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Dog Health Dictionary

dog health


Your dog’s health is very important to us. The list below is provided for general information and is not intended to be used to diagnose or treat any disease. If your dog exhibits any symptoms of concern, we urge you to contact your veterinarian for an examination and diagnosis.

Health problems that are more common to certain dog breeds are listed on each of the breed pages. Some diseases are hereditary, while others are not. Certain breeds are more prone to certain health issues. There are also other health problems that are not listed that could affect your dog.

If you are looking for a new dog, please read our “choosing a puppy” page for information on how to select a healthy puppy.

This information is copyrighted and is the property of the author. You may not use any information from this page; however, you may link to this page.


Addison’s Disease (Hypoadrenocorticism)

Caused by a deficiency of adrenal cortex hormones. Symptoms include weight loss, fatigue and vomiting.


Dogs can be allergic to a variety of things, including foods and pollen. Symptoms can include runny eyes, itching, and skin rashes.


A genetic disorder that results in thin hair and hair loss.


The abnormal deposit of protein in the body’s organs.


Arthritis is the wearing down of cartilage and loss of fluid that surrounds the joints, caused by over-use, injury or age. Arthritis can also be inflammatory, which is caused by auto-immune disorders, viruses or infection.

Autoimmune Disease

This refers to a wide variety of diseases that are caused when the immune system attacks the body’s own cells and tissue.

Axonal Dystrophy

A rare neurological problem that affects the muscles and movement in young Ibizan Hound puppies. Symptoms from a few litters led to the naming of the disease, but it has not been seen in the breed in many decades.

Bladder Infection

Bladder infections can be caused by a variety of infectious agents. Symptoms can include pain and blood in the urine.

Bladder/Kidney Stones

Stones can be formed in the bladder or kidneys from minerals contained in the urine. Pain may be present, and severe blockage can occur.

Bleeding Disorder

There are several causes of bleeding disorders in dogs, which can result in internal or external bleeding. (see Von Willebrand’s)

Bloat (Gastric Dilatation/Tortion)

Distention of the stomach, whereas the contents cannot pass into the intestines, giving a bloated look to the loin area.. It can be caused by large amounts of food or water. The stomach can eventually twist, requiring emergency veterinary care.

Breathing Problems

Problems with breathing can be caused by allergies, but can also be caused by the shape of the muzzle in short-nosed breeds such as the Bulldog.


There area many types of cancer. It is generally the result of cells in the body that multiply and spread in an abnormal manner.

Canine Epileptoid Cramping Disease (Spike’s Disease)

Symptoms can include staggering, dizziness, exaggerated stretching, trembling, muscle contractions, abdominal pain, falling/unable to rise. Dogs are aware of their surroundings during episodes. May be confused with epilepsy. Symptoms may or may not progress.


A condition which causes abnormalities in the heart muscle.


Cataracts can be attributed to several causes, including the aging process, injury or heredity. (See juvenile cataracts.)

Cerebellar Ataxia

A progressive disease of the brain. Symptoms include an unsteady gait.

Ceroid Lipofuscinosis  (Storage Disease)

A hereditary disease which affects the nerve cells. Typically, symptoms of extreme fear, and unsteady gait begin at 18 months of age.

Cherry Eye

Prolapse of the third eyelid, appearing as a red swollen mass in the eye.


See dwarfism.

Collapsed Trachea

A problem where the trachea partly collapses, causing coughing.

Collie Eye Anomaly

This disease causes the eye to develop improperly. A small percentage of affected dogs go blind from the disease.

Congenital Esophageal Achalasia (cardiospasm, mega-esophagus, ectasia, dilated esophagus)

A condition involving faulty muscles of the esophagus that can usually be detected in young puppies. Symptoms include regurgitating food shortly  after eating.

Copper Toxicosis

An inherited disease in which the body stores and releases too much copper. It leads to liver disease.

Corneal Dystrophy

A degenerative disease of the cornea of the eye.

Cranial cruciate ligament rupture (CCL)

The tearing of a ligament in the stifle joint.

Cranial Muscular Atrophy

A disease that affects the muscles of the head, causing weakness.

Craniomandibular Osteopathy

A bone disease that produces excess bone along the jaw, causing problems opening and closing the jaw.


A lump in the skin that is filled with a soft material. Some cysts remain small; however, they often become larger in size.


The formation of cystine stones in the bladder and kidneys.


Many things can cause deafness in dogs, such as ear infection or injury, certain drugs, old age or heredity. One or both ears may be affected.

Degenerative Myelopathy

A nerve disorder that causes progressive weakening of the rear legs.

Demodectic Mange

Cause is a microscopic mite. In puppies, the first sign is usually hair loss around the eyes and mouth. The symptoms often fade as the puppies’ immune systems mature and are able to resist the mites. There is also a more serious form that causes hair loss in patches over the body. Veterinary treatment is needed. There may be a hereditary tendency.


An inflammation of the skin that can be caused by allergies, contact with a irritant, or internal causes.


A disease which produces a skin rash and muscle weakness.

Dermoid Sinus

A cyst-like growth along the neck or back that becomes impacted with debris.


A disease in which the body does not produce, produce enough of, or properly use insulin. Causes include diet and heredity.

Digital Hyperkeratosis

A thickening of the outer layer of skin of the foot pad caused by faulty keratin production.

Disc Disease

A degeneration of the vertebrae and surrounding support structures of the spine.


Abnormal growth of extra eyelashes that can sometimes irritate the eye.

Dry Eye

See Keratoconjuncivitis sicca.


A disorder that causes stunted growth. Typically hereditary.

Ear Infections

Ear infections can be caused by a variety of culprits, including bacteria and yeast. Redness, odor, discharge and pain are typical symptoms.

Ectopia Cilia

Stray eyelashes that emerge through the eyelid and can interfere with the eye and cause pain.


The eyelid droops away from the eye, making the eye prone to infection.

Ehlers-Danlos syndrome

A defect of the connective tissue that causes skin and joint problems.

Elbow Dysplasia

A progressive, deteriorating problem in the elbow whereas the joint breaks down and cannot move efficiently. Cause is thought to be a hereditary tendency. Over-nutrition of puppies and fast growth in larger dogs are thought to contribute to poor formation of the joints. Minor dysplasia may go unnoticed, but pain is present in more severe cases.


The eyelid turns inward, causing irritation. May require surgery.


This term refers to symptoms of repeated seizures over time. If the cause can be found, then the epilepsy is secondary. If the cause cannot be found, it is called idiopathic epilepsy. Some cases of idiopathic epilepsy may be hereditary in nature.

Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficienty (EPI)

A disfunction of the pancreas which causes dogs to loose the ability to digest protein. Loose stools and weight loss result.

Eyelash Disorders

Eyelashes sometimes grow inward and rub on and irritate the eye.

Eye Infection

Can be caused by bacteria or virus. Discharge may be present. Consult your veterinarian for diagnoses and treatment to prevent possible loss of vision. Clear, watery discharge may be a sign of allergies. Some breeds are more prevalent to tear staining around the eyes.

Familial Nephropathy (FN)

An inherited kidney disorder caused by deposits of protein within the kidney.

Fanconi Syndrome

In this disease the renal tubes of the kidneys fail to properly absorb nutrients. It is treatable if caught early.

Fibrocartilaginous Embolic Myelopathy  (FCE)

Causes paralysis due to cartilage-like materials that lodge in blood vessels of the spine.


The term used for eye diseases that cause blindness through damage to the optic nerve.

Globoid Cell Leukodystrophy (GCL)

A progressive disease of the brain and spinal cord.

Hashimoto’s Disease

An immune system disorder that affects the thyroid gland.

Heart Arrhythmia

An irregular beating of the heart muscle that may occur sporadically.

Heart Disease

There are many types of heart disease and it can affect the valves or the muscular structure of the heart. Some forms are a result of viruses or other diseases. Others are present at birth and some can be hereditary.


A cancer that originates in the blood vessels and spleen.

Hemolytic Anemia

Hemolytic anemia is a condition where the red blood cells break up, resulting in fewer red blood cells. There is a variety of causes including viruses and parasites.


Abnormal bleeding caused by a deficiency in the clotting agents of the blood.

Hereditary Nephritis (HN)

A serious hereditary kidney disease.

Hernia (Umbilical)

If the hole where the umbilical cord is attached when a puppy is born does not eventually close, the organs and tissue can protrude. Some hernias can be hereditary in nature, and they can also be caused by injury.

Hip Dysplasia

A progressive, deteriorating problem in the ball-and-socket joint of the hip whereas the ball does not fit and move efficiently in the socket. Cause is thought to be a hereditary tendency. Over-nutrition of puppies and fast growth in larger dogs are thought to contribute to poor formation of the joints. Minor dysplasia may go unnoticed, but pain is present in more severe cases.


A disease in which the production of thyroid hormone is above normal.

Hypertrophic Osteodystrophy (HOD)

Possibly caused by an infection, this disease causes painful lameness of young dogs.


Low blood sugar levels. Causes include lack of food and hormone imbalances.


Dogs are born with defective formation of myelin in the spinal cord, brain, or nerves. Puppies can have symptomatic tremors. It can be inherited or caused by nutritional deficiency or by a virus.


A disease in which the production of thyroid hormone is below normal.

Immune Disorders

A variety of diseases caused by an immune system that does not function properly.

Immune Mediated SLE

See Systemic Lupus Erythematosus

Immunoproliferative Small Intestine Disease (IPSID)

The dog cannot properly utilize nutrients from food. This causes weight loss and diarrhea.

Intervertebral Disc Disease

The cushioning agents around the vertebrae of the spine degenerate, which can lead to rupture of the disc.

Juvenile Cataracts

A cataract of the eye that forms within the first few years of life. Some cataracts are believed to be hereditary.


An inflammation of the eye that can lead to ulcers.

Keratoconjuncivitis sicca (KCS) (also called Dry Eye)

A lack of tears which leads to conjunctivitis and corneal scarring.

Kidney Disease

There are many causes of kidney disease including bacteria, poisoning and heredity. Damaged kidneys cannot properly perform their function, including regulating blood pressure, calcium and phosphorous levels.

Kidney Stones

See bladder/kidney stones.

Legg-Calve Perthes

A deterioration of the head of the femur (thigh bone) due to insufficient blood supply.

Lens Luxation

The lens of the eye becomes detached.

Liver Shunt

Due to a deformity, blood cannot go through the liver and bypasses it. Blood that is normally detoxified by the liver becomes full of toxins.

Lupoid Dermatosis

A disorder that causes inflammation of the skin, scaling, and itching. Areas affected include the head, legs, and scrotum. This disease may be the result of immune system disorder.

Luxated Patellar, (Slipped Stifles)

In this disorder, the patellar (kneecaps) luxate (slip out of the groove). Only the hind legs are involved, and the problem can affect one or both legs. Causes include heredity and injury.


A cancer that affects the lymph nodes.

Mammary Tumor

A tumor that is located in the mammary (under-chest) area of female dogs.


An eye disorder where either the globe or surrounding tissue is missing upon birth.

Mitral Valve Disease

The mitral valve regulates blood flow in the heart. Disease or hereditary defect can cause damage to the valve and cause it to function improperly.

Myotonia Congenita

A muscle disorder which causes a stiff gait, difficulty getting up, and trouble swallowing.

Nictitating Membrane Eversion

The nictitating membrane is a translucent third eyelid present in dogs. It can be closed across the eye, while still maintaining vision. Sometimes, through weakness or injury, the third eyelid becomes folded, causing irritation.

Ocular Melanosis Pigment/ Pigment Dispersion Syndrome

Pigment granules in the eye clog the tear ducts and decrease the effectiveness of fluid drainage from the eyes. Increased pressure in the eyes result.

Open Fontanel

This occurs when the fontanel (soft spot where the bones of the skull join at the top of the head) does not close properly at a few months of age.


Degeneration of the cartilage of the joints due to wear and tear.

Osteochondritis Dessicans (OCD)

A fracture of cartilage which leads to deterioration in a joint.


A disease in which the bones do not grow and join properly. This can cause Osteochondritis Dessicans.


The most common cancerous bone tumor.


Lameness that occurs in puppies and young dogs. It is limited in duration and the disease eventually resolves itself.


An inflammation of the skin around the toe nails.

PBGV Juvenile Pain Syndrome

The spinal area becomes stiff and painful. High fever may be present.

Patent Ductus Arteriosis (PDA)

A serious heart defect that is present at birth.

Persistent Hyperplastic Primary Vitreous (PHPV)

A disease which affects a developing fetus’ eyes and causes deposits on the back of the lens.

Persistent Pupillary Membrane (PPM)

An eye problem that is caused when the fetal membrane does not reabsorb completely after birth.

Persistent Right Aortic Arch

Malformed artery constricts the esophagus. Vomiting results. Surgery is required. Inherited

Phosphofructokinase (PFK)

Deficiency Caused by a lack of the enzyme that metabolizes glucose into energy. Weakness, muscle cramps, lack of energy and dark urine can result.

Pigmentary Ketatitis

A dark brown pigment that grows across the white part of the eye. May cause blindness.

Progressive Neuronal Abiotrophy

A nerve disorder of young puppies that severely affects the muscles.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)

A slow, progressive deterioration of the retina which can lead to blindness. Believed to be hereditary.

Protein-Losing Enteropathy (PLE) and Protein-Losing Nephropathy (PLN)

Protein and plasma is lost through a damaged gastrointestinal tract. Symptoms include diarrhea and weight loss.

Pulmonary Fibrosis

A disease of the lungs that causes scarring and difficulty breathing. A dry cough may be present.

Pulmonic Stenosis

A narrowing of the valve from the heart to the lungs.

Pyruvate Kinase Deficiency

A disease that affects the red blood cells and causes anemia.

Renal Dysplasia

A condition in which a dog is born with a under-developed kidney.

Retinal Dysplasia/ Retinal Folds

Abnormal development of the retina of the eye, which can range from mild symptoms to blindness.

Sebaceous Adenitis (SA)

An inflammation of the oil glands of the skin.

Storage Disease

See Ceroid Lipofuscinosis.

Sub Aortic Stenosis/Sub Valvular Stenosis

A defect of the aortic valve which partially obstructs blood flow from the heart.

Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE)

An inflammatory connective tissue disease that affects many organs.

Tetralogy of Fallot

A condition that involves four specific defects of the heart.

Thyroid Disease

See Hypothyroidism; Hyperthyroidism


A condition in which the eyelashes grow towards the eyeball, causing pain.

Uric Acid Syndrome

This occurs when uric acid is excreted from the kidneys. This can cause what is termed “bronzing” (a bronze hue to the skin) and urinary stones.

Von Willebrand’s

A bleeding disorder caused by the absence of a blood clotting protein. The blood does not clot properly, and the dog may bleed profusely if cut. It can be hereditary in certain breeds, but can also be a secondary problem caused by another disorder.

White Shaker Dog Syndrome

A tremor that occurs in some young small-breed dogs.

Wobblers Syndrome

A malformation of the vertebrae of the neck, which causes pressure on the spinal cord and typically results in an uncoordinated rear gait.

This information is copyrighted and is the property of the author. You may not use any information from this page; however, you may link to this page.