How do you Tell if Your Dog’s Sick?

Protecting your dog’s health and well being is important. Unfortunately, your dog can’t tell you when he feels bad and it can sometimes be difficult to tell when your faithful canine is “under the weather”. It’s particularly important, as a good dog owner, to be aware of signs that your dog is experiencing a health problem. The key to detecting a problem early is to be knowledgeable about the signs and symptoms of disease as well as what’s normal for your particular canine. Here are some signs and symptoms that indicate your dog is sick.

Look for changes in behavior.

By spending time with your dog on a daily basis, you’ll be more aware of what’s normal and what’s not normal for your dog. For some dogs, particularly older ones, it’s typical for them to sleep during the day. For other dogs who are younger and more energetic, daytime sleeping may be a sign of illness. The same goes for eating behavior. Some dogs are naturally finicky and need to be coaxed to eat their food, while others will eat anything you offer them. A change in eating patterns such as a voracious eater not finishing a meal should raise a red flag and prompt a visit to the vet. Even an unusually enthusiastic appetite can be a sign of diabetes or other metabolic problems. The key lies in knowing your dog’s habits.

Change in weight.

This is another important that may suggest that your dog is sick. If possible, check a monthly weight on your dog and record it in a book so you can see if there are any major changes over time. Any significant downward change in body weight should be brought to the attention of your vet.

Bowel and bladder changes

If your dog has accidents in the house, don’t assume it’s a behavior problem. Bowel and bladder changes can be subtle signs that your dog is sick. An increase in urination or urinating in the house can be one of the first signs of diabetes, particularly if your dog is drinking more than usual. Loose stools can be a sign of pancreatitis or infestation with parasites. Also check for the presence of mucous or blood in the stools which can be signs of intestinal disease. If possible, get a sample of the loose stool and take it with you when you take your dog to the vet.

Excessive panting or coughing

Panting that occurs in the absence of vigorous exercise or in cool temperatures can be a sign that your dog is sick. In an older dog, this can be an indication of congestive heart failure as well as lung disease or anemia. Check your dog’s gums for a blue discoloration which could signify heart disease. The presence of pale gums may be a sign of anemia or impending shock. Coughing can be a sign of congestive failure, lung disease, or the presence of a foreign body in the throat. If your dog is manifesting any of these signs, see your veterinarian immediately.

An unusually dry nose

This isn’t always a sign of illness, but can be a subtle indicator of fever. A dog’s normal temperature when inactive is around 101.5 degrees Farenheit, although it may be elevated normally after vigorous activity. Your dog’s temperature can be taken rectally at home. If above 102.5 degrees Farenheit, contact your vet.

Changes in gait.

Any changes in gait should be brought to the attention of your veterinarian. Osteosarcoma or cancer of the bone isn’t uncommon in some dog breeds and can present with lameness in one leg. Spinal problems such as spinal stenosis can also present with weakness in the back legs. Sudden onset of limpness in one leg can be a sign of a traumatic tear in the anterior cruciate ligament in the knee or a dislocated knee cap and should be seen immediately by a vet. Gradual onset of lameness can be a sign of canine arthritis.

Abnormal lumps and bumps

Once a month, carefully feel along your dog’s entire body for the presence of abnormal lumps, bumps, and sores. With so much fur, it can be easy to miss an abnormal growth that could indicate a cancer. The most common cause of a soft lump in a dog skin is a non-cancerous fatty tumor known as a lipoma, but don’t assume that’s what it is. Have your dog seen by a vet. You wouldn’t want to miss an early cancer.

The key to determining if your dog is sick is to be aware of what’s normal for your dog and to be cognizant of any changes. Any deviations from normal behavior and habits should be brought to the attention of your vet. By being aware of potential problems early, you can increase the chances of your dog living a long and healthy life.