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Common Dog Health Problems and Solutions

Dogs can suffer from a variety of health problems ranging from intestinal parasites, skin disease and ear infections, eye problems, digestive upset and dental disease. Many of these conditions can cause uncomfortable symptoms for our canine companions. Any pet with severe or persistent symptoms should receive a full veterinary evaluation and workup. Pets with milder or acute symptom flare-ups can be often helped with over the counter medications and topical therapies.


Tapeworms are common in dogs and are usually transmitted by ingesting fleas at some point. Other dogs may become infected by ingesting feces of other animals. Tapeworms may cause abdominal bloating, as well as mild digestive upset and anal irritation and itching. Many animal guardians will find flat rice-like segments crawling out of the anus near the tail or even directly in the feces of infected animals. Virbantel is an excellent product that contains two strong worming medications affective against roundworms, hookworms, and tapeworms. HomeoPet Wrm Clear is a natural alternative that is also sometimes effective. In severe cases, prescription medications like Droncit, Cestex or Drontal Plus may be prescribed by some veterinarians. Because of the role fleas play in the life cycle of tapeworms, it is important to implement good flea control with topical products like Advantage II or Frontline Plus in both managing and preventing tapeworm infection. Because humans can become infected it is important to implement treatment and prevention strategies against tapeworms.

Intestinal worms

Worms are a chronic problem in dogs and are also a concern for families. Many pets' intestinal worms can infect humans, and children are particularly at risk. Intestinal worms are especially a problem in young puppies. Left untreated, worm overgrowth may lead to loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, anemia and even death in severe cases. Virbantel is a broad spectrum wormer that can control roundworms, hookworms, and tapeworms. Use Panacur C to control roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, and some tapeworms.  

Many animal guardians will use over-the-counter Ivomec to worm many dogs, however, careful attention to dosing must be followed to avoid overdose and toxicity. HomeoPet Wrm Clear is a natural alternative for some animal guardians, as is diatomaceous earth. Iverhart Max is a relatively new oral prescription wormer that is often quite effective in treating and preventing intestinal worms, as well as heartworms in many pets.

Hot spots

Hot spots often develop as a consequence of inhalant/contact allergies, food allergies or flea bite allergies. Use Be Soothed Tea Tree Oil Skin Relief to kill germs and heal hot spots. This topical spray also fights yeast, bacteria, ringworm and other fungal infections in dogs. HomeoPet Hot Spots is an excellent natural alternative for short term relief of localized topical skin inflammation.  In addition, Betagen Spray is also an effective option for hot spots.

Skin infections, hair loss, raw spots

When bacterial or yeast infections strike our dogs,  there are many effective topical treatment options that can alleviate symptoms. Three of my favorite shampoos in these circumstances are KetoChlor Shampoo, Malaseb Shampoo and Malapet Medicated Shampoo. All of these shampoos are effective when there is patchy hair loss and rashes from bacteria, ringworm or yeast.  It is also important to implement preventative flea control on all dogs with excellent products such as Frontline Plus, Advantage II, Comfortis or Revolution.

Itching and allergies

Topical shampoo therapy may also help lessen the discomfort of itching and allergies in affected dogs. Epi-Soothe Shampoo and Relief Shampoo are effective options. It is important to allow 7-10 minute contact time for the shampoos to have maximal effect. Oral antihistamines including Chlorpheniramine and Diphenhydramine also may help many allergic pets.

Oral fatty acids including Nordic Naturals Omega-3 Pet, Super Pure Omega 3 Soft Chews, Be Well and The Missing Link Ultimate Skin & Coat may often enhance the effectiveness of oral antihistamines or topical shampoo therapy. Yucca Intensive is nature's alternative to steroids without the steroid side effects. It is a natural remedy for itching anywhere on the body, especially the skin and may be used orally or applied directly to the skin. HomeoPet Skin and Itch is an often effective combination homeopathic remedy that may be helpful in some cases.

Dental disease

Dental disease is very common in adult and senior dogs and may affect over 3/4 of dogs at these ages. Left untreated, dental disease can lead to dental tartar buildup, gum inflammation/infection, drooling, mouth odor and eventual tooth loss. Dental disease may also lead to infection and inflammation of many other organ systems, including the heart, liver and kidneys. Many dogs need periodic ultrasonic scaling and cleaning at the veterinarian to maintain optimal dental health. Use C.E.T. Enzymatic Toothpaste with enzymes to attack bacteria and odor in your dog's mouth. Dogs love the taste so it is easy to gain their cooperation.

Veterinary dentists say that brushing several times weekly is the single best way to help your dog's gums and teeth. Adding C.E.T Aquadent or Be Fresh Dental Care Solution to your pet's water can help with oral health in those dogs who are difficult to handle. Two of my favorite natural products to maintain dental health include Leba III and Vetzlife, which often reduce bacteria and plaque in the mouths of affected pets.

Ear infections

Ear infections are very common presentations in small animal veterinary practice, and often are secondary to underlying inhalant/contact allergies and/or food allergies. Hormonal conditions such as a low thyroid may also predispose to secondary ear infection. Certain breeds like cocker spaniels and various retrievers are also prone to ear infections because of the anatomic shape of the ear canals and the buildup of moisture, wax and discharge.

Zymox Otic Enzymatic Solution Hydrocortisone Free and Zymox Otic Enzymatic Solution with Hydrocortisone are ideal for ear infections that occur in dogs who do not like to have their ears fussed with. Zymox does not sting or have an offensive odor, and can often resolve long-standing yeast and bacterial infections that have been nonresponsive to other therapies.

Ear cleaning and maintenance

Nothing does a better job than 1-800-PetMeds Ear Cleansing Solution at keeping the ear environment inhospitable for yeast and bacteria. Use Ear Cleansing Solution every time your dog is bathed or goes swimming to help maintain healthy ears. The ear cleansing solution may also be used safely and preventively in those allergic breeds prone to ear wax build-up and infection. Other compatible products include Epi-Otic Advanced Ear Cleaner and Dermapet malacetic otic to help keep ears clean and dry.

Ear mites

Use Eradimite Ear Mite Treatment to resolve irritating, itchy mite infections. Repeat every 2 days to kill mites and relieve your dog of suffering. Mites are contagious, so it is important to treat all pets that may be infected. Many animal guardians will over diagnose their pets with ear mites as a cause of ear discomfort and inflammation. In adult pets yeast and/or bacterial overgrowth are much more common causes of ear infections in pets. The only way of definitive diagnosis of ear mites is through a microscopic exam of ear discharge done by a veterinarian.

Revolution and Advantage Multi are two prescription items that are also effective against ear mites.

Red, watery, inflamed eyes

Eyes that are red and water are painful. Red and inflamed eyes may be due to allergens, foreign bodies or bacterial or viral infections. In severe cases eye ulcers or scratches on the cornea may be seen, which are considered medical emergencies. Deeper eye diseases including glaucoma and retinal diseases may also cause red and inflamed eyes. It is for these reasons that any pet with severely or chronically red or inflamed eyes should receive a full veterinary exam and evaluation. Immediately use LiquiTears to flush and soothe your pet's eyes. This will prevent further irritation and relieve dryness. Paralube Vet Ointment can also be applied to dry and inflamed eyes. I have also found topical cod liver oil, one drop in affected eyes 3 to 4 times daily, also effective in reducing redness, dryness and inflammation. If eye ulcers or other deeper diseases of the eye have been ruled out, than prescription Neo Poly Dex Ophthalmic can be helpful.


Excessive shedding can be unhealthy, cause pain and discomfort, and lead to skin problems. Excessive shedding can be due to poor diet or dietary allergies, as well as internal metabolic illness and disease. Any pet who chronically sheds should receive a full medical exam and evaluation. Shed Terminator Chews for Dogs is an excellent oral supplement that has a unique blend of vitamins and omega 3 fatty acids for a healthy coat. Excellent natural diets including Evo, Nature's Variety Dog Food and Halo Dog Food may also help reduce unwanted shedding by providing superior nutrition to our pets. Fatty acid supplements including Nordic Naturals Omega-3 Pet, Super Pure Omega 3 Soft Chews, Be Well and The Missing Link Ultimate Skin & Coat also make excellent supplements in helping reduce shedding when used long term.


Soft, loose diarrhea is the sign of a problem in the intestines, often an invasion by bad bacteria. There can be many causes of diarrhea in dogs, including parasites, viral infections, dietary/food allergies, dietary indiscretion, and toxicity, metabolic diseases of the liver, intestinal tract, pancreas or thyroid. Use Fast Balance G.I. and restore the friendly bacteria that return your pet's gut to normal. Feeding broth or a bland turkey and sweet potato home-cooked diet can also help a dog's digestive tract recover from mild or acute diarrhea

NaturVet Digestive Enzymes Plus Probiotics is an excellent source of digestive enzymes that can help with digestion and lessening diarrhea. Adding Vetasyl to meals can help as a source of soluble fiber, as well as help regulate bowel movements. If diarrhea persists or is bloody, a full veterinary exam and evaluation for some of the above underlying diseases is recommended.

Weight problems

Combatting obesity is a beneficial way to reduce joint dysfunction, and lower the risk of other health issues such as diabetes. I find that feeding dogs low carb, low grain diets in moderate amounts is very effective, along with a good exercise program.