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The 5 Most Common Health Problems Rescue Dogs Face & How to Treat Them

common rescue dog health problems
October is National Adopt-a-Dog Month!
Adopting a rescue dog is a very rewarding experience. Not only are you giving a furry friend a second chance at a happy life, but you also get to experience the unconditional love and affection that they have to offer. While all dogs can get sick, rescue dogs may come with a certain set of health issues due to their previous living conditions.

5 Common Health Problems for Rescue Dogs

We’ll start by stating that health problems shouldn’t turn you away from adopting a pup in need. In most cases, their health issues aren’t anything a healthy diet, some medication and lots of extra love can’t fix! It’s just good to be informed before bringing them into your family.

1. Malnourishment

Many rescue dogs come from neglectful or abusive situations where they were not properly fed or cared for. This can lead to malnourishment, which can cause several additional health problems.
How to treat: The first step in treating malnourishment is to provide your dog with a well-balanced diet and fresh water. Your veterinarian may also recommend supplements to help your dog get back to a healthy weight.

2. Heartworm

Heartworm disease is caused by a parasitic worm that is transmitted through mosquito bites. It can be fatal if left untreated. If your rescue dog has not been tested for heartworm, then it should be done as soon as possible.
How to treat: Heartworm treatment typically involves a series of injections along with strict crate rest to ensure that the worms are killed off without causing further damage to the heart. To prevent heartworm from striking again, your veterinarian may prescribe medications like Heartgard® Plus or Tri-heart® Plus.
3. Fleas and Ticks
Fleas and ticks are common parasites that can cause a host of problems for your best bud, from skin irritation to gastrointestinal problems and nervous system effects.
How to treat: To prevent infestations, use a flea and tick preventative, like Simparica Trio® or FRONTLINE® Plus, regularly. You can ask your veterinarian for more information on these prescription medications. If your dog does become infested, there are several treatment options available including powders, shampoos and oral medications. It is important to treat your home and yard as well to prevent a re-infestation.

4. Skin Problems

Rescue dogs may have skin problems due to poor diet, lack of grooming or allergies. Symptoms may include itching, redness, flaking and a general sense of discomfort.
How to treat: Your veterinarian may recommend changes to your dog's diet, medicated shampoos or creams or oral medications to treat skin problems.

5. Kennel Cough

Kennel cough is a highly contagious respiratory disease that can spread quickly in shelters and kennels. Symptoms may include coughing, sneezing and nasal discharge. While mild cases typically clear up on their own over time, more serious cases can lead to run-ins with puppy pneumonia.
How to treat: While some dogs recover on their own, your veterinarian may prescribe cough suppressants or antibiotics like doxycycline or amoxicillin. Other at-home remedies include steam therapy and getting plenty of rest.

Also Common: Behavioral Issues

In addition to physical health concerns, rescue dogs may exhibit behavioral problems when you first meet them. This is unfortunately due to any traumatic stress or lack of training they experienced. Fortunately, there are solutions to help both you and your dog live your best lives.


Your dog may have experienced traumatic events, like neglect or abuse, before being rescued. This can cause them to struggle with anxiety, which can manifest itself in several ways such as excessive barking, trembling or destructive behavior.
How to help: One way to help your barking bud is through medications that calm their nerves and boost their moods. Ask your veterinarian about prescription medications such as Clomipramine or Fluoxetine or over-the-counter calming supplements. Another non-medical approach is to provide them with a comfortable and safe environment and slowly expose them to new situations to build their confidence over time.


Some rescue dogs may display aggressive behavior as a result of fear or a lack of socialization. This can lead to biting, growling, and other intimidating behaviors.
How to help: If your dog is exhibiting aggression issues, a good first step is to identify the root cause and seek professional help from a certified behaviorist. Your veterinarian may also prescribe medication like Trazodone to ease anxiety and stress, which can reduce aggressive behavior.

Bathroom Accidents

House training a rescue dog can be a challenge, especially if they’ve been previously kept in poor conditions or lacked any discipline and training early on.
How to help: To address this issue, it's important to have a consistent routine with regular feeding and potty breaks. Positive reinforcement training and frequent praise for successful bathroom trips can go a long way toward modifying behavior and preventing accidents. Sometimes, constant accidents may be caused by an underlying medical issue rather than poor training. If you suspect this is the case, ask your veterinarian about Proin ER, a once-a-day, FDA-approved flavored tablet used to treat canine incontinence.

Feeding Issues

Some rescue dogs may have poor appetites due to stress or neglect, while others may have food aggression issues, causing them to fight with other pets or display aggressive behaviors around food.
How to help: To address feeding difficulties, it's important to offer a consistent feeding schedule with appropriate portions and use positive reinforcement in the form of treats and praise when they are successful. Free feeding and helping them associate mealtime with fun activities like walks and playtime might also encourage healthy eating habits.

Ask Your Veterinarian About Using Mixlab’s Pet Pharmacy

Rescue dogs are something special and adopting a dog can not only bring so much love and joy into your life, but into theirs as well.
While we hope your rescue dog is happy and healthy, should they need any supplements or medications, ask your veterinarian about using Mixlab. We’re on a mission to provide exceptional care for pets and create joyful experiences for those who care for them. Keeping you and your hound happy and healthy is what we do.