Signs Your Dog Might Be Sick

Kelly Roper
Dog Health Issues

Sick dog symptoms are often subtle and happen to even the best cared for animals.

Dog Health Care and Illness

So, since acquiring your pet, you've followed a regular health care program, including giving your dog veterinary recommended vaccinations and routine de-worming, combined with a balanced diet and plenty of exercise. This means you should never have to deal with a sick dog, right?

Not necessarily. Even the most cared for canines will occasionally display symptoms of illness, and these signs can range from fairly mild to severe, depending on their cause. The question then becomes what to do when you notice your dog is under the weather?

Sick dog symptoms are an outward sign of an inward disorder, be it an injury, infection, or disease. The key to deciding whether veterinary intervention is in order lies in recognizing the symptoms and having a general idea of their causes.

A Variety of Sick Dog Symptoms

The following table is only a general guideline and is not meant to replace a diagnosis from a qualified veterinarian.

While there are possible causes listed for specific symptoms, this doesn't confirm your pet has a particular illness, and there may be other causes not listed for each specific symptom. Your vet will consider your dog's symptoms and perform any testing necessary to give you the most complete and accurate diagnosis.

Sick Dog Symptoms and Possible Causes
Symptom Causes
Bad Breath periodontal disease
Bleeding Gums periodontal disease
Bloody Stools worms, intestinal blockage, anal fissure caused by constipation
Blood in Urine urinary tract infection, kidney disease, internal injury
Brownish Ear Discharge ear infection, ear mite infestation
Constipation change of diet, intestinal blockage
Lumps ulcerations, cysts, tumors
Coughing windpipe blockage, kennel cough, pneumonia, heartworm, heart disease
Diarrhea change in diet, stress, dog flu, Parvo virus, Corona virus
Hair Loss parasitic infection, dog skin allergies
Head Shaking ear infection or infestation
Increased Drinking canine diabetes, kidney disease, liver disease, Cushing's disease
Inflamed Ears ear infection or infestation
Irritated Skin parasitic infestation, allergic reaction
Less Frequent Bowel Movements constipation, partial bowel blockage, loss of appetite
Less Frequent Urination kidney stones/disease
Lethargy caused by any number of illnesses and disorders
Lameness injury, canine hip and elbow dysplasia
Loss of Appetite numerous causes ranging from dislike of diet to serious illness
Pale Gums shock
Pale Tongue shock
Panting over-heating, dehydration, respiratory infection, heartworm infestation of the heart and lungs
Potbelly worm infestation, canine obesity
Scratching parasitic infestation, dog skin allergies/infections
Stiff Movement injury, canine arthritis, canine dysplasia
Smelly Ears ear infection
Temperature above 102°F viral or bacterial infection, dehydration/heat stroke
Vomiting dog flu, worm infestation, gastrointestinal disorder, algae poisoning
Watery Eyes allergies, in-grown eyelash
Sudden/Dramatic Weight Loss worm infestation, cancer, Cushings disease

When It's Time to Call the Vet

Most pets will display one or more of these symptoms of illness at some point during their lives, but there isn't always a need to rush them directly to the vet. Symptoms that only last a day and do not seem severe may simply need to run their course. However, a consultation with your vet is in order when:

  • Sick dog symptoms increase or intensify over a 24 hour period.
  • Symptoms persist more than a day.
  • The animal in question is in obvious distress.


In the long run, it's better to be safe than sorry, so if you believe your dog may truly be ill, don't hesitate to call your vet for advice and an appointment. After all, doesn't your dog deserve as much care as any other member of the family?.

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Signs Your Dog Might Be Sick