common illnesses

There are a number of common illnesses and health conditions that affect dogs during their lifetime. As our best friends, it can be upsetting when our furry friends appear to be in pain or unwell.

As their owner, you know your dog best and if you notice that your pet starts acting differently, it might be worth a trip to the vet. Since dogs depend on us to care and look after them, it’s essential to always look for signs of illness or pain to ensure that your pooch lives a happy, healthy life.

Argos Pet Insurance has put together a list of the five most common illnesses in dogs and how to spot them.

Ear infections

Canine ear infections are extremely common. They are usually caused by dust, dirt, foreign matter (like grass seeds) or a build up of wax or ‘cerumen’ getting stuck inside your dog’s ear. Dogs with hairy ears or narrow ear canals can be more prone. They can also be picked up whilst swimming in lakes or the sea as water gets stuck inside the ear canal and ear infections may be more common in dogs that spend lots of time outside. Symptoms include: scratching, head shaking, redness, swelling, discharges or smelly ears.

If you think your dog may have an ear infection, take them to the vet. A veterinarian will do an ear examination to determine the cause of the problem. They may prescribe ear drops, ear cleaners, antibiotics or anti-inflammatories. In severe cases, they may need to flush your dog’s ears, so take them in sooner rather than later.

It’s a good idea to start cleaning your dog’s ears once a week to make sure that any dirt or debris is removed as ‘preventative maintenance’. Use cotton wool and dog specific ear cleaner. You can get this from your vet or good pet shops. After removing any surface dirt, you can use medicated drops if your vet has prescribed any. Make sure you don’t insert anything into your dog’s ear canals as this could cause ear trauma, damage the eardrum and is very painful. Never use Q-tips or ear buds. Once cleaned, make sure to pat your dog’s ears dry with a soft cloth or paper towel.


There are a number of eye problems that dogs may develop but conjunctivitis is probably the most common. It can be caused by traumas, debris in the eye, or infections (amongst others). Conjunctivitis is easy to spot: your dog will have a sore, red eye/eyelids and possibly fluid, mucus or pus around the eye area. It’s usually quite uncomfortable for dogs so they may try and scratch their eye with their paws to prevent the discomfort.

If you’re concerned about whether your dog has an eye infection, take them to the vet. In most cases, conjunctivitis will be treated with an ointment or eye drops. It’s best to go and see your vet promptly as other related problems such as eye ulcers are not always visible to us (vets use special dyes to see them).

Kennel cough

Kennel cough is a very contagious respiratory infection that’s usually caught during a visit to the vets or kennels. It may also be more common in environments where there are lots of dogs. Your dog will have a dry, rough cough that can sound like it has something stuck in its throat.

Kennel cough is very common and isn’t usually a cause for concern, but it’s a good idea to get your dog examined by the veterinarian to eliminate any other illnesses first. Give your dog plenty of rest and water and if symptoms worsen, revisit the vet. In severe cases, your dog may be given antibiotics.

There are some vaccinations which can help reduce the incidence or severity of kennel cough, so it’s worth discussing with your vet.


There are a number of different types of intestinal parasites – also known as worms – that can cause problems for dogs. Tapeworms, roundworms, whipworms and hookworms are the most common.

Your dog’s symptoms will differ depending on the type of worms it has, but symptoms can include: vomiting, diarrhoea, loss of appetite and weight loss.

It’s essential to visit the vet if you think your dog may have worms. Tapeworms and roundworms can be seen by the naked eye but this isn’t always the case. Your veterinarian will identify the best treatment for your pooch, and always ensure you ask your vet about a regular de-worming treatment.


Cancer is more common in older dogs and can be hard to detect. There are many symptoms that can indicate a problem because cancer can develop almost anywhere in the body, so make sure you look out for the following: any unusual or new lumps and bumps, changes in the skin, weight loss or weight gain, breathing problems, lameness, swellings, tiredness, seizures, diarrhoea or vomiting. Remember that a lump that has been present for years may change, so if you notice any of these symptoms, you should visit your vet and get things checked out.

They can perform several different types of test such as biopsy/FNA, x-ray or ultrasound to determine what is going on and what is the best course of action to take.

Your dog may require surgery or cancer treatment such as chemotherapy or radiation, but your veterinarian will be able to determine the best treatment.

In case your dog becomes ill, make sure that you have the adequate insurance to look after them. To find out more about how Argos Pet Insurance can help insure your pet, visit

Always consult a vet, qualified behaviourist or relevant professional for advice and guidance.

This story is a guest submission and does not reflect the views of Dogs Monthly Magazine, always consult a qualified expert.


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