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Most common reasons for a dog to visit the vet

With pet ownership on the rise, more Australians are visiting the vet for their dogs, more often.

So what are the most common reasons why dogs have to visit the vet, and how can you as their owner reduce their impact on your finances?

Vaccinations/ongoing care

As a pet owner you already may know that vaccinations are important for the ongoing wellbeing of your dog, but have you ever asked “What vaccines does my dog need?”

There is a range of vaccines for dogs that can protect against serious and potentially life-threatening diseases, and these should be administered according to veterinary advice to ensure strong immunity. The following core vaccines are recommended by vets for all dogs:

  • Canine distemper virus: affects your dog’s respiratory, gastrointestinal and central nervous systems;
  • Canine adenovirus (infectious canine hepatitis): affects your dog’s liver, kidney and eyes and can result in sudden death; and
  • Canine parvovirus: affects your dog’s gastrointestinal system and can also affect the heart muscles.

These are usually administered to puppies by an initial injection (at 6-8 weeks), then two booster injections (at 10-12 weeks and 16 weeks) followed by a 12-month booster. After this, the adult vaccination schedule is every 3 years or annually upon veterinary advice, depending on the type of vaccination used.

Depending on your circumstances, your vet can advise about the need for the following non-core vaccines:

  • Canine kennel cough: an infectious disease that affects your dog’s respiratory system and is easily spread wherever dogs socialize; and
  • Leptospirosis: a potentially fatal bacterial disease that can affect your dog’s kidneys and/or liver and is transmissible to humans. Leptospirosis is spread by the urine of rodents so speak to your veterinarian about whether vaccination is recommended, especially if you live near construction sites or areas of grain storage.

Fleas, ticks and worms can cause an urgent vet visit

Fleas are a menace to dogs, not only making them uncomfortable but also spreading throughout your entire house if left unattended, and to other pets. Ticks, on the other hand, are far more dangerous as paralysis tick bites can be fatal. Make sure you check your dog daily and be familiar with the signs of tick paralysis so you can contact your vet immediately if you suspect your dog has been bitten. Preventative treatment for ticks, fleas and mites are readily available and very effective if used correctly.

Next, how often should dogs be wormed? It depends on their age, but we advocate for frequent worming treatments to prevent intestinal and heartworms, starting from when your dog is a puppy. Always speak to your vet about the right treatment for your dog and keep on top of treatments with a routine care checklist.

The good news is that vets and pet stores have comprehensive flea, tick and worm treatments that can be purchased over the counter and administered by you at home.

Ear infections in dogs require immediate veterinary treatment

Ear inflammation is one of the most common medical conditions for dogs, making up a large portion of pet insurance claims in recent years.

Ear infections are itchy, painful and sometimes smelly, prompting an urgent visit to the vet. Any type of dog can be affected, not just dogs with large droopy ears. The long “L” shaped ear canals in dogs allow bacteria, debris and moisture to become trapped, causing infection.

There are many reasons why your dog may develop an outer ear infection (known as otitis externa) – allergies, foreign bodies such as grass seeds, ear mites, bacteria and yeast organisms, or excessive cleaning of the ear canal. Whatever the cause, dogs with otitis externa require veterinary treatment as soon as possible to prevent the spread of infection to the middle or inner ear, which is more serious and can cause balance problems, facial paralysis or deafness. Don’t try to treat the problem yourself, as home remedies could worsen the infection, and can lead to a ruptured eardrum.

The treatment your vet provides may include ear drops, ear cleaning and medications (including analgesia). This may require at least 10 to 30 days of treatment, with follow-up appointments. Most ear infections are easily cleared up with these measures, but chronic infections require treatment of underlying conditions such as allergies. More rarely, surgical treatment may be required. 

Cruciate disease – painful and expensive

Cruciate disease is another common reason for dogs to visit the vet. Rupture of the cruciate ligament is extremely painful, causing lameness in the hind limb. This can occur slowly over time, or due to sudden movements such as jumping up and twisting to catch a ball.  Dogs love to run around and play, but cruciate disease reduces their quality of life and can lead to arthritis. Your veterinarian may advise surgery, or cage rest and medication in some cases. Recovery can take weeks and will include physical therapy, medication and follow-up appointments.

Whilst these might be some of the most common reasons dogs have to visit the vet, it’s not an exhaustive list. Make sure you always monitor the health of your dog and contact your vet if you feel they may be suffering from an illness or injury.

You can’t always avoid a trip to the vet, but you can be prepared and help protect your back pocket against potentially huge bills with a pet insurance policy.