5 Ways to Tell if Your Dog is Sick

Dog with ice pack on head.

If you are a dog owner, you probably know that helpless feeling when you sense your pup is feeling under the weather. You wonder if she got into the trash and ate something she wasn’t supposed to. Or maybe he was playing a little too hard at the dog park and you didn’t notice that he was injured. While dogs are considered man’s best friend, unfortunately, they can’t tell you when something is wrong, so it is best to be aware of the common signs of illness and injury.


Abnormal Appetite


Unexplained weight gain or weight loss should be taken seriously. It is unusual for a dog to refrain from eating for several days or to suddenly start eating ravenously at each meal without a significant lifestyle change. Make sure to monitor these types of appetite abnormalities and if they persist, your pet is likely experiencing some type of illness or injury.


Attitude or Behavior Changes


If your easygoing dog starts snapping at you suddenly, or your hyperactive puppy is sleeping excessively during the day, odds are that something is wrong. Aggression, anxiety, and lethargy can indicate signs of pain and should not be ignored. It is also common for a sick or injured dog to hide from you or to become needier than normal. Any noticeable changes in personality should be relayed to your dog’s veterinarian.


Coughing or Sneezing


Respiratory symptoms such as coughing and sneezing could be a simple as doggie allergies, but can also be symptoms of life-threatening illnesses like pneumonia or heartworm. If your dog is coughing, note the frequency and type of cough that is present—for instance, a violent, wracking cough can be a sign of something more serious like bronchitis. Contact your vet immediately if you notice any signs of difficulty breathing or lethargy associated with these respiratory symptoms.


Diarrhea or Vomiting

If your dog has occasional diarrhea or vomits from time to time, that is just part of being a pet owner. However, excessive diarrhea or vomiting likely means that your pup ingested something that is not part of its normal diet. Whatever that foreign material was could be poisonous to your pet and the source will need to be investigated. Maybe your dog found the chocolate you keep on your counter or got into some dangerous pesticides in your garden. In any case, should the vomiting last more than a few hours or if the diarrhea contains blood, the situation should be treated as an emergency.

Excessive Drinking and Urinating

Excessive drinking may seem harmless at first, but it likely means that your dog is losing excess amounts of water from their body. It can be an important warning sign and is most commonly associated with diabetes, Cushing’s disease, or kidney disease, especially when accompanied by excessive urination and weight loss. If you suspect that your pet is drinking excessively, monitor their water intake and report this to your vet if the behavior persists for more than a few days.

While your dog can’t tell you when it is sick or injured, there are many warning signs that can help you and your veterinarian properly diagnose your pup and get them on the road to recovery. Hopefully next time your dog is feeling under the weather, you won’t feel so helpless, and you will be more aware of how illnesses present themselves in your dog.

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