Dog Disease Signs

Dogs are undiscriminating in their eating habits and will readily ingest potentially harmful foodstuff. While some foodstuffs, such as chocolate, have long been known to cause poisoning in dogs and cats, others such as grapes had previously been considered unlikely to cause problems and have emerged as a potential concern only in the last few years.

Vomiting within 24 hours of ingestion of grapes or raisins is the typical clinical sign observed. Diarrhea, loss of appetite, lethargy, and abdominal pain are also present. Partially digested grapes and grape products may be present in the vomit, fecal material, or both. Given the large variability in the tolerance exhibited by dogs, the ingestion of any quantity of grapes or grape products by dogs should be handled aggressively.1

Dogs can be affected with a number of diseases. The signs of viral and bacterial diseases vary a great deal and may affect many body organs. Some of them can go undetected for years, others may be life threatening and progress rapidly. Many bone, joint, muscle and heart diseases in dogs are hereditary and breed specific.

Acanthosis nigricans - A skin disease where the skin becomes thickened and dark, primarily affecting the axillae (armpits). Signs: darkening of the skin as a result of chronic inflammation.

Acral dermatitis - A skin disease caused by an animal's licking a localized area excessively, especially on the legs and paws. Signs: licking on the forelegs; pinkish-red, shiny, and sore skin; thickening of the skin and hair discoloration and loss.

Pomeranian dog lying on the ground

Acute moist dermatitis - Known as "hot spots," a localized area of a severely itchy, inflamed and oozing dermatitis exacerbated by the animal's intense licking and chewing at the spot Signs: the skin becomes red, hairless and oozes fluid from the blood (serum); scratching or chewing of the hair.

Amyloidosis - A condition where abnormal deposits of Proteinaceous material called amyloid are laid down in tissues and impair their function. Common in Akitas and Chinese shar peis Signs: weight decreased muscle mass, swelling of the limbs, sometimes sudden blindness; loss of appetite, nausea, increased thirst.

Atopic dermatitis - A skin disease caused by a dog's reaction to an inhalant allergy Signs: skin inflammation and itchiness; licking the paws, groin or armpits; rubbing the face; darkening of the skin; skin crusts, erosions, ulcers (result of infections).

Basal cell tumor - benign or malignant hard, raised nodules around the head or neck Signs: A cancer arising from a type of skin cell.

Bladder cancer - Transitional cell carcinoma (TCC) of the bladder is prevalent in Scottish terriers and West Highland white terriers. Herbicide exposure increases the risk of TCC, whereas increased consumption of green leafy and yellow orange vegetables the decreases the disease risk Signs: blood-tinged urine; straining in order to urinate.

Bloat - Gastric Torsion - This is a life threatening hereditary problem prevalent in deep chested dogs such as Standard Poodles, Dobermans, Great Danes etc. Breeders should be very aware of this problem. Be alert to symptoms: abdominal swelling and unproductive vomiting. Signs that your dog is in discomfort also signal an alarm-anxiety, whining, pacing, groaning, inability to find a comfortable position. Contact a veterinarian immediately. Time is critical. Signs: swelling of abdomen; drooling, retching, wandering restlessly; animals may become listless or show signs of pain; shock.

Bullous pemphigoid - An autoimmune (i.e., the body attacking itself) disease associated with the formation of painful blisters. 34. Bundle branch block: an abnormality of the electrical conduction mechanism of the heart Signs: blisters and ulcers on the skin.

Cardiomyopathy - A disease of weakened heart muscles. Associated with taurine deficiency in golden retrievers. Also, seen in giant breeds, boxers, American cocker spaniels, Doberman pinschers Signs: lethargy; exercise intolerance; weight loss, night cough, swelling of the abdomen.

Cataract - A cataract is any opacity or loss of transparency of the lens of the eye. The opacity may be confined to a small area of the lens or capsule, or it may affect the whole structure. A complete cataract affecting both eyes will result in blindness, whereas small non-progressive cataracts will not interfere with vision. You may suspect your dog is having visual difficulties and/or you may notice discoloration of your dog's pupil(s). Cataracts can be removed surgically. Signs: foggy or opaque eye lens with yellowish cast.

Color dilution alopecia - A form of follicular dysplasia causing various degrees of hair loss in middle-aged blue and fawn Doberman pinschers Signs: areas of blue or fawn hair become brittle, dry and dull; the hair falls out; the affected skin is flaky and prone to blackheads.

Conjunctivitis - Inflammation of the conjunctival membrane of the eye Signs: inflammation of the conjunctiva (protective membrane); discharge from the eye; signs depend on the type of the disease (allergic, bacterial, fungal or viral).

Copper-associated hepatitis - Abnormal copper metabolism: (usually Bedlington terriers or Doberman pinschers) an inability to utilize and store copper properly, resulting in liver disease and other problems Signs: failure to thrive, jaundice, ascites.

Corneal dystrophy - An abnormality of the cornea usually characterized by shallow pits in the surface Signs: white, opaque ares in some places of the cornea (both eyes); may cause swelling of the cornea.

Craniomandibular osteopathy - An abnormal development of the bones of the face and the jaw. Seen in West Highland white and Cairn terriers, among other breeds Signs: animals may experience intermittent but considerable pain when using their jaws due to the developmental joint disease.

Cushing's disease - A disease characterized by an excess secretion of corticosteroids from the adrenal glands Signs: excessive thirst, hunger and urination; pot-belly appearance; hair loss (body); panting, weakness, lethargy, skin infections.

Degenerative myelopathy - Progressive disorder primarily in German shepherd dogs where the spinal cord degenerates and causes rear limb weakness and incoordination. Can end up with cauda equine syndrome, where the nerve roots at the end of the spinal column become atrophied Signs: slow and painless loss of coordination in the hind legs resulting in partial paralysis.

Demodicosis - A kind of skin disease (mange) caused by microscopic Demodex canis mites living within the skin layers and producing an immunodeficiency syndrome Signs: hair loss; oily skin; skin thickening; sometimes bacterial infections.

Diabetes mellitus - A disruption of the body's ability to use carbohydrates/sugars. The diagnosis is made based on the typical clinical signs - increased eating, drinking, and urination, with weight loss - together with persistently elevated levels of glucose in both the blood and the urine Signs: increased appetite and thirst; increased fatigue, urination; weight loss; recurrent infections.

Distemper - Viral infectious disease Signs: fever, lethargy, runny eyes and nose, vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, coughing, yellow eye and nose discharge.

Eclampsia - Convulsions usually seen around the time of parturition (whelping) Signs: restlessnes, panting, heavy breathing, jerky movements, muscle spasms, loss of coordination, seizures (female dogs).

Ectropion - An abnormal rolling out of the eyelids Signs: the lower eyelids turn outward, causing the pink conjunctiva to be visible and contact with debris.

Elbow dysplasia - An abnormal development of the elbow joint Signs: lameness that gets worse with exercise; in severe cases elbows gets swollen and is held away from the body.

Encephalitis - An inflammatory condition of the brain causing signs of central nervous system dysfunction and epilepsy (seizures). A unique form of encephalitis is prevalent in the pug breed and is called "Pug Dog Encephalitis" Signs: depresssion, behavior changes, seizures, loss of coordination; sometimes fever.

Endometritis - Inflammation of the internal layer of the uterus Signs: usually no signs; when used for breeding affected females fail to conceive.

Entropion - Entropion (rolling in of the eyelids) and ectropion (rolling out of the eyelids) are conditions caused by abnormal eyelid position in relation to the globe itself. Entropion will often cause abrasions of the cornea and/or irritation of the conjunctiva. This is very painful and will require surgery to correct. Most cases of entropion and ectropion are heritable. Entropion or ectropion may also occur due to scarring from previous injury or surgery. Signs: irritation of the surface of the eye; excess tear production.

Epidermal dysplasia - Abnormal development of the outer layer of the skin. Common in West Highland white terriers and begins in puppyhood Signs: itchiness, loss of hair from feet and trunk; scaly and greasy skin; thickening and darkening of the skin; secondary bacterial infections.

Epilepsy - Epilepsy is the term used for recurrent seizures where no underlying disease process can be identified as the cause (also called idiopathic epilepsy)Signs:frequent or recurrent seizures.

Folliculitis - An infection of the hair follicles Signs: pustules within the inflamed hair follicles; often the follicles develop into widened cavities that drain on the skin in the armpits, abdomen, and groin.

Gingival hyperplasia - Overgrowth of the gum tissues Signs: overgrowth of the gum tissue; gums cover the teeth leading to periodontal disease.

Glaucoma - An eye disease caused by increased fluid pressure within the eye Signs: squinting, excess production of tears, oversensitivity to light; fixed stare, hazy cornea; eyeball may be enlarged.

Hemeralopia - Inability to see in daylight Signs: blindness in full daylight; affected dogs retain some vision in dim light.

Histiocytoma - A common benign tumor of certain skin tissue cells Signs: benign skin tumor with a round, raised, hairless, and often red appearance.

Histiocytosis - The most prevalent cancer of Bernese mountain dogs, usually leading to early deathSigns: skin nodules; weight loss and lethargy.

Hydrocephalus - A condition where there is an abnormal accumulation of fluid in the ventricles of the brain Signs: seizures and, sometimes, vision loss.

Hypothyroidism - A common endocrine disease where the body produces an abnormally low amount of thyroid hormones Signs: symmetrical hair thinning, hair loss; patchy hair loss; oily skin; increased skin pigmentation; thickened skin; ear infections.

Malabsorption syndrome - A disease where the intestinal tract does not absorb nutrients properly. Also known as protein-losing enteropathy as a consequence of inflammatory bowel disease. In Irish setters there is also a wheat-sensitive enteropathy Signs: large, greasy, and smelly stools; oily hair around the anus; dogs look malnourished although they eat a lot.

Myasthenia gravis - A syndrome characterized by muscle fatigue due to an autoimmune disease which produces chemical abnormalities of the muscles and nerves. An enlarged esophagus called megaesophagus can result and causes regurgitation of food Signs: full paralysis or paralysis that only affects face, vocal cords, mouth or esophagus.

Nasal solar dermatitis - A skin disease of the nose and muzzle which is greatly affected by exposure to sunlight. Common in collies Signs: crusting of the nose; nasal calluses.

Nodular panniculitis - A skin disease characterized by nodules of inflammation under the skin Signs: lumps in the fat layer under the skin which ulcerate and drain, leaving scars on the skin surface.

Osteochondrosis - A group of developmental diseases resulting in abnormal formulation of joint cartilage. Commonly involves the shoulder, stifle, hock or elbow Signs: lameness, altered gait.

Otitis externa - An infection of the external structures of the ear Signs: smelly, inflamed, hot ears; dogs shake their heads and scratch their ears.

Pannus - An immunologic eye disease characterized by abnormal growth of tissue over the cornea Signs: brown patch of pigment on the cornea, reddened by blood vessels.

Patellar luxation - A condition where the knee cap slides in and out of place Signs: hopping, not bearing weight on the affected leg.

Perianal adenoma - A cancer arising from a cell of a gland found near the anus Signs: benign tumor in the tissue surrounding the anus.

Protein-losing enteropathy - A relatively common genetically predisposed condition also called inflammatory bowel disease. Vomiting, diarrhea, and weight loss are the common signs. Seen in many breeds but mostly in soft-coated Wheaten terriers, rottweilers, Bernese mountain dogs, German shepherd dogs, golden retrievers, Dalmatians, Akitas, Irish setters, English setters. Signs: vomiting, diarrhea, fluid buildup under the skin or in the abdomen.

Pyometra - A bacterial infection of the uterus where it fills with pus Signs: discharge of mucus (pale green, creamy or bloody) from the vagina after the estrus stage of the cycle.

Sarcoptic mange - A parasitic infection Signs: chewing, licking, and scratching; elbows and ear tips are inflamed and lose hair.

Sebaceous adenitis - A skin diseases that has come to life in the last few years. Although not normally life threatening is does make the appearance of the animal unpleasant Signs: skin inflammation; yellow scales on the skin and hair loss.

Ulcerative keratitis - An inflammation of the cornea characterized by the formation of ulcers Signs: inflammation of the cornea resulting in its ulceration; squinting, excess tear production.

Vitiligo - Lack of pigment in the skin (called vitiligo in man and hypopigmentation in nonhuman animals). Common in rottweilers, Doberman pinschers, Old English sheepdogs and dachshunds Signs: parts of the body spontaneously lose pigment (either seasonally or permanently).

von Willebrand's disease - An inherited deficiency in one of the clotting factors of the blood Signs: unexpected bruising, nosebleeds, blood in the urine or feces.

Zinc-responsive dermatosis - A condition which responds to the administration of zinc in the diet Signs: scales on the foot pads and nose leather, around the eyes, ears, mouth, prepuce, and vulva; crusting and hair loss.


  1. Household Food Items Toxic to Dogs and Cats. Cristina Cortinovis and Francesca Caloni,* Front Vet Sci. 2016; 3: 26.

Dog Diseases

Congenital Abnormalities

Bacterial Infections

Digestive System Diseases