At Mountain View Veterinary Hospital we know it can be hard to decide whether your dog needs to see a vet. To help you make an informed decision, today our Vancouver vets share a list of common dog illnesses and their associated symptoms, along with a quick symptom checker.

What Do Your Dog's Symptoms Mean?

Have you noticed that your dog is lethargic, coughing or scratching more than usual? Although these symptoms are fairly common, they could be a sign of a illness or infection. Below, our Vancouver vets walk you through five serious, but common illnesses in dogs and what you should do if your pet is experiencing symptoms.

Common Dog Illnesses & Their Symptoms

As with people, there are countless different conditions that could negatively impact the health and well-being of your four-legged friend. However, there are a few that our vets see more than others. Below are 5 of the most common dog illnesses that all pet parents should be aware of: 


Parvovirus is a highly contagious, extremely serious viral disease that can threaten your dog's life. Common symptoms include severe vomiting, lethargy, dehydration and a lack of appetite, and bloody diarrhea.

This illness can spread to any animal, person or even object that touches an infected dog's feces. The most important step in prevention is to make sure your dog is vaccinated for parvovirus.

If your dog is experiencing any of these symptoms, you will need to contact your vet immediately. Parvovirus can become fatal very quickly.


Diabetes is as complex for your dog as it is for humans. The exact cause is unknown and there are a variety of symptoms, including lethargy and dehydration.

Type I diabetes is considered the most common form for dogs and requires your pet to undergo insulin therapy to survive.

Luckily, this illness is considered to be a manageable disorder once diagnosed — but untreated, diabetes can lead to additional health problems, like cataracts, coma and even death.

If you suspect diabetes in your dog, make an appointment with your vet as soon as possible for a diagnosis.


Unlike heartworm, ringworm isn't caused by a worm or another parasite — it's a fungus, and it's highly contagious.

This illness can cause skin lesions or patchy bald spots, but a dog can also carry the fungus without showing any symptoms whatsoever. 

Ringworm can spread quickly to other animals and even infect humans. Bring your pet in to see the vet if they are showing any of these symptoms.

Ear Infections

A common health problem for dogs, ear infections can be caused by everything from allergies to ear mites and bacteria. Typical symptoms can include repeated scratching, ear odor and a lack of balance.

While in most cases, your vet will be able to quickly clear up the infection through cleaning and medication, serious chronic infections can ultimately require surgery. One of the most common symptoms — head shaking — can also be so forceful that it can rupture vessels within the ear.

If your dog is shaking their head more frequently or violently than normal, you should make an appointment for a check-up. Your vet will be able to determine if treatment is necessary.

Kennel Cough

Similar to a chest cold in humans, this disease occurs when respiratory infections cause inflammation to your dog's windpipe and voice box. Dogs with kennel cough will have a dry, hacking cough that can sometimes bring up a foamy phlegm or nasal discharge.

Kennel cough often clears up on its own, but is another illness that is very contagious for other dogs. If you think your pet has kennel cough, you should immediately isolate him or her from other dogs and call your vet.

Dog Illness Symptom Checker

It would certainly be helpful if our pets could simply tell us when they don't feel well, but their inability to speak means it's up to us to notice whenever they seem a little under the weather or are behaving unusually.

To help you decide whether your dog should see a vet read through the symptoms below. Although this list does not cover all symptoms of illness in dogs, it may help you to know when your dog is feeling very unwell and should be seen by a vet.

Symptoms of serious illness in dogs can include:

  • Uncharacteristic changes in personality such as sudden aggression, short fuse, or lack of interest in play
  • Rapid weight loss
  • Constipation (could indicate an obstruction which is an emergency situation)
  • Accidents in the house when your dog has always been well trained
  • Repeated bouts of diarrhea
  • Repeated bouts of vomiting 
  • Breathing difficulties including coughing, congestion, wheezing, or uncharacteristic snoring
  • Bluish tinge to the lips, tongue and mouth
  • Lack of appetite
  • Relentless itching, scratching, licking or pawing at a particular spot on their body
  • Pawing at eyes
  • Seizures
  • Hiding, resisting being touched
  • Whimpering
  • Tail tucked and ears down

If your pooch is displaying any of the symptoms listed above, or behaving in a manner that gives you cause for concern, it's time to call your vet. When it comes to your dog's health it is always best to err on the side of caution.

Detecting and treating conditions earliest stages can help to save you money in the long run and save your dog from having to deal with a condition that has become more advanced or severe.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Is your dog exhibiting symptoms or behaviors that have your concerned about their health? Our experienced Vancouver vets are here to help. Contact Mountain View Veterinary Hospital today to book an examination for your dog.