Sick Dog Symptoms
A pet owner's guide to the most common illness signs and symptoms
A sick dog is every pet owner's nightmare. As your dog's first line of defense against serious illness, it's your job to know him better than anyone else, and to catch it when he's telling you something's not right. He actually can tell you a lot about where it hurts--as long as you know what to look for. Here is a list of the most common sick dog symptoms and what what those symptoms could mean.
Common Dog Illness Symptoms:
- Stretching and Bowing
- Loss of Appetite
- Increased Thirst and Urination
- Pale Gums
- Changes in Body Temperature
Has your dog's behavior changed?
- Lethargy is the most common sign of illness. Sick dogs often lie quietly in a curled position.
- Dogs in pain may be irritable and restless, and may hide, dig, pant, and tremble.
- Dogs with abdominal pain often stretch and bow.
- A dog with breathing difficulties may refuse to lie down or if he does, will keep his head raised.
- Confusion, head-pressing (act of pressing the head against objects for no apparent reason), or seizures may indicate neurological problems.
Have your dog's eating, drinking, or elimination changed?
- Sick dogs often lose their appetite. Some endocrine disorders can cause increased appetite, however.
- Increased thirst and urination may indicate kidney disease or diabetes.
- Frequent, sudden attempts to urinate, especially if only small amounts are produced or if accompanied by signs of pain, is a sick dog symptom that may indicate a urinary tract infection.
- Painful urination, straining to urinate, or blood in the urine may indicate urinary stones.
- Inability to urinate is a life threatening emergency.
Is your dog regurgitating or vomiting?
- Regurgitating food right after eating can indicate an esophageal problem.
- Vomiting food after it's been in the stomach can indicate poisoning, blockage, or a host of problems. Consult your veterinarian immediately if your dog vomits feces-like matter (which could indicate an intestinal blockage) or blood (which may resemble coffee grounds), has accompanying fever or pain, or if the vomiting lasts more than a few hours.
Does your dog have diarrhea?
- Diarrhea is a dog illness symptom that can result from nervousness, a change in diet or water, food sensitivities, intestinal parasites, infections, poisoning, or many illnesses. It's not uncommon for dogs to have blood in their diarrhea, but diarrhea with lots of blood, or accompanied by vomiting, fever, or other symptoms of illness warrants a call to the veterinarian.
- Bright red blood in your dog's stool indicates a source lower in the digestive tract, while dark black tarry stools indicate a source higher in the digestive tract. (more info on dog poop)
Is your dog coughing?
Coughing can be caused by foreign bodies, tracheal collapse, tumors, kennel cough, and heart disease, among others. Coughing that occurs mostly at night or after exercise may suggest congestive heart failure. Kennel cough is characterized by a gagging or honking cough, often a week after being around infected dogs.
Is your dog's gum color off?
If you suspect a problem, check the gums. They should be a deep pink, and if you press with your thumb, they should return to pink within 2 seconds after lifting your thumb.
- Very pale gums or slow re-pinking may indicate anemia, shock, or poor circulation.
- Bluish gums or tongue can mean a life-threatening lack of oxygen.
- Bright red gums may indicate overheating or carbon monoxide poisoning, and yellow gums jaundice.
- Tiny red splotches may indicate a blood-clotting problem.
- Tooth and gum problems will often cause bad breath and pain.
Is your dog's temperature abnormal?
To take your dog's temperature, lubricate a rectal thermometer and insert it about 2 inches (5 cm) into the dog's anus, leaving it there for about a minute. Normal is from 101 to 102°F. If the temperature is 103°F or above, or 98°F or below, call your veterinarian for advice; if it's 105°F or above, 96°F or below, go to your veterinarian.
The best way to notice when something's wrong is to get to know your dog when everything's right. Check your dog all over so you know what's normal for him. It's the best way to know when he's trying to tell you something. Besides, he'll love the attention!
For more sick dog symptoms and dog health conditions, check out the Dog Symptom Checker