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There may be times when your dog isn't feeling the best. The cause of their illness can range from a benign to contagious and potentially serious conditions like parvovirus. Here, our Halifax emergency and specialty veterinarians share some of the most common illnesses in dogs and their symptoms.

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What are the most common dog illnesses?

Monitoring your dog's health is a standard part of their medical care. This includes watching for signs of illnesses and bringing them to see a veterinarian when needed. Many of the illnesses experienced by dogs are quite common and can be treated easily if diagnosed quickly. However, when left untreated, many conditions can lead to serious complications and, in some cases, emergencies.

Here are some of the most commonly illnesses our Halifax veterinarians often see in dogs:

  • Cancer
  • Urinary tract problems
  • Parvovirus

Common Dog Illnesses & Their Symptoms

If your canine companion is feeling under the weather, then you may want to take a look at our list of common dog illnesses below. Think of this as a symptom checker to help you better understand what your dog may be feeling and what to share with your veterinarian.

Dental Disease

Dental disease and oral infections are common in dogs, especially those over the age of three. Younger dogs are more likely to experience gingivitis and a buildup of tartar, while older dogs may be more likely to have advanced periodontal (gum) disease.

Symptoms of dental disease in dogs are bad breath, loose teeth and changes in appetite. You may notice blood or pus coming from the mouth, drooling, lumps on the gums or under the tongue, and discoloration of the teeth and gums.

Ear Infections

Dog ears are shaped in a way that makes them susceptible to infections. Even so, allergies, are often the primary cause of this painful condition.

If your dog has an ear infection, they may scratch or paw at their ears, shake their head, or rub their ears. The ear canal may also be red or you might fund crusts or scabs around the ear. Hair loss around the ear, balance issues, walking in circles, hearing loss, and pain often accompany ear infections.

Skin Infections/Conditions

While you can expect your dog to scratch normally to some extent, excessive scratching or itching can indicate something more serious. Much like ear infections, skin issues are frequently caused by allergies, although yeast and bacterial infections can also be the culprit.

Common symptoms of skin conditions and infections in dogs include hot spots, scabs, bumps, sores, rashes, and redness.


Regardless of their age or size, dogs can develop several types of cancer, including skin, bone, and breast cancers, as well as lymphoma and soft tissue sarcomas. Surgeries and therapies are usually used in combination to treat this internal medicine condition.

 Common signs of cancer in dogs include lumps or bumps, abnormal bleeding, enlarged lymph nodes, wounds that don't heal, lameness, and swelling in bones or other parts of the body.

Urinary Tract Problems

Many dogs will experience some type of bladder infection in their life, potentially leading to urinary tract infections (UTIs). These can be caused by a variety of viral diseases, infections, or even inflammation.

There are many potential symptoms of a UTI, including frequent urination, excessive thirst, accidents in the house, dribbling urine, loss of bladder control, blood in urine, signs of pain while urinating (such as whimpering), and licking the genital area excessively following urination.


Parvovirus is a very contagious medical condition that can live on contaminated surfaces for months or years. The easiest way to protect your pup from this potentially serious illness is with routine vaccinations.

If your dog has parvovirus, symptoms may include loss of appetite, dehydration, vomiting, diarrhea (usually bloody), fever, and weakness.

Caring for Pets from Across Halifax

In some cases, a dog may experience an illness or condition that requires complex diagnostics and specialty care. Our team at Coastal Care Veterinary Emergency & Referral Hospital is here to help by offering the expertise of our board-certified specialists, who accept referrals from primary care veterinarians across Atlantic Canada. Using state-of-the-art diagnostic technology, we can provide an accurate and proper diagnosis for your dog. 

If your dog is experiencing a medical emergency caused by any illness, including those listed above, please visit our emergency department in Halifax right away. We provide emergency care 24/7, 365 days a year. While we accept referrals from primary veterinarians, they are not required for emergency veterinary care.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's health condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Please ask your primary care veterinarian for a referral to Coastal Care Veterinary Emergency & Referral Hospital. We provide care for pets in Halifax, including Dartmouth, Clayton Park and beyond.

The Most Common Dog Illnesses: Symptoms & Treatment

Caring for Pets in Atlantic Canada

Our specialists are pleased to accept new patients by referral from primary care veterinarians. Our emergency service welcomes all clients – 24/7/365. 

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