Like people, dogs can fall victim to a number of small health issues – not all are serious enough to warrant vet attention. But it’s challenging to tell. When do you run your dog to the vet? And what are minor issues you can treat at home? Those are good questions.
Sometimes what seems like minor issues are actually symptoms of a larger problem – sometimes they are minor issues for your dog. Paw irritation for instance can be an infection or irritation due to road salt. Nasal congestion can be seasonal allergies or a blockage that needs removing. Similarly, dry nose is not natural but might be a reaction to weather.
Here are four common dog health issues to understand:
1. Paw Pad Infections
Inflamed feet on a dog is called pododermatitis. Usually you’ll notice this for two reasons:
- There’s obvious redness or swelling of the paw pads or skin between the toes and
- Your dog is excessively licking or chewing their feet.
Note: paw chewing is sometimes also a symptom of anal gland issues.
Essentially, the paw pads are infected for some reason, likely caused by the licking. Licking increases the amount of natural fungal and bacterial organisms on the paws resulting in inflation. It’s important to determine the cause of the licking, or initially irritation — causes such as allergies, either to food or environment, can not be treated, according to VCA Hospitals, but can be managed when identified.
Other cause of paw infections are torn nails, ingrown toenails, and injured paw. Ways to avoid these paw infections include regular nail trims and treating any cut on the paw pad immediately with an anti-bacterial wipe or quick foot bath – then thoroughly dry to avoid yeast infections.
Note that dog paw pads should be rough and thick – the more they use them on a variety of surfaces, the better. Protection is the purpose of paw pads – soft pads tear easily. However, in extreme temperatures even tough paw pads need protection.
Use a dog paw wax, such as Musher’s paw protection, in cold weather especially climates where salt is used on city streets. (It gets everywhere). Similarly, on extremely hot days, test asphalt surfaces – if it’s too hot for your feet, it’s too hot for a dog’s feet. Hot surfaces can blister dog feet.
2. Dog Dandruff or Dry Skin
Dogs can get dry flaky skin – or dandruff – too. Dandruff is dead skin cells that shed from the surface of the skin appearing scaly debris on the dog’s fur or elsewhere. Clearly, this will be easier to see on dogs with darker fur. Fixing it depends again on what’s causing it.
Dry skin is usually the culprit, which can be remedied by hydrating the air in your home with a humidifier. Adding omega-3 fatty acids to your dog’s diet can also help – either in the form of supplements, dried fish chews like dried salmon skins, or cod liver oil drops in your dog’s regular food.
Regular brushing might help, and can’t hurt. Regular brushing not only helps remove debris and dead skins cells but stimulates oil production in the skin and blood circulation.
Bathing can help dry dog skin, but only with the correct shampoo. There are medicated shampoos available from the vet for dog dandruff, but likely all you need is a dog oatmeal shampoo to help reduce itching. Never use human shampoo on dogs because the pH level is different. Look for dog shampoos free from detergent, sulfate, and paraben.
However, if hydrating, brushing or bathing doesn’t work, you might have a more serious problem such as parasites or Thyroid disease, so a vet check is necessary. And here’s a creepy concern: if the dog dandruff ‘walks’ or moves on its own, you’ve likely got a cause of highly contagious mites, specifically cheyletiella mites. Get thee to a vet immediately.
3. Dog Nasal Congestion and Dry Nose
Dog Nasal Congestion
Dog nasal congestion, called rhinitis, is usually temporary and often a symptom of another issue. If a dog is panting more than usual or isn’t breathing effectively with his mouth closed, he might have a sinus issue. Canine congestion can result from seasonal allergies, dental infections and even something stuck in their nose … more common than you’d think. Lots of sniffing can lead to a few seeds or leaves being inhaled.
Most likely, though, dog nasal congestion is caused by a bacterial, viral or fungal infection. Clearly, extreme conditions visibly impacting breathing require veterinary intervention. Bacterial infections need antibiotics. Fungal treatments depend on the type of fungus, and x-rays or even rhinoscopy are required to rule out obstructions or tumours.
For mild cases of congestion, steam can offer some relief before the medication kicks in – sit your dog in the bathroom (not the tub), shut the door and turn the shower on until the room fills with steam. Additionally, humidifiers in the home during winter help sinus issues. Infections can last up to three weeks.
Dog Dry Nose
Dog noses should be cool and damp, but not wet or runny. Moist noses actually help regulate body temperature because dogs do not sweat but stay cool by panting – a fluid in the nose lowers (or warms in cold weather) the temperature of the air moving through to their longs. Clearly, dogs with long snouts do this better, and it’s why brachial dogs like pugs with pushed-in faces are more susceptible to over-heating.
Licking is very important to keep a dog’s nose healthy – your pup actually licks their nose to transfer scents to the roof of their mouth thus reading the world they’ve just sniffed. Licking helps keep a dog’s nose the right amount of moist and soft, so clearly don’t put any cream on it because it will end up being ingested.
If your dog’s nose becomes dry due to illness, allergies, keratin build-up or sunburn, there are a few things you can do – but cautiously. Most human meds are harmful to dogs. Dry nose is usually a symptom of a larger health issue, though an over-growth of keratin skin cells can make a dog’s nose rough.
For temporary relief of dry dog nose, you can use petroleum jelly – Vaseline – or nose balm, which usually contains coconut oil. But a vet check is best in case this is a symptom of a more serious issue.
4. Seasonal Allergies
Like people, dogs can have allergies, usually seasonal, that cause inflammation in the nose. In most cases, vet prescribed antihistamines and steroids will help clear up the symptoms but not cure the allergies. If you are directed to use over-the-counter products, such as Benadryl, make sure they contain antihistamine only.
Note that many human medications are highly toxic to dogs. For instance, avoid any product containing decongestants such as pseudoephedrine, or pain suppressants such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Only use human products if a veterinarian recommends them, and consult a pharmacist to find the correct product recommended.
Writer bio: Sherri Telenko has been a professional writer for decades and travel writer for the last two. She’s a member of TMAC (Travel Media Association of Canada) and Dog Writers Association of America, and travels almost weekly with her canine companion, Victoria.
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