Dog Diseases & Symptoms

There are many different dog diseases and symptoms that you might come across while taking care of your best friend.

Some dog illnesses are extremely contagious, severe, and potentially fatal, while others can be fairly benign as long as they’re recognized early and properly treated.

Knowing how to tell them apart, and when to get veterinary help, could mean the difference between life and death for your Rottie.

This is especially true if you’re a puppy owner. Puppies can get very sick, very fast, and they are very vulnerable to a whole spectrum of infectious diseases due to their immature immune systems. 

Our dogs are our ‘babies’ and we tend to do the ‘mommy’ or ‘daddy’ thing of panicking and fearing the worst at the first symptoms of dog illness.

Overreacting is not necessarily a bad thing, and it’s most definitely better to be safe than sorry. However, you can put your mind at ease by learning more about the most common dog health problems, and how to recognize them.

Your dog is relying on you to take care of him, so spare a few minutes to scroll through the information on dog diseases and symptoms below so you will know you are a responsible owner!

The list covers some of the most common dog diseases and correlative symptoms that you may come across.

Bear in mind though, that one particular symptom (ex diarrhea) can be an indicator of several different conditions. 

Vomiting can mean either your dog ate something bad or the kidneys aren’t properly working, or maybe a parasite infestation. 

You need to take other signs of illness and changes in behavior into account to figure out what is going on… 

Common Dog Illnesses and Diseases

There are far too many dog diseases and symptoms for me to list them all here, but I’ve covered the ones that you’re most likely to see.

Sometimes you will come across only one of the symptoms and sometimes the disease will be manifested through a combination of symptoms. 

Only a trained veterinarian can make an accurate diagnosis of course, but the list below will give you an idea of what your pup might be suffering from. 

For the benefit of better understanding the diseases, I separated the ones we described into two general categories – infectious and non-infectious. 

Some (not all) infectious illnesses in dogs can be prevented with regular vaccinations. We will mark the ones that your Rottie can get vaccinated against. 

Not all dog conditions are listed below. Some conditions, such as Pano, aren’t diseases, so if you don’t find what you’re looking for below, have a look at our canine health page where we have information on a range of other conditions.

Infectious Dog Diseases and Symptoms

Distemper (vaccine)
Viral. Highly contagious. Transmitted by air, feces or through discharge.
Discharge from nose or eyes. Coughing. Fever. Vomiting. Diarrhea. Lethargy. Loss of appetite. Weight loss. Muscle tremors or twitching. Paralysis or seizures. Thickened pads on feet and/or nose. If the neurological symptoms appear the prognosis is bad.
Parvovirus (vaccine)
Viral. Highly contagious. Transmitted by air, feces or through discharge.
Discharge from nose or eyes. Coughing. Fever. Vomiting. Diarrhea. Lethargy. Loss of appetite. Weight loss. Muscle tremors or twitching. Paralysis or seizures. Thickened pads on feet and/or nose. If the neurological symptoms appear the prognosis is bad.
Coronavirus (vaccine)
Viral. Highly contagious. Transmitted through direct contact or feces of an infected animal.
Diarrhea. Lethargy. Loss of appetite. Dehydration. Complications in dogs with Coronavirus are rare. 
Kennel Cough (vaccine)
Bacterial or Viral. Contagious. Transmitted by air.
Coughing. Sneezing. Wheezing, hacking or retching. Discharge from eyes/nose. Fever. Loss of appetite. Lethargy.
Rabies (vaccine – mandatory by law in most countries)
Viral. Contagious. Transmitted through biting (saliva) and scratching.
Behavioral changes – extreme aggression and/or fear are common. Hydrophobia. Constant irritability.  Foaming of the mouth. Excessive drooling. Loss of appetite. Fever. Breathing problems. Lameness progressing to paralysis. Seizures. Difficulty swallowing. Dropped jaw. Change in tone of bark. Lack of coordination.  Symptoms happen in 3 stages over the period of 1-2 weeks and the outcome is fatal.  
Lyme Disease (vaccine)
Bacterial. Transmitted by infected ticks.
Circular red patches on the skin. Swollen joints. Enlarged lymph nodes. Lameness and/or limping. Lethargy. Loss of appetite. Fever.
Erlichiosis / Anaplasmosis (no vaccine – being developed)
Bacterial. Transmitted by infected ticks. 
Weakness. Vomiting. Reduced appetite. Fever. Pale gums. Enlarged lymph nodes. Depression. Common diseases from ticks in Europe. 
Coccidiosis (no vaccine)
Protozoa-based infection (parasitic). Contagious. Transmitted through feces of infected dog.
Diarrhea (often pale grey/white). Vomiting. Lethargy. Loss of appetite. Dehydration.
Giardiosis (vaccine)
Protozoa-based infection (parasitic). Contagious. Transmitted by contact with infected water supply (usually streams, lakes etc.)
Watery diarrhea (sometimes bloody). Loss of appetite. Weight loss. Lethargy. Vomiting. Often in combination with parvovirus.  
Leptospirosis (vaccine)
Bacterial. Contagious. Transmitted through urine of infected animal, bite wounds or ingesting infected tissue.
Fever. Loss of appetite. Vomiting. Lethargy. Jaundice. Increased thirst and urination. Abdominal pain. Dehydration. 
Parainfluenza (vaccine)
Viral. Highly contagious. Transmitted by air.
Runny nose. Cough. Fever. Sneezing. Complications occur when there are secondary bacterial infections resulting in bronchitis and pneumonia. 
Hepatitis (vaccine)
Viral. Contagious. Transmitted through urine, feces or saliva.
Coughing. Discharge from nose/eyes. Fever. Diarrhea. Vomiting. Distended and painful abdomen. Eye discoloration – often mistaken with dog eye disease.
Heartworm (no vaccine – prevention with yearly medication shots)
Parasitic. Transmitted by mosquitoes.
Few symptoms in early stages. Later – Coughing. Breathing difficulties. Weight loss. Lethargy. Pale gums and anemia. Exercise intolerance. Various heart diseases
Mange (no vaccine)
Parasitic – skin mites. 2 types, Demodectic and Sarcoptic (contagious).
Sarcoptic is contagious. Intense scratching and biting. Hair loss. Inflamed Skin. Self-mutilation. Flaky skin. Demodectic isn’t contagious. It isn’t itchy. Hairs fall around the muzzle and the eyes. Affected paws. Transmitted from mother to puppies. Greasy or dry skin. Both diseases are one of the most common dog skin diseases.    

Non-infectious dog diseases 

Kidney Disease
Failure of kidneys. Can be chronic or acute.
Increased or excessive thirst and urination. Fever. Weight loss. Lethargy. Diarrhea and/or vomiting. Loss of appetite.
Liver Disease
Loss of liver function. Many things can cause it – toxins, cancer, cysts, and gallstones.
Progressive loss of appetite. Vomiting. Ulceration of the stomach. Diarrhea. Neurologic problems. Seizures. Jaundice. Blood Clotting Problems. Distended abdomen painful to touch. Excessive urination/thirst.  
Caused by disease, injury or hereditary factors. Chronic or acute.
Symptoms depend on the location of the problem and the character (chronic or acute).
Severe pain. Reluctance to movement. Exercise intolerance. Trouble standing. Difficult jumping. Reduced appetite. Sensitive to touch. Stiff or/and swollen joints. 
Wobbler Syndrome
Affects vertebrae in the neck. Progressive and degenerative. More common in large breeds, especially Great Danes and Dobermans.
Neck pain and/or stiffness. Weakness in legs (most often rear legs). Paralysis.
Addison’s Disease
Disease affecting the Adrenal Glands. Can be caused by tumors, infection or be genetic. Most common in Portuguese Water Dogs, Labradors and Standard Poodles.
Depression. Anorexia. Vomiting. Diarrhea. Muscle weakness. Shaking. Exhaustion. Weight-loss. Hair loss. Blood in feces. 
Cushing’s disease
Parasitic – skin mites. 2 types, Demodectic and Sarcoptic (contagious).
Opposite to Addison’s disease. Caused y tumors on the Adrenal Glands/Hypophysis, over-production of cortisol.
Excessive thirst/urination. Secondary diabetes. Barrel-like abdomen. Hair loss. Increased appetite. Low activity. Thin skin. Recurrent skin infections.  
Diabetes Mellitus
Endocrine disorder due to reduced production and distribution of insulin. Chronic dog illness that requires life-long treatment.
Excessive urination/thirst. Increased appetite (early stages). Reduced appetite (later stages). Acetone smelling breath. Weakness. Depression. Coma. Poor coagulation. Weight loss. Cloudy eyes. Recurrent urinary and skin infections. 
Gum diseases
Affecting part of the oral cavity or the whole oral cavity (stomatitis).
Poor dental hygiene, poor grooming, rotten teeth, broken teeth, immune-mediated diseases can provoke gum diseases. Plaque build-up supports bacteria growth that infects the gums – though the infection is only secondary. Common dog dental disease.
Bad breath. Tartar. Red line along the gum line. Swollen gums. Difficulty chewing. Difficulty picking up food. Tooth loss. Loss of bone around the teeth. Pain. Poor appetite.     
Atopic Dermatitis
Hereditary predisposition to develop an inflammatory and itchy skin disease. The body reacts to various environmental substances and allergens.
Inflamed and reddened skin. Itchiness. Intensive scratching and biting. Secondary bacterial and fungal skin infections. Smelly skin. Moist skin. Ear infections.
Most of the times it’s hard to find what a dog is allergic to. 
Anal Sacs Disease / Anal Sacs Abscess
In all categories and breeds of dogs. Improper grooming, wrong diet, lack of exercise, genetic factors can all contribute to the disease. No specific reason why some dogs have more problems than others. Easily manageable with regular veterinary check-ups and anal gland examination.
Dragging (scooting) the rear end on the floor. Excessive biting and licking of the perineal area. Wounds on the base of the tail. Painful squealing. Aggression if touched on the tail. Smelly and thick discharge. 

What to Do Next?

The above list isn’t exhaustive by any means, but it does cover some of the most common situations which both owners and veterinary experts encounter. 

You’ll notice how often symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, and lethargy appear. These three can indicate anything from a minor tummy upset to a major (and possibly life-threatening) illness.

There are no firm ‘rules’ to help you figure out whether your pup is sick, or really sick. Only you know your furry friend the best and it’s up to you to decide when to reach for professional help. 

The severity and frequency of canine illness symptoms, plus the alterations of your dog’s behavior give you some big clues.

For example, if your puppy or dog has had two loose stools during 12 hours, but is eating, drinking, and eliminating normally and is otherwise full of energy and seems happy, chances are that he’s not in any immediate danger.

Diarrhea could be due to him eating something he shouldn’t, ingesting too many treats, or a reaction to vaccinations or medication.

In this case, you can probably wait and see for another 12 hours or so before contacting your veterinarian.

When to Call a Vet?

But if your pup/dog is having repeated episodes of diarrhea, which may be getting worse, doesn’t want to eat or drink much, and is just lying around looking depressed, then he needs to be seen by a vet immediately.

These symptoms could mean that your pup has Parvo or some other serious condition, so there’s no time to waste in getting help!

Rottweilers are very vulnerable to Parvovirus, and the only hope a young puppy has of survival is early diagnosis and aggressive supportive care.

If your regular vet is closed, go to the nearest 24-hour emergency pet hospital. It is THAT important!

None of us want to think about our precious pet getting hurt or sick, but no matter how careful you are it CAN happen.

Rottweilers are a breed that tends to be expensive when it comes to veterinary care, so ensuring that you can afford to get your dog the help he/she needs (no matter what happens) is vitally important.

Covering the Cost If Your Dog Gets Sick

Unless you have a VERY healthy savings account, I’d strongly recommend getting health insurance for your dog. It’s a lifesaver, in more ways than one.

Pet health insurance can protect you from the high cost of vet bills and protect your Rottie’s health at the same time.

If you want to find out more, you can get FREE quotes and compare plans from today’s most trusted pet insurance providers right now. There’s no cost or obligation.

How to prevent dog diseases

The first thing to do to help your pup live a disease-free life is to follow strict vaccination and deworming protocols according to your veterinarian’s suggestions.

Always feed your dog quality dog food in proper amounts and keep the table scraps treats at the bare minimum.

A dog only wants table scraps to bond with you – it doesn’t mean they are hungry when they look at you with the puppy-look scam.

Regularly walk your dog and exercise to keep his body and spirit up. A strong body means strong health.

Never try diagnosing diseases on your own and give medications without consulting a veterinarian first. It’s always better to play it safe. Veterinary costs are huge, but you can’t put a price on your pup’s well-being.

Rottie owner? Get your Rottie featured on our site with a dedicated page

Simply fill out the form in the link with a picture and description and we’ll create a dedicated page on our site featuring your Rottie.

Click or drag files to this area to upload. You can upload up to 4 files.
So we can let you know when your page is live - nothing else!
About The Rotty lover 2159 Articles
My name is Dr. Winnie. I earned a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Duke University, a Masters of Science in Biology from St Georges University, and graduated from the University of Pretoria Veterinary School in South Africa. I have been an animal lover and owners all my life having owned a Rottweiler named Duke, a Pekingese named Athena and now a Bull Mastiff named George, also known as big G! I'm also an amateur equestrian and love working with horses. I'm a full-time Veterinarian in South Africa specializing in internal medicine for large breed dogs. I enjoy spending time with my husband, 2 kids and Big G in my free time. Author and Contribturor at SeniorTailWaggers, A Love of Rottweilers, DogsCatsPets and TheDogsBone