It's a noble gesture to want to take in a stray dog. But before you do, you should be aware of some common diseases stray dogs can have. You should also bring the dog to a veterinarian. That way, the dog receives a complete examination and workup before he's allowed to have contact with family members and other household pets. A stray dog may be asymptomatic while still carrying an illness.
Parasites From Lack of Preventive Treatment
Stray dogs don't get preventive treatment, so they're likely to have any of several common parasites:
- Ear mites
- Coccidia, a parasite that causes diarrhea
Symptoms of parasites include coughing, vomiting, diarrhea, low energy, a potbelly, a dull coat and itchiness. If a dog isn't treated, parasites can cause serious damage. A dog can pass parasites to other dogs and to humans. Diseases that can spread from animals to humans are called zoonotic diseases.
Rabies From Wild Animal Bites
Stray dogs can get rabies from being bitten by an infected fox, skunk, bat or raccoon. Symptoms in the dog include fever, seizures, a dropped jaw, lack of coordination, shyness or aggression, and frothy saliva. Dogs can transfer rabies to other pets and to humans.
Parainfluenza: Common With Shelter Dogs
Stray dogs and shelter dogs are at risk for contracting canine parainfluenza, a highly contagious virus among dogs. Humans don't get this disease. Symptoms are coughing, fever, nasal discharge, lack of appetite and lack of energy.
Leptospirosis From Rivers, Streams and Lakes
Stray dogs can get leptospirosis, a contagious disease among dogs and a zoonotic disease, from drinking river, stream or lake water. Some dogs show no signs of illness. Other dogs might have fever, shivering, tender muscles, thirst, jaundice and inflamed eyes.
Distemper: A Contagious Disease From Other Strays and Wild Animals
Distemper is a highly contagious disease that dogs can get from other dogs and wildlife, such as raccoons, foxes, wolves and skunks. Humans can get the distemper virus but have no symptoms or illness. Symptoms in dogs include fever, red eyes, runny nose and lethargy. Vomiting and diarrhea could occur, and eventually an affected dog looks anorexic. Sometimes the pads of the feet enlarge.
- VCA Animal Hospitals: Parasites in Dogs - Worms, Fleas, Ticks, and Mites
- petMD: Rabies in Dogs
- Merck Animal Hospital: Canine Parainfluenza
- petMD: The Health Implications Influenza Virus Infection Has for Pets
- American Veterinary Medical Association: Leptospirosis
- petMD: Distemper in Dogs
- Veterinary Information Network: Distemper