Contagious Dog Illnesses

Contagious dog illnesses can be a nightmare for owners, particularly if you have just brought home a new puppy. The best way of preventing infection is to have your puppy vaccinated as soon as possible. Not only does this prevent your dog from contracting the illnesses, but it also helps to halt their spread to other dogs.

Airborne Dog Illnesses

There are several main ways a contagious dog illness can spread. Some of the most common diseases are spread the same way common colds and flus are spread among people, by dogs sneezing or coughing.

Canine distemper is one of the most widely spread dog diseases in the United States. It is spread through coughing and sneezing, as well as through urine, feces and even discharge from the eyes. The various dog illnesses that fall under the term "kennel cough," including bordetella, parainfluenza and coronavirus, or a combination of these, are also spread through the air.

Don't let your puppy play with dogs that have not been vaccinated, because puppies are particularly vulnerable to diseases like distemper. The symptoms can include coughing, sneezing, discharge from the nose and eyes, lack of appetite, vomiting or diarrhea. If you see any of these symptoms in your dog, you should take him to the vet right away.

Usually these illnesses are not fatal, particularly if treated quickly, but they can lead to complications such as pneumonia. Vaccinating your dog and thoroughly disinfecting his living areas regularly are the best preventions.

Rabies, which is spread through saliva (usually from a bite, rather than a cough) can only be prevented by vaccination and is almost always fatal.

Contaminated Ground

Many of the more serious dog illnesses are spread through contaminated dog urine and feces. These include canine parvovirus, canine hepatitis and leptospirosis.

Canine parvovirus, which is deadly in up to 90 percent of cases, is spread this way, and can live for months on any ground that has been exposed. It is highly contagious, and even taking your dog for a walk can leave him vulnerable. Symptoms include fever, vomiting, lethargy and bloody diarrhea.

Canine hepatitis, while usually not deadly, can lead to serious long term complications, such as kidney lesions. It is spread through urine and feces, as well as the blood and saliva of infected animals (which can include wild animals). The symptoms of hepatitis are similar to that of parvovirus, and may also include a tender abdomen and jaundice.

Leptospirosis is mainly spread through urine, including the urine of wild and domestic animals, so it can be found almost anywhere outside. It can also be transmitted to humans. Symptoms in dogs include a high fever, shivering, muscle tenderness, vomiting and drinking excessive amounts of water.

All of these dog illnesses can be prevented in your dog by vaccination, although leptospirosis vaccines offer only short term protection. You can also reduce exposure by preventing your dog from drinking from possibly contaminated water sources, and from playing in areas with known exposure to disease.

Getting your dog or puppy all the vaccinations recommended by your vet for your area is the best way to prevent your pet from becoming sick from a contagious disease.