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Morbidity (Illness)

Dogs are susceptible to various diseases, ailments, and poisons, some of which affect humans in the same way, others of which are unique to dogs. Dogs, like all mammals, are also susceptible to heat exhaustion when dealing with high levels of humidity and/or extreme temperatures.[37]



Infectious diseases commonly associated with dogs include rabies (hydrophobia), canine parvovirus, and canine distemper. Inherited diseases of dogs can include a wide range from elbow or hip dysplasia and medial patellar luxation to epilepsy and pulmonic stenosis. Canines can get just about anything a human can get (excluding many infections which are species specific) like hypothyroidism, cancer, dental disease, heart disease, etc.

Two serious medical conditions affecting dogs are pyometra, affecting unspayed females of all types and ages, and bloat, which affects the larger breeds or deep chested dogs. Both of these are acute conditions, and can kill rapidly; owners of dogs which may be at risk should learn about such conditions as part of good animal care.

First generation hybrids (such as this terrier mix) often are healthier than either parent due to the genetic phenomenon of heterosis or "hybrid vigor".
First generation hybrids (such as this terrier mix) often are healthier than either parent due to the genetic phenomenon of heterosis or "hybrid vigor".



Common external parasites are various species of fleas, ticks, and mites. Internal parasites include hookworms, tapeworms, roundworms, and heartworms. See also CVBD (Canine Vector-Borne Diseases).


Common physical disorders

Some breeds of dogs are also prone to certain genetic ailments, such as hip dysplasia, luxating patellas, cleft palate, blindness, or deafness. Dogs are also susceptible to the same ailments that humans are, including diabetes, epilepsy, cancer, and arthritis. Gastric torsion and bloat is a dangerous problem in some large-chested breeds.


Mortality (Lifespan and causes of death)

The typical lifespan of dogs varies widely among breeds. Based on questionnaire surveys of owners in the UK, Denmark, USA, and Canada, the median longevity of most dog breeds is between 10 and 13 years.[38][39][40][41] The breed with the dubious distinction of the shortest lifespan (among breeds for which there is a questionnaire survey with a reasonable sample size) is the Dogue de Bordeaux with a median longevity of about 5.2 years, but several breeds, including Miniature Bull Terrier, Bulldog, Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, Bloodhound, Irish Wolfhound, Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, Great Dane, and Mastiff, are nearly as short-lived, with median longevities between 6 and 7 years.[41] On the other end of the spectrum, the longest-lived breeds, including Toy Poodle, Border Terrier, Miniature Dachshund, Miniature Poodle, and Tibetan Spaniel, have median longevities between 14 and 15 years.[41] The median longevity of mixed breed dogs (average of all sizes) is one or more years longer than that of purebred dogs (all breeds averaged).[40][39][41][42] As a rule of thumb, small breeds are longer-lived than large breeds, but some of the longest lived large breeds have median longevities nearly as long as those of the shortest lived small breeds, and some of the breeds with the shortest longevities are medium-sized.[43]

"Median longevity" refers to the age at which half the dogs in a population have died and half are still alive. Individual dogs, even in breeds with low median longevities, may live well beyond the median. The dog widely reported to be the longest-lived on record is "Bluey," purportedly born in 1910 in Australia. He died in 1939 at the age of 29.5 years. Bluey is usually identified as an Australian Cattle Dog, but the first Australian Cattle Dog breed standard was written in 1902,[44] only eight years before Bluey's birth. It is unclear how closely Bluey was related to the breed as it exists today. The Bluey record is anecdotal and unverified.[45] The longest verified records are of dogs living to 24 years.[45]





There are a great quantity of commercial foods and treats marketed for dogs, and not all are recommended as part of a balanced, healthy diet.
There are a great quantity of commercial foods and treats marketed for dogs, and not all are recommended as part of a balanced, healthy diet.

There is some debate as to whether domestic dogs should be classified as omnivores or carnivores, by diet. The classification in the Order Carnivora does not necessarily mean that a dog's diet must be restricted to meat; unlike an obligate carnivore, such as the cat family with its shorter small intestine, a dog is neither dependent on meat-specific protein nor a very high level of protein in order to fulfill its basic dietary requirements. Dogs are able to healthily digest a variety of foods including vegetables and grains, and in fact dogs can consume a large proportion of these in their diet. Wild canines not only eat available plants to obtain essential amino acids, but also obtain nutrients from vegetable matter from the stomach and intestinal contents of their herbivorous prey, which they usually consume. Domestic dogs can survive healthily on a reasonable and carefully designed vegetarian diet, particularly if eggs and milk products are included. Some sources suggest that a dog fed on a strict vegetarian diet without L-carnitine may develop dilated cardiomyopathy,[46] however, L-carnitine is found in many nuts, seeds, beans, vegetables, fruits and whole grains. In the wild, dogs can survive on a vegetarian diet when animal prey is not available. Observation of extremely stressful conditions such as the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, and scientific studies of similar conditions has shown that high-protein (approximately 40%) diets including meat help prevent damage to muscle tissue in dogs and some other mammals. This level of protein corresponds to the percentage of protein found in the wild dog's diet when prey is abundant; higher levels of protein seem to confer no added benefit.

Dogs frequently eat grass, which is a harmless activity. Explanations abound, but rationales such as that it neutralizes acid, or that dogs eat grass to induce vomiting to remove unwanted substances from their stomachs,[47] are at best educated guesses. Dogs do vomit more readily than humans, as part of their typical feeding behavior of gulping down food then regurgitating indigestible material such as bones and fur. This behavior is typical of pack feeding in the wild, where the most important thing is to get as much of the kill as possible before others consume it all. Individual domestic dogs, however, may be very "picky" eaters, in the absence of this social pressure. Dogs may also appear to eat grass when they are just running the blades through their mouth to gather information. Their sense of smell and taste may act together to detect if other animals have walked through their area or urinated on the grass.[47]


Dangerous substances

  • Human food. Some foods commonly enjoyed by humans are dangerous to dogs, including chocolate (Theobromine poisoning), onions, grapes and raisins,[48] some types of gum, certain sweeteners[49] and Macadamia nuts. The only known dangerous substance in chocolate is cocoa, so the danger of white chocolate is uncertain. The acute danger from grapes and raisins was discovered around 2000, and has slowly been publicized since then. The cause is not known. Small quantities will induce acute renal failure. Sultanas and currants may also be dangerous. Alcoholic beverages pose comparable hazards to dogs as they do to humans, but due to low body weight and lack of alcohol tolerance they are toxic in much smaller portions.
  • Plants. Plants such as caladium, dieffenbachia and philodendron will cause throat irritations that will burn the throat going down as well as coming up. Hops are particularly dangerous and even small quantities can lead to malignant hyperthermia.[50] Amaryllis, daffodil, english ivy, iris, and tulip (especially the bulbs) cause gastric irritation and sometimes central nervous system excitement followed by coma, and, in severe cases, even death. Ingesting foxglove, lily of the valley, larkspur and oleander can be life threatening because the cardiovascular system is affected. Yew is very dangerous because it affects the nervous system. Immediate veterinary treatment is required for dogs that ingest these.
  • Household poisons. Many household cleaners such as ammonia, bleach, disinfectants, drain cleaner, soaps, detergents, and other cleaners, mothballs and matches are dangerous to dogs, as are cosmetics such as deodorants, hair coloring, nail polish and remover, home permanent lotion, and suntan lotion. Dogs find some poisons attractive, such as antifreeze (automotive coolant), slug and snail bait, insect bait, and rodent poisons. Antifreeze is insidious to dogs, either puddled or even partly cleaned residue, because of its sweet taste. A dog may pick up antifreeze on its fur and then lick it off.
  • Animal feces. Dogs occasionally eat their own feces, or the feces of other dogs and other species if available, such as cats, deer, cows, or horses. This is known as coprophagia. Some dogs develop preferences for one type over another. There is no definitive reason known, although boredom, hunger, and nutritional needs have been suggested. Eating cat feces is common, possibly because of the high protein content of cat food. Dogs eating cat feces from a litter box may lead to Toxoplasmosis. Dogs seem to have different preferences in relation to eating feces. Some are attracted to the stools of deer, cows, or horses.[51]
  • Other risks. Human medications may be toxic to dogs, for example paracetamol/acetaminophen (Tylenol). Zinc toxicity, mostly in the form of the ingestion of US cents minted after 1982, is commonly fatal in dogs where it causes a severe hemolytic anemia.[52] Some wet dog and cat food was recalled by Menu Foods in 2007 because it contained a dangerous substance.[53]


Dog abuse

Cruelty to dogs refers to treatment that causes unacceptable suffering or harm. What qualifies as unacceptable suffering varies among countries and cultures. Cruelty can be passive, typified by simple neglect, or active, with malicious intent.[54]

Malicious treatment of a dog can lead to dog attacks upon not only the abuser but also innocent people.




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