Common Dog Infection Symptoms

There are many different types of dog infections, such as distemper, kennel cough, parvo and coronavirus. Your dog could also suffer from a simple viral infection, similar to a cold in humans, a bacterial infection or parasite infection, such as roundworm or whipworm. Though these symptoms vary wildly in origin and severity, many of the symptoms are the same.

Viral Infections

Many viral infections have similar symptoms, depending on which part of the body they infect. Symptoms of distemper include eye and nasal discharge, coughing, diarrhea, vomiting and fever. The symptoms are so close to those of kennel cough that mild cases of distemper are commonly misdiagnosed as kennel cough.

There are very few symptoms of parvovirus, which is characterized mostly by vomiting and diarrhea, often bloody. Coronavirus infections are quite similar, but there is rarely any vomiting with coronavirus, which affects puppies more than adult dogs.

Bacterial Infections

Much like viral infections, common bacterial infections such as Leptospirosis have symptoms such as fever, shivering, sensitive muscles, vomiting and dehydration.

Bacterial infections often cause skin and ear infections, which are distinct from viral infections in that they cause scaly skin, skin lesions, excessive scratching and ear odor and discharge.

Parasite Infections

Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and tularemia are caused by tick bites. Symptoms of both Lyme disease  and Rocky Mountain spotted fever are fever, lameness, swollen joints and lymph nodes, lethargy and loss of appetite. The only difference for tularemia is milder symptoms, which consist of mild fever, lameness and lethargy.

Your dog can also be infected by several types of worms, such as hookworms, whipworms, tapeworms and heartworms. Symptoms of most worm infections include vomiting, diarrhea, dull coat and lethargy. Worms may be detected in the stool or vomit, but not always. A cough or pot-bellied appearance and abdominal pain is usually a sign of a serious infection.

Diagnosis of Infections

Because infections are so similar to one another, it's difficult to diagnose the exact infection without a consultation with a veterinarian. You may be able to eliminate certain illnesses based on your dog's lifestyle, but it's difficult to know for sure.

For example, if your dog receives monthly tick-repellent, it is unlikely that he has a tick-borne disease. If your dog has been vaccinated for kennel cough and parvo, you can eliminate those. If your dog has recently been dewormed or is on a worm preventative, you can eliminate worms.

By the same token, if your dog has recently been boarded without being vaccinated for kennel cough, that might move to the front of the list.

Depending on the likely causes, your veterinarian may do a fecal test, blood tests, urinalysis and physical exam to detect which infection is causing your dog's symptoms.

If your dog shows any of these common symptoms, there could be many causes. Often, the only way to know for sure is to consult a veterinarian. This will help you acquire the right medication for the offending virus and get your dog back to his healthy state.