Veterinary surgeon Laura Keyser looks at Alabama Rot and Weil's disease, among other common dog diseases and conditions, and advises how to prevent them, if possible.
The success of a day's shooting is dependent on many factors, some of which are in our control and some which are unfortunately not. Whether you're in the beating line or eagerly awaiting your first shot on the peg, our gundogs are an essential part of the day.
There is no doubt these animals live for a day in the field, working tirelessly over all types of ground. With this there is always a risk of injury, and we do all we can as dog owners to try to avoid and treat injuries promptly. Here are some common dog diseases and conditions, what to look out for, and what you might be able to do to prevent or at least detect them.
Dog Skin Infections
Running through thick brambles and boggy moorland can lead to cuts, usually on the dog’s undercarriage, which in turn can become nasty skin infections for your dogs if not treated properly.
Even scratches allow bacteria to enter the skin, often producing fairly impressive bright-green pustules. If superficial, these shouldn’t need antibiotic tablets but do require washing and applying a topical cream.
Always check for cuts after every excursion where your dog has been adventuring through nature, shrubs, bushes and forested areas to be safe. Dog skin infections are a source of worry for you and your companion, and catching them early will make them much easier to treat and resolve.
Try to bath or hose your dog every time after they’ve been working, ideally using an antibacterial shampoo containing chlorhexidine. This will clean any scratches and cuts, even if you don’t see them through their coat, and reduce the risk of any dog skin infection.
Leptospirosis In Dogs
Caused by bacteria, and most likely to be spread via water contaminated with rat urine, Leptospirosis in dogs (or Weil’s disease) can cause acute kidney failure and liver damage. It is often life-threatening if not caught early, but once confirmed, treatment with appropriate antibiotics and supportive treatment can be instigated.
There are some symptoms of Leptospirosis you should look out for on a regular basis, as catching this condition early is important to make sure it is treatable. Watch for any of the following and take action immediately:
- Vomiting and diarrhoea
- Drinking more and urinating more
Puppies should receive two vaccinations against Weil’s disease as part of their primary vaccinations then annual boosters thereafter. There are two main types of vaccinations for Leptospirosis in dogs currently available in the UK so speak to your vet about the most appropriate.
This adds another layer of defence that can help your dog fend off this particular disease.
Hypoglycemia/Dehydration In Dogs
We regularly see dogs succumb to low blood sugar levels and dehydration on shoot days, potentially resulting in collapse and even death. Even my own Cocker Spaniel has been close to collapsing after overdoing it in Scotland, but luckily a good helping of stew and dumplings fixed her!
It’s old-fashioned to think that you don’t need to feed your dog on a shoot day. They cover a huge amount of distance and need the calories to keep them going. The weather and temperature can also affect how much food your dog needs - and how much water they need to drink.
Don’t skip breakfast before a day full of activities, but make sure to allow enough time before exercising. Feed regular small meals or snacks and allow them to drink plenty of water throughout the day
Grass seeds are pesky at the best of times, but they can become lodged in a Spaniel’s ears, the webbing between their toes and, in the worst-case scenario, can be inhaled. This can cause pneumonia and abscesses in the chest - and this isn’t limited to Spaniels. All dog breeds can be irritated by grass seeds if they aren’t caught and removed.
Watch for your dog frantically shaking their head and scratching at ears, persistent coughs and general malaise. These are all reasons to investigate further and check your dog for grass seeds in common problem areas.
Preventing grass seeds from irritating your dog is difficult, with the easiest solution being to avoid areas where they can be found. This isn’t always practical, so whenever you have spent time outside, check your companion for grass seeds and remove any you find before they cause irritation.
A hot topic at the moment, very little is known about this potentially fatal disease affecting dog's skin and kidneys. Alabama Rot is hard to spot compared to other dog conditions and diseases, but a steep rise in cases means it’s one to keep an eye out for as best you can.
Since 2012 cutaneous and renal glomerular vasculopathy (CRGV) has become more prevalent in the UK, and affected dogs have usually been walked in muddy woodland, generally in winter and spring. Sadly, the only way to confirm the disease is at post mortem.
When checking your dog for Alabama Rot, start by looking for the following visual signs:
- Sores, wounds or ulcers on the skin, usually around the paws, legs, abdomen and mouth
While harder to spot than symptoms on the surface, you can check for signs of kidney failure in your dog by looking at:
- If there’s a reduced appetite
- Changes in thirst and urination
- Any vomiting
As Alabama Rot has a proposed link to walking in muddy areas, there are a few things you can do to lower the risk or prevent your dog from suffering from this condition, such as:
- Keeping away from very muddy areas
- Washing your dog thoroughly after walking or working
- Knowing the signs to look out for and check your dog over regularly
Got Questions On Other Dog Diseases Or Conditions?
These are only a handful of common dog diseases and conditions you need to be aware of to keep your companion fit and healthy. There are others, some less common, that you might need some help or guidance on. Feel free to get in touch with a member of our team and we’ll help answer your questions - or find where you can get the best information.