Expert Author Kay Ringelstetter

If you search for diseases that can affect our dogs, you will be overwhelmed. If you include all of those that affect every system in their body, the number of diseases will number in the thousands.

Perhaps it may be more important to focus on the most common diseases that can affect our dogs. By keeping yourself informed, you can help keep your dog healthy.

The most common disorder that affects dogs is dental disease. It affects 78% of dogs which is very surprising. Because dental disease can lead to kidney disease and liver disease, it is very important to prevent it. Regular examinations by a veterinarian are important and follow-up cleanings may be necessary.

The 2nd most common disorder is otitis externa or an inflammation of the ear. This inflammation may be due to allergies, infection, parasites, foreign body, hormonal abnormalities or heredity. You may notice telltale signs such as odor, discharge or excessive scratching or rubbing of the ears. Your veterinarian will be able to look in the ear to diagnose and offer treatment for this disorder.

Obesity is the 3rd most common health disorder in dogs. A study done in 2008 indicated that 44% of the dogs in the U.S. were overweight. Obesity is one of the fastest growing health problems in dogs today and can lead to a variety of other diseases and disorders. Excess body fact can affect the bones, the joints, the digestive system and the respiratory system - all reducing the well-being of your pet as well as leading to a reduced lifespan. Your veterinarian will weigh your dog and help assess any weight problems. Another sign is the inability to feel the ribs of your pet when you rub your hands along your dog's ribcage. If weight is an issue, work with your vet to develop a weight management program. The program will consist of an exercise plan and a healthy and structured diet.

Dermatitis, or skin inflammatory disorders, is #4 on our list. This common disorder may cause a reddening of the skin which often leads to a moist, red, weepy area under matted fur. These skin rashes are often caused by allergies, fleas, mange mites, a skin irritant, or bacterial or fungal infections. This is often a very frustrating condition for dog owners, as the cause if often never discovered. Work with your vet who will be the most knowledgeable in treatment to help soothe your beloved pet.

The 5th most common disorder is fleas. Fleas are more than just a nuisance to us and our dogs. They can also pose a significant health risk to dogs and to humans because the bites of these parasites can lead to major health issues. Searching for fleas on your pet is best done using a flea comb. Fleas are dark, copper-colored and about the size of a head of a pin. Also look for "flea dirt", which are actually flea feces. They appear as dark specks of pepper scattered over the skin surface. If you find evidence of fleas, use your veterinarian's skills to find the most up-to-date treatment options. There are currently new prescription medications that are finally taking the frustration out of flea control and prevention.

Although not listed in the top 5 dog diseases, Lyme Disease is very common along the northeastern seaboard and in the upper Midwestern states. For this reason, dog owners in these areas should be familiar with Canine Lyme Disease. This is a multi-symptom disease that is transmitted to dogs by ticks. Many dogs that are exposed to Lyme disease do not show any signs of illness, but may test positive on screening tests. In endemic areas (areas where the disease is most common) it is reported that up to 75% of dogs will test positive for exposure to Lyme Disease. It is believed that only 5-10% of these positive tested dogs will ever show clinical signs of the disease. These dogs may show symptoms of lameness, lack of appetite, weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty breathing or fever. Your veterinarian will be able to diagnose and offer treatment for your pet. Antibiotics are used for treatment of Canine Lyme Disease, although recurrence is quite possible. Vaccines are available for prevention.

It is important to be familiar with common conditions that may affect your dog. The best way to help keep your pet healthy is to educate yourself. Your veterinarian will appreciate your education and attention to the health of your canine friend. Continue to stay informed and educated to optimize the health of your dog.