The Most Common Health Conditions in Adult Dogs
The adult years tend to be the healthiest years for most dogs. That doesn't mean they are worry-free, however. As with people, any number of problems can crop up.
Communicable diseases, such as canine distemper, parvovirus and rabies, can sicken and kill adult dogs who have not been properly immunized. A year after the puppy vaccinations are completed, adults should receive a booster vaccination. Following this, they should receive regular vaccinations based on their age and lifestyle, as directed by your veterinarian.
Intestinal parasites can also affect adults. Your veterinarian can diagnose intestinal parasites from a stool sample and prescribe appropriate treatment as well as preventive medications.
Heartworms can be deadly. You should have your dog tested yearly for heartworms, and placed on heartworm preventive.
External parasites, especially fleas and ticks, can make your dog's life miserable. Not only do their bites itch, but some dogs are allergic to flea saliva; a single flea bite causes the dog to itch all over. Fleas can carry tapeworms, so if your dog swallows a flea, he can become infected. Ticks can carry several diseases, such as ehrlichiosis, Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Keep your dog on a monthly flea preventive that is also effective against ticks. Some types of mites can be even itchier than fleas. Sarcoptic mange mites cause hair loss and intense itchiness. Ear mites cause itchy ears, so the dog may shake his head and scratch at his ears, which often have a dark discharge. Your veterinarian can diagnose these conditions and prescribe treatment.
Allergies most often arise in adulthood, with itchiness that can affect any area of the body. The skin often becomes infected from constant chewing, biting, scratching and licking. Dogs can be allergic to fleas, foods, seasonal pollens and a variety of other allergens. Your veterinarian can diagnose the problem through allergy testing or by placing the dog on a special diet, if food allergy is suspected, and can make treatment recommendations based on the results.
Dental disease is a commonly overlooked health condition affecting adult dogs. Don't dismiss "dog breath" as a fact of life. It is really a sign of an unhealthy mouth. Dental disease is painful and can lead to tooth loss, tooth abscesses and other problems. Regular veterinary exams, home care (like brushing your dog's teeth) and periodic dental cleanings can help keep dental disease at bay.
Hereditary diseases may sometimes first emerge in adulthood. These can include diseases of the eyes, digestive system, musculoskeletal system, nervous system, respiratory system, urinary or reproductive tract, heart or skin. Become familiar with the hereditary problems to which your breed is predisposed so you can be on the lookout for signs.
Cancers, while more commonly associated with senior dogs, can also appear in dogs who are middle-aged or even younger. Lymphoma (lymphosarcoma) is one of the most common cancers of younger adult dogs. Because lymphoma is a disease that can affect many parts of the body, no one set of signs defines it. Some affected dogs might be lethargic, lose weight and have enlarged lymph nodes. Some forms of lymphoma can cause vomiting, abdominal distension, coughing or drooling. Other types of cancer that can affect adult dogs include hemangiosarcoma, osteosarcoma and mast cell tumors.
Gastric dilatation volvulus often first appears in adult or middle-aged dogs, mostly breeds with deep chests. If your dog is restless, has a suddenly enlarged taut abdomen, tries to vomit but can't and is drooling, call your veterinarian at once as this could be a life-threatening emergency where minutes count!
Accidents, such as being hit by a car, are a significant killer of adult dogs. Owners who were vigilant about puppy safety may become complacent as they grow to trust their adult dog. But it only takes a moment of too much trust for a dog to chase a cat across the road or wander away when expected to stay in the yard. Other common accidents include sport-related ligament or bone injuries, cuts from fighting with or being attacked by another dog, injuries incurred while riding loose inside a car that's in an accident, or broken bones.
Obesity is one of the most common problems seen in adult dogs. Some dogs gain excessive weight because they eat too much food and/or don't get enough exercise. However, there are some medical problems that can be associated with weight gain. If weight gain is accompanied by sudden changes in appetite or thirst, or if only the abdomen is swollen while the rest of the dog is slim, see your veterinarian immediately as these could be signs of other more serious problems. In fact, any obese dog should be checked by a veterinarian to make sure other disorders aren't at the root of the problem. Your veterinarian will run tests to identify a cause and then prescribe a weight loss plan to safely get the extra pounds off.
A twice-yearly checkup is a good way to set your mind at ease about many of the conditions to which adult dogs are susceptible. Even so, problems can arise between checkups, so ask your veterinarian about strategies for keeping your best friend in excellent health.