As you walk your dog through your neighborhood, do they stop to sniff left-behind waste from another dog? Contact with infective feces can expose your furry pal to a whole host of infectious diseases, some of which may be life-threatening. Take a closer look at how infectious diseases are transmitted, the ones you need to watch for, and how to best protect your furry pal from harm. 

How is my dog exposed to infectious diseases?

Your dog is exposed to infectious diseases every day, but they rely on a strong immune system, appropriate vaccination, and parasite prevention to ensure they remain healthy. When out walking, your pet may contact a variety of infectious disease sources, such as other dogs, waste, parasites, and contaminated people. Most commonly, your dog can contract an infectious disease in:

  • Pet stores
  • Dog parks
  • Ponds, lakes, streams, and rivers

Anywhere dogs, people, or wildlife congregate or travel can create an infection hotbed, so keeping your dog protected is critical to prevent illness. 

How are infectious diseases transmitted to my dog?

Infectious diseases can be transmitted through a multitude of methods, which leaves your dog exposed to infection without proper protection. Your dog may become infected with a pathogen through the following carriers:

  • Blood 
  • Respiratory droplets
  • Saliva
  • Urine
  • Feces

Sick pets can cough, bite, lick, groom, or urinate and defecate around your healthy dog and infect them through carrier agents. You can indirectly infect your dog by carrying pathogens home on your clothes and shoes, while contaminated food bowls, kennels, and surfaces can also infect your pet.

What are the most common infectious diseases in dogs?

Infectious diseases that can affect your dog are too numerous to name, but some of the most common include:

  • Canine distemper — Distemper is an infectious disease that can affect many wildlife species in addition to dogs. Capable of causing gastrointestinal, respiratory, and neurologic issues, distemper is usually fatal but, if not, a dog can suffer lifelong neurologic problems.
  • Parvovirus — One of the most common diseases that affects young puppies or unvaccinated dogs, parvo is highly infectious, and easily passed through fecal contact. Parvo affects the gastrointestinal tract, and causes vomiting and diarrhea. 
  • Ringworm — Ringworm is not a true worm, but actually a fungal disease that can also infect people. Ringworm causes patchy spots of hair loss. 
  • Giardia — A protozoan parasite, Giardia infections can cause chronic or intermittent diarrhea that may be difficult to diagnose and treat. If your dog contracts Giardia from the environment, you may pick up an infection from your furry pal.
  • Canine hepatitis — Caused by a canine adenovirus, infectious hepatitis can be fatal for young puppies. Signs can include a slight fever, severe depression, and coagulation disorders. 
  • Kennel cough — A highly contagious respiratory disease, kennel cough, or canine infectious tracheobronchitis, can spread quickly in facilities where dogs are housed close together, such as animal shelters and boarding kennels. An entire canine population can be infected through respiratory droplets from coughing and sneezing.
  • Heartworm disease — Transmitted by mosquitoes, heartworm disease is a serious condition caused by heartworms that develop and live in the blood vessels surrounding the heart and lungs.

  • Lyme disease — Transmitted by black-legged ticks, Lyme disease is a chronic disease that can flare up at any time in infected pets. Signs include shifting leg lameness, fever, lethargy, anorexia, and swollen lymph nodes. 

These common infectious diseases, while by no means all-inclusive, can create serious, and potentially fatal, illness in your pet without proper protection.

How can I keep my dog safe from infectious diseases?

Many of these diseases, while serious, are preventable with the following methods:

  • Routine vaccination — Nothing is more important for your pet’s protection against many infectious diseases than routine vaccination on the appropriate schedule. Some vaccines need boostering annually, while others can be administered every three years. Check with your Somerset Animal Hospital veterinarian to determine your pet’s vaccination schedule.
  • Parasite prevention — Many infectious diseases are transmitted by fleas, ticks, mosquitoes, and intestinal worms, but year-round parasite preventives can protect your dog from disease. 
  • Good hygiene — Picking up after your dog and washing your hands will go a long way toward reducing disease potential. Keep your dog away from waste, wildlife, and strange dogs to minimize the possibility for disease transmission.

Is your dog up to date on their vaccinations? Ensure your furry pal remains protected from infectious diseases by keeping their vaccinations current. Contact our Somerset Animal Hospital team to schedule your pet’s next wellness appointment.