Signs Your Dog Might Be Sick

Mychelle Blake
Sick young puppy with ice bag on head

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.

Dog At Animal Clinic
Veterinarian examining dog on table in clinic
  • 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.
Veterinarian examining dog in front of woman

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.

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Signs Your Dog Might Be Sick