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How to Know if Your Dog is ill

Your dog's general health is largely affected by how old he is, much like our own health. However sadly, our dogs do age faster than we do. There are some things you can do though to give your dog a better quality of life and to prolong it as much as possible. Your dog cannot tell you when he is feeling ill so you need to watch for signs of disease as the sooner you catch some things the more positive the outlook is. It may be helpful to hear that 10% of dogs who go for an annual checkup at the vets appear to be healthy bot to the owner and vet but actually have a disease that has not been detected or observed yet. This is good reason to stay watchful. Learn their tells and become familiar with their body language. Know his habits so when something is off you see it sooner rather than later. Acting quickly can not just save your dog from suffering, it could save you money and heartache.


General Symptoms that Indicate Your Dog is Unwell

Here we have a list that considers behavior change, breathing problems, digestive problems, changes in appearance, and neurological signs as well as others that are indications that your dog is ill. Keep in mind this may not cover every single symptom ever shown by a sick dog so if you see something that is not on the list but still concerns you go see your vet. Also keep in mind that when dealing with dogs who are ill the youngest, the weakest and the oldest are more likely to be hit harder by it, take longer to recover, or not recover at all.

Change in Behavior

Symptoms here might include;



Clingy or neediness



Stomach Issues

Occasionally a dog will eat something he should not have and will vomit or get diarrhea. But when he has stomach issues along with other symptoms, or when the stomach issues are there for more than 24 to 48 hours, this may be a sign of something else that needs the vet to look at.

Poor appetite




Pain in the abdomen

Swollen stomach

Blood in his stool

Dry heaving

If he is restless, has a distended stomach, and is dry heaving this could be a sign of bloat which is a life threatening disease that affects any dog though more often large breeds and he needs immediate medical help

Respiratory Symptoms

Breathing problems are not always obvious but they include;

Labored breathing


Noisy breathing


Coughing that makes a honking sound

Cough that disrupts his sleep and lasts longer than 24 hours

Nasal discharge that is persistent, may have blood or mucus

If your dog is having difficulty breathing and you see that the color of his gums and tongue have a bluish tint rather than being a healthy pink take him for emergency medical care straight away

Issues with Elimination

Symptoms to look for include;

He seems to have difficulty urinating

He urinates more often

He urinates more in volume

Struggles to pass a stool

Having accidents either urinary or fecal around the house when before he was house trained

Appearance Changes

This one is usually what many owners notice first, when their dog stops looking healthy that is a sure sign something is wrong. Here are some things that may come up;

New bumps or lumps

Old lumps or bumps change in shape or size

Weight loss that is sudden

Lumps or bumps that start oozing or are bloody

Weight gain that is sudden

A rash

Loss of hair

Itching and scratching persistently

Shaking his head or scratching at his ears persistently

Neurological Symptoms

If the problem is with the nervous system you may see signs including;

Tilting his head



Twitching repetitively



Circling repetitively

Being disorientated

Loosing consciousness no matter if it was just for seconds should be treated very seriously and you should take him in to his vet immediately

Fever in Dogs

Another sign of your dog being unwell is if he has a fever or high temperature un related to weather or external temperatures. Dogs have a higher normal temperature than people and the tale of being able to touch his nose and tell if his is raised because it is hot and dry rather than cold and wet is a misconception. The only way you should be accurately judging his temperature is by using a thermometer made for dogs that takes rectal readings. A number above 103F is a fever for a dog and you should take him in to be checked. If his temperature is over 104.5 this is becoming life threatening and as well as getting him emergency medical care you should take measures to cool him down.

Dogs Who are in Pain

If your dog whines or yelps when you touch somewhere that is an obvious sign of pain. However many dogs when in pain actually go quiet and suffer silently. If your dog is in pain do not give any human medications to alleviate it as they can be toxic. Signs of pain include;

Reluctance to move, walk or jump

Lameness for longer than a day



Struggling to chew


Swelling around a joint or bone that feels warm

Growling and protective over a body part if he thinks you are going near it

If your dog has uncontrolled bleeding, has been in an accident, fallen from a high height or attacked by another animal you need to see a vet immediately

Keeping Your Dog Healthy

There are some screening tests that can be taken to check your dogs general health which include;


A complete blood count in case the symptoms are from blood-related conditions

Testing for ticks, and heartworm

Urine tests to check for infection and kidney function

ECG to check the heart

Electrolyte and chemistry tests to check internal organs and for dehydration

Thyroid test to check if the gland is working normally

Ask your vet about other tests that can be done

By doing this testing when your dog is healthy your vet can get a baseline value on his health and be able to recognize more obviously when things are no longer normal. If you want to know more about preventative testing talk to your vet. Always air on the side of caution with your dog. If he seems off in any way take him to his vet for a check up. This way things can be caught in their early stages.