19 Most Common Diseases that Could Shorten a Dog’s Lifespan

Written By Jill Taylor

Dogs live for an average of 13 years, but there are many diseases they’re prone to that could cut their lifespans to as little as five years. Here are 19 of the most common illnesses for dogs that you should be wary of.

Canine Parvovirus

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Canine parvovirus is a contagious viral infection that attacks the gastrointestinal tracts of dogs and wolves. Some of the symptoms that you may see in your dog include vomiting, bloody diarrhea, and lethargy. It’s so dangerous that mortality rates are at a whopping 91% in unvaccinated dogs.

Heartworm Disease

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The FDA describes heartworm disease as a serious complication that leads to lung disease, heart failure, and eventual death in dogs and cats. It’s caused by the parasitic Dirofilaria immitis worm transmitted through mosquito bites, and treatment of symptoms like persistent cough, fatigue, decreased appetite, and weight loss can prove costly.

Canine Distemper

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If you notice that your dog has seizures accompanied by fevers, nasal discharges, and coughing, it might be suffering from canine distemper. This is a viral disease that affects dogs’ respiratory, gastrointestinal, and central nervous systems, with a high mortality rate in unvaccinated puppies.

Canine Influenza

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Canine influenza is a contagious respiratory infection caused by type A influenza viruses that are accompanied by sneezing, nasal discharge, and lethargy in your dog. If your dog has a cough and is not responding to antibiotic or cough suppressant treatments, it’s a key sign that they have this infection. This condition lasts for about 10 to 21 days.

Canine Infectious Tracheobronchitis

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Simply known as the kennel cough, infectious tracheobronchitis is characterized by a dry, persistent cough, gagging, and retching. It’s caused by an inflammation of the upper airway, and although it’s controlled through vaccines, it’s still a highly contagious disease transferred from other dogs. This condition can be fatal for puppies and older dogs.


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Some dogs also suffer from pancreatitis, which is an inflammatory condition of the pancreas that affects abdominal and digestive health. The AKC says that some of the “classic signs of pancreatitis in dogs” are a hunched back, constant vomiting, diarrhea, and a loss of appetite.

Lyme Disease

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A dog that simultaneously suffers from fevers, swollen joints, and a loss of appetite may be infected with Lyme disease, a bacterial infection transmitted by ticks. This disease attacks the joints, kidneys, and nervous system of your pets and is best managed through proper tick control measures and early antibiotic treatments.


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One disease that’s dangerous to both dogs and humans is rabies, a fatal viral complication that causes behavioral changes, excessive salivation, paralysis, and seizures in affected individuals. It’s transmitted through bites from other dogs and vectors like raccoons and bats, and you should always make sure your dog is vaccinated against it.

Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)

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Dogs are also known to progressively lose kidney function, which leads to an unhealthy buildup of toxins in their bodies. An NIH study reveals that CKD has a 7% prevalence among dogs and is more common in older individuals. And the best way to manage it is through early diagnosis, treatment, and dietary changes.

Canine Diabetes

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Your dog may also develop diabetic conditions, similar to those of humans, that don’t allow it to properly regulate its blood sugar levels. Canine diabetes is characterized by increased thirst and urination, weight loss, and lethargy, and you’ll need lifelong insulin and dietary schedules to manage it.

Bloat (Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus)

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Bloat is a rapidly progressing fatal condition in dogs in which the stomach fills up with gas and twists, cutting off the blood supply to it. It’s a common complication in male dogs, dogs that weigh over 99 pounds, dogs with deep chests, and dogs that eat or drink too quickly. Bloat requires immediate veterinary intervention to prevent unfortunate outcomes.

Canine Epilepsy

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Characterized by convulsions, muscle twitching, drooling, seizures, and a loss of consciousness, canine epilepsy is a neurological disorder that’s often linked to genetics. There aren’t usually direct triggers for these, but brain tumors and head traumas can be exacerbating factors.


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Cancers like lymphoma, mast cell tumors, and osteosarcoma are also known to plague dogs, so much so that, according to the AVMA, half of dogs over 10 years old develop them. Like in humans, early detection and treatment through surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation will help you get better outcomes.

Hip Dysplasia

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Another common complication to expect is hip dysplasia, a condition found in younger dogs where the hip joints don’t develop properly, leading to arthritis and severe pain. Dogs with this can be managed to live longer through weight control, medication, and necessary surgeries.

Periodontal Disease

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Periodontal disease is a common dental condition that causes gum infections and tooth loss due to plaque and tartar buildup. It’s expected when you don’t administer regular dental care to your dog, and some symptoms to look out for include bad breath, red or swollen gums, and difficulty eating.


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Hypothyroidism is a condition where the thyroid gland is inefficient in its production of hormones, and this affects your dog’s metabolism. Signs that your dog is suffering from this condition include unexplained weight gain, darker skin, dull fur, hair loss, and lethargy.

Canine Osteoarthritis

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Canine osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease that causes changes in your dog’s bones, which manifest in inflammation, pain, difficulty rising, a reluctance to exercise, and changes in gait. Colorado State University teaches that non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are the safest and most effective treatments for it.


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We also see many dogs suffer from leptospirosis, a bacterial infection that’s transmitted through contaminated water sources. Some dogs that survive it are left with chronic kidney and liver diseases. Leptospirosis itself is characterized by fever, vomiting, a refusal to eat, stiffness, and jaundice.

Addison’s Disease (Hypoadrenocorticism)

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Addison’s disease stems from a deficiency in the hormones made by the adrenal glands. Your dog may have it if it responds by vomiting, developing diarrhea, becoming lethargic, or even collapsing in stressful situations. The best measure against this disease is regular hormone replacement therapy.

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