Ultimate Guide To Dog Health

You love your dog and want to see him or her live for as long as possible.

The sad thing is that dog’s don’t live that long. The good news is that dogs are living longer than they used to, and this is largely due to better diets and better healthcare.

How long is the average dog’s lifespan?

The average dog will live for between 10 and 13 years, with mixed-breed dogs living longer than inbred dogs, who are susceptible to illnesses.

While you can’t wave a magic wand and make your dog live longer than the average lifespan, you can do things to keep your dog as healthy as possible. After all, there have been stories of dogs living up to 20 years and beyond!

Why Do Dogs Live Such Short Lives?

Why Do Dogs Live Such Short Lives?

You might be wondering why dogs have such short lives when compared to some other animals and humans. It’s interesting to realize that dogs develop faster than humans. You can see this when it comes to dog teeth.

By the age of approximately eight months, dogs will have all their adult teeth, and that’s when humans are just finding themselves in the middle of teething!

While dogs are moving through their physical milestones faster, this means that their bodies develop faster than ours. This has the effect of making them age faster.  

The domestication of dogs has also led to them leading shorter lives. This is partly as a result of inbreeding, which can cause various health problems that result in dogs living shorter lives.

The lifestyles that domestic dogs sometimes lead can also shorten their lives, such as if you consider that some dogs are being fed too much and are overweight or otherwise unhealthy.

This all contributes to dogs’ lifespans being shorter than we’d like because it makes our furry friends more susceptible to getting serious health conditions.

There are some dog breeds that live longer than others. Generally, it’s been found that non-brachycephalic (squashed face) dog breeds that are small in size will live the longest out of all dog breeds.

Speaking about size, this is another important factor when it comes to how long a dog is likely to live.

It’s said that larger dogs will live for shorter amounts of time than smaller dogs, and this can be because their larger bodies require their organs to work much harder, such as when it comes to their hearts needing to pump blood around their bodies.

Interestingly, researchers have also come up with the theory that large dogs go through faster cell growth and this can put them at higher risk for illnesses such as cancer as compared to smaller-sized dogs who grow at a slower speed.

What To Know About Dog Health

What To Know About Dog Health

One of the things dog owners might worry about is if their pets are really healthy. There are ways to assess your dog’s current health status to be sure your dog doesn’t have any health problems that need to be seen urgently.  

  • Look at its facial expression: You can see when your dog looks happy on its face, right? This is usually a good sign that he’s healthy. His tail will wag, he’ll look like he’s smiling, and his eyes will be bright and alert. On the other hand, if you see that your dog has doleful eyes, this can point to depression or some other health issue.

  • Figure out what’s normal for your dog: If your dog was always playful and used to love eating but now doesn’t want to exercise and doesn’t want to eat, that’s a huge sign that something is wrong and you should consult with your vet about what could be causing those symptoms.  

  • Look at its coat: A dog’s coat can give you clues about its health. A shiny, soft coat points to a healthy dog, while a ratty or dull coat could signal a nutritional deficiency or health problem. Also bear in mind that if your dog is excessively grooming itself, this could be a sign of a health issue such as depression.

  • Check its breathing: Observe your dog when it’s sitting or lying down. Does its breathing look exaggerated? Does it seem labored? These signs could point to respiratory problems.

  • Weigh your dog: You should weigh your dog regularly, such as every few months, to be sure that your dog isn’t putting on or losing weight even though its diet hasn’t changed. Some illnesses can cause a dog to lose weight, such as liver problems or cancer.  

Important Dog Health Conditions To Know About

Now that we’ve looked at some ways in which you can tell if your dog’s healthy, you should also know about some common health conditions that can affect your dog.

Eye Problems


Your dog’s eyes should be clear enough for you to see your reflection in them when you’re close to your dog. However, there are some signs that your dog could be dealing with an eye problem.

  • If the whites of the eyes are yellow, then this points to a problem with the liver, such as jaundice.
  • If the whites of the eyes are red, then this could point to an allergy or even an infection.
  • If the eyes are not clear but foggy, this could be increased pressure inside the eye or even an eye ulcer.
  • If there are brown spots on the eyes, it could be due to natural pigmentation or eye tumors.
If you have a puppy who has yet to open its eyes by week 8, look for pus, swelling and white creamy spots around its eyes. These point to an eye infection and will require veterinary assistance

Here are some common eye problems that dogs can experience.


This is known as pink eye. It’s an infection that can make your dog’s eyes inflamed, red, or leak eye gunk. This infection can be treated with antibiotics if it’s bacterial in nature, but allergic conjunctivitis can be treated with artificial tears for dogs.

If your dog gets watery or red eyes when it comes into contact with allergens such as dust, then it could be suffering from allergic conjunctivitis.

Tear Stains

Some dogs will have tears that stain the fur around their eyes. The reason for this is that when a dog’s eyes have been irritated, it will cause them to produce more tears.

Some dogs’ eyes can’t drain away their tears properly, and this causes the excess tears to fall out of their eyes and stain their fur. What causes this?

There are many possible culprits, such as eyelids that turn inwards and even blocked tear ducts. Some short-nosed dog breeds are prone to this, such as Maltese poodles and Pugs.

Cornea Damage

Dogs can harm the corneas in their eyes, such as if they scratch their eye with their paw or if a foreign object has got into their eye. You can tell if there’s corneal damage in your dog’s eye if it’s red or tearing a lot.

This is very painful, so you want to have your dog’s eye checked out as soon as you can. Your vet will be able to treat it with ointments or antibiotic eye drops.


Dogs can also get cataracts! You can spot that your dog has cataracts if its eyes look cloudy. You should get your dog’s eyes checked out quickly because cataracts can reduce your dog’s vision while they could also be a sign of underlying diabetes.

Sometimes what you think are cataracts is actually a condition known as lenticular sclerosis, which is a harmless age-related eye change that occurs as a result of the lens of the eye becoming thicker but it doesn’t require any treatment.

Ear Conditions


Bacterial Ear Conditions

Sometimes bacterial infections can affect your dog’s ears. One of the most common ear problems is otitis externa. This is a bacterial infection that will be suspected if your dog shakes his head a lot, is always scratching at his ears, and if he doesn’t want you to get too close to its ear.

You might also see that your dog’s ears are releasing a discharge or smell. Ear infections are usually treated with antibiotic ear drops or pills, although some owners may prefer home remedies.  

Ear Mites

Sometimes mites can get into your dog’s ear and cause problems. If your dog shakes his head or scratches his ear a lot, the reason why could be ear mites. You might also notice small brown particles inside your dog’s ear.

You want to get this checked out at the vet because it can lead to complications such as blood vessel problems, due to how the dog’s scratching its ear so much. The good news is that ear mites can be treated quickly and effectively with ear drops.


Your dog is prone to getting ear infections from airborne allergies. In fact, most dog ear problems are as a result of allergies, as PetMD reports.

It’s common for these allergies to affect your dog during seasons in which there’s more pollen, so you might find that your dog mainly suffers with ear problems between June and October.

To keep allergies at bay, you want to bathe your dogs on a regular basis, especially if they are exposed to external allergens such as grass and pollen because they spend so much time outside. You should also try to avoid environmental allergens as much as possible.

For example, if your dog is allergic to grass, you should try keep him or her indoors as much as you can during pollen season. You should also ask your vet about antihistamines to give your dog relief.

Heart Problems

Globally, heart disease affects one in every 10 dogs, as VCA Hospitals reports. Here are common heart problems to know about.

Heart Disease

This disease can result in heart failure if not treated. There are two types of heart disease: congenital or acquired.  

  • Congenital heart disease – this is a heart condition that your pup will be born with and it can be inherited from its parents.
  • Acquired heart disease – this will usually affect dogs that are middle-aged or older. It is caused by wear and tear, infection, injury, or viruses such as parvovirus and heartworm.

Symptoms that can be associated with heart problems include lethargy, weakness, shortness of breath, exercise intolerance, fainting, chronic coughing, or regular elevated heart rate.

To treat heart problems, dogs will often be given heart medicines that are dog versions of the heart medicines that are given to human heart patients.

Digestion Problems 

Gastrointestinal disorders affect the stomach and intestines of dogs. They can cause pain as well as other symptoms. Here are some common digestive disorders that your dog might experience.

Acute Gastroenteritis

This is an infection or inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract, and mainly occurs in the intestines and stomach.

It’s a short-term condition that can be caused by dogs eating rancid food, human food that’s high in fat, toxic plants, or foreign objects, but it can also be caused by parasites, stress, and food allergies.


The colon has a membrane lining it, and colitis inflames this lining. This condition can be caused by a variety of things, such as polyps, dietary changes, allergies, or parasites.

Colitis is usually more commonly experienced by dogs that are younger than the age of five. It can result in the painful passing of stool or diarrhea that contains blood.


This is another common digestive problem and it has a range of different causes, such as dehydration and a lack of exercise. However, it can also result from dogs eating foreign objects or other items that can’t be digested.


If your dog has diarrhea, this could be caused by parasites, stress, dietary changes, infections, high-fat human foods, rancid food, as well as body organ problems. A bland diet can help your dog to heal in mild cases.


This is a health condition in which the pancreas is infected or inflamed. It’s not always known what causes pancreatitis, but sometimes this can be from diseases, injuries, or infections.

Signs Your Dog Could Have A Digestive Problem

There are some common signs to look out for that signal your dog could be suffering from a digestive disorder, such as soft stools or diarrhea. However, there are others to check for, such as vomiting, flatulence, weakness, and constipation. 

The good news about gastrointestinal problems is that they usually only last for a few days. However, you can help to keep your dog’s digestive health in a good place by ensuring that you give them nutritious pet food and avoid giving them human food.

If your dog has a digestive problem, your vet will likely advise that he or she is given foods that are easy to digest to prevent irritation to the intestines and stomach.

High-fiber foods are also important to prevent issues such as constipation. If your dog is battling with symptoms such as vomiting or diarrhea, it’s important to ensure it stays hydrated as dehydration is a common consequence of such health problems.

Hip Problems

Hip Dysplasia

Hip pain in your dogs is a symptom of health conditions. Some common ones that can affect your pooch, especially as it gets older, include:

Hip Dysplasia

Dysplasia is an inherited cause of canine arthritis. This is a condition in which the dog’s femur bone and hip socket aren’t fitting properly. This causes them to rub together and it results in irritation, pain, and inflammation.

This is a genetic condition, but lifestyle factors such as a lack of exercise and obesity can trigger it. Dysplasia can affect dogs of all ages.


This is another common cause of hip, and other, pain in dogs. Almost 20 percent of dogs will experience a type of arthritis during their lifetime known as osteoarthritis, as VCA Hospitals reports.


This is a common hip problem and is basically inflammation on the surface of a dog’s long bones. It’s thought to be as a result of rapid growth, so that means large dogs will be more susceptible to it.

This condition will usually resolve itself without requiring intervention, but vets will prescribe medication to offer pain relief, such as NSAIDs that are specifically for dogs.

Symptoms That Your Dog Has Hip Pain

If your dog is experiencing hip pain from conditions such as the above, he or she might display the following symptoms:

  • Your dog avoids standing on one leg.
  • Your dog takes a long time to move out of a lying position, or battles to get comfortable enough to lie down.
  • Your dog battles with movements such as jumping or climbing.
  • Your dog’s joints are swollen.

There are many kinds of treatment your vet might suggest for your dog’s hip problems, such as pain medication, joint lubricants, or surgery if nothing else works.

You should also ensure some home-care tips for your dog, such as warm compresses on the affected area, and even water therapy which is a good way for dogs to get a bit of exercise without putting pressure on their joints.

Skin Conditions

There are quite a few skin problems that can affect dogs. These include:


Allergies, whether food or environmental, can cause skin problems in dogs. Both types of allergies usually cause dogs to become itchy, such as on their face and feet. Allergies to dust mites, grass, or pollen are the most common types of environmental allergies.

Dogs can have food allergies from protein in their diet, such as beef and chicken, but sometimes even things like wheat can affect your dog.

To treat environmental allergies, your vet could prescribe a variety of products, such as tablets or shampoos.

As for food allergies, your vet will probably suggest that you eliminate certain foods from your dog’s diet for a period of between eight and 12 weeks so you can rule out the offending items and avoid feeding them to your dog in future.  


This is a condition to which puppies are more susceptible and it can be caused by a lack of proper hygiene. You’ll spot impetigo on your puppy by how it causes lesions on your dog’s stomach. These result in blisters that can be covered in scabs. Your vet will treat impetigo with antibiotics or washes.


Ringworm is a common condition, but it’s actually a contagious fungus – not just for animals but humans, too. You’ll see crusty, round bald patches appear on your dog’s skin, usually on the ears, front legs, head, and paws.

Because they can cause your dog to scratch a lot, this can also lead to redness and inflammation. Topical treatments prescribed by your vet can help to treat ringworm.

Fleas and Ticks

Both of these parasites will bite your dog’s skin in order to suck their blood, so they can cause lots of itching. You’ll likely also see that your dog’s skin is red and inflamed as dogs will scratch their fur a lot to try to get relief from all the itching.

This can even cause their fur to fall out in some places. Topical treatments can help to kill off fleas and ticks.

Yeast Infections

Yeast infections are usually a symptom of an underlying health condition, such as allergies, ruptured eardrums, bacterial infections, and ear canal polyps.

Yeast infections can occur in the dog’s ear or elsewhere on the skin. You can spot them by how they cause the skin to look red, crusty, scabby, or have a bad odor.

Respiratory Problems

Sometimes respiratory problems in dogs can be difficult to treat, but these are some of the most common ones.

Canine Distemper Virus

This affects the respiratory system, gastrointestinal system, and nervous system. It’s a virus that spreads quickly and is transmitted to healthy dogs from infected dogs.

Canine Distemper Virus can cause symptoms such as eye discharge, nasal discharge, coughing, vomiting, fever, and reduced appetite. Treatment only involves supportive care, such as IV fluids and medications for symptoms.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

This is a condition that is marked by pulmonary and respiratory inflammation. It can’t be cured but you can control the disease with antibiotics and bronchodilators.

Common COPD symptoms in dogs include dry coughing, gagging after coughing, difficulty breathing, exercise intolerance, and noisy breathing.

Kennel Cough

This respiratory problem is contagious and can be caused by a virus or bacteria, but it can be treated with antibiotics. Kennel cough symptoms include a consistent cough, but some dogs might also have a runny nose, sneezing, and eye discharge.


This is a type of lung infection that inflames the lungs and can be caused by allergens, bacteria, aspirated food, foreign bodies, lungworm (transmittable from eating slugs), or viruses.

Your dog could experience a variety of symptoms if they have pneumonia, such as a deep cough, difficulty breathing, wheezing, a runny nose, fever, lethargy, and appetite or weight loss. If your dog has pneumonia, your vet will put him or her on a course of antibiotics.

Colds and Flu

Dogs can get colds and flu, and they will experience similar symptoms to what humans do. If your dog has a cold or the flu and is dealing with severe symptoms, your vet might put them on a course of antibiotics, fluids, and supplemental feeding.

Most Common Cancers In Dogs

As you know, cancer can affect any part of the body. When it comes to dogs, it’s alarming to think that one in four dogs will experience cancer in their lifetime, and it’s also the leading cause of death for dogs that are older than middle age, as Colorado State University reports.

What are the most common cancers of which you should be aware? Here’s a rundown of them.


This is one of the most common cancers in dogs and it will involve one or multiple external lymph nodes.

Mild symptoms are common, such as a decreased appetite or tiredness, but some dogs will experience symptoms such as weight loss, vomiting, increased thirst and urination, weakness, and/or difficulty breathing.

Check your dog’s lymph nodes behind his or her knees, under the neck, or in front of the shoulders so that you can see if they’re swollen. The good news about lymphoma in dogs is that most dogs go into remission after chemotherapy treatments.


This is the main bone tumor experienced by dogs. It’s an aggressive tumor that disintegrates the bones. It also spreads to other organs in the body. When it’s experienced by large-breed dogs, it’s common for it to affect the dog’s limbs.

That said, it can also strike in other parts of the dog’s skeleton, such as its pelvis or ribs. Some symptoms associated with this type of tumor include pain, lameness, and swelling, especially as the tumor increases in size.

Other symptoms can also occur as the disease progresses, such as weight loss, restlessness, and aggression. To treat these bone tumors, a variety of treatments will be considered, such as radiation, chemotherapy, or amputation.

Mental Health Problems In Dogs 

Dogs can’t just get physical health problems. They are susceptible to some mental health issues too. Here’s a rundown of some of the most common ones and how to treat them.

Separation Anxiety

If your dog becomes nervous when you’re about to leave the house, whether for work or a weekend away, he or she could be suffering from separation anxiety.

Your dog could be regularly following certain people around but not others to ensure they aren’t leaving them.

This is quite common and can lead to many symptoms, such as panic, frantic barking, and destructive behaviour. When you return home, you might find that your dog has eaten your shoes or dug around in the trash and left a big mess.

Social Anxiety

Just like humans can experience social anxiety, this can also affect dogs. If a dog has experienced neglect, this can increase their risk of social anxiety.

How social anxiety will show in a dog is that it will become nervous around other dogs or people. In some cases, dogs can even become aggressive because of the fear they experience in these situations.

Noise Anxiety

You know that dogs have better hearing than humans do, but this also makes them more sensitive to noise. For some dogs, noises can cause them to panic.

You might find that your dog becomes panicked when there’s thunder in the distance or people set off fireworks in the area. You’ll notice your dog’s behavior change when these noises affect him or her, such as that they will become restless, pant a lot, whimper, or hide.


There are many reasons why your pet could become depressed, such as if there’s been a big change in their environment. That said, it is rare for dogs to experience depression for long periods of time.

You can tell if your pet is experiencing depression by noticing behavioural changes in them. For example, if they used to be energetic and playful but now are withdrawn, don’t respond to you, and appear lethargic. 

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

This is a condition in which a dog’s behaviour will seem strange, repetitive, and/or out of context. For example, a dog with OCD might repeat the same behaviour over and over again, such as biting their bowl of food, chasing and biting their tail, or licking the floor and coughing.

Some dogs might even cause injuries to themselves during an OCD episode. While the reason for OCD in dogs is still unknown, dogs that have a lot of energy and eat too much calcium in their diets are prone to it.

Other contributing factors for the condition include genetics, previous trauma, rapid growth, and hormonal factors. 

How To Treat Mental Health Conditions In Dogs

How To Treat Mental Health Conditions In Dogs

There are many things you and your dog’s vet can do to help your dog through their mental health challenges. This requires commitment and patience, and can involve the following:

Mental Stimulation

If your dog is following a sedentary lifestyle or is alone lots of the time, this can cause it to become bored, anxious, and depressed. Ensure that you spend time with your dog, have regular playtime, and let your dog get exercise on a daily basis.


If your dog’s mental health issue is being caused by physical pain, then treating this pain can go a long way to making them feel better. Your doctor might prescribe painkillers for your dog or even natural treatments that will offer pain relief.

Encourage Your Dog To Follow Their Interests

Look closely at your dog and you’ll see that he or she has interests that bring them joy. For example, maybe your dog loves to chew things or gets really excited when they chase bunnies or other animals in the garden.

Allow your pet to do more of these things. So, that could involve giving your dog lots of fun new chew toys or playing fetch with them in the garden.

Take Your Pet To The Vet Regularly

Treating mental health conditions sometimes involves a bit of trial and error, so it’s important to stick to regular visits to the vet, who’ll be able to see what’s working or not working for your dog.

And, if you’re just noticing symptoms in your dog that point to them possibly experiencing a mental health condition, it’s essential to get them to a vet as soon as possible so that it will be easier to treat than if it becomes more severe.

Health Problems According To A Dog’s Life Stage

Some health problems will be more common in dogs that are older, while others will strike when dogs are still in the puppy phase. So, let’s take a look at some health problems that are more common in older dogs and others that are common for younger dogs.

Senior Dog Health Problems


Hearing and Vision Problems

When dogs get older, they can suffer from tissue degeneration in both their ears and eyes. When it comes to vision problems, senior dogs are more likely to have cataracts that can affect their sight.

Joint Problems

Osteoarthritis tends to affect older dogs, and it causes degeneration in cartilage. There’s no cure for it but treatments can help to alleviate symptoms. A nutrient-rich lifestyle is important for dogs to maintain the health of their joints.


Your senior dog might be showing some lumps, but not all of them are cancerous. That said, just as in humans, age is a risk factor for cancer in dogs.

Remember that it’s important to have your dog checked out by the vet at least once a year for a physical and to have cancer screenings if you’re worried about symptoms your dog is experiencing because not all tumors can be seen or even felt.

Heart Problems

Earlier we talked about heart disease, and this is common for senior dogs. It can also lead to congestive heart failure, which is when the heart can’t pump blood as well as it should. This causes fluid accumulating in the heart and lungs.

Kidney Problems

The kidneys can also start to lose their excellent functioning as dogs age. If your dog’s got chronic kidney failure, it can’t be treated but it there are treatments that can help you to manage it.

If your dog is currently on medications to treat other health conditions, you should also ensure that you have your vet check up on your dog every few months because these can potentially cause kidney problems. Keep your dog on a healthy diet as this will keep the kidneys in good condition.

Puppy Health Problems


If you have a puppy, it’s important to get them checked out by the vet regularly, especially if they’re showing signs of having a health problem.

Some health conditions can be more dangerous for puppies than they are for adult dogs because puppies are still developing. So, with that in mind, here are some common puppy health problems.

Intestinal Parasites

These parasites are common and your puppy might experience diarrhea or an upset stomach from them.

Puppies can even have parasites at birth, which they would have got from their moms, but you can treat them with various deworming treatments. Since worms are so common in puppies, it’s important to have them dewormed regularly.


This is a contagious virus that can be caused by puppies making contact with contaminated feces. It can cause a variety of symptoms, such as vomiting, diarrhea, and a lack of appetite.

Antibiotics are usually prescribed to treat it, but prevention is better than cure so ensure that you get your puppy vaccinated against it.

Low Blood Sugar (Hypoglycemia) 

You should ensure that your puppy’s fed three times a day to prevent drops in blood sugar. This is especially a health concern for small dogs. Signs of low blood sugar include lethargy and seizures.

You should also get your puppy checked out for diabetes. If it does have this health condition, it’s important to ensure you give it medication prescribed by your vet.

Kennel Cough

This is something that can strike puppies more than adult dogs, so get your puppy vaccinated against it. Don’t try giving any human cough medications such as cough drops until your vet has advised you to do so.

Kennel cough is like bronchitis, so your puppy will have a persistent cough. It can be treated with antibiotics. Just make sure you keep your puppy away from other dogs as kennel cough is highly contagious.

Related Questions

When is a dog considered to be senior?

Dogs are said to be senior dogs from the age of seven, but it does depend on the dog’s breed and size. Larger dog breeds tend to develop and age faster than smaller dogs.

What dog has lived the longest?

An Australian Cattle Dog from Australia lived for 29 years and five months before its death in 1939!


When your dog’s not well, it can make you worried about them, so it helps to know the most common illnesses and health conditions that can affect your dog.

In this dog health guide, we’ve looked at your dog’s health when it comes to various parts of their body, such as their skin, respiratory system, hips, and more, so that you can stay on top of their health and ensure that when any new or worrying symptoms show up you tackle them quickly with the assistance of your vet.

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