Glenbrook Cocker Spaniels

Healthy Dogs

Common Dog Health Problems


Dogs allergy symptoms can present in a variety of ways.  Some dogs experience frequent itching and/or sneezing, much like humans do.Often dogs with allergies that affect the skin scratch and lick repeatedly at areas until they get what are known as “hot spots.”  These are patches of the dog’s skin that are moist, warm to the touch, and cause discomfort to your dog.Skin allergies can become a vicious cycle.  Itching can cause scratching, licking and biting which can result in sores or “hot spots” like those pictured above. These cause pain and itching.

Common symptoms of allergies in dogs include:

  • Itchy back or base of tail (most commonly flea allergy)
  • Itchy ears
  • Ear infections
  • Coughing
  • Constant head shaking
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Paw chewing
  • Paw licking
  • Swollen paws
  • Rash
  • Secondary infections of the skin (bacterial or yeast infections)
  • Hair loss
  • Sneezing
  • Scabs
  • Hot spots

Common substances dogs may be allergic to include:

  • Tree pollen
  • Grass pollen
  • Mould
  • Dust mites
  • Dust
  • House mites
  • Dander
  • Cigar or cigarette smoke
  • Fleas
  • Flea control products
  • Cleaning products
  • Carpet shampoos (look for items specifically labeled “Pet Friendly”)
  • Insecticidal shampoo
  • Strong soaps, perfumes, or shampoos
  • Plastic food and water dishes
  • Pest control products (make sure to tell your exterminator that you have pets)


All dogs will scratch at some point, however when scratching and or biting of hair or skin or rolling / rubbing against items consitently then it might be a problem.  When a dog is itchyc they wiolo bite themselves, scratch and rub and may ultimately cause self trauma.  Their skin will be red, inflamed and sometimes broken and there may be hair loss in the inflammed area.  There are a number of potential causes which can generally be attributed to lparasites or allergies. 


Parasites, commonly fleas and mites, can cause an itch, but are the easiest to diagnose.  Fleas cause itchy skin when they bite and even one flkeas can actually casue a big issue if your dog is one that suffers from flea allergy dermatitis.  In such a case, your dog will be hyoersensitive to the fleas salivia.  A vet will determine is this is the case and provide suitable treatment. Mites are microscopic parasites that burrow into the skin causing immense irritation and itching.  A vet will conduct a skin scrapping in order to make a diagnosis.

Contact Allergies

Contact dermatitis is when an animal reacts or has an allergy to something they have direct contact with.  This is commonly things like plants, grass, dust mites, could or poison. The skin reation or itchiness will be where they have touched the allergen and this is usually on the feet, belly or underside of the dog.  Puppies are often very sensitive to some grasses as they are lower to the ground than more mature dogs. A vet will be able to make an educated guess on the allergen based on the presentation and location of the itch and skin effect. 

Itching/Scratching – remedies to calm itchy skin

Itching and scratching is the most common allergic reaction and it tends to become a vicious cycle.  Your dog will lick or scratch at his itchy skin. This results in making it itch more. He will continue to scratch.  The result: itchy, painful sores.

Cool Cloth: Cool water can take the itch out of irritated skin.  If your dog will tolerate it, run a washcloth under cool water and then squeeze the cool water over his itchy, irritated skin.

Oats are a natural way to eliminate itch

  • Grind a handful of oats in a food processor or blender until they are the consistency of flour.
  • Add the ground oat powder to a tub of warm water.
  • Rub on your dog.
  • Leave the mixture on your dog’s skin for 10 minutes.
  • Rinse.

Epsom salts naturally promote healing and reduce inflammation.

  • Place a washcloth in warm water with Epsom salts.
  • Gently apply this to the affected area of your dog’s skin for five to ten minutes.


Ear infections are a common canine health problem, and they can be caused by allergies, yeast, ear mites, bacteria, hair growth deep in the ear canal, and more. Symptoms your dog may have with an ear infection include:

  • Head shaking or head tilting
  • Ear odor
  • Vigorous scratching
  • Lack of balance
  • Unusual back-and-forth eye movements
  • Redness of the ear canal
  • Swelling of the outer portion of the ear
  • Brown, yellow, or bloody discharge

Always take your dog to the veterinarian if you think he has an ear infection. In most cases, cleaning and medicating the ear canal will quickly clear up an infection. However, surgery can be needed for chronic infections or if forceful head shaking results in the rupture of a vessel within the outer part of the ear.

Canine ear infections are most commonly caused by bacteria or yeast. Ear mites, excessive hair, moisture or wax, foreign bodies, and allergies, can all be contributing factors in the development of an ear infection. Because the ear canal in dogs is mostly vertical (unlike a human ear canal that is horizontal), it is easy for debris and moisture to be retained in the ear canal. Most commonly, ear infections can be treated with a professional cleaning followed by medication given at home. Your veterinarian may prescribe topical and/or oral medicine. It is not uncommon for some dogs to have recurrent ear infections.


The most likely cause is the accumulation of saliva and food debris in the lip fold areas. The damp, dark, warm environment is ideal for the growth of bacteria which starts to cause irritation in the skin, and eventually an infection. In the above photo you can see how my lip fold hangs down, creating a pocket for bacteria to gather in. Symptoms can be redness in the lip fold area, pain, the foul odour coming from the dog’s mouth, and severe cases can cause hair loss and scabbing.

There are several reasons this condition needs to be treated as soon as possible and prevented.

  • The first and most important reason is all the bacteria and infection in the lip fold area will be spread throughout your dog’s body. This is not healthy, and could eventually cause other health issues.
  • Once the bacteria has turned into an infection, your dog will need antibiotics to clear it up. We all know, antibiotics shouldn’t be overused. If you have a lip fold infection once, chances are good you will have one again down the road and need even more antibiotics.
  • In many cases, the lip fold dermatitis turns chronic. If you can catch it early the first time and work hard on preventative measures, you may be able to keep it from becoming a chronic condition.

What are the treatment options for Lip Fold Dermatitis?

  • Keep hair shaved in the lip fold area.  
  • When it is humid and during the summer, the dog is more prone to infection. Whenever the hair around the mouth is wet from drinking water, or walking in wet conditions, blow dry or towel dry the area. By doing so you dry the lip area which helps keep the bacteria from growing. 
  • Utilise an anti bacterial shampoo a couple times a month. 
  • Keep the lip folds clean. After meals and snacks, wipe the area down to get rid of excess food and saliva build up.
  • Your veterinarian may prescribe a cream or mousse to apply when you notice the lip folds getting irritated. I use Melasab. 
  • Brush your dog’s teeth and make sure they have good dental health. Any extra dental bacteria from teeth ending up in the lip folds can start an infection as well.



The grasses that causes the most issues are Spear Grass, Barley Grass and Wild Oats.The part of the grass that causes the problem is the hard case that surrounds the seed which has a sharp spikey head and an is arrow shaped with bristles that point backwards.  The shape allows the seed to easily penetrate the skin surface and once it enters the body it can keep travelling through the body.  The seed also carries bacteria which can cause infection amd a strong inflammatory reaction, with pain, swelling and pus. 

Diagnosis is usually confirmed by retrieving the grass seed from the site, usually under anaesthetic. Most vets will assume that any painful swelling on a dog during spring and summer, particularly one that is oozing pus, could be caused by a grass seed. This is especially so if the swelling is on the foot or if the coat has grass seeds attached.

Very occasionally, a grass seed will continue to travel until it comes out the other side of the leg or body. In most instances, however, the seed needs to be surgically removed. Abscesses need to be opened and drained to remove the pus and find the grass seed. It can be quite difficult to find the grass seed because it can disintegrate with the moisture. If it can’t be found, the abscess is usually cleaned thoroughly with saline in the hope that that flushes the material out. 

If the grass seed isn’t found and is still in there, the chance of the abscess reforming is higher. Sometimes, all an owner can do is wait to see if an abscess will reform there or elsewhere and do repeat surgery to try and find the seed again. Antibiotics are also often given to help fight the infection as well as pain relief and an anti-inflammatory.


Roundworms, hookworms and whipworms are common internal parasites in dogs. And although any worm infestation can make your pooch uncomfortable, some, like hookworms, can be fatal in puppies. Signs your dog may have worms include:

  • Diarrhoea (may be bloody)
  • Weight loss
  • A change in appetite
  • A rough, dry coat
  • Scooting on his bottom
  • Vomiting (with roundworms in particular)
  • An overall poor appearance

The best way to diagnose a worm problem is with a visit to the vet. Treatment depends on which type of worm your dog has, but generally includes an oral medication and may require follow-up. You should establish a regular worming system with all your animals. 


Usually spread in feces or during pregnancy or nursing, the roundworm causes a serious infection in dogs and puppies. The roundworm eats the food of its host and may cause diarrhoea and other symptoms. In puppies, roundworms can be fatal. Prescription and over-the-counter deworming products for dogs are very effective.


This parasite is more often seen in dogs than cats. Adult whipworms, although seldom seen in the stool, look like tiny pieces of thread, with one end enlarged. If a dog is presented with chronic weight loss and passes stool that seems to have a covering of mucous (especially the last portion of stool the dog passes). Although they seldom cause a dog's death, whipworms are a real nuisance for the dog and can be a problem for the veterinarian to diagnose.


These are also much more common in dogs than in cats. They are very small, thin worms that fasten to the wall of the small intestine and suck blood. As with roundworms, the hookworm larvae can also be transferred to the nursing pup from the mother's milk.  A severe hookworm infestation can kill puppies, often making them severely anaemic from the loss of blood.  Chronic hookworm infestation is a common cause of illness in older dogs, often demonstrated as poor stamina, feed efficiency and weight maintenance. Other signs include bloody diarrhea, weight loss, anaemia, and progressive weakness.


Heartworms are parasites that are able to live inside the arteries of the lung and chambers of a pet's heart and feed on surrounding blood. In severe cases heartworms can grow up to 30cm long and 2cm thick in populations of over 200.

The disease can only be spread between pets by mosquitoes. When a mosquito bites and feeds on the blood of an infected pet it ingests microfilariae. The mosquito becomes a host while the microfilariae mature. When the same mosquito bites another pet it infects the healthy pet with heartworm larvae. The larvae migrate through the pet's tissues and circulatory system, eventually reaching the heart and lungs where adult worms grow and reproduce.

How can you tell if a pet is infected? What are heartworm disease symptoms?

Heartworm disease symptoms include:

  • Dry and persistent cough
  • Lack of stamina when exercising
  • Weight loss
  • Dry coat
  • Listlessness or weakness

In more advanced cases there may be heart failure, distressed breathing, a distended abdomen, severe damage to internal organs, and sometimes collapse from sudden destruction of a pet's red blood cells. By the time an infected pet starts to show symptoms, at least half of the pet's lungs are involved: hence the importance of early diagnosis and prevention.  A blood test is the best way to tell if your pet has heartworm disease.

When to start heartworm prevention?

Puppies should begin heartworm prevention by at least 3 months of age. After this age your veterinarian will need to perform a blood test to see if your pet is heartworm free. Some nasty side effects can occur if a dog is already infected with heartworm disease when prevention is given.


Fleas are small insects that feed on blood of mammals. They have no wings and cannot fly but they jump from one host to another, laying numerous eggs in the process. Dogs and cats often get infested with fleas through contact with other animals or contact with fleas in the environment. The flea’s bite can cause itching for the host but for a sensitive or flea-allergic animal, this itching can be quite severe and leads to hair-loss, inflammation and secondary skin infections. Some pets, hypersensitive to the flea's saliva, will itch all over from the bite of even a single flea!

Unfortunately, fleas are annoying and persistent, so there is no instantaneous way to remove fleas from your dog or cat. However, pills and other spot-on chemical treatments have proven to be some of the fastest ways to rid your pet of fleas. Spot-on flea treatments tend to take a few days to work, and some only target flea eggs while other target adults, so it's important to buy the right one.


This topic is a rather unpleasant but important one: assessing your dog's poop for signs of a health problem.

Since our canine companions can't tell us when they have cramps, a tummy ache, or some other digestive upset, it's up to us to stay alert for signs of trouble. One of the best ways to do this is to monitor not only what goes into your dog, but also what comes out of him. Generally speaking, a healthy canine stool is moist and firm, and has a mild odor. tend to produce significantly smaller in size, firmer, and significantly less stinky.

What is Diarrhoea?

Diarrhoea is characterized by frequent loose or liquid bowel movements. It can be caused by something as simple as a change in diet or a more serious illness or infection. Diarrhea may be sudden in onset and short in duration. It can also last for weeks to months or occur off and on. A single bout of diarrhea is generally not a cause for concern in dogs, but if it persists for more than a day, it can lead to dehydration, or it may indicate an underlying health issue and should be checked out by a veterinarian.

What Causes Diarrhoea in Dogs?

  • Change in diet / water
  • Food intolerance
  • Ingestion of garbage or spoiled food
  • Ingestion of poisonous substances or toxic plant material
  • Ingestion of foreign body (for example, toy, rubber band, plastic bag, etc.)
  • Allergic reaction
  • Bacterial or viral infection
  • Internal parasites, such as roundworms, coccidia and giardia
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Kidney or liver disease
  • Cancer or other tumors of the digestive tract
  • Certain medications
  • Colitis
  • Stress
  • Hemmorhagic gastroenteritis

What Are the General Symptoms?

Loose or liquid, frequent stools are the most common symptoms of diarrhea in dogs. Other signs include flatulence, blood or mucus in stool, changes in volume of stool and straining to defecate. Lethargy, dehydration, fever, vomiting, decreased appetite, weight loss and an increased urgency to defecate may also accompany diarrhoea. If your dog’s diarrhoea is black, he could be experiencing internal bleeding of the stomach or small intestine and should be examined by a vet immediately.

Types of Dog Diarrhoea

  • A soft stool with no visible blood or mucous might indicate either a dietary change or indiscriminate eating. However, it can also signal the presence of an intestinal parasite.
  • A greasy-looking gray stool can be a sign of too much fat in your dog's diet, which can trigger pancreatitis, which is inflammation of the pancreas that can range from very mild to life threatening.
  • Watery diarrhea can be a sign of stress or a viral (e.g., parvovirus) or parasitic infection and can lead very quickly to dehydration, especially in puppies.
  • A soft stool containing or coated with mucous may indicate the presence of parvovirus or parasites.
  • A soft or watery stool with visible worms, eggs, or other uninvited guests is a clear indication of a parasite infestation.
  • A firm, soft, or runny poop containing blood or blood clots is almost always a sign of a serious health problem requiring immediate attention. Fresh blood indicates current bleeding, typically from the large intestine or the anus or anal glands.

How Do I Treat Diarrhoea?

It is often recommended that you avoid giving your dog any food for 12-24 hours while he’s experiencing diarrhea, but do provide plenty of fresh, clean water to stave off dehydration. Check with your veterinarian about the proper course of treatment for your dog’s specific case. For a few days feed cooked chicken and rice.  You might condsider purchasing a product called Peptosyl to assist in managing the situation.  Bring your dog to the vet if his diarrhoea continues for more than a day, or if you observe lethargy, vomiting, fever, dark-colored or bloody stools, straining to defecate, decreased appetite or unexplained weight loss.   If your dog seems fine after a bout of diarrhoea; meaning they are acting normal, with normal energy, it's safe to simply keep an eye on them to insure their stool returns to normal within a day or so.  But if you notice they are also sluggish, running a fever or feels warm to the touch, or there's a change in their behavior, you should contact your veterinarian.  


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Mornington Peninsula, VIC, Australia
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