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BENTLEYBEAR 5451When we think of dogs our dogs getting contagious disease from other animals we sometimes forget that  people can also spread some diseases (such as mange, ringworm, kennel cough and canine influenza) from dog to dog through shared brushes, collars, bedding, etc. or by petting or handling an infected dog before petting or handling another dog.

We know not to let our new puppies play with dogs that have not been vaccinated, because puppies are particularly vulnerable to diseases like distemper. Many of the more serious dog illnesses are spread through contaminated dog urine and feces. These include canine parvovirus, canine hepatitis and leptospirosis. You can also reduce exposure by preventing your dog from drinking from possibly contaminated water sources, and from playing in areas with known exposure to disease.


 Here is a list of some of the more common contagious diseases that dog owners and handlers should be aware of:

 This list is provided not to frighten anyone nor to cause panic but for informational background only.  Once again we suggest strongly you speak with your veterinarian if your dog has any of these systems. 


Distemper - Highly contagious viral disease. Can be transmitted through discharge from eyes or nose, through the air, or on shoes, hands etc. Affects the lungs, intestines and brain. Symptoms include runny nose or eyes, coughing, vomiting and/or diarrhea, lethargy, loss of appetite. Can advance to include partial paralysis or seizures. Only treatment is supportive care such as encouragement to eat, fluid administration and veterinary care for seizures.

Hepatitis - Highly contagious viral disease which affects the liver. It starts in tonsils, spreads to lymph nodes, bloodstream and liver. Can be transmitted through urine, feces and saliva.  Symptoms are similar to Distemper. Severe cases can progress rapidly and cause sudden death. Treatment is supportive care.

Leptospirosis - Bacterial disease affecting the urinary system, including liver and kidneys. Mainly transmitted through infected urine.
Symptoms include loss of appetite, vomiting, lethargy, fever. More advanced symptoms include jaundice, increased thirst and dehydration due to frequent urination. Early antibiotic treatment can lessen the severity and/or duration of this dog illness. This disease is transmissible to humans.




Parainfluenza - A highly infectious viral infection of the respiratory system. Easy airborne transmission through coughing and sneezing. Symptoms include a runny nose, cough and fever. Treatment is mostly supportive, with antibiotics being given for secondary infections.

Parvovirus - An extremely contagious viral disease that attacks the intestines, lymph nodes and bone marrow. Rarer variety can attack the heart resulting in sudden death. Easily transmitted through contact with infected feces, either directly or on shoes, hands etc. Symptoms include extreme lethargy, loss of appetite, and severe vomiting and diarrhea (often bloody) which results in dehydration. Treatment is mainly supportive and relies heavily on intravenous fluids to counteract dehydration and intravenous antibiotics to attack sepsis infection.

Rabies - Severe and usually fatal viral disease that affects the brain and nervous system. Transmitted through saliva. Once symptoms appear this illness is always fatal to both dogs and humans. Symptoms - are behavioral and usually include unusual, irrational and frenzied aggression (if your dog was very shy you may see a increased affection or acute shyness if previously friendly). You may also see lack of co-ordination, seizures and the classic foaming at the mouth. There is no treatment and the disease is always fatal.

Bordatella - Also known as Kennel Cough, this is a highly contagious bacterial infection which affects the respiratory system. Transmitted through saliva or nasal discharge. Symptoms include runny nose and a lot of coughing and sneezing. Treatment in mild cases can just be supportive, but in severe cases or when secondary infections are present (such as pneumonia) antibiotics are used.

Coronavirus - A highly infectious viral disease that affects the intestines. It is transmitted through feces. Symptoms canine distemper 2- include diarrhea, lethargy, loss of appetite and dehydration. Treatment is supportive and concentrates on treating the dehydration.

Lyme Disease - A bacterial infection that's transmitted by the bite of an infected deer tick. This can affect the heart, kidneys and joints. Symptoms include swollen joints, apparent pain and lethargy. A 'bull’s-eye' type rash may appear at the site of the tick bite. Treatment is usually a several week course of antibiotics

Coccidiosis - One of the parasitic dog illnesses which affects the intestinal tract of puppies (most often seen in puppies between 2 and 12 weeks of age). This is caused by the presence of the coccidian protozoa, and transmitted through feces. Many adult dogs and puppies are carriers of this disease but don't show symptoms and eventually build up immunity to it. If a young puppy is stressed, or unwell, the disease can 'flare up' as a result. Symptoms - include diarrhea, often pale grey to white in color and very smelly! Vomiting, lethargy and loss of appetite are common. Symptoms can be mild to severe. Treatment is supportive, with fluids being given to combat dehydration. Plus the use of a sulfa-based anti-biotic to treat the disease, usually a 5 - 7 day course.

Giardiosis- also sometimes known as 'Beaver Fever' is caused by protozoa Parasites called Giardia, which are found in rivers, streams, lakes and other bodies of water that contain traces of animal feces. Symptoms - Many dogs with Giardia are 'a-symptomatic' which means that they don't show any symptoms, but continue to 'carry' and transmit the disease. However, the main symptom is diarrhea, which is often watery and foul-smelling. Vomiting, weight loss and lethargy may also occur. Treatment - antibiotics are required, and the most commonly used medications are Metronidazole (known as Flagyl) and Fenbendazole (Panacur). Both are effective, but your pup may need more than one round of treatment to eliminate the problem. Giardiosis can be transmitted to humans, so avoid swimming in water that could be infected, and follow excellent personal hygiene precautions of your dog gets this disease.


Sarcoptic Mange- This is caused by the sarcoptic mange mite.  This mange is very itchy and is also known as scabies when transmitted to a person.  It is highly contagious to both other animals and people. An injection and dipping in a lime-sulfur mixture is recommended. If you pick up scabies from your dog, contact your doctor for the proper medical attention. NOTE: Demodectic Mange (red mange)-This is caused by a reaction to the demodex mite. Most dogs will not react to this mite. Typically this mange will be seen in younger dogs with immature immune systems. Stress can also lower a dog’s immune responses to the point where this mite troubles them.  It is not contagious. A chemical dip will be repeated at specific intervals will be necessary to clear up this problem. The tendency to develop demodectic mange can also be related to genetics.  If your dog has a persistent problem with demodectic mange, spaying or neutering is recommended.



Other articles you might like to read:

PARVO, part 1 of 7
What is RABIES? Why is it the law? What are the risks?
Fran's story - A Canine Distemper Survivor

Also you might like to read these articles:  Disease Risks for Dogs in Social Settings  kennel cough