Being informed about the most common health issues that dogs are likely to develop is very important as it can give you the mechanisms that can help you prevent them. But some conditions are almost impossible to prevent, such as cancer.
What are the chances of your dog surviving the top 20 health issues that dogs can get at one point in their lives? We’re answering this question and more in today’s article, so keep on reading!
Cancer has become a common medical problem that pet parents have to manage these days, and the reason for this is not that our furry friends are becoming unhealthier as time goes by but that they now live longer.
There are many types of cancer that can affect dogs but it’s generally acknowledged that it is more common in dogs that are older than 7 or 8.
Some of the most aggressive types of neoplasms that can affect our canine companions are hemangiosarcoma, bone cancer (osteosarcoma), and carcinomas. Osteosarcomas account for approximately 85% of all bone tumors.
Because there are so many types of cancer, it’s practically impossible to make a prediction about your pooch’s survival rate if he is diagnosed with one kind or the other.
For example, if your dog is diagnosed with hemangiosarcoma and undergoes treatment with chemotherapy and surgery, he has about a 10% chance of surviving for a year following the diagnosis.
The survival rate in mammary cancer, especially when it is diagnosed early, can be around 80-90%. In fact, following surgery and if the tumor is at an incipient stage, many dogs get to live for more than five years after being diagnosed with mammary cancer.
Bloat is a medical condition where a dog’s stomach effectively rotates around its own axis, blocking the blood flow and the digestive transit and putting pressure on all of the surrounding organs. In the past, it used to be considered a deadly health problem, and for a good reason, too.
If a dog ends up developing bloat, he should be brought to the vet clinic as soon as possible. But more often than not, time is of the essence and his condition can be so severe that no matter the type of treatment that the vet might choose, the dog might die anyway.
When treated early, about 90% of dogs that undergo surgery have a chance of surviving bloat. But if a part of the stomach tissue is dead by the time the operation is performed, the survival rate drops to 50%.
Even though not enough studies have been performed in this sense, it’s safe to assume that hypothermia in dogs has similar survival rates when put side by side to hypothermia in people.
First of all, hypothermia can be mild, moderate, and severe. Most mild cases have a survival rate of over 90%, but it could be lower in puppies and geriatric patients as they are not well equipped with the mechanisms to handle the abuse of cold weather.
Moderate hypothermia in dogs has a survival rate of about 20% to 25% whereas severe hypothermia has a survival rate between 40% and 50%.
While it used to be a rather deadly disease in the past, for both humans and animals, pneumonia has a much higher survival rate these days. However, in this case, too, the survival rate depends on a number of factors.
The virulence of the infectious agent, as well as the dog’s ability to fight off infections thanks to his immune system can influence the survival rate, the recovery time, as well as how a pneumonia case progresses.
But the infectious agent can often be very important. While the average survival rate of pneumonia in our canine friends these days is pretty high, with more than 77% of patients being discharged from the hospital (and it can go up to 94%), it also depends on the exact type of pneumonia the dog has developed.
Pneumonia is more of a clinical development/symptom rather than a disease in itself, meaning that it is the result of an infection or mechanical factor (ab ingestis pneumonia).
For example, if a puppy has developed pneumonia as a result of distemper, he has a survival rate of less than 20%. A healthy adult dog that has developed pneumonia as a result of kennel cough can have a survival rate of 80% or more.
Parvo can be a lethal disease, which is why you should always make sure that your canine buddy is vaccinated against it, no matter his age.
While the survival rate of dogs that get medical assistance is somewhere in the range of 70 to 85%, puppies that don’t receive the right care and are, of course, unvaccinated, can have a survival rate of just 15% or less.
Of all the dogs that recover, some will develop chronic health problems (about 10%).
The reason puppies are more vulnerable to this disease is that their immunity is less capable of handling the infection. However, in some cases, and also depending on the vaccination plan recommended to you by your vet, puppies can have a partial immunity that makes it easier for them to survive.
Some antibodies can be transmitted from the mother to the puppies and should be able to protect the puppies for a period of up to 6-8 weeks (until you give them their first vaccine).
The infection per se is not lethal, but the damage it does through dehydration and the animal’s inability to drink water and eat food can be.
Pancreatitis can be a quite difficult disease in people and dogs alike. Unfortunately, the pancreas is an essential organ as it plays two very important roles in the body — it secretes digestive enzymes, which ensure that a correct digestion process takes place, and it also secretes insulin, which is essential in regulating blood sugar.
So right from the beginning, it’s easy to tell that any pancreatic disease can have serious consequences on a dog’s general health.
The survival rate of people with pancreatitis is somewhere between 5 and 15% but in dogs, it is slightly higher — 27 to 58%. But it is practically impossible to predict the development of a pancreatitis case. Acute pancreatitis has a lower survival rate, especially if it is a specifically aggressive episode.
Uncomplicated cases can be managed with a low-fat diet, especially if the dog is otherwise healthy. Senior dogs can experience repeated pancreatitis episodes which can lead to chronic pancreatitis and in that case, the survival rate will be significantly lower.
- Kidney failure
As its name suggests, kidney failure can be a quite severe and hard to manage disease. The kidney contains an essential functioning unit called the glomerulus and when it gets damaged, the kidney basically becomes completely incapable of doing its job.
Like other mammals, dogs have two kidneys, but when kidney failure is developed in both of the organs, things can get very complicated.
Since organ transplants are a rarity in animals and since your dog’s kidneys are in charge of filtering all of the toxins in Fido’s blood and letting them out in the form of urine, making sure that your dog’s kidneys are in top health all the time is the best way of going about things. Make sure to take your dog to the vet clinic for at least one annual checkup.
The survival rate of kidney failure in dogs and cats is about 30 to 40%. Unfortunately, most dogs do not respond to any type of supportive care. The condition becomes more and more severe until approximately 60% of the patients are humanely euthanized.
- Eating grapes
A specific statistic for this problem doesn’t exactly exist and that’s because some dogs are brought to the vet clinic quickly while others are not, so they have a much lower chance of surviving eating grapes.
On top of that, the symptoms of grape poisoning can show up in a time span of 2 to 12 hours, so time is of the essence in this condition, too.
In other words, the survival and death rate is 50/50 and it only depends on if you’ve caught your dog eating grapes and taken him to the vet as soon as possible.
- Eating chocolate
Chocolate is extremely dangerous for dogs and theobromine poisoning is deadly in most cases. The reason for this is that even the smallest amount of chocolate can be lethal for our canine friends, and since they aren’t well-known for pacing themselves when they eat something they like, it’s quite likely that a dog will ingest much too much chocolate to begin with.
Another reason why the survival rate is so low, with less than 50% of dogs getting through the poisoning, is that theobromine is absorbed into the animal’s blood very fast.
So even if you or the vet attempt to induce vomiting, if your dog ate too much chocolate (and even a little is too much!), it might already be too late. Also, do not attempt to induce vomiting at home in the hopes that veterinary assistance is not going to be necessary — get in touch with your vet right away.
When it comes to distemper, the mortality rate of adult dogs that have contracted the disease is 50%. Unfortunately, in puppies it is 80%. What this means is that if you are the owner of a healthy adult dog that is not vaccinated against distemper, he has about a 50% chance of surviving.
If you are an unvaccinated puppy’s guardian, on the other hand, he has about a 20% chance of surviving. In some cases, this number is even lower, especially if the puppy doesn’t receive the care he needs or if his mother was never vaccinated against distemper, either.
Canine distemper is a viral disease that can be caught from other unvaccinated animals and while it has a variety of symptoms, the most common ones are gastrointestinal and respiratory clinical signs, along with spinal cord and brain inflammation.
It is a severe condition and its clinical development is often tragic for everyone involved. Get your dog vaccinated against this disease as soon as you can and make sure to stick to your vet’s recommended vaccination plan.
Even though in people it is entirely lethal and to date, there has been no case of a human who has survived the rabies infection documented, in dogs, things are a little more complicated.
But the disease is more often than not fatal, especially if the dog comes in direct contact with a rabid animal. Of course, dogs can also get the virus from the outdoor environment (leaves or the ground) if an infected animal’s saliva has ended up there.
An older study showed that out of a given number of dogs from which just one was vaccinated, some did have rabies antibodies. This has led to the assumption that if a dog comes in contact with a weaker strain of the virus, he might become immune rather than developing the clinical signs.
The actual survival rate has yet to be assessed since like in people, no dog that has developed the entire palette of symptoms of the rabies infection has ever survived it. And after all, it would be impossible for this to occur once the virus has affected the nervous system.
Pyometra can be deadly in some cases. First of all, when discussing therapies, there are two types of pyometra — open-cervix and closed-cervix pyometra. If the female dog’s cervix is open, it’s quite likely that with the right antibiotic and supportive therapy, the animal will be able to make a complete recovery.
However, if the cervix is closed and the infection was developed while the dog was in heat, for example, the only effective way of treating this disease is surgery. Total ovariohysterectomy is the best treatment at this time.
Open-cervix pyometra has a pretty good survival rate — 75% to 90%. But closed cervix pyometra has a much lower survival rate (25% to 40%). Worst of all, some pet parents can’t even tell that something is wrong with their dogs by the time it is too late.
While in a case of open-cervix pyometra, the vaginal discharge is going to be a worrying sign, so the dog is going to end up at the vet, this symptom does not show up in closed-cervix pyometra, so the entire discharge rests in the dog’s uterus (which can lead to septic shock).
Some studies suggest that more than 25% of leptospirosis cases in dogs are fatal, but this is usually due to the fact that the animals do not get the appropriate care right away.
Moreover, this is a zoonotic disease, which means that it can be transmitted to humans. Worst of all, it is completely preventable as there is a vaccine available against it and your veterinarian can administer it to your dog.
The 75% survival rate that we are mentioning here is a result of aggressive treatment plans which involve not just the use of antibiotics (as leptospirosis can be treated with antibiotics), but also fluid therapy and dialysis (as kidney failure is extremely common in patients that have developed the condition).
So, since polyvalent vaccines are readily available, why not protect not only your dog against leptospirosis, but also yourself and your family?
- Lyme disease
An actual survival or mortality rate of this disease doesn’t exist as of yet and that’s because it is rarely fatal. However, although it is preventable (thanks to vaccines and tick medication/spot-on solutions), it can cause severe medical complications, including nephritis which can lead to kidney failure.
Dogs that have Lyme disease can also show difficulty breathing, jaundice, high fever, loss of appetite, and in some cases, the development of the condition can be so severe that they might slip into a coma and die.
Rapid treatment is necessary in all diseases transmitted by ticks, and there are many of them. Along with Lyme, dogs can also develop anaplasmosis and babesiosis, as well as Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
In most cases, dogs respond well to the antibiotic treatment prescribed by a vet, although it is somewhat long-term — so you might have to give your dog antibiotics for a period of up to 30 days. Doxycycline is the antibiotic of choice in Lyme disease.
- Heartworm disease
When it comes to heartworm disease, you will be happy to know that a lot of progress has been made in the field of researching new drugs for it in the past several years.
While it used to be a death sentence, a heartworm disease diagnosis nowadays is no longer such as there are medications that can treat about 90% or more of the dogs that were diagnosed with the condition.
However, if you do not take your canine companion to the vet clinic at least once a year for a check-up and the condition is not diagnosed early, it will kill your dog in a span of just one to two years.
It is a silent killer, as some of its symptoms are loss of appetite and shortness of breath, and some dogs seem to recover and then get worse and recover time and again. Severe coughing and fever are two other very common clinical signs that pet parents might see in some dogs.
If Fido shows any of these signs, the best way of going about things is to test him for it. Most veterinary hospitals have such tests available and if your dog tests positive, there are further investigations that he will need (such as imaging methods).
- Fungal diseases
While some fungal diseases can cause considerable morbidity and mortality in both cats and dogs, most of them are completely treatable. Furthermore, since there are so many types of fungal diseases, an exact survival rate of all does not exist.
But you should know that if your dog does catch a fungus from somewhere or another animal, if you take him to the vet as soon as you see that something is wrong, he has a very high chance of recovering completely.
Although dogs can catch a very large array of fungal infections, one of the most dangerous ones by far is Coccidioidomycosis. Also known as Valley Fever, this fungal disease causes a variety of symptoms which can range from pain and lameness to seizures, localized swelling, weight loss, anorexia, and a persistent cough. The disease primarily affects the respiratory tract (and the lungs) so if you see any suspicious symptoms in your dog, make sure to get to the vet right away.
- Kennel cough
Despite it being one of the most contagious diseases to affect our canine friends, kennel cough actually has a rather low mortality rate. Only 1% to 8% of all dogs that get the infection actually die, which means that even if your pooch catches it, he has a survival rate of over 90%.
Naturally, the survival rate can be lower in cases where the dog’s immune system is compromised and he can’t handle the abuse of the condition and the treatment. Puppies and senior dogs are most likely to be severely affected by kennel cough, but healthy, adult dogs will most likely not die from the infection, especially if they get the right treatment at the right time.
However, that doesn’t mean that a dog cannot develop an additional infection if the primary one is not treated or if he is kept in unsanitary conditions while being treated for kennel cough. Secondary viral and bacterial infections can be common in dogs that have kennel cough to the point that they lead to hemorrhagic pneumonia.
Fatal bronchopneumonia is particularly common in puppies, so make sure you get your dog vaccinated against this disease and avoid kennels where dogs haven’t been immunized against it.
- Drinking antifreeze
The mortality rate of antifreeze poisoning in dogs is through the roof. Over 90% if not more of all dogs that drink antifreeze or even taste it end up dying. By the way, antifreeze is just as toxic to people, too, so make sure you always keep it in a clearly marked bottle.
The toxicity of this substance is so high that if a small puppy walks through some spilled antifreeze and then licks his paws, he can die in a few hours.
A medium dog breed is slightly more resistant, but even then, the amount of antifreeze that’s toxic is pretty low — a couple of tablespoons is enough to kill him.
Some dogs do have a chance of surviving the intoxication, but only if they are taken to the vet hospital as soon as possible. In fact, the antidote that was specifically developed against this type of poisoning needs to be administered about up to eight hours after the antifreeze was ingested in order for it to do its job. The sooner, the better.
- Eating rat poison
Like any other intoxication, rodenticide poisoning has a pretty low survival rate. Approximately 5% of dogs that eat only a small amount of rat poison and do not get the right treatment will survive, so you can’t base your decision to go to the vet or not on pure luck.
There are several different types of rat poisons currently available and they produce different clinical signs in dogs. Some are anticoagulant rodenticides, which means that they prevent a dog’s blood from creating clots. This can lead to your dog developing an internal hemorrhage in just a few hours after ingesting the poison.
Another common rat poison is bromethalin, which can lead to brain swelling. Vitamin D3 is another variety, and it ends up causing acute kidney failure, which will not only cause a dog’s death, but also a lot of pain.
Treating rat poison intoxication largely depends on the kind your pooch has ingested, so the best way of going about things is to go to the vet clinic and seek out medical assistance.
- Ingesting xylitol
Xylitol is an artificial sweetener commonly used in a variety of products these days, from chewing gum to mouthwash. It is also available as a powder for people who are on a diet and who can’t add sugar to their food.
Unfortunately, xylitol is also extremely toxic to dogs as it makes them develop hypoglycemia to the point that they can die. For dogs that do not get veterinary care, the mortality rate is above 90% — and this is regardless of the amount of xylitol that the animal ingested.
Dogs that are taken to the vet clinic before any symptoms show up have a good prognosis. Less than 20% of all such dogs die, so most are discharged from the hospital after several days.
However, if the dog has already developed hypoglycemia, liver failure, or he has perhaps slipped into a coma, the prognosis is poor or very poor. Very, very low amounts of xylitol are toxic.
Can you prevent these health problems?
The answer to this question largely depends on the exact medical condition. For any infectious disease that can be prevented by vaccinating your dog, it is highly recommended that you stick to your vet’s advice and complete the standard vaccination plan in the first year of your pup’s life and then repeat one polyvalent vaccine dose every year.
Some diseases are just impossible to prevent, especially if you are the owner of a breed that’s predisposed to developing one type of cancer or cancer in general. Golden retrievers, for instance, have a much higher likelihood of getting cancer compared to other dog breeds.
As for foods or ingredients that can be ingested, just make sure that you keep them out of your dog’s reach. Grapes can be stored in the fridge or even in the freezer, and chocolate can be stored in the pantry instead of being left out on the kitchen table, where Fido might be able to grab a hold onto it and nibble it.
To prevent Lyme disease or any health problem that can be transmitted by ticks, just make sure that you rely on preventative flea and tick medication. If your dog doesn’t accept pills (oral medication is now available for external parasites in cats and dogs), you can just use spot-on solutions. And if you really must, just use an anti-tick collar, too, especially one that has a pungent smell, although natural. Ticks will be less likely to want to feed on your dog if he stinks like insecticide, even a natural alternative. Tick are capable of smelling a number of chemicals, after all.
As for pyometra or any reproductive system problem that your dog might develop, spaying or neutering your pet can prevent a lot of conditions, especially in female dogs. Spayed dogs have a much lower likelihood of developing mammary cancer, not to mention that they just can’t get cancer of the uterus or ovarian cancer — as they don’t have those organs anymore.
How much does it cost to treat these health problems?
A universal cost estimate is impossible to predict, but it’s generally acknowledged that a longer hospitalization period will lead to a high or even very high cost. For this reason (and not only), the best way of going about things is to get pet insurance.
Some plans can also cover vaccinations, but do keep in mind that pet insurance is going to cost more as your dog ages and naturally becomes more prone to developing more health problems.
To give you an example, if your dog is diagnosed with cancer and treatment begins without you having pet insurance, the costs can amount up to $10,000 and more. While some types of cancer can be treated with surgery, others aren’t as easy to treat — and dogs often need chemotherapy or radiation therapy besides the operation. All of this adds up.