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Diagnosing and Treating Infections in Your Dog: Top Tips for Dog Owners

There are various infectious diseases that dogs can contract, including bacterial, viral, and fungal infections. Some infections in dogs are much more fast-acting and dangerous than others, and severe infections can be fatal. If you are worried your dog may be showing signs that they are seriously ill, you should see a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at a veterinary clinic. Read on to learn more in our guide for dog owners about tips on diagnosing and treating different infections in your dog.

Canine distemper

Canine distemper, unfortunately, is a highly contagious virus. Dogs catch distemper through direct contact or airborne exposure with infected dogs, meaning it spreads through aerosol droplets from sneezing, coughing, barking, using the same food bowls, and so on. 

Clear signs that can tell you if your dog has canine distemper, include that of a fever, a runny nose, discharge around the eyes, lethargy, drowsiness, sneezing, coughing, vomiting, respiratory problems, and so on.

Diagnosis and Treatment

A swab PCR testing is the primary way to confirm a distemper diagnosis in dogs. 

A veterinarian should examine your dog if you suspect they have canine distemper. There is an effective vaccination that can be given to dogs when they are young to protect them against canine distemper. Veterinary professionals widely recommend that all dogs have the vaccine.

Canine Parvovirus

Parvo is a virus dogs can get that is caused by the canine parvovirus type 2. The parvovirus is very contagious and spreads through direct contact between dogs and contaminated stools, bowls, surfaces, leashes, and other canine equipment.  

The virus viciously attacks the gastrointestinal system and causes dogs’ fever, vomiting, dehydration, and diarrhea. So, if your dog starts to show signs of developing these symptoms, you should take them straight to the vets.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Parvovirus can be diagnosed through blood tests. Puppies under the age of 6 months are at a high risk of contracting parvovirus, which can be fatal. Therefore, all dogs should get the vaccine for parvovirus as puppies, and it is one of the ‘core vaccines’ for dogs. Veterinary doctors can try and treat the parvovirus but doing so is very expensive and not always successful, and sadly many dogs pass away from parvo.

Tetanus

Tetanus, also known as lockjaw, is caused in dogs when bacteria manage to get into a deep, open wound.

Tetanus is caused by the Clostridium tetani bacterium, often found in dirt, dust, and feces. Clostridium tetani bacterium enter the body through a wound, and when they die off, they produce a neurotoxin named Tetanospasmin. If you are a dog owner wanting to learn more about spotting and treating tetanus in dogs, take a look at this article from Native Pet, an expert provider of quality nutritional dog foods. 

Symptoms 

The neurotoxin Tetanospasmin causes noticeable side effects and symptoms in dogs such as:

  • Physical stiffness and limited body movements, 
  • Stiffening of the neck and jaw muscles (lockjaw),
  • Muscular spasms,
  • Drooling,
  • Fever,
  • Trouble with eating and drinking,
  • Breathing problems,
  • Constipation,
  • Seizures,

Diagnosis and Treatment

Laboratory tests such as full blood counts and urinalysis at a veterinary clinic can diagnose tetanus in dogs. Electromyography nerve conduction tests that record electrical in your dog’s muscles is another way to diagnose tetanus officially.

Tetanus at first is treated by using intravenous fluids to reverse dehydration and stabilize the dog. Antibiotics can then be administered to stop the C. Tetani bacteria from spreading. Sedatives and muscle relaxant medications can also be used to lower the dog’s hypersensitivity to light and sound and to relieve any muscle stiffness or lockjaw. 

Following treatment for tetanus, dogs will often require extra nursing care. They may need to spend quite a bit longer in the hospital and be physically observed by veterinary professionals on a regular basis. 

Rabies

Any dog can contract the rabies virus through saliva from a bite from an infected animal, or by saliva managing to contaminate and get into a skin wound.

Symptoms indicating a dog has rabies include sudden changes in behavior and becoming more aggressive and scared, excessive drooling and a droopy face, seizures, difficulties walking, muscle weakness, and hypersensitivity to noise and light.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Rabies is diagnosed in dogs with the DFA (direct fluorescent antibody) test looking at brain tissues. Rabies is a virus that cannot be treated once a dog has contracted it. Once dogs start showing signs and symptoms that they have contracted rabies, it is 100% fatal.

Yet fortunately, rabies is perfectly preventable through vaccination. Many states require dogs to get vaccinated against rabies. However, dog owners should, in any case, be extremely wary about their dog mixing with other dogs in parks and public places. Wild animals such as skunks also carry the rabies virus, and they can pass it on to dogs.

Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is a tick-borne disease, meaning that it is a disease that can infect dogs that is spread by ticks. Key symptoms that indicate your dog has a tick-borne condition such as Lyme disease are skin problems and irritations, itching themselves incessantly, and signs of tick bites on their body such as skin inflammations.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Veterinarians use C6 blood tests to test antibodies to diagnose Lyme disease. You should also check your dog’s fur and skin regularly for any signs of ticks, especially after they have played with many different dogs in the park or been at a dog gathering, since ticks spread so quickly between dogs.

The best way to treat your dog if they develop Lyme disease or other tick-borne diseases is to buy special products that kill tick bites in dogs. Do not forget to seek advice from your veterinarian first before going out and purchasing any strong products for your dog. However, sometimes prevention is better than cure, and you can give your dog these products as a matter of precaution before they even develop tick-borne diseases such as Lyme disease in the first place.

Ringworm

Ringworm is a fungal skin infection that is spread amongst dogs through physical contact with an infected dog. One key symptom that is responsible for the name ringworm, is circular patches of hair loss that appear on your dog’s coat. Dogs may irritably scratch the infected area excessively.

Diagnosis and Treatment

A sample of hair or skin cells can diagnose ringworm. Treatments for ringworm in dogs can include having their coat properly clipped, special medical shampoo, or antifungal medication.

Another way to prevent your dog from developing ringworm is through disinfecting your home and keeping the place clean and free of infections. 

Canine Influenza (the Dog Flu)

Canine influenza, or the dog flu, is caused by the canine influenza virus. Many dogs have not been exposed to the virus, so their immune systems cannot defend their bodies against the virus and become infected as soon as they get exposed to it. Canine influenza is spread through contaminated objects. Symptoms of dogs with canine influenza can include: 

  • Coughing
  • Fever
  • A runny nose

Perfectly healthy dogs may be able to fight off canine influenza but still infect other dogs with it.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Canine influenza can be diagnosed through PCR nose swabs. There is a vaccine out there today for canine influenza; however, not all veterinarians recommend it. Much like humans who get the flu, dogs with canine influenza need to get plenty of rest and relaxation.

These are a few tips for how dog owners can do their best to look out for infections in their dogs and diagnose and treat them accordingly. The wisest piece of advice is to see a veterinarian if you have any major concerns or uncertainties. 

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