Infectious Diseases in Dogs

Posted by Dr. Roth on

Infectious Diseases in Dogs, corgis

Pet parents want nothing more than their dogs to live happy, healthy lives. That includes helping them avoid getting sick. While some illnesses are only minor, others can be severe. A pet parent should know the signs and symptoms of different sicknesses, including common infectious diseases in dogs. While prevention is crucial, knowing the earliest warning signs allows a pet parent to get their dog the treatment they  need sooner. 


Kennel Cough

Kennel cough is a broad term for viral and bacterial infections that cause trachea or windpipe inflammation. One of the most common symptoms is a persistent dry cough that sounds almost like honking. 

The term “kennel cough” is due to most dogs contracting the illness after spending time with other dogs in a kennel. It’s highly contagious and can pass from one dog to the next through casual contact or sharing water bowls. Along with the cough, symptoms include:

  • Wheezing
  • Runny nose
  • Runny eyes
  • Poor appetite
  • Swollen tonsils

In general, kennel cough isn’t severe. Most dogs get better on their own within a few weeks. Keeping them isolated as they recover can help prevent the illness from spreading further. 

There aren’t any specific treatments for viral infections, but a vet may prescribe an antibiotic to help manage bacterial infections. They may also recommend cough suppressants or anti-inflammatories to provide some relief. 



Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection that can damage a dog’s kidneys and liver. The bacteria multiply in the bloodstream and concentrate in these vital organs. Without treatment, leptospirosis can be fatal.

The leptospirosis bacteria can infect wild animals, such as skunks, raccoons, wolves, and deer. It passes through the urine of an infected animal and can survive for long periods in damp soil or stagnant water, infecting dogs that come into contact with it. Pet parents can contract the illness from their dogs. 

Dogs with a mild infection may show few to no signs of illness. Symptoms of severe leptospirosis infections include:

  • Lethargy
  • Appetite loss
  • Vomiting
  • Increased thirst and urination
  • Fever
  • Jaundice

Treatment for leptospirosis typically involves antibiotics, and dogs with more severe infections may require IV fluids and other therapies. Immediate treatment is vital for avoiding significant organ damage. 



Distemper is a severe viral infection that attacks a dog’s respiratory, gastrointestinal, and nervous systems. It can also affect wildlife such as foxes, raccoons, and coyotes. It can spread when a dog comes into close contact with an infected dog or another animal that coughs or sneezes. A dog can pick it up by sharing a food or water dish with an infected dog, and a pregnant dog can pass it to their puppies. 

All dogs can contract distemper, but unvaccinated puppies are most at risk. Symptoms include:

  • Eye discharge
  • Fever
  • Nasal discharge
  • Coughing
  • Appetite loss
  • Vomiting
  • Head tilt
  • Convulsions
  • Paralysis

There is no cure for distemper, and it’s often fatal. However, supportive treatments like IV fluids, symptom management, and isolation can help a dog pull through. 


Viral Hepatitis

Viral hepatitis is a disease (caused by an adenovirus) that affects the liver. It exists in the urine, tears, and nasal discharge of an infected dog, and another dog can catch it by coming into direct contact with these substances. 

Cases of viral hepatitis can range from mild to severe. In mild cases, dogs may experience:

  • Decreased appetite 
  • Mild fever
  • Respiratory symptoms that mimic other infections such as kennel cough

In more severe cases, dogs will experience the above along with:

  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Diarrhea
  • Fluid collecting under the skin (edema)
  • Jaundice

Pet parents should seek dog health advice as soon as they notice any symptoms, as more severe cases of hepatitis can be fatal. 

There isn’t a specific treatment for viral hepatitis. Instead, the goal is to reduce the severity of the symptoms so the dog can recover. However, a vet may prescribe antibiotics for a secondary bacterial infection. 


Protect Against Infectious Diseases in Dogs

Infectious diseases in dogs can spread quickly. Fortunately, many vaccines can protect dogs from contracting them, but knowing what to look for allows a pet parent to take action right away and possibly avoid severe consequences. The sooner the dog gets treatment, the sooner they can be on the mend and back to their old self.

No pet parent wants to see their dog suffer the symptoms of an illness, even a minor one. That’s where Fuzzy comes in. Our licensed online vets are available 24/7 to answer questions and provide advice. For more information or to sign up and get started, visit Fuzzy today!

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