The 4 grossest dog ailments (& how to deal with them)

Colin Lalley 1600


Colin Lalley

Colin Lalley

Insurance Expert

Colin Lalley is the Associate Director of SEO Content at Policygenius in New York City. His writing on insurance and personal finance has appeared on Betterment, Inc, Credit Sesame, and the Council for Disability Awareness.

Published August 24, 2017|6 min read

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Dogs. They’re fluffy, friendly, and all around great.


The last thing anyone wants is for their four-legged best friend to get sick. But it happens. And sometimes, it really happens. Dog vomit, rabies, worms, and diarrhea are some of the worst afflictions for your dog – and for you, when you have to clean up after them.

If you have a strong stomach, or care about the health of your dog, read on to learn about some of the grossest dog diseases they can contract, and what you can do about them.

##Dog vomit

Projectile, yellow, slime mold – dog vomit comes in, forgive the turn of phrase, many flavors. (Note: Dog vomit slime mold is a type of fungus. If your dog is actually vomiting mold, skip this article and go straight to the vet.)

Why is my dog vomiting? Just like in humans, dog vomit is caused by a number of issues. She might have eaten too quickly, or is allergic to a certain food. Maybe she ate something she shouldn’t have, whether it’s human food (Thanksgiving is a rough time for dogs) or stuffing from a toy.

Dogs suffering from canine distemper, parvovirus, or any number of diseases might also have symptoms that include vomiting.

What dog owners can do. Because there can be so many causes of vomiting, it’s hard to narrow down. One immediate thing you can do for Fido – bear with me – is check the vomit. That way you can see if something inedible is in there and is likely the cause. Take away his food and water, and be mindful of what he just ate. If you just bought a new brand of food, that could be your answer.

If the vomiting continues and you can’t pinpoint the cause, it probably isn’t food-related. Make an appointment with your vet to get your dog checked out ASAP.

##Dog worms

Heartworms, hookworms, tapeworms, roundworms, whipworms – there’s no shortage of wriggly creatures trying to make their home in and around your pup.

Why does my dog have worms? “Worms” might seem like a euphemism, but they’re exactly that: Actual parasites that live in your dog. Roundworms can get up to seven inches long! If you’ve ever seen a truly bad case of heartworm, it’s like a pack of spaghetti exploded in a heart. It’s gross – fair warning for anyone about to do a Google Image Search for it.

The cause of worms depends on the type of worms. Heartworms are transferred via mosquito; hookworms can enter directly through the skin or through dirty water or food; roundworms are common in puppies and can be transmitted from mothers; tapeworms are commonly contracted from ingesting fleas; and whipworms are found in soil, along with dirty food and water.

But do you know when your dog most likely won’t have worms? If you’ve gone through preventative steps. There’s a number of anti-worm medication out there, and most of it is oral so it’s easy to administer every few months.

What dog owners can do. Take your dog to the vet. That’s more or less your only option. But most dogs will contract some type of worm at some point in their life, so if you see worms in poop, don’t panic. Just make an appointment with your vet as soon as you can.

Like causes, treatment of worms depend on the kind of worm. There’s treatment for every kind of worm, so you’ll likely get oral or injected medication from your vet. Your dog may have to go through physical therapy if the worm threat got bad enough to affect stamina or respiratory system.

##Dog diarrhea

Diarrhea is bad in people. It’s even worse when it’s happening to something that isn’t wearing any pants.

Why does my dog have diarrhea? Like vomit, doggy diarrhea can have many causes. Viral infections, bacteria, and parasites can all cause diarrhea. It could be something she ate, or it can be a sign of real internal distress. It also might be a reaction to antibiotics. That’s right: Your dog might be getting sick because you’re treating another illness. Them’s the breaks.

What dog owners can do. Also like vomit, the first thing an owner can do is inspect the diarrhea. Checking its color, its consistency, and seeing if it has blood or worms (that’s a two-fer if it’s the latter) can give you an idea of what’s causing it. It could be cause for concern, or she could have just eaten some fatty food. For a full list of steps you can take, see our article (a full article!) on doggy diarrhea.

Because diarrhea can be caused by an out-of-whack digestive tract, you can wait a bit before panicking and try feeding your dog boiled chicken and rice, canned pumpkin, or anything non-fatty and easy to digest. This simple dog diarrhea treatment should do the trick. If you see any of the warning signs mentioned above, though, consider a trip to the vet before too long.

##Dog rabies

You probably have an image of a wild dog foaming at the mouth. But a dog with rabies isn’t always so obvious.

Why does my dog have rabies? A classic case of wildlife vermin, most likely. Raccoons, possums, skunks, and bats are common sources of rabies. If your dog gets bitten by a rabid animal (or scratched with a saliva-coated claw) he may contract rabies, too.

And it’s important to note humans aren’t immune to rabies. Forty thousand people contract it every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. Rabies isn’t exactly “gross” so much as it is “scary”; you can tell when your dog is vomiting, but telling when he’s rabid – and can infect you – is harder.

What dog owners can do. Unfortunately rabies is most often fatal in dogs. The best way to prevent this is to have them vaccinated as early as possible. Even if he is vaccinated, go to the vet or call animal control immediately. That way he’ll at least be quarantined and watched for signs of worsening symptoms.

As for humans, even though 40,000 get rabies a year, only a few people die from it. That’s because if you get treated ASAP, it’s relatively manageable. You’ll have to get a lot of shots, but do it soon after you get bitten – even if you’re not 100% sure the animal was rabid – and it’ll be better than the alternative.

If you’re worried about your dog, never be afraid to take him or her to the vet. After all, it’s better to be safe than sorry. And there are many common dog afflictions, like kennel cough, that may not be as gross as these four, but can be just as dangerous.

It’s also better to have pet insurance than not. There aren’t any networks like with (human) health insurance, so you can go to any vet without having to worry about if your insurance will foot the bill. And since you want to be focused on your sick dog rather than your budget, it's worth it.

Image: damedeeso