A sick dog can show symptoms that are often subtle, particularly with more stoic breeds. Knowing the signs of possible illness can help get your dog treatment right away which often can make a big difference in their prognosis with serious medical conditions.
Common Signs Your Dog Could be Sick
The following list is some of the most typical symptoms of a sick dog. Every dog is unique so some may not show any common symptoms at all for a specific disease or suffer from different ones. If you notice any of these signs with your dog, your safest course of action is to contact your veterinarian immediately to see if you should bring your dog in to the clinic.
- Bad breath - This can be caused by periodontal disease.
- Bleeding gums - This also can be from periodontal disease.
- Bloody stool - May be caused by worms, intestinal blockage or an anal fissure from constipation.
- Blood in urine - Can be caused by a urinary tract infection, kidney disease or an internal injury.
- Bowel movements less frequent - Common causes are constipation, partial bowel blockage, or a loss of appetite.
- Constipation - Can be caused by an intestinal blockage or a change in diet.
- Coughing or gagging - This can be from several causes such as a blockage in the windpipe, kennel cough, pneumonia, heartworm or heart disease.
- Diarrhea - A common symptom for many conditions which include a change in diet, stress, canine influenza, parvovirus and coronavirus.
- Ear discharge, brown - This is most likely from an ear infection or ear mite infestation.
- Ear smell or foul odor - Ears that smell bad is usually a sign of an ear infection or parasitic infestation.
- Eyes are watery - This can be from allergies, an ingrown eyelid or cherry eye.
- Fever (temperature over 102°F) - Several serious illnesses involve a fever including viral and bacterial infections, pneumonia, and also dehydration and heat stroke.
- Hair loss - May be due to parasitic infection or a skin allergy.
- Head shaking - Dogs with an ear infection or mite infestation will shake their heads.
- Increased drinking - Several conditions can cause this including canine diabetes, kidney disease, liver disease, and Cushing's disease. Certain medications may also increase thirst.
- Inflamed ears - Dogs with an ear infection or ear mite infestation will have red inflamed ears either inside or outside the ear or both.
- Irritated skin - Common causes of red, inflamed skin are parasitic infections and allergic reactions.
- Lameness - Usually caused by a physical injury, arthritis, patellar luxation or canine hip and elbow dysplasia.
- Lethargy - There is a long list of disorders that have lethargy as a symptom including canine distemper, heartworm, parvovirus, liver disease and congestive heart failure.
- Loss of appetite - Like lethargy, this is a symptom of many conditions including anxiety, indigestion, parasites and reactions to vaccinations. It also can just be a sign your dog dislikes a change in diet.
- Lumps on the body - These can be due to cysts, tumors or ulcerations.
- Pacing - If you notice your dog pacing, this may mean he's in physical pain, anxious or it can be one of the signs of bloat.
- Pale gums and/or tongue - This happens when a dog is in shock.
- Panting excessively - A symptom found during over-heating, dehydration, a respiratory infection, heartworm infestation, stress, or physical pain.
- Potbelly or swollen belly - A worm infestation can lead to a swollen belly, as well as canine obesity.A bloated stomach that comes on quickly is a sign of bloat.
- Rapid breathing - Rapid, shallow breathing can indicate the dog has congestive heart failure, bloat, heat stroke, poisoning, anemia or a respiratory disorder.
- Red or swollen gums - This is a sign of periodontal and gum disease.
- Regurgitating food - Dogs with an inflammation, obstruction or tumor in their stomachs will regurgitate their food.
- Scratching - Dogs that scratch excessively often have parasitic infections or skin allergies or infections.
- Shaking - Shaking or body tremors can be a sign of seizures, which can occur on their own or as one of the symptoms of a more serious problem like kidney disease.
- Sleeplessness - Dogs that can't sleep at night may have physical pain, arthritis, cancer, anxiety or canine cognitive dysfunction if elderly.
- Stiff movement - This is a sign of a physical injury, canine arthritis, or canine hip or elbow dysplasia.
- Urination less frequent - This often happens with kidney stones or kidney disease.
- Urinating with pain or unable to urinate - Dogs who can't seem to urinate, and have a hunched, tense back and vocalize when they try to go may have a urinary tract infection.
- Vomiting - Many illnesses involve vomiting and some more common ones are canine influenza, worms, gastrointestinal disorders and poisoning. If the dog is only vomiting saliva, this can be a symptom of bloat.
- Weight loss - A sudden, dramatic drop in weight can happen with a worm infestation, most forms of cancer or Cushing's disease.
When It's Time to Call the Vet
Most pets will display one or more of these symptoms at some point during their lives, and 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 number of symptoms increase over a 24-hour period.
- The dog is in obvious pain and distress and cannot settle.
Recognize the Signs Your Dog May be Sick
Don't hesitate to call your vet for advice and an appointment if you're concerned about your dog's health. Especially with more serious conditions, the faster they get examined and get treated, the more successful their potential outcome can be. You know your dog best and if he just doesn't "seem right" contact your veterinary clinic and ask for their input right away.