Dogs, like human beings, are susceptible to various bacterial, viral and protozoan diseases. There are four major dog diseases that are capable of reaching epidemic proportions and resulting in a high mortality rate. They are distemper, rabies, leptospirosis and canine infectious hepatitis. These diseases are the “Big Four”—the scourges of dogdom. Of the four, distemper is the most widespread.
As a dog owner, you should be familiar with these diseases.
By knowing the causes, modes of transmission and symptoms, you will be better equipped to help prevent your dog from becoming a victim. There are those who believe the average dog owner doesn’t need to know anything about dog diseases, that at the first sign of something wrong, the dog should be rushed to the veterinarian. This is faulty thinking. It assumes that every dog owner can afford to take his dog to the veterinarian at every itch or burp and that the veterinarians can handle the traffic such a policy would entail. After all, there are about 20,000 veterinarians in the United States and more than 25 million dogs, not to mention millions of cats, birds and other pets. Furthermore, a large percentage of these veterinarians are engaged in treating livestock.
In setting down the background of the dog diseases and giving their symptoms, we are not trying to qualify you as a diagnostician or dog doctor. Diagnosing and treating major diseases are in the domain of the veterinarian. But you should have a “working” knowledge of the dog diseases. It’s up to you to bring your dog’s health problems to the attention of the veterinarian. He’s not going to telephone and inquire about your dog’s health. He’s too busy. You will have to know when to take your dog to him. And to do this you will have to know how to recognize the difference between serious and minor conditions. A knowledge of dog diseases will help you make that distinction.
Finally, there’s the matter of your being an informed dog owner.
Today, Americans have a much better knowledge of their general health, diseases and treatments. They have acquired this knowledge by reading books and magazines, watching television and listening to the radio. You, as a dog owner, should become informed about your dog’s health and what can be done for him if he should contract a serious disease. If your dog should become a victim of a major disease, you will have a large part in nursing him back to health. A working knowledge of the diseases will help you to understand the treatment and the dog’s chances of recovery. It will also enable you to assist the veterinarian.