in larger-sized dogs, such as Labradors or German Shepherds.
You may think arthritis is just painful, but it can lead to further life-threatening problems. There is the risk of becoming overweight – if your pet is finding it difficult to be active, they’re likely to put on weight. Being overweight, or becoming obese, puts your dog at risk of heart disease, skin disease (due to the rolls in the skin causing irritation), and even worsen the joint and ligament pain they may already suffer!
Signs Of Arthritis In Dogs
Signs that your dog could be suffering from arthritis include excess licking of their joints, less movement, loss of appetite, and lethargy. Dogs with joint pain can also shy away from exercise, and not want to jump, run, or play like they used to.
Is My Dog Sick?
Whether or not you see symptoms in your dog, it is vital that you get them checked by the veterinarian on a regular basis. Your dog can’t tell you what’s hurting, nor can they fix it themselves. Keeping an eye on their behavior will help, so note any changes and tell the vet when you see them. Keeping your dog fit and healthy is as important as it is for humans. While you can’t prevent all of these silent killers, you can take steps to relieve your furry friend from any unnecessary pain with the correct medication and let them live a longer and happier life with you.
Author Eckstein, Sandy "Dogs And Cancer: Get The Facts" Pets Web MD https://pets.webmd.com/dogs/guide/dogs-and-cancer-get-the-facts#1
Author Barnette, Catherine DVM and Ward, Ernest DVM "Heartworm Disease In Dogs" VCA Hospitals https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/heartworm-disease-in-dogs
"Heartworm Prevention For Dogs" Heartworm Society https://www.heartwormsociety.org/pet-owner-resources/heartworm-prevention-for-dogs
Author Ward, Ernest DVM and Weir Malcolm, DVM MSc MPH "Kidney Disease In Dogs" VCA Hospitals, https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/kidney-failure-chronic-in-dogs
"Osteoarthritis In Dogs - Signs & Treatments" American Kennel Club, Feb 17. 2021 https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/osteoarthritis-signs-treatment/
A lover of all animals, especially dogs! I love to learn about the way they think, and what we as pet owners can do to better their lives. So what better way, than to write fun, informative content?! When I’m not typing away, you can find me trying to cook a new recipe (and failing), or of course playing with the dog