Common dog disease prevention starts with vaccinations and vet visits

Keith de la Cruz, D.V.M. Secretary-Treasurer of the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association (VVMA) and Veterinarian AtlasVet DC

Keeping your dog happy and healthy can go a long way in ensuring your own personal health, as well. Many dogs are susceptible to communicable diseases that can be passed along to humans and even other animals, e.g. rabies, canine influenza, and parasites like ringworm, fleas, and ticks. In order to prevent this from happening, it is important to educate yourself on these diseases, establish good communication with your veterinarian, and properly care for your dog. Here are some tips on how to keep your dog healthy by preventing diseases from happening.


Do talk to your veterinarian about vaccinations

Just as doctors recommend certain vaccines for humans to keep them healthy, veterinarians also recommend that dog owners vaccinate their furry friends in order to prevent the spread of various diseases, such as canine distemper virus, parvovirus, rabies, and others depending on your geographic location. Many states have laws requiring rabies vaccines for all domestic dogs and cats prior to a certain age. For example, Virginia requires the vaccine for cats and dogs prior to four months of age. In addition, dogs should be vaccinated for leptospirosis (a disease carried by wildlife that is transmittable to dogs and people) if they are determined by a veterinarian to be at risk. Your veterinarian will know which specific vaccines your dog needs and what schedule they should follow.

Do stay up-to-date on the latest dog health risks

When you are informed on the latest risks to your dog’s health, you will be better able to identify symptoms and pursue proper methods of treatment. Your veterinarian and local veterinary medical association will have information on disease outbreaks currently affecting the population. Has a rabid animal been in your area lately? Are there news reports of local animals coming down with a certain illness? If you have any questions or concerns, call your veterinarian and ask what precautions are necessary.

In addition, there are certain constant health risks that you should be aware of. Ringworm is a common ailment that can easily be passed from animals to humans through skin-to-skin contact and can cause painful skin irritation.

Do pay attention to and keep track of your dog’s symptoms

If your dog is normally happy and healthy, it should be easy to notice when something seems out of the ordinary. Even if it is a small cough, increased thirst, or something else, keep track of anything unusual you notice in your dog and report these symptoms to your veterinarian. It may be nothing, but it is better to be safe than sorry to keep your pet healthy and prevent them from spreading an illness to other animals or humans.

Do get a fecal test to test for parasites for your dog if you are concerned

If you are concerned about a disease your dog may have contracted, make an appointment with your veterinarian. They may elect to perform a fecal test on your dog to see if there are any parasites or parasitic larvae, such as ringworm, in your dog’s stools. These health threats can be picked up from exposure to other animals or contaminated material on the ground ingested by pets. Illness can be passed along to humans and potentially cause organ damage or blindness. Once a test is performed, a proper treatment regimen can be determined.


Do not underestimate the importance of regular veterinary checkups

Regular veterinary checkups are important for a variety of reasons, including disease prevention. Don’t skip out on a checkup because your dog seems healthy – routine examinations can often uncover hidden dangers that can be a threat to the health of your dog as well as your own.

Do not skip out on important personal hygiene measures

One of the best ways to prevent the spread of disease from animals to humans is to practice proper personal hygiene measures. This includes regularly sanitizing your home, especially items that your dog regularly touches. Also, don’t forget to wash your hands thoroughly and regularly in order to prevent diseases that may be carried through bodily fluids that you may come into contact with when handling your dog.

Do not try to treat your dog at home

While you may be tempted to try to treat your dog at home, this is not a good idea. A veterinarian will be much better able to safely and effectively diagnose and treat your dog, in addition to providing recommendations on how to prevent the spread of communicable diseases. Also remember that what works to cure ailments in humans does not work for pets, and giving pets human medicines is never advisable. If you have any questions about how to care for your dog, always ask a trained veterinarian.

Do not hesitate to ask your veterinarian any questions

While some questions may seem silly to ask in regards to your dog’s health, remember that no question is too small to properly care for your furry friend. Your veterinarian has seen countless situations of dogs with communicable diseases and is well versed in all matters related to pet health. They are ready and able to answer your questions to keep you and your dog healthy.

Disease risks for dogs include: canine distemper, canine influenza, canine parvovirus, external parasites (ticks, fleas, and mange), heartworms, intestinal parasites (roundworms, hookworms, tapeworms, and whipworms), kennel cough, leptospirosis, rabies, ringworm, and tick-borne diseases such as lyme disease.

Do not wait to take your dog to your veterinarian if there is a problem

When you notice that your dog may have a disease that could be passed on to you or other humans, act immediately – talk to your veterinarian as well as your own doctor to be safe. Call your veterinarian and schedule an appointment so that they can properly diagnose your dog’s health issue. Be ready to give a health history and list any unusual symptoms that you may have noticed recently. This could end up saving your dog’s life and help keep you healthy, as well.

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There are quite a few diseases and other illnesses that can be passed along from dogs to humans. Fortunately, if certain measures are taken proactively, these issues can be totally prevented or properly treated in a short amount of time. If you have any questions about the spread of diseases from animals to humans, or are concerned about your dog’s health, call your veterinarian to schedule an appointment. You (and your dog) will be happy that you did.

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Keith de la Cruz, D.V.M.Secretary-Treasurer of the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association (VVMA) and Veterinarian

Keith de la Cruz, D.V.M., is the Secretary-Treasurer of the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association (VVMA) and a veterinarian at AtlasVet in Washington, D.C. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in biology from the University of Maryland, Co...

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