The top 5 health problems for dogs

Top 5 dog health conditions Bow Wow Meow

Our four-legged family members are an integral part of the family, and we love them like our own kids! To give them the best care, it’s important to be aware of the most common health conditions* that affect dogs, so that we know what to look out for and catch any issues early.

The top 5 health conditions in dogs*:

  1. Skin allergies
  2. Ear infections
  3. Arthritis
  4. Gastritis
  5. Diarrhoea


If you have a puppy, you may wish to read  The top 5 health problems for puppies.

*According to PetSure claims data from 2022

Why do dogs get sick?

Our fur babies can get sick for a variety of reasons, just like us. Despite our best efforts, health issues can crop up in dogs of all breeds and ages.

Top 5 dog health issues Bow Wow Meow


Dogs often explore the world with their mouths so it may not be surprising that gastrointestinal problems like diarrhoea and gastritis (inflammation of the stomach lining) are so common. Ear infections and skin allergies are other conditions that often affect dogs of all ages, while arthritis is the most common health condition in older dogs.

Because it is difficult to predict the costs of veterinary care, it can help to have measures in place to help prepare for the unexpected. Pet insurance can help by covering a portion of the eligible vet bill if the unexpected does happen. Find out more about our pet insurance options for dogs.


The most common dog health conditions

Prevention is always better than cure, so we also bring you top tips and advice on how to keep your fur baby safe and healthy.

With advances in veterinary care come increased costs of treatment. We let you know the average treatment cost and highest treatment cost of the most common dog health conditions, as per PetSure claims data from 2022.


1. Skin allergies

  • Skin allergies affect dogs of all ages
  • Average treatment cost: $520*
  • Highest treatment cost: $17,460*


What are skin allergies in dogs?


Taking first place on the list of top dog health conditions are skin allergies. A skin allergy is a condition where the immune system is overly sensitive to a specific allergen, which brings on an allergic reaction in your dog’s skin. Plants, insect bites – especially flea bites – and foods are common allergens in dogs.

Skin allergies can range from minor itchiness or redness to chronic, severe or ongoing skin conditions. Being chronically itchy is very uncomfortable for your dog and they may scratch incessantly. Broken skin from scratching sets up a perfect environment for secondary bacteria to take hold.

Skin allergies in dogs can be complicated to diagnose and may require ongoing, long-term treatment.

Top dog health conditions Bow Wow Meow

Preventing skin allergies in dogs


  • Avoid any known allergens or environments that may trigger a reaction, including long grass with seeds, or pollen.
  • Keep your pooch’s skin and coat clean and brush the coat regularly.
  • A common cause of allergic reactions in dogs is flea bites, so stay up to date with flea treatment all year round.
  • Examine your pup’s skin frequently to identify problems early.
  • Feed a high-quality diet.

Learn more about skin allergy in dogs.


2. Ear infections

  • Ear infections affect dogs of all ages
  • Average treatment cost: $315*
  • Highest treatment cost: $16,670*


What are ear infections in dogs?


Taking second place on the list of top dog health conditions are outer ear infections (also called otitis externa), which is the inflammation of the outer part of the ear canal.

Ear infections are usually painful and irritating for affected dogs. Their ears become red, swollen and will often produce an unpleasant smell and a dark or yellowish discharge. They may frequently shake their head and rub and scratch their ears.

Top dog health conditions Bow Wow Meow

Preventing ear infections in dogs


  • Clean your dog’s ears every week or two and after they go swimming.
  • Keep the ears of floppy-eared breeds as dry as possible.
  • Ensure parasite treatment is up to date.
  • Make sure any underlying skin allergies are treated.
  • If you notice any of the signs mentioned above, seek veterinary advice right away.

Learn more about outer ear infections in dogs.


3. Arthritis

  • Arthritis generally affects adult and senior dogs
  • Average treatment cost: $423*
  • Highest treatment cost: $ 12,255*


What is arthritis in dogs?


Arthritis is the painful and progressive inflammation of the joints, most often the knees, elbows, shoulders and hip joints. It took third place on the list of most common dog health issues and the top spot for health conditions affecting senior dogs.

Some of the signs you may notice include favouring one or more limbs, difficulty with movements that were previously manageable, such as getting in and out of the car, and limping or lameness. These issues may be worse on waking and become less evident as the dog “warms up” and moves around.

Top dog health conditions Bow Wow Meow

Preventing arthritis in dogs


Unfortunately, arthritis is not curable. Delaying the onset and severity of arthritis in dogs as they age is an important goal for pet parents.

  • Don’t allow your dog to become overweight – excess weight puts extra strain on bones and joints and exacerbates arthritis.
  • Keep your dog fit with regular, daily exercise to help maintain muscle mass and prevent obesity.
  • Feed them quality nutrition and consider joint supplements.
  • Visit the vet for regular check ups so you can catch arthritis early. Pain management is very important in keeping arthritic pets happy.

Learn more about arthritis in dogs.


4. Gastritis

  • Gastritis affects dogs of all ages
  • Average treatment cost: $523*
  • Highest treatment cost: $28,232*


What is gastritis in dogs?


Gastritis took fourth place on the list of Top 5 dog health conditions. It refers to the inflammation of the stomach lining, with vomiting being a key sign of the condition.

Gastritis is generally caused from overeating, a change in diet or an allergy or sensitivity to something the dog has ingested. In most cases, acute gastritis in dogs is transient and lasts for a day or so before resolving. When gastritis persists more chronically, it can be a sign that there is something more serious going on.

Top dog health issues Bow Wow Meow

Preventing gastritis in dogs


  • Feed your dog an excellent, premium dog food and avoid those with by-products, artificial colours, flavours and fillers.
  • Don’t overfeed them and that you follow the recommended portion sizes for your dog’s breed and weight.
  • Keep intestinal worming up to date to eliminate parasitic causes of gastrointestinal upsets.
  • Avoid snacks that your dog might not be used to or that could contribute to tummy upsets, including rich, fatty table scraps.
  • Avoid sudden changes of diet.
  • Observe dogs closely on walks and make sure they aren’t eating things they shouldn’t.
  • Feed to the recommended amount and don’t allow dogs to over eat.
  • Make sure bins, kitty litter and plants are well out of reach.
  • Seek out veterinary advice early


5. Diarrhoea

  • Diarrhoea affects dogs of all ages
  • Average treatment cost: $416*
  • Highest treatment cost: $20,663*


What is diarrhoea in dogs?


Diarrhoea in dogs has numerous causes including viruses, bacteria, digestive disorders, and dietary intolerances, or it may be secondary to diseases like pancreatitis, liver disease or diabetes. Diarrhoea took fifth place on the list of top dog health conditions.

Young and curious dogs may also be more likely to delve into rubbish bins, taste test household plants or overeat, which can all result in diarrhoea. Often, in these cases the true cause may never be known, and treatment can be symptomatic.

Top dog health conditions Bow Wow Meow

 Preventing diarrhoea in dogs


  • Introduce new foods gradually by mixing a small amount of the new food with the old food
  • Avoid giving young dogs cow milk, as dogs are often lactose intolerant, and this can result in diarrhoea.
  • Ensure intestinal worming prevention is up to date.
  • Practice good hygiene around the home. Wash bowls daily with hot soapy water and allow them to dry completely. Ensure water is fresh daily. Always pick up poos from the garden as soon as possible.
  • Store medications, cleaning products and any other household toxins away from pets
  • Ensure vaccinations are up to date.
  • Keep all rubbish, food scraps and human foods away from dogs.

Learn more about diarrhoea in dogs.


*According to PetSure claims data from 2022


A final word…

Taking positions 6 through to 10 in the most common health conditions in dogs are lameness, mass skin lesions, vomiting, anal sac disorders and dental problems.

Knowledge is your best weapon in keeping your pooch safe and healthy throughout their life.

Knowing what to look out for and when to call the vet, and taking the necessary precautions to prevent illness or accidents from occuring, allows you to relax and enjoy your fur baby and be the best pet parent you can be!


Unsure how serious it is?

Bow Wow Meow policy holders can get a complimentary VetChat consult membership which gives you access to 24/7 online vet consults. If you are unsure about any symptoms your pet is experiencing, or have any concerns about your pet’s health, you can contact them anytime via video or live message.

Find out more about our pet insurance options


A pet insurance policy with Bow Wow Meow will help ensure you can always afford to give your pet the best treatment, whatever your budget.




This article is written by

Nicky Klugman

Nicky is our Marketing Communications and Content Specialist. She is an animal-lover who is particularly interested in animal behaviour and the relationships between humans and their pets. While growing up, dogs were always an integral part of the family. Nicky is mum to three human sons and a rescue pup called Dobby.

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*Please note, any pet insurance advice provided is general only. Refer to the applicable Product Disclosure Statement for details of Bow Wow Meow Pet Insurance cover.

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