Dogs can be just as good as cats at hiding illnesses.
Experience of ancestors in the wild tells them that a sick animal is especially vulnerable, and this ancient instinct still sticks around today. There are warning signs you can look for, and here we list common dog health warning signs that should have you monitoring your dog or heading to the vet.
Excessive sleeping, laziness or a refusal to move around as much can be a sign of an illness or affliction. Some possibilities are heartworms, nausea or urinary tract disease.
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2. Trouble Urinating
Problems producing urine are signs of urinary tract disease or a blockage. If this sign doesn’t clear up within a day, get to the vet. Straining or excessive urination can also be signs of a tumor.
3. Scooting the Booty
Dragging or scooting a canine booty on the floor is usually a sign of worms. Unless you want to catch them too, see the vet for treatment. This can also be a sign of fluid buildup in the anal sacs that needs to be drained. Gross, sure, but necessary.
4. Excessive Thirst
Drinking excessively, along with gagging, abdominal tightness, diarrhea or a resistance to move can be a sign of gastric torsion or bloat (administer an anti-gas product approved by your vet on the way in for emergency care).
This sign can also be a symptom of diabetes, kidney or liver disease, bladder stones or endocrine disorders. Keep an eye out for empty water bowls and excessive outdoor trips to potty.
5. Loss of Appetite
Changes to the environment or traveling can disrupt a dog’s normal eating pattern, but this should be considered a problem after 24 hours of not eating.
Possibilities can include nausea, kidney, liver or heart disease or a blockage in the stomach or intestines. It could also simply be too hot that day for your dog to want to chow down, but this shouldn’t continue beyond one day.
Certain dog breeds can be difficult eaters and can go a few days without eating as a normal occurrence. Once such breed that may exhibit this behavior is the Tibetan mastiff.
6. Excessive Weight Loss
Rapid or excessive weight loss can be a sign of diabetes, liver disease, loss of smell, digestive disorders, nervous system disease or lactation.
7. Drooling More Than Normal
This may be hard to recognize on a typical drooler like a Newfoundland, but it’s an important sign. Excessive drooling can be a sign of an allergic reaction such as throat swelling. This can be the result of something recent or exposure from a day before.
8. Red or Swollen Gums
Gum inflammation or redness can be signs of gingivitis and is usually accompanied by bad breath. Infections, diseases, weak teeth and other issues in the mouth can cause these symptoms to appear and signal that it’s time for a vet check and possible dental cleaning.
If you don’t already brush your dog’s teeth, please talk to your vet about how and when to get started once this warning sign is treated.
9. Difficulty Breathing
If your dog has trouble breathing, it’s not a sign to ignore. Possible explanations include kennel cough, pneumonia, heart failure, bronchitis, allergic reaction or throat swelling, various diseases, asthma, fluid or bleeding in the lungs, tumors, medications, pain or fever.
This could be a sign of a recent injury, something stuck in the paw like a splinter or something more serious such as degenerative joint disease, various other diseases and cancer. In older dogs it can be a sign of arthritis or hip dysplasia.
11. Sensitivity to Touch
Bloat, gastric torsion or inflammation can be causes of this sign. It’s not a good symptom and needs to be evaluated by the vet. Some dogs are highly sensitive or scared of touch or handling and may need additional training or attention.
If your dog usually rolls over for a belly rub at the drop of a hat and suddenly doesn’t want to be touched, you should consider this a sign of an illness or injury that needs attention.
12. Lumps on the Body
This can be caused by fat pockets (large, benign fatty tumors called lipoma) in senior dogs, tumors, inflammation or a reaction to a foreign body like foxtail weeds and seeds.
13. Repetitive Vomiting
While occasional vomiting is not entirely abnormal in the dog world, repetitive vomiting should be a cause for concern. Nausea, internal blockages, kidney disease or something else can be affecting your dog if constantly vomiting every meal. If this doesn’t improve within a day, don’t delay a trip to the vet.
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14. Rough or Dull Coat
Coat changes can be a sign of a food allergy or vitamin deficiency. Kidney disease is also possible, as well as hypothyroidism. A dog’s coat is an important sign of its health, and coat changes should not be ignored.
15. Blood Produced with Cough or Vomit
Also called hematemesis, vomiting blood can be a sign of bowel disease, ulcers, esophagus problems, inability to clot blood caused by another condition, infections, head trauma, heartworm or liver failure. If your dog is coughing up blood, possibilities include pulmonary disease, tuberculosis or blood from the stomach being inhaled from vomiting. These are all serious signs and should not be ignored.
Temperatures over 102.5 degrees should be cause for concern. Rectal temperatures with a digital thermometer can measure the Fahrenheit and tell you if you need to get to the vet immediately. While fever can be a sign of many things, they’re usually not good things.
17. Pale, White or Blue Gums
This can be a scary sign. Common causes include shock, internal bleeding, liver disease or circulatory problems. This sign shouldn’t be ignored. Jaundice is also possible with liver disease.
Loss of consciousness should be taken seriously even with quick recoveries. This sign can be caused by heart tumors or disease, stress, excitement, imbalance of vitamins in the blood or drugs.
Seizures can happen to dogs of all ages and are pretty scary. Causes of seizures can vary with the dogs age: young dogs or puppies can have seizures as a response to a viral or bacterial infection, adolescent and early adult dogs may have epilepsy or older dogs may have a brain tumor, liver disease or other illness. You should discuss any seizures with your vet as soon as possible.
Overheating can be extremely dangerous; never leave your dog in a car even with the windows open or cracked. Overheating can be caused by outside or inside temperatures, fever or dogs that have difficulty breathing because of the shape of their faces and noses.
21. Enlarged Abdomen
An enlarged abdomen can be a sign of bloat, gastric torsion or fluid buildup as a side effect of liver disease.
22. Paralysis of Back Legs
This can be a scary sign. Your rambunctious ball of fluff that loves chasing a ball is suddenly dragging the end half of the body across the floor. Causes of this warning sign can include genetic disorders, slipped back discs, spinal or brain infections, distemper, inflammation, blocked blood flow, cancer, tumors, toxins, tick paralysis, blood clot, hypothyroidism, injury or spinal malformation. This is a nasty sign that should receive immediate attention by your vet.
23. Excessive Scratching, Hair Loss and Hot Spots
These symptoms could be signs of dermatitis, skin conditions, mange, fleas or an allergic reaction. If you’ve ruled out fleas and any recent dietary changes or exposure to new areas, get it checked out by your vet.
24. Allergic Reaction
Although more common in cats, dogs can have an allergic reaction to heartworms. Other possible causes include reactions to vaccinations, change in diet, flea allergy or an ingredient allergy like corn or gluten.
25. Excessive, Constant or Repetitive Snorting or Sneezing
A certain type of weed called foxtail has barbs that allow it to attach to a dog and even travel inside the body to other areas or organs. This can turn into a very serious problem, so get it removed immediately. Other symptoms include eye squinting, pawing at the eye, rubbing on the ground or shake the head side to side.
If you see the foxtail in a sensitive area such as the eye, leave its removal for the vet. Snorting or sneezing can be signs of allergies, and some breeds also reverse sneeze.
Some of these warning signs can wait a day, while others need immediate attention. Even if your dog doesn’t exhibit any of these signs but seems “off” for more than a day, pay close attention for additional symptoms or head straight to the vet for a checkup. Check on your heartworm medication and vaccination while you’re there to ensure you’re helping your dog avoid preventable diseases.