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5 Common Signs That Your Dog is Sick

Pet Health and Safety  •   Abby Drexler  •   May 24, 2018

Dogs don't have the ability to tell us how they feel. However, anyone who has ever had a dog knows that canine body language is very expressive. Dogs will instinctively not show us that there is something wrong in the early stages of an illness. Because you know your dog, you may be able to pick up on some subtle changes in his personality and actions. These subtle changes usually indicate that something is wrong. The key to helping your dog recover quickly is noticing that there is a problem as soon as possible. Here are five warning signs that your dog may be ill and in need of veterinary attention. 

Changes in Personality 

When dogs are in pain or don't feel well, they tend to display behavioral changes. Usually, these personality changes occur suddenly. Your normally social dog may start to withdraw. Or your kind and energetic pet may begin to show snippiness, aggression or lethargy. You should pay attention to your dog if he starts to growl when you get close to a particular area of the body. Dogs may snap at you if you get too close to the source of their discomfort. Not all dogs will display negative behavior when they are ill. Some dogs may become clingy or show signs of increased neediness. If you begin to notice significant changes in your dog's behavior, you should contact your veterinarian. 


Unexplained Weight Loss 

While weight loss isn't necessarily a sign that something is wrong, unexplained weight loss could mean a problem. Most dogs won't lose a considerable amount of weight if they are not on a diet or getting more exercise. On the other hand, dogs who gain weight without any changes to their lifestyle may be experiencing a health issue. This sign may take a few weeks to notice. The shift in weight may also occur without any other unusual symptoms. 

Respiratory Symptoms 

Coughing, wheezing and nasal discharge are all signs of a respiratory issue. These issues can range from a simple cold to canine flu. If your dog has a cold or flu, there will probably be other symptoms present such as redness of the eyes and a runny nose. Hearing a honking noise can indicate a more serious tracheal issue. This form of respiratory distress is common among certain dog breeds. Check the color of the tongue and gums of your dog if he is having breathing difficulties. If your dog's tongue and gums have a bluish tint, your dog needs immediate emergency care. 


Elimination Issues 

Dogs who are properly house-trained generally won’t suddenly start urinating or defecating around the home without a good reason. Be mindful of the following changes in your dog's bathroom habits: 

  • Difficulty defecating 

  • Trouble passing urine

  • Changes in urine volume 

These changes are especially important to note in older dogs. Excessive amounts of urination may indicate an issue with the kidneys. Bloody urine and loose stools may also indicate a serious health issue.  A single occurrence of diarrhea doesn’t mean you need to run to the vet, however when diarrhea occurs multiple times in a 24-hour period, there is cause for concern. 

Loss of Appetite 

Another indication that something may be wrong is when your dog suddenly shows no interest in eating and drinking. Most dogs have their own eating habits and may eat more food on some days than on others. But if your dog just moves food around or no longer finishes his  food, you should call the vet. A change in drinking habits is also something to monitor. Drinking more water or less water than usual may also be a sign that your dog is ill. Drinking too much water can indicate that your pet has a fever, hormone issues or kidney problems. 

Your dog is an important member of your family. Keeping him healthy and happy is something that is important to you. Unfortunately, your pet won't walk up to you and say that he is sick. For this reason, it's important to notice the early symptoms as soon as possible. Schedule an appointment with your veterinarian if your dog displays any of these signs.


The information provided in this blog is intended for educational purposes only and should not serve as a substitute for the professional medical advice of your veterinarian. Always consult your veterinarian with questions about your pet’s health and before initiating any treatment regimes. 

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