Several common diseases and illnesses can affect our pets. Some diseases such as rabies, distemper, parvovirus, bordatella (kennel cough) and heartworm are easily preventable by keeping your pet current on its vaccines. This article will focus on diseases that are not preventable by vaccination and are, for the most part, very treatable.

Ear infections

Your pet may develop an ear infection for several reasons. Puppies and kittens may get ear mites from their parents. They usually aren’t visible until three or four months of age. Then you may notice something that looks like coffee grounds in the ears. Ear mites require treatment by a veterinarian to get rid of them completely. Allergies can cause ear infections in dogs and cats at any age. This can be due to skin, food or flea allergies and may be a chronic condition. Dogs with floppy ears may be prone to ear infections. Lack of circulation can cause the ears to be damp, producing bacteria. Dogs that have hair growing inside their ears are susceptible to ear infections. You can easily remove the excess hair by applying an ear powder inside the ear and gently plucking the hair.

Ear infections are easy to recognize. Your pet will begin scratching at their ears and the inside of the ear will become inflamed. You will also notice an odor coming from the ear. If discovered early, ear infections can usually be treated at home using an over-the-counter ear medication. In more severe cases, you will need to have your pet treated by a veterinarian. They will prescribe an ear medication containing an antibiotic and may perform an ear flush. In severe or chronic cases, your vet may prescribe a steroid. In most cases, ear infections are preventable simply by checking your pet’s ears regularly to make sure they are clean and dry.
For more information on ear infections in dogs, visit For more information on cats, visit

Dental disease

Most dogs and cats will develop some sort of dental disease in their lifetime. It is extremely important to have your pet on a regular dental care routine in order to prevent serious dental issues. Dental disease, if left untreated, can cause heart and kidney problems. It is not uncommon to see some tartar build-up on your pet’s teeth, but if the gums start turning red, it’s time to have your veterinarian perform a dental cleaning. It is recommended that your pet have a yearly dental cleaning and exam to prevent dental disease. You should brush your pet’s teeth at least once a day, using toothpaste developed for pets. They even have chicken and liver flavored toothpastes, which can make it easy to train your dog to tolerate having their teeth brushed. Provide them with dental chew-type toys. Cats, on the other hand, are a completely different story. Most cats will not tolerate having their teeth brushed. By feeding a hard kibble food and providing dental treats for them, you can help prevent the build-up of tartar between yearly dental cleanings.

Skin problems

The most common reason for skin problems is allergies. Food and flea allergies are the most common types of allergies seen. Flea allergies are treated by ridding the pet of fleas and keeping them on a flea prevention product year-round. There are many different products available either over-the-counter or through your veterinarian. Ask your veterinarian what they recommend. Food allergies are much harder to treat. It can take many months to determine the specific foods causing your pet’s allergies. In the meantime, your vet may prescribe a steroid-based medication to help alleviate the symptoms. Pets with allergies may lick or chew at themselves incessantly, causing hot spots. Many over-the-counter and prescription medicines treat hot spots, ask your vet for their recommendation There are steps you can take to alleviate skin issues in your pet. Start by feeding a high-quality pet food. There are many foods formulated specifically for skin care. Keeping your pet well groomed and free of fleas is important. Pets that suffer from skin issues should not be bathed with shampoos containing harsh chemicals or perfumes. An oatmeal-based shampoo is recommended. Also be careful about detergents used to launder your pet’s bedding; they should not contain perfumes. For more information on skin allergies, visit the ASPCA (

Urinary tract infections (UTIs)

Urinary tract infections most commonly appear in female cats and dogs, and cats seem more affected than dogs are. Bacterial infection in the bladder or urethra is the most common cause of UTIs. Some other, more serious diseases, which can cause UTIs, include bladder tumors, kidney stones and cancer. Symptoms of a UTI include trouble urinating, increase in frequency of urination, cloudy or foul-smelling urine, blood in the urine, loss of appetite, incontinence, vomiting and lethargy. If your pet exhibits any of these symptoms, contact your veterinarian. Your pet will receive antibiotics. It is important to give your pet all of the medication, even if the infection seems to clear up after a few days. Finishing the medication will help ensure that the infection is completely gone. Feeding a high-quality pet food and keeping the urethra of your female pet clean and dry can help prevent UTIs. A number of available holistic products also claim to boost urinary tract health. Be sure to do your research and consult your vet before beginning any new regimen.

Anal gland problems

Anal gland (or sac) problems are very common in both cats and dogs. The glands can become impacted or infected and be very painful. If your pet has an issue with their anal glands, you will notice them “scooting” their rear end across the floor or ground and excessively licking the anal area. They may not want to be touched near the base of their tail. The anal glands will need cleaning to be, “expressed”. A veterinarian or groomer can express your pet’s gland. In cases of infection, your pet should be seen by a veterinarian and be put on an antibiotic. Feeding your pet a food that is high in fiber can help prevent anal gland problems. In some cases, if your pet has a chronic problem with their anal glands, you may want to consider having the anal glands surgically removed. For more information on anal gland problems in cats, see MedicineNet ( For information on dogs, visit Dog Health at (

Many common pet problems and diseases are similar to those experienced by humans. For anyone who has battled with “swimmer’s ear” or scratched themselves silly over a reaction to a food product, imagine having similar symptoms and reactions, but be unable to articulate the need for help or alleviate the reaction. As part of being a responsible pet owner, we must be attuned to our pet’s needs and health concerns. If we want our faithful companions to be happy and healthy, we have to take care of them.