The internet overflows with adorable pet photos – playful pups catching treats in mid-air, majestic cats basking in sunbeams, and countless other snapshots of furry friends living their best lives. Behind these heartwarming images lies a crucial responsibility for pet owners: safeguarding their companions’ health.

Keeping Your Pet Healthy: A Guide to 5 Common Diseases
Keep Your Pet Healthy - Shutterstock Images

While social media might showcase the fun and joy pets bring, it’s equally important to be aware of common pet illnesses. Early detection of these conditions isn’t just about avoiding a trip to the vet (though that’s certainly a perk!). It’s about ensuring our beloved animals live long, healthy and fulfilling lives by our side.

This article delves into five common diseases that can affect both dogs and cats, equipping pet owners with the knowledge to recognize signs and take proactive steps to safeguard their furry friends’ well-being.

5 Common Diseases in Dogs & Cats


If your furry bestie starts to slow down a little with age, arthritis might be the culprit – but it doesn’t only affect older pets. Arthritis is a degenerative joint disease that results in inflammation and stiffness[1]. Like humans, older cats often develop arthritis due to wear and tear over time.

While arthritis is also most common in older dogs, it’s not uncommon for dogs to develop this condition when younger as it’s usually not caused by simple wear and tear. Arthritis in dogs is typically caused by a combination of excessive wear (for example, due to obesity or very high intensity exercise) and an abnormal joint (conditions like hip dysplasia and cruciate ligament disease are common in dogs). Arthritis tends to progress over time, but if you notice the signs early you can help your furry friend carry on living their best life for many years to come.

If your previously bouncy furball isn’t quite as full of beans anymore, they are having trouble standing up from their favorite nap position or are just less willing to engage in typical activities, it could be down to arthritis pain.

Recognizing the signs: Stiffness, slowing down on walks and less playtime.

If your once energetic fur ball is moving slower than a snail on a lazy day, struggling to rise from their nap throne, or just not as jazzed about their usual shenanigans, arthritis might be the sneaky culprit.

Foods to Avoid for Dogs with Arthritis: Grains (wheat, rice, soy), corn, omega-6 fatty acids (certain oils and meats), fatty proteins, added salts, sugars, and artificial additives.

Foods to Add for Dogs with Arthritis: Fatty fish (salmon, sardines) and omega-3 oils (fish oil, flaxseed oil) are the main things to look out for, as omega-3 can help to alleviate arthritis symptoms.

There’s limited evidence for other dietary interventions, but a healthy diet is always a good idea. Consider fiber-filled veggies (sweet potato, pumpkin), antioxidant-packed fruits (blueberries, peeled apples), vitamin-rich veggies (broccoli, cauliflower), leafy greens (spinach, kale), lean proteins (chicken, turkey), and anti-inflammatory herbs and spices (turmeric, ginger).

Treatment by the vet: There is no cure for arthritis so the focus is on management – but this can be very effective. Veterinarians are likely to recommend a combination of weight management, controlled exercise and treatments such as NSAIDs (e.g., carprofen, meloxicam) for pain and inflammation, other forms of pain relief (e.g. Librela), physical therapy (e.g. water treadmill, massage), and complementary therapies like acupuncture.

Nutraceutical supplements (e.g., glucosamine, chonrdroitin sulphate, MSM, omega-3s) and prescription diets may also used to improve joint health and mobility. A tailored plan can enhance pets’ comfort and well-being.

Kidney Disease

Our pets’ kidneys work tirelessly like tiny superheroes, filtering out waste and toxins from their bodies. According to research by Jonathan D Foster, kidney disease happens because the tiny filtering units in the kidneys, called nephrons, get damaged and reduce in number. The body tries to compensate, but these mechanisms often make the disease worse[2].

Recognizing the signs: Signs that something might be off

If your usually well-hydrated pet is suddenly guzzling water like a marathon runner, skipping meals, or channeling their inner couch potato, their kidneys might need some TLC. Don’t brush off these subtle hints – catching kidney issues early is key to keeping your furry friend in top shape!

Foods to Avoid: Restricting phosphorus intake is key in kidney disease. If your pet is diagnosed with kidney disease, you should discuss switching to a specially formulated, low-phosphorus renal diet with your veterinarian[3].

Foods to Add: If your pet needs one, a suitable renal diet will contain the right balance of nutrients to keep your pet in tip-top condition, including added fats to provide plenty of energy if their appetite is reduced. Alongside this, make sure to offer plenty of water to keep them hydrated. An omega-3 supplement may also offer some added health benefits.

Treatment by the Vet: Kidney disease, particularly chronic kidney disease (CKD), is a significant health concern for dogs and cats. Veterinary treatments include fluid therapy to maintain hydration and assist kidney function, special diets low in protein, phosphorus, calcium, and sodium but high in omega-3 fatty acids, and medications to manage symptoms like nausea.

Treatments aim to slow disease progression using dietary adjustments and medications like ACE inhibitors to control blood pressure. Regular monitoring and follow-up tests are done to adjust treatments and ensure the best possible quality of life for affected pets.

Dental Disease

We all know the joy of being greeted by our furry pal’s wet kisses and sweet breath. But just like human babies, our pets can suffer from plaque buildup, gum disease (periodontal disease) and other dental issues that can lead to bad breath, pain and even tooth loss. Maintaining good dental hygiene is crucial for pets’ overall health, comfort, and of course, those precious snuggles.

“Periodontal disease is one of the most widespread conditions in dogs,” says Dr Stephen Harris, Oral Health Research Manager at WALTHAM

Research by the Royal Veterinary College has highlighted that smaller dogs may be at greater risk of dental disease: dogs weighing < 10.0kg had 3.07 times the risk compared with dogs weighing 30.0 - 40.0 kg[4].

Recognizing the signs: The sneaky culprits behind bad breath are plaque and tartar.

Noticing that funky breath? It’s probably a plaque and tartar party on your pet’s teeth. If left to rage on, it can lead to increasingly sore gums, infections, and other oral health problems that can seriously cramp their style.

Foods to Avoid: While bones and other hard chews may help to reduce plaque and tartar, they can also cause painful tooth fractures.

Foods to Add: Crunchy kibble can help to scrape teeth, especially if it’s a specially formulated dental diet. Raw fruits and veggies can also offer a gentle abrasive effect. Dental chews and supplements with the VOHC seal and a balanced diet with proper nutrients contribute to good oral health for your furry friend.

Treatment by the Vet: While there is no cure, dental disease can be managed through regular at-home tooth brushing, dental chews/treats, and professional cleanings and treatments by your vet to remove stubborn tartar and address any underlying issues like gum disease or tooth decay[5].

Keeping them Comfy: Suitable diet, regular teeth cleaning, vet check-ups, and a stress-free environment.


Just like humans, our beloved pets can develop diabetes – a condition where their bodies can’t properly regulate blood sugar levels due to a lack of insulin or insulin resistance. This can lead to a range of health problems if left untreated, which is why it’s so important for us to be our pets’ advocates and keep a watchful eye on their well-being[6].

Recognizing the signs: Increased thirst, unusual hunger, dizziness or unconsciousness and weight loss.

If your pet is drinking like a fish, eating like a horse but still losing weight, or seems lazier than a cat on a hot day, it might be time to check their sugar levels. Don’t brush off these red flags – catching diabetes early can be a game-changer!

Foods to Avoid: Sugary treats and simple carbohydrates like white bread and rice should be limited. Depending on the pet, a low fat diet may also be recommended.

Foods to Add: High-fiber diets[7] can slow carbohydrate digestion and may help to keep blood sugar levels steady in dogs. For cats, a low-carb, high protein diet is important.

Treatment by the Vet: The key treatment for diabetes in pets is insulin therapy, using various types of insulin (e.g., Vetsulin, Humulin) determined by the vet based on the animal’s needs. Insulin is usually administered via injections twice daily, although some pets may be managed with less frequent injections. Dietary changes to a suitable, often specialist diet, and regular exercise, along with a stable lifestyle, are crucial for managing diabetes and improving glycemic control.

Keeping them Comfy: Medical care, a specialized diet, regular monitoring, exercise,

Regular veterinary check-ups for your cherished companion

Regular veterinary check-ups for your cherished companion

Upper Respiratory Infections

Just like us, pets can also become under the weather or pick up the equivalent of a cold. Upper respiratory infections (URIs) caused by viruses or bacteria can make them feel pretty miserable, but with the right care and lots of love, they’ll return to their playful, energetic selves in no time. URIs are more common in cats compared to dogs[8].

Recognizing the symptoms: Nasal discharge, sneezing, and watery eyes. Coughing in dogs.

If your pet is coughing, sneezing, or has runny eyes or a nose, they might be facing a URI. These symptoms can range from “meh” to “oh no”, so get ready to shower them with extra cuddles and love – but remember, if their symptoms are severe they may need a trip to the vet.

Foods to Avoid: Stick to their regular diet but moisten dry food if they have a sore throat. Avoid giving them milk or other dairy products, which can cause digestive issues.

Food to Add: Give them more fluids for hydration, comfortable foods to add can be canned food or broth-soaked kibble. Gently warming cats’ food can help to boost their appetite by helping them smell it.

Cure/Treatment: Most mild URIs can be managed at home with plenty of rest, hydration, humidified air, and lots of tender loving care. However, if symptoms persist or worsen, consult your vet for treatment.

Veterinarians treat upper respiratory diseases in animals using various methods depending on the cause and severity. Many pets will recover with symptomatic treatments including pain relief, mucolytics (to loosen any discharge) and eye drops. In some cases, for example Chlamydophila in cats, antibiotics may be required. Use of antiviral medications for viral infections like feline herpesvirus and calicivirus is rare but may be recommended in severe cases.

Other supportive care involves humidification, face wiping, and fluid therapy. Most pets recover from URIs quickly, so if signs persist your vet may recommend further tests to help plan their treatment.

Keeping them Comfy: Provide a warm, soothing, and humid environment, hydration, gentle cleaning, and isolation from other animals.


Think about it – those wet-nosed greetings, the endless cuddles on the couch, the way their playful antics can turn a bad day right around. Our pets enrich our lives in countless ways, and it’s our turn to do the same for them. They rely on us to notice when they’re feeling under the weather and to take action to support their recovery.

By being proactive about their health, we can catch problems early, manage chronic conditions effectively, and ultimately extend the time we get to spend with these amazing creatures.

So next time you’re scrolling through your pet’s endless photo album, or checking and smiling at those videos from Instagram, take a moment to appreciate the incredible bond you share, and schedule that vet checkup you’ve been putting off – maybe your furry friend needs it.

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8 Sources

We review published medical research in respected scientific journals to arrive at our conclusions about a product or health topic. This ensures the highest standard of scientific accuracy.

[1] Risk Factors for Canine Osteoarthritis and Its Predisposing Arthropathies: A Systematic Review :
[2] Canine Chronic Kidney Disease Current Diagnostics & Goals for Long-Term Management :
[3] Nutritional Management of Chronic Renal Disease in Dogs and Cats :
[4] New RVC research gets to the root of dental disease in dogs :
[5] Periodontal Disease and Diet in Domestic Pets :
[6] 8 things you need to know about AAHA’s Diabetes Management Guidelines for Dogs and Cats :
[7] Influence of a high fibre diet on glycaemic control and quality of life in dogs with diabetes mellitus :
[8] A review of the pathology and treatment of canine respiratory infections :

Dr. Primrose Moss, MA, VetMB, MRCVS

Dr Primrose Moss is an experienced small animal veterinarian based in the UK. Having qualified from the University of Cambridge she now