Aug 13 2017

August–Infectious Diseases in Dogs

Trends in Infectious Diseases

These conditions are contagious – easily spread from pet to pet through physical contact, contaminated surfaces, or when insects carrying the disease bite pets. Vaccines are available for some, but not all. To protect your pet, reduce risk of exposure and provide preventive care.


Giardia Infection

This microscopic parasite attaches itself to the lining of a dog’s small intestine, causing the disease giardiasis. It is passed through infected feces.


Not all dogs with Giardia infection will appear sick. Signs of infection:

  • Loose stool or diarrhea that can become severe
  • Weight loss
  • Vomiting
  • Decreased activity level

Diagnosis and Treatment

Veterinarians examine a fecal sample for diagnosis. Antibiotics and/or deworming medications are often prescribed to kill the parasite, along with follow-up exams, as this can be a tough parasite to get rid of for your pet.

How to Prevent It

There is no effective vaccine. Dogs living in crowded conditions and young puppies are especially vulnerable. The best means of prevention is to avoid exposure to the Giardia parasite.

  • Keep dog away from other dogs’ feces or feces of other mammals
  • Prevent dog from drinking out of potentially contaminated water sources like ponds or creeks
  • If your dog is infected, dispose of feces immediately to prevent exposing other dogs



Kennel Cough

This highly contagious respiratory infection is caused by a bacterium. Untreated, it can lead to pneumonia.


The most common sign is a frequent dry cough, which may sound like gagging or retching. Excitement or physical activity can worsen coughing. Aside from the distinctive cough, many infected dogs don’t exhibit any of the other signs of the illness, which can include:

  • Fever
  • Runny nose and/or eyes
  • Decreased appetite

Diagnosis and Treatment

It’s generally treated with antibiotics and cough suppressant medications. If the infection involves a virus, it may need to run its course before full healing can occur, as antibiotics will be ineffective. Owners can support their dog by:

  • Keeping them well hydrated
  • Providing nutritious food
  • Creating a low-stress environment

How to Prevent It

Because it is extremely contagious, vaccination is highly recommended along with regular veterinary exams. Keep infected dogs away from other dogs. This is the most effective way to help stop the spread of kennel cough. To prevent infections:

  • Limit exposure to other dogs in public places
  • Choose care facilities that require up-to-date vaccinations



Canine Parvovirus

This highly contagious and potentially fatal virus attacks a dog’s gastrointestinal tract. It is transmitted through oral contact with infected feces.


Dogs with parvovirus need immediate veterinary attention. Be aware of the following signs, particularly in puppies under 1 year, and call your veterinarian if you notice:

  • Vomiting and diarrhea, which can lead to severe dehydration
  • Fever
  • Decreased activity level
  • Decreased appetite

Diagnosis and Treatment

Early detection and aggressive treatment provide the best chance for recovery. Treatment typically requires hospitalization and intensive care while the dog fights the infection. Other treatments may include:

  • Intravenous fluid
  • Electrolyte therapy
  • Antibiotics
  • Anti-vomiting medications
  • Nutritional support

How to Prevent It

The parvovirus vaccine greatly reduces risk of infection and is recommended for all dogs, beginning in puppyhood.

  • Consult with your veterinarian to ensure your dog is up-to-date on vaccines
  • Until your puppy has received a complete series of vaccines, avoid places where dogs with unknown vaccination status gather, like dog parks



Canine Distemper


This viral illness attacks the respiratory, gastrointestinal and central nervous systems of dogs. It can be spread through the air, by direct contact with an infected animal or via contaminated objects.


Initially, dogs may have a high fever, runny eyes and/or nose, coughing and loss of appetite. In later stages, the virus attacks the brain, which can cause shaking, unsteadiness and seizures.


Dogs with a mild infection may recover with proper veterinary care, but it often causes permanent brain damage and can be fatal.


Effective vaccines are available and are included among vaccines recommended for all dogs, beginning at puppyhood.





This is a bacterial infection of the internal organs that dogs and people can catch through exposure to urine from infected animals such as dogs, livestock and wildlife.


Early signs include fever/shivering and loss of appetite. Depending on organs involved later signs can include vomiting/diarrhea, yellow skin and gums, reduced urine production or even death.


Antibiotics are needed to kill the bacteria, and hospitalization may be required. Infected dogs should be kept separate from other dogs. Urine-contaminated areas should be disinfected immediately to prevent spreading it.


Vaccines are available.



Canine Influenza


This is caused by a new strain of influenza virus that affects the respiratory system of dogs. It is typically spread when a dog inhales air from the cough or sneeze of an infected dog, or through interaction with contaminated objects.


Signs include a long-lasting cough that does not improve with antibiotics or cough suppressants, as well as a runny nose and mild fever. In severe cases it may progress to pneumonia.


Sick dogs should get plenty of rest, food, and water and be separated from other dogs to prevent spreading the disease.


A vaccine is available. Depending on your dog’s risk of exposure, your veterinarian may recommend it.



All statistics calculated by the Banfield Applied Research and Knowledge Team based on 2.5 million dogs and 505,000 cats seen at Banfield Hospitals in 2016.

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