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Disease Risks for Dogs in Social Settings

Disease Risks for Dogs in Social Settings

Dogs who are social and spend a lot of time around other dogs are more likely to contract certain diseases and illnesses. Today, our Maury County vets discuss some contagious diseases that social dogs are at a high risk of catching, and how you can best prevent them.

Highly-Transmissible Diseases Amongst Dogs

Dogs, like people, love to spend time socializing with friends. If your pup regularly plays with other dogs at a park, doggy daycare, or pet sitter's then it's important to take steps to reduce your dog's risk of contracting illnesses that are easily spread between dogs.

Below is a list of just some conditions seen in dogs that you should be aware of and protect your dog against.

Canine Distemper

Canine distemper is a particularly contagious virus in dogs that attacks the respiratory system. Dogs suffering from distemper can develop several symptoms ranging in severity from running nose and watery eyes to fever, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, and even paralysis. In some severe cases, this condition can even be fatal. 

But there is good news, canine distemper can be prevented. The canine distemper vaccine is one of the essential core vaccines that make up the DHPP vaccination for dogs. Keeping your pup's distemper vaccine up-to-date can help to prevent your pooch from this serious condition,

Canine Influenza ("Canine Flu" or "Dog Flu")

A relatively new disease for dogs, the canine influenza virus can be particularly nasty because most dogs have never been exposed to it, and as a result, their immune systems are not fully equipped to handle it.

There is a vaccine for canine influenza, but at this time it is not recommended for every dog. Consult your veterinarian to determine if the canine influenza vaccine is right for your canine companion.

Canine Parvovirus ("Parvo")

Parvo is an extremely serious condition seen in dogs that is so contagious that your dog doesn't even need to meet an infected dog to become ill.

Your pup could catch parvo just from sniffing at contaminated feces or from having contact with contaminated surfaces such as floors, grass, dirt, toys, balls, bowls, collars, leashes, equipment, or the hands and clothing of people! Worst of all, this remarkable virus can survive in the soil for years, making it very hard to kill.

Parvo is caused by canine parvovirus type 2, which attacks your dog's gastrointestinal system causing fever, vomiting, diarrhea, and other similar symptoms. Puppies, elderly unvaccinated dogs, and dogs with underlying health issues are most at risk from this potentially fatal disease.

Treating parvo can be very expensive and in many cases, the condition proves fatal despite intensive treatment. Fortunately, there is an effective vaccine for parvo. Parvovirus is one of the conditions covered in your dog's DHPP shot which should be administered regularly throughout your pup's lifetime. 

Ticks & Fleas

Fleas are common external parasites that rely on a host animal for survival. Unless steps are taken to break their lifecycle, adult fleas will continue to live and reproduce on your pet - and in your household.

Cats and dogs may be allergic to the protein in flea saliva, which is why they often start to scratch as soon as a flea bites their skin. Even one fleabite may cause pets to scratch excessively and become agitated.

Ticks are external parasites that feed on both human and animal blood. They do not fly or jump but rely on hosts (typically, wild animals are responsible for bringing ticks onto your property) for transportation. Once they are on your property, pets often become hosts and the parasites are then brought into your home.

Because ticks spread several serious diseases, they are dangerous to both people and pets. People can develop serious conditions such as Lyme disease when the tick's saliva—which contains germs and bacteria—makes its way into the bloodstream.

Tick and flea prevention is far easier than treating tick-borne diseases or dealing with a flea infestation. Speak to your vet to learn more about the best tick and flea prevention for your pup.


Heartworm disease is a life-threatening condition seen in dogs and other pets that leads to heart failure, organ damage, severe lung disease, and often death.

Spread through the bite of infected mosquitos, heartworm disease is primarily caused by a parasitic worm called Dirofilaria immitis. Once a pet is infected, these parasites mature into adults and produce offspring all while living in the heart, lungs, and blood vessels of the infected pet. 

Although heartworm symptoms do not appear until the disease has become advanced they typically include swollen abdomen, coughing, fatigue, weight loss, and difficulty breathing. 

Treatment for heartworm disease is toxic for pets and expensive. Many pets with heartworm are euthanized after a heartworm diagnosis due to the seriousness of this condition. That's why our vets always recommend year-round heartworm prevention for our patients. 

Heartworm prevention is safer, easier, and much more affordable than treating the progressed disease. Several heartworm preventive medications can also help protect against other parasites such as hookworms, whipworms, and roundworms. 

Kennel cough

Bordetella bronchiseptica is a bacterium that is closely related to respiratory disease in dogs. It is one of the components of the canine infectious respiratory complex, sometimes referred to as kennel cough, upper respiratory infection, or infectious tracheobronchitis.

Dogs who will be in areas where they may come into contact with other dogs such as doggy daycare, the groomers, the dog park, and boarding facilities, are more likely to come into contact with this virus and develop signs of an upper respiratory infection.

The main way dogs catch bordetella is by inhaling bacterial particles. When these particles make their way to the respiratory tract, the dog can experience an inflamed windpipe or voice box.

Certain situations can increase the chances of a dog catching diseases caused by the bacterium. These include the following:

  • Staying in a poorly ventilated living space (such as certain kennels)
  • Colder temperatures
  • Exposure to dust or smoke
  • Stress (often brought on by travel issues)

There are vaccines for kennel cough, but not all dogs need to receive the vaccine. Consult your veterinarian about whether or not the kennel cough (Bordetella) vaccine is right for your dog.


The Rabies virus is capable of infecting all mammals. Most organized social gatherings for dogs, or social spaces for dogs like dog parks, will require proof of rabies vaccination for admittance. The disease is brutal, painful, and 100% fatal. It is passed via saliva thus making the bite of an infected animal the primary concern. As rabies also increases aggression, it makes animals infected with it into even more dangerous carriers.

Fortunately, rabies infection is preventable with vaccination. In most states, it is the law that all dogs and cats over the age of 3 months must be vaccinated against rabies. Pet owners are required to show a vaccination certificate as proof to license their dogs. 

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Is your dog due for their vaccinations or boosters? Contact our Maury County vets today to book an appointment for your pup.

New Patients Welcome

At Veterinary Wellness Clinic Of Columbia, we are always accepting new patients. Our team of experienced veterinarians are passionate about lifelong pet health client education. Contact us to book your pet's first appointment today. 

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