Dog Health Part 9: Transmissible Diseases


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Dog transmissible diseases - Introduction


Did you know that in the United States, around 38% of households have one or more pet dogs? Being a dog parent has many positive effects on your life.

They promote emotional and social well being. In addition, dog ownership provides companionship and promotes an active and healthy lifestyle.

Dogs also help to relieve anxiety and stress.

 Even though dogs are beneficial to the health and wellbeing of pet owners, you should be aware that they can acquire dog transmissible diseases. 

Dogs of all ages including puppies, will often harbor harmful germs that can make their pet parents very sick. 

Bacteria and viruses from dogs can lead to a host of illnesses, ranging from skin infections to tapeworm and even rabies.

One of the best ways to protect yourself from dog communicable diseases is to regularly wash your hands after feeding, cleaning, handling, or caring for your dog.  

By taking your dog in for routine veterinary care, your pooch is less likely to get sick from the following dog transmissible diseases:


Canine Parvovirus


Parvovirus is the first vaccination that most puppies receive, and for a very good reason. 

If a puppy gets sick with parvovirus, it can lead to symptoms like loss of appetite, vomiting, profuse diarrhea, and regurgitation.

All these symptoms will eventually cause dehydration and even death.

Luckily, vaccination for this disease is very effective. Most veterinarians recommend this vaccination for all puppies. 


Canine parvovirus can spread orally via oral or fecal transmission.

If a dog is infected, it is vital to ensure they’re hydrated and getting all the required nutrients.

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, canine parvovirus is very contagious. 

There is no cure for this condition, only management of the symptoms. Vaccination is the only effective way of controlling and preventing this disease. 

To prevent the spread of such dog communicable diseases, the ASPCA recommends thoroughly cleaning water and food bowls, including toys.

In case your dog has contracted the disease, use a water and bleach solution to sterilize all areas that it came into contact with it. 

For more information, there's a more comprehensive article on canine parvovirus here.


Canine Influenza


This is also called dog flu and it spreads in the same way as human flu, via sneezing and or coughing.

Dogs recover from this viral infection by getting plenty of rest and fluids. 

If your dog has canine influenza, keep him/her comfortable and warm and let them recover naturally. This is one of the most contagious diseases in dogs. 


Canine influenza is easily transmitted in animal shelters, so it doesn’t spread easily among dogs at home.

Dogs that frequently require doggy daycare and or boarding may need the vaccine more urgently.

In fact, in many of these places it is a requirement. 


Treatment of canine influenza involves managing the symptoms and keeping the dog very comfortable.

Vaccinating your dog will reduce the chances of your dog contracting the virus. 


Canine Distemper


Canine distemper in dogs is a deadly virus. It was more widespread several years before a vaccine was developed for this disease.

Once infected, the virus quickly spreads to several organs, especially the nervous and respiratory systems, and the gastrointestinal tract.

Your dog may acquire this disease if it comes into contact with fecal or urine material or respiratory secretions of an infected canine. Once infected, your dog may transmit the virus to you. 


Canine distemper in dogs is highly contagious. 

Recovery depends upon the health of your dog and the strength of the virus strain. 

Distemper may cause total or partial paralysis. It can also damage your dog’s sight, hearing, and sense of smell. In some cases, it can be fatal. 

 Symptoms of canine distemper

If your dog is infected with canine distemper, the following symptoms of illnesses in dogs may appear:

  • Symptoms of a cold such as nose and eye discharge
  • Coughing
  • Diarrhea
  • Weight loss and lack of appetite
  • Fever

Your dog may also develop pneumonia, inflammation of the intestines and stomach, and bronchitis.

If the virus enters the central nervous system, it may cause seizures. X-rays and blood tests will indicate if your dog is infected.

Even after your pet recovers, it may remain contagious for a few weeks. 

Currently, there is no treatment for canine distemper in dogs. 

There is only a management of symptoms. Vaccination is the only way to prevent this virus from attacking your dog’s immune system. 

Note the nose discharge, and the extra skin over the nose.


Dog Leptospirosis


Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease. It impairs kidney and liver function in dogs and may lead to kidney failure.

This bacteria lives in the saliva, urine, and blood of the infected animal. 

It is easily transmitted if your dog comes into contact with the bodily fluids of an infected animal. The bacteria will enter via abraded skin or the mucous membranes.

This bacterial infection can be easily transmitted from your dog to you. 


If your dog is infected with dog leptospirosis, it may show symptoms such as lethargy, jaundice, impaired vision, diarrhea, lethargy, and muscle pain.

If the infection is caught in time, it can be effectively treated with tetracycline and penicillin drugs.

Vaccination is the only effective way to prevent this infection in your dog.




This virus infects the digestive tract. Your dog may become infected if it licks or ingests the feces of a dog infected with the virus. 

The virus may be transmitted by inhaling the sneezing and coughing droplets from an infected dog.

The coronavirus is very hardy. It is capable of remaining infectious in the environment for a long time.

Any areas that an infected dog comes into contact with should be thoroughly cleaned to minimize transmission. 


Coronavirus symptoms of illnesses in dogs include weakness, vomiting, lack of appetite, and sudden diarrhea with an orange tinge and bad odor. Care should be taken to prevent dehydration.

Getting your dog vaccinated is the only way to prevent infection. 

 P.S. This coronavirus is not the same strain or type as the COVID-19 rampant in the world today!



Referred to as kennel cough in dogs, this is a bacterial or viral infection of the upper respiratory tract. It can spread quickly between dogs. 

Kennel cough is most likely to occur in places where several dogs congregate such as a dog groomer or kennel.

In fact, it frequently infects dogs living in cities where the chances of dog-to-dog interaction is higher.

Your dog may acquire the infection by sharing a water bowl with other dogs(with the virus) or playing at the dog park.

Kennel cough spreads quickly through the aerosol route (i.e. by other dogs coughing and/or sneezing). 

Kennel cough in dogs is a collection of up to 20 different viruses and bacteria. These can result in symptoms such as runny eyes and nose.

The most recognizable symptom is a hacking cough that resembles a child with croup. As one of the most common dog kennel diseases, it’s the most common vaccination given to dogs.  

If your dog is going to be placed in a boarding facility, it can be a stressful experience.

This leads to a depressed immune system, making your dog more vulnerable to diseases like kennel cough. 

Bordetellosis, thankfully,  is not a serious condition. 

It typically goes away within 10 days. If the kennel cough is caused by a bacteria, then antibiotics will be required. 


Canine Herpesvirus (CHV) 


When it comes to the canine herpesvirus, puppies have the highest mortality rate.

If the virus is acquired by an older dog, they will develop mild symptoms such as a fever or respiratory problems. 

Most of the time, CHV goes unnoticed in older dogs unless they have a compromised immune system. The canine herpesvirus is capable of establishing latency, meaning dogs may carry it for life.  


Controversy for canine herpesvirus

Treatment for CHV is available, however veterinarians are confused about whether it can be used on puppies because most of them will die.

A vaccine for CHV is available in the United Kingdom. It is currently unavailable in the United States.

The best way to protect your dog or puppy from CHV is by preventing the infection in the first place. 

To prevent CHV in puppies, it is important to always keep them warm. 

Puppies are unable to effectively regulate their body temperature.

The canine herpesvirus thrives well in low temperatures. 




This is a fungal infection and NOT a disease caused by worms. 

It commonly affects dog skin.

Although it’s one of the contagious diseases in dogs, it occurs less frequently these days. The name ‘ringworm’ refers to the ring-like pattern formed by the fungus. 

Your dog may acquire ringworm if it comes into contact with an infected person or animal, similarly to tapeworms and roundworms.

The fungal spores can be dormant on brushes, furniture, combs, carpets, food bowls, and other surfaces for up to 18 months. 

Treatment of ringworm will depend on the severity of the infection.

The veterinarian will use a combination treatment which includes ointments, creams, antifungal drugs, and shampoos, most commonly the Curaseb spray below. 




This is one of the most contagious diseases in dogs. It is also the most well-known. 

Although there’s an effective vaccination against rabies, many people often let their guard down with this disease.

The terrifying fact about rabies? It is that it is 100 percent fatal in humans. 


This is why it’s important you don’t let your guard down when it comes to this extremely infectious disease. Routine vaccination is the only way of keeping your dog and yourself safe. 

According to the ASPCA, rabies spreads via the bite of an infected animal. Dogs who establish contact with animals like foxes, cats, and bats are at risk.

The ASPCA also states if your dog bites someone and there's no proof to show that your dog is vaccinated for rabies, quarantine or even euthanasia will occur.

The rabies vaccine is a legal requirement in most states. 

Why is the rabies vaccine important? Because there’s no cure for rabies once your dog acquires it. 

The only way to confirm if your dog has rabies is to perform a scan of the brain tissue after the dog is euthanized. 

To protect your dog legally and medically, it is imperative to get your dog vaccinated.


In dogs, the duration of the rabies vaccine lasts for 1 to 3 years. It must be administered by a veterinarian.

After administration, a rabies certificate is issued. This will be required when you’re traveling with your dog. 

 Symptoms of Rabies

Rabies symptoms of illnesses in dogs include extreme behavioral changes like apprehension and restlessness, both are worsened by aggression.


A dog with a friendly disposition will become irritable whereas an excitable dog may be docile.


The dog may snap or bite at any stimuli, including attacking inanimate objects and even humans. 

The rabid dog may constantly chew, bite, and lick at the spot where they were injured. A fever will also develop.


As the virus continues to develop, the dog will become hypersensitive to sound, light, and touch. They might hide and eat unusual items.


Paralysis of the jaw and throat muscles follows, leading to the most well-known symptom-foaming of the mouth.


Paralysis of the hind legs is also a possibility of leading to staggering and disorientation. 


Other symptoms of this disease include:

  • Weakness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Seizures
  • Death

Late stage paralytic rabies. RIP, buddy.


Canine Hepatitis


Although this disease is not seen as often, many dogs are still vaccinated for it. 

Canine hepatitis spreads from body secretions like saliva. It leads to liver inflammation and even death. 

Puppies are the most susceptible to this disease because their immune system is not fully developed. 


Lyme Disease


This is an infectious form of arthritis. Lyme disease is spread by ticks.

It is a bacterial infection. Some of the Lyme symptoms of illnesses in dogs include lameness or limping that shifts from leg to leg, swollen or warm lymph nodes, etc.

A blood test is administered to confirm the presence of Lyme disease. Treatment involves a round of antibiotics. 

Prevention of Lyme disease is possible through vaccination.

If you live in an area where deer reside, then it’s a good idea to get this vaccination. 

In addition, keep checking your dog for ticks. The ticks must be attached for at least 24 hours before they can cause the infection. 



Like humans, pets are vulnerable to contagious diseases in dogs. Timely vaccinations, treatment, and implementing preventative measures are the best way to protect your dog from these communicable diseases. 

about the author

Frank Harrigan

Frank loves tacos and dogs - the good, bad and ugly sides of dog ownership.

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