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 that 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. Kennel cough is a common communicable disease of adult dogs; your dog can be vaccinated against it, but the vaccine may not protect against all types of coughing.
Intestinal parasites can also affect adults. Your veterinarian can diagnose intestinal parasites from a stool sample and prescribe appropriate treatment as well as preventatives.
Heartworms can be deadly. You should have your dog tested yearly for heartworms, and placed on heartworm preventive, if you live in any region where mosquitoes are ever present.
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 so that a single flea bite causes the dog to itch all over (but especially around the rump). Fleas can carry tapeworms, so if your dog swallows a flea he can become infected. Ticks can carry several diseases such as erhlichiosis and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Keep your dog on a monthly flea preventative and check for ticks regularly. Mites can be even itchier than fleas. Sarcoptic mange mites cause hair loss and itchiness, especially around the arm pits and front half of the body. Ear mites cause itchy ears, so the dog may shake his head and scratch at his ears, which often have a dark granular discharge. Your veterinarian can diagnose these conditions and prescribe treatment.
Allergies most often arise in adulthood, with itchiness most often on the face, ears, groin, armpits, and between the toes. The skin often becomes infected from constant chewing. Allergies are most often to fleas, foods, or seasonal pollens. Your veterinarian can make a diagnosis with skin testing or by placing the dog on a different diet, and can make treatment recommendations based on the results.
Hereditary diseases may first emerge in adulthood. These can include diseases of the eyes, digestive system, musculoskeletal system, nervous system, respiratory system, 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 middle-aged dogs. 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, but an affected dog may be lethargic, lose weight, and have enlarged lymph nodes. Some forms may involve vomiting, abdominal distension, coughing, or drooling. Other types of cancer that may appear in middle age include hemangiosarcoma, osteosarcoma and mast cell tumors.
Gastric dilatation volvulus often first appears in 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 are a significant killer of adult dogs, with being hit by a car the top accident. Owners who were vigilant about puppy safety become complacent as they grow to trust their adult. 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 are ingesting foreign objects or poison, cuts from fighting with or being attacked by another dog, heat stroke, 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. If 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 cuase and then can prescribe a weight loss diet to get the extra pounds off.
A twice yearly check-up 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 check-ups, and if caught early, are much more likely to be treated successfully.