Sick as a Dog: 10 Common Signs Your Dog Is Ill
It can be hard to know whether your dog is sick enough to need to see a veterinarian, especially as they can't tell you what's wrong.
Knowing the signs a dog is sick can help you avoid an emergency and keep your furry friend happy and healthy.
Dogs often urinate more frequently than usual when they're sick. Painful urination or blood-streaked urine can signal a urinary tract infection or another illness. You should suspect painful urination if your dog yelps or squeals when they pass urine or adopts an unusually hunched position.
Persistent weight loss is a common sign that all is not well with your canine friend. Although a small, temporary weight loss isn't usually cause for alarm, prolonged changes in weight over several weeks or longer could signify illness. Some illnesses can also cause sudden or prolonged weight gain in dogs.
Just like humans, dogs sometimes appear lethargic, sleepy or listless when they don't feel well. Senior dogs often become less energetic as they age, but unusual changes in your dog's energy levels or general behavior warrant investigation even if you don't see signs of other symptoms. Aggression can also be a sign that your dog is uncomfortable or in pain.
Reduced appetite in dogs isn't always a sign of illness. For example, your dog may not feel like eating as much as usual in very hot weather. However, complete refusal of food for 24 hours or more or a prolonged change in appetite without any obvious cause could be a warning sign a dog is sick.
Vomiting and diarrhea can both signify allergies or an infection in dogs, especially if you notice mucus or blood in their stools or vomit or you have a senior dog. Persistent constipation that lasts longer than two days can also be a sign of a sick dog.
Frequent gagging can be a sign of kennel cough. Sneezing and coughing could also be a warning that your dog has allergies or an illness like kennel cough or canine influenza, especially if the symptoms appear together.
Gum disease can lead to tooth loss and eating difficulties in dogs, potentially causing weight loss and other health problems. Red, swollen gums and foul breath are signs of canine gum disease.
Eye and nasal discharge in dogs are often symptoms of a respiratory illness like canine influenza. You may also notice your dog sneezing and coughing when they have a runny nose or eyes.
A healthy dog's skin should look smooth and appear either pink or black in color. Itchy, lumpy or flaky skin are all signs of allergies caused by food or insect bites. A flea bite allergy is one of the most common causes of sore skin in dogs, but various other insect bites can also cause canine skin issues.
Warm weather or heavy exercise can make your dog more thirsty than usual, but prolonged, excessive thirst with no obvious cause can be a sign of illness. Dogs with illnesses such as diabetes, kidney disease and cancer often drink more than usual, and certain medications can also make your dog want to drink more frequently.
Any of the signs a dog is sick listed above warrant a trip to the vet, and treating minor illnesses promptly can help prevent them from developing into something more serious. It's a good idea to call your veterinary office and ask for advice if you're unsure whether your dog is sick and needs to be seen.
However, some symptoms are a sign that your dog needs urgent, same-day attention from a vet. You should always take your dog to the vet right away if they are struggling to breathe, especially when accompanied by blue gums.
Persistent and uncontrollable vomiting and diarrhea also require urgent evaluation, and your dog may have a life-threatening condition known as bloat if they have a distended stomach or keep trying to vomit without success.
Trauma and loss of function in the rear legs are veterinary emergencies, and your dog will require evaluation for broken bones or spinal cord damage. You should take your dog to the vet immediately if they have a seizure — which can sometimes be a sign of ingested poisons — or if you know they've consumed something toxic. Although struggling to urinate can often be a sign of a bladder infection, it could also signify an obstruction requiring emergency treatment.
Generally, it's always best to err on the side of caution and take your dog to the vet urgently if they appear to be unwell or in pain. Panting, yelping or food refusal can all be signs of a serious issue, even if you can't see any other obvious symptoms. As always, a vet evaluation is the surest way to know what’s wrong with your precious pooch.
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