The Ten Most Contagious Dog Diseases

Dogs are social animals.  That is one reason they fit into our lives so well.  Dogs, like humans, can spread diseases between each other.  Dog parks, doggie day care, and shelters are often the source of these diseases.  It is important to get your dog vaccinated if he is going to be exposed to other dogs.  Here is a list of the top ten contagious diseases dogs can get from each other.  Some of these are now rare, but they are still dangerous.

  1. Canine Distemper. This disease used to be very prevalent before a vaccine was available for it.  Now it is rare, but can be devastating when it strikes.  Distemper can be spread by bodily secretions.  It effects three areas of the body — gastrointestinal upset, upper respiratory issues, and the neurologic system, after which dogs could have seizures and die.
  2. Coronavirus.  Coronavirus makes your dog cough, vomit, have diarrhea, and sneeze.  It is spread by contact with bodily fluids.  Some veterinarians do not consider it a very serious issue any longer and don’t usually give the vaccine in an attempt to reduce the number of vaccines a dog gets.
  3. Canine Influenza. This is very like the flu that humans get.  Treatment is also similar to what people need — rest, lots of fluids, and lots of tender, loving, care.  This disease is often spread in boarding kennels and can sweep through one in a few days, making all the dogs who are not vaccinated for it sick.  Most boarding kennels and doggy daycares require that your dog have this vaccine before coming to the facility.
  4. Leptospirosis. This disease is spread through a dog’s urine.  Dogs often get this through contact with wildlife.  It used to be thought of as more of a rural problem, but now it is infecting city dogs, too.  The symptoms are fever, vomiting, thirst, jaundice, and either frequent urination or lack of urination.  Kidney and liver failure are also seen with this disease.  If treated early, the dog may recover, but it can take weeks or months for the dog to do so.  Some dogs never fully recover. This disease can spread to humans and require a kidney or liver transplant.
  5. Canine herpesvirus (CHV). This disease strikes at puppies much more than older dogs.  Older dogs might have a mild fever or respiratory problems, but may not show other symptoms.  They get over the acute symptoms of the disease but may become carriers of it for life.  Puppies can get this disease and carry it for life, if they survive.  There is a vaccine for this disease but it is not approved for use in the United States.  Puppies often die from this disease, so treatment may not be helpful.  Keeping puppies warm helps prevent this disease since it thrives in cooler temperatures.
  6. Ringworm.  This is a fungus, not an actual worm.  It causes a circular pattern on the skin of the effected dog.  It rarely effects a healthy dog, but can be seen in younger or old dogs that have compromised immune systems.  It is often found in shelters where dogs are under stress.
  7. Canine Hepatitis.  This disease strikes at the liver.  It is not seen much anymore because it is part of the vaccines every puppy should get.  However, it is spread by bodily secretions and your unvaccinated dog can pick it up any place dogs congregate, such as dog parks and kennels.
  8. Kennel Cough. As the name suggests, dogs usually pick this disease up at bording kennels.  It is actually a constellation of ten to twenty diseases that cause respiratory problems in dogs.  It can cause whooping cough like symptoms and make the dog, and the owner, miserable for as long as three weeks.  Bordetella is the most common of these diseases and the one most dogs are vaccinated for.
  9. Rabies.  This is perhaps the most famous disease that dogs can get and pass on to humans.  It is one hundred percent fatal in dogs and only two people have survived the disease.  Both of them were left with profound neurological problems.  While rabies is uncommon in dogs in developed countries because of mandatory vaccination requirements, it is common in places such as India, where dogs are not usually vaccinated for it.
  10. Canine Parvovirus.  This is a very contagious and devastating disease.  Many dogs do not survive it and those that do may have neurological problems for life.  Symptoms are severe diarrhea, vomiting, and regurgitation, which can lead to dehydration and death.  It most often strikes puppies, so is given as one of the core puppy vaccines.  If a dog in your household gets this disease, all of the bowls, crates, toys and other items your dog has touched should be washed with bleach to prevent any other dogs in the household from getting the disease.

All of these diseases, with the exception of ringworm and canine herpesvirus, have vaccines available.  It is up to you to make sure your dog gets the vaccines he needs to stay healthy.