Health issues in dogs

Black Labrador laying in arms

Our dogs depend on us to look after them and we want nothing more than to help them to live full, happy and healthy lives. Although most dogs don't see their vet very often, there are still many reasons your dog can become ill.

There are some steps you can take to reduce the risk of your dog becoming ill from some health issues, but sometimes problems can still occur despite giving your dog the best care. You know your dog best and you should always see your vet if you have any concerns.

A to Z of health and care issues 

We have created a number of articles on common health issues that can occur in dogs. These cover a broad range of topics; from arthritis to worms, highlighting the signs to watch out for, how the issues can occur and what you should do if you think your dog is affected. 

Learn more by browsing our A to Z of health and care issues.

Top 5 most common health problems 

As a dog owner, it's important that you understand and are familiar with the common disorders that might affect your dog. Regular care, cleaning and general checking of your dog can make a big difference and will help to avoid some of these problems.

Ear canal disease

Dogs have a long and narrow ear canal with an L-shaped, right-angle bend part the way along where waste can collect. Dogs with long ears can have a higher risk of developing otitis externa because the ear flaps prevent moisture from escaping, making them a warm wet environment, perfect for yeast and bacteria to thrive and spread. Ear infections often cause dogs to repeatedly scratch or rub at their ears, there may be an unpleasant discharge, sometimes accompanied by an unpleasant smell.

Find out more about ear infections.

Dental disease

Straight after your dog eats, bacteria - along with food, saliva, and other particles - form a sticky film called 'plaque' over oral surfaces (like tooth enamel). Gum disease occurs more often in dogs than humans, as dogs have a more alkaline mouth, promoting plaque formation and most dogs don't have their teeth brushed every day. Signs may include bad breath, bleeding gums, pawing at the face and dribbling.

Learn more about dental disease.

Anal sac impaction

Dogs have two small glands on either side of their bottom, which produce a smelly oily liquid that helps them to identify each other (by sniffing each other’s bottoms) and to mark their territory. Your dog’s anal gland usually empties naturally when having a poo, but if the gland becomes blocked they can become infected, swollen and painful, often causing them to scoot on their bottom in an effort to relieve the discomfort.

Read more about anal sac impaction.

Overgrown claws

Long claws are more prone to chipping, tearing, splitting and breaking, which can be very painful and may require veterinary treatment. As well as being prone to damage, when a dog stands or walks on long-clawed paws it puts pressure on the wrong parts of the foot, causing pain and discomfort.

Read more about long claws.


Arthritis is a common, painful condition that is often most severe in older dogs, but can develop at any age. Heavier dogs and larger breeds are also predisposed. This condition is one of the main causes of chronic pain in our beloved pets. Arthritis can be a very debilitating disease, greatly reducing a dog’s quality of life and ability to enjoy the most basic of daily activities. The most common signs of arthritis are limping and lameness, stiffness (especially after resting, or on cold/damp days), wincing or yelping when moving or being touched in the affected area.

Read more about arthritis.

Articles by topic

Read more about the health issues that may affect your dog, as well as tips on how to identify and sometimes prevent them.

Long-term/breed-specific health issues
Seasonal health issues
Diet, nutrition and feeding

Who can I talk to about health issues in my breed?

If you have any concerns about a particular health condition in your breed then you may wish to speak to your vet or you could contact your breed health co-ordinator, who works on behalf of breed clubs and councils as advocates for the health and welfare of their chosen breed. They act as spokespeople on matters of health and will collaborate with The Kennel Club on any health concerns the breed may have.

You can contact your breed health co-ordinator on the health section of your breed's entry on our Breeds A to Z.

Breeding for health

When breeding from your dog, there are so many health issues to consider that it can become quite confusing. Read more about breeding from your dog, while also making the health of your future puppies a priority

Help with health research

One of the hardest parts about carrying out research is trying to find owners and their dogs to participate in studies. More participants means more data, making it more likely that scientists can find solutions to current dog health problems.

To find a list of research projects that need your help, read more about BARC (Bringing About Research Collaboration).

Even if you can't participate, we’d still really appreciate your help spreading the word, especially on social media.