Common conditions that can affect the health of dogs

Responsible dog owners ensure their four-legged friends are in good physical health. This involves taking dogs to the veterinarian at regular intervals, providing healthy food options and being aware of the more common (and largely preventable) conditions that can affect dogs.

• Ear infections: Dogs that scratch at their ears, continually shake their heads or have an odor in the ear might have ear infections. In such instances, vets will clean, drain and medicate the ear canals.

• Heartworm: Heartworm is a parasitic worm that lives in the heart and pulmonary arteries. The worms travel throughout the bloodstream and can harm other vital organs. Medication can prevent heartworm infection, which oftentimes is transmitted through mosquito bites.

• Parvovirus: Many dogs come in contact with parvo by touching or ingesting the feces of an infected dog in close quarters. Symptoms include vomiting, weight loss and lethargy. Parvo is highly preventable with a vaccine.

• Rabies: This viral disease affects the brain and spinal cord of all mammals. Once symptoms appear, rabies is close to 100 percent fatal, warns the ASPCA. Vaccination is essential to prevention, and most areas require rabies vaccines by law.

• Fleas: Fleas are parasitic blood-suckers that reside on the coats of pets. Scratching, hot spots, hair loss, and tapeworms (which are carried by fleas) can be symptomatic of flea infestation. Some people may notice actual fleas on their dogs, while others may identify the flea dirt against a dog’s skin. Flea prevention medicines and medicated shampoos can help keep fleas at bay.

• Diabetes: While not entirely preventable, as diabetes can be caused by either a lack of the hormone insulin or the body’s inadequate response to insulin, pet owners can manage the disease with the right foods and insulin injections

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