The answer to this question greatly depends on your dog’s age, breed, sex, and neuter status. A recent study (published in BMC Veterinary Research in February 2021), though, examined patterns in large amounts of data to give us insight into common disorders to look out for in our pups, and to help veterinarians with recommending preventative measures.
Results of the Study
What Are the Most Common Illnesses in Dogs?
The most common specific illnesses that dogs were diagnosed with were:
- Periodontal disease (gum infection) – most common
- Otitis Externa (ear infection)
- Overgrown nails
- Anal gland impaction
Which Illnesses Are More Common in Male Dogs?
Injuries (wounders, lacerations, and injuries from trauma) were much more common in male dogs. Male dogs were also much more likely to have issues with aggression than female dogs, which may be part of the reason why they were more likely to be injured.
Other illnesses that were more common in male dogs were:
- Ear infections
- Foreign bodies
- Moist dermatitis (“hot spots”)
- Adverse reactions to medication
Which Illnesses Are More Common in Female Dogs?
Four specific illnesses were more common in female dogs than in male dogs:
- Urinary incontinence
- Urinary tract infection
- Mammary mass
- Overgrown nail(s)
The first three on this list were already known to be more common in female dogs, due to anatomical differences and hormone levels. The reason for overgrown nails being more common is unclear.
This study gives us an idea of what illnesses we might expect to see more commonly in our dogs. It can help us to identify signs and symptoms, to try and keep our pups as happy and healthy as possible.
There are limitations to this study, though. It’s simply a snapshot in time, rather than a study that follows dogs for several years.
How Can I Protect My Dog from These Common Disorders?
Dental disease was the most common illness seen in the study. While painful itself, dental disease can also make dogs more prone to other health problems, such as kidney disease or serious infections in the heart (“endocarditis”).
The signs of dental disease can be subtle, but can include:
- Bad breath
- Eating slower
- Chewing only on one side of the mouth
- Dropping food when eating
- Blood in the saliva
However, some dogs with dental disease may show no symptoms at all, despite being in pain. Regular dental checkups with your veterinarian will help to keep on top of this. Take a look at The Daily Dog’s blog post for pointers on brushing your pup’s teeth.
This is another big problem (no pun intended) and is also linked to many other illnesses, including anal gland impaction. Keeping your dog a healthy weight is one of the best things you can do to make sure that he or she stays healthy. Check with your veterinarian to see if your dog would benefit from losing weight, or look at a body condition scoring chart for guidance. Check out The Daily Dog’s blog post on obesity for more tips.
The signs of ear infections include pain, redness, odor, or discharge around the ear. Dogs may scratch at the ear or rub it along the floor. Any of these signs should prompt a swift trip to the vet. Do not be tempted to “wait to see if it gets better” or try using some leftover ear drops from last time.
Overgrown nails can cause real issues, particularly in senior dogs who are also struggling with arthritis. Get in the habit of checking your dog’s nails to prevent any problems from forming. If you handle their feet regularly, they will tolerate nail clipping better!
How Can I Keep My Male Dog Healthy?
Male dogs are at higher risk for traumatic injuries, so we should ensure our houses and yards are secure. If you walk your dog off-leash, regularly practice his recall so you can call him back from any dangerous situations.
Aggression is more common in male dogs, so if your dog starts to show changes in his behavior or becomes more difficult, seek advice right away from a qualified trainer.
How Can I Keep My Female Dog Healthy?
Mammary masses are much more common in female dogs and sadly are often cancerous. Spaying at a younger age (before 2) can help to reduce or prevent this, but be sure not to have them done too young or you can cause other issues. See The Daily Dog’s article here on spay/neuter timing for additional details, and ask your veterinarian for guidance.
Urinary incontinence is sometimes a long-term side effect of neutering, but is generally not life-threatening and can be treated with medication.
Certain illnesses are more common in certain kinds of dogs, and it can be useful to us as pet parents to know what to look out for in our dogs. The most important parts of keeping our pets healthy are keeping them at a healthy weight and making sure that their teeth are in good condition. Otherwise, we must simply remain vigilant, and see our veterinarians promptly if any concerns arise.