The 4 Most Common Canine Health Questions

Canine health is a concern for every dog owner, especially since dogs can contract so many ailments that are unfamiliar to us. However, by doing your research, you can begin to recognize symptoms of common illnesses and keep your dog healthy.

1. Why Is There Blood in My Dog's Stool?

One of the most common questions facing veterinarians is, "Why is there blood in my dog's stool?" It was once thought that bloody stool was cause for an immediate trip to the vet, but we now know that many of the ailments causing bloody stool aren't that serious.

If the blood is bright red, there's usually no cause for concern. However, if it continues for several days, consult your veterinarian. More serious causes can include parvovirus, which is a serious but treatable viral illness, and parasites, which can be easily treated with a dewormer. However, it can also be caused by ingestion of inappropriate objects, constipation, over-eating and rectal injury.

Black blood is more worrisome because that indicates internal bleeding. This is the blood commonly associated with cancers, blood clotting disorders and digestive ulcers. However, it can also be caused by something as simple as ingestion of blood or Pepto-Bismal.

2. Why Is My Dog Vomiting?

Vomiting either before or after meals is common and often nothing to worry about. However, if it persists for more than a couple of days, visit your veterinarian.

Many dogs vomit before or after meals because of acid reflux, which causes the stomach acids to overproduce, making your dog uncomfortable. If a dog eats too quickly or too much or waits too long before eating, this can result in vomiting, as can eating something he's not supposed to. Giving your dog smaller meals more frequently will often help clear up this problem.

Dogs can also vomit because of parasites, which often may reveal worms or blood in the vomitus. Poison can also cause vomiting, but it will cause a violent bout of it, not just a small amount of yellow bile after a meal.

3. Does My Dog Have Worms?

There are many parasites that can affect your dog. The most common types of worms are heartworm, whipworm, tapeworm, hookworm and roundworm. Symptoms vary depending on the type of parasite that your dog contracts but can include diarrhea, vomiting, fever and lethargy.

Some worms have very few symptoms, while some can be seen in stool or vomitus. The best way to avoid parasites is to use preventative medication. Heartworm preventative usually prevents against most types of worms.

4. Why Is My Dog Scratching?

There are three major types of allergies: flea, food and environmental. Even if your dog doesn't have fleas, an allergic dog can itch for weeks from one rogue bite. However, this type of allergy can easily be prevented with flea medication.

Food allergies are more difficult to determine because they can be caused by any number of ingredients. The best way to eliminate food allergies is a food trial, where your dog is placed on a food with a novel protein and vegetable source, such as rabbit and potato.

Once flea and food allergies are eliminated, environmental allergies can be diagnosed. These can be confirmed with a skin or blood test, but treatment is often difficult because you can't prevent your dog from breathing air.