Eight communicable dog diseases to be on the lookout for

Eight communicable dog diseases to be on the lookout for

Health & Safety

While many canine health conditions are not transmissible from dog to dog and some are genetically inherited and largely breed-specific, there are a number of transmissible diseases that can affect all dogs, and all dog owners should be aware of them.

These are conditions that can be passed from dog to dog, or contracted via a virus or bacteria that your dog might come into contact with when out and about. Read on to learn more about eight of the most common communicable diseases that affect dogs.


Canine distemper is an incredibly contagious viral condition that can soon spread from dog to dog. Fortunately, it can also be vaccinated against, and all dogs should receive a distemper vaccination as soon as possible, and get annual boosters to protect against the condition.

Distemper causes coughing, sickness and vomiting, fatigue, diarrhoea and fever. It affects the upper respiratory tract of the dog, and can interfere with breathing, and in the later stages of the condition, lead to seizures. Left untreated, canine distemper can prove fatal, particularly in younger dogs.


Canine coronavirus is a condition that is most likely to affect puppies and young dogs, before their immune systems have had the chance to fully develop. Coronavirus is, as the name suggests, a viral condition, and one that leads to serious diarrhoea, vomiting, weight loss, and fast loss of condition.

Coronavirus leads to serious dehydration, and so may mean that the dog affected with the condition will have an uncontrollable thirst. Coronavirus is serious and potentially can prove fatal, but again, a vaccination is available.


In some cases, parvovirus may be present simultaneously with coronoavirus, but it may also present as a condition in its own right. Parvovirus is an extremely serious condition, and one that often proves fatal, particularly in young dogs and puppies.

Parvovirus or parvo is the most contagious canine disease, and is usually passed from dog to dog by contact with contaminated faeces. Parvo infects the bowels, leading to vomiting and diarrhoea that are so protracted and severe that they may lead to death. Dehydration commonly accompanies the condition, and prompt veterinary treatment is vital in order to give affected dogs the best chance of survival.

Again, parvovirus can be prevented with vaccination, and it is vital to keep your puppies away from contact with other dogs until they have received their vaccinations.


Hepatitis is often thought of as being a human condition, but some strains of hepatitis are unique to the dog. Hepatitis is a contagious disease of the liver, which leads to liver and kidney damage, jaundice, fever, diarrhoea and vomiting, and serious abdominal pain.

Again, hepatitis can be vaccinated against, and it is spread via contact with other affected dogs or their bodily fluids.

Lyme disease

Lyme disease is a bacterial condition, and one that can affect both dogs and people. Lyme disease is a serious if rather rare illness, which leads to irreversible damage to the health of the affected dog, and presents itself with symptoms including lameness or limping that may seem to change from leg to leg, pain, fatigue, loss of appetite, and general malaise.

Left unchecked, Lyme disease can damage the heart, brain and kidneys, and lead to long-term health implications and potentially even death. Lyme disease can be spread from the bite of a tick, and so using a flea treatment product that also prevents ticks is recommended to prevent the condition.

Kennel cough

Kennel cough is generally caused by the Bordatella virus, although other viral infections can also lead to the development of the condition. Kennel cough is highly infectious as an airborne virus, and gets its name from its propensity to spread quickly between dogs kept in close quarters together. Kennel cough leads to severe and protracted coughing spells that may lead to gagging, and may be accompanied by a discharge from the eyes and nose. Vaccination for kennel cough is available.


Parainfluenza is related to kennel cough, and caused and transmitted via similar channels. It leads to a more severe and protracted version of kennel cough, often causing influenza, with symptoms including a severe, painful cough, fever, aches and pains, blocked nose, and discharge from the eyes and nose. Again, parainfluenza is easily spread between dogs, such as dogs that live together or play together in a dog park.


Leptospirosis can be transmitted by a variety of means, such as by contact with wild animals or with other affected dogs. However, the condition is generally water-borne, and can develop through drinking from or swimming in an affected pond or lake. It is important to take steps to ensure that any water that your dog comes into contact with when out walking is clean and safe for them to drink from or paddle in.

Leptospirosis leads to fever and jaundice, sometimes leading to internal haemorrhaging that can cause dark or bloody faeces. Leptospirosis is rare within the UK, as it is usually included within the usual package of canine vaccinations.



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