Common bacterial and viral illnesses in dogs
Learning about the most common diseases in dogs may help you recognize signs of illness in your own dog.
Canine bacterial and viral illnesses are very common in dogs and can easily be prevented through care, treatment and vaccination.
What is a canine bacterial illness?
A canine bacterial illness is any illness caused by a bacteria in the dog’s body.
Bacteria have a number of ways of entering the body such as through open wounds or sores on the body (which usually cause skin infections), ingestion of an infected material (such a raw meat or chicken), or through cuts and abrasions inside the body that allow the bacteria to travel outside of the GI tract.
Symptoms of a canine bacterial infection
Canine bacterial infections can cause various symptoms depending on their location, but are usually all resolvable through the use of antibiotic treatment. Signs of a bacterial infection can include vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, skin lesions, loss of appetite and more.
What is a canine viral illness?
A canine viral illness is an illness that is transmitted through a virus. Viruses are small bits of DNA that require a host cell (usually a cell in your dog’s body) in order to bind and reproduce as they are not their own organism. This means that viruses usually require a medium to transfer to other animals such as dog to dog contact, or through environmental surfaces where the virus has been shed. Viruses are not affected by antibiotics and usually require care until the dog has shed the virus itself. In some cases, dogs may have the virus for life.
Symptoms of canine viral illness
Canine viral illnesses can have the same symptoms as bacterial ones, so testing to determine if a cause is bacterial or viral is needed.
Can I prevent canine bacterial or viral illness?
Vaccines are the number one way owners can prevent their dogs from obtaining some of the most common viral illnesses. The annual canine vaccine contains treatments for Distemper, Parvovirus, Parainfluenza Adenovirus and Coronavirus. These viruses are most common in puppies, however any dog without vaccines or a stunted immune system can become ill. While vaccines are not always 100%, they are a great form of “herd control” making it much harder for the virus to spread throughout the dog population.
For bacterial illnesses, prevention can include keeping wounds and sores clean and dry to prevent bacteria from taking hold, or by feeding foods and snacks that are free from bacterial contamination.
What should I do if I suspect my dog has these diseases?
If your dog has become visibly ill, it is best to bring him to your local veterinarian for care. Symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy and loss of appetite can become serious if they last for more than a few days. Dogs can become dehydrated, leading to fluid imbalances and further problems in the body.
If a bacterial illness is suspected, your vet may take a culture (if the problem is outside the body), or make also take a blood or fecal swab (if the problem is internal) to check for bacterial presence, or viral presence. Once the cause of illness is determined, treatment can begin.
Bacterial illness usually requires a round of antibiotics, as well as treatment depending on the location. Infections in the skin and ears may need frequent cleaning and protection from licking and chewing, while internal infections may require hospitalization in severe cases, or home treatment of bland diets and extra fluids.
For viral infections, treatment depends on the type of virus. If a dog is severely ill with a disease such as Parvo, they will need to be isolated during treatment and may need to be hospitalized for care. More minor viral infections may just require home treatment of medications to treat symptoms and a bland diet or fluids to help the infection pass.
Natural remedies for treating bacterial and viral illnesses
Immune boosting supplements may help as a preventive remedy or may help in cases where antibiotics do not work or need a boost. Garlic, Myrrh and Echinacea are usually the go-to treatments for aiding immunity, but other supplements such as Hepar Sulph 30C in skin infections, Aconitum 6C for muscular infections and Astragalus, Cats Claw, and St John’s Wort for aiding in viral infections.
Careful consultation with your local holistic or naturopathic vet is also recommended. For owners who do not like to give many vaccines, these vets may be able to provide alternative treatment plans that help protect against viral and bacterial illness without needed to vaccinate as often. Your vet can also provide additional supportive care with supplementation to make recovery go smoothly.