symptoms of a sick dog

Dog Illnesses Symptoms: Common Signs of a Sick Dog

Dog Illnesses Symptoms
Behavioral changes are the first signs of a sick dog.

In the lifetime of a dog, it is not uncommon for a dog to develop an illness and because dogs cannot verbally express this, it is therefore very important for dog owners to know how to detect symptoms of dog illnesses.

There are quite a variety of symptoms and signs that dogs give off when they are unwell and they do so either consciously or unconsciously and this article will identify some of these dog illnesses symptoms.

Behavioral changes

One of the very early signs that your may be dog is unwell can be seen in a change in behavior; just like when a human being is sick, the behavioral changes of a sick dog is easily noticeable. For different dogs, the behavioral changes will vary and the pet owner’s knowledge of the dog will be an important factor in identifying the change in behavior.

For instance, a dog that is usually very friendly and outgoing may suddenly become withdrawn and easily irritated and unwilling to participate in the usual daily activities that are associated with him; some dogs may even become aggressive. Every healthy dog loves to eat but if you start noticing that your dog is showing less and less interest in food then this may be sure red flag that your beloved canine friend may be unwell.

Some of the common behavioral changes that may be indicative of a sick dog are:

  • Aggression: while aggression in dogs could be due to several possible causes, some possible causes of aggression in sick dogs are injury, illness, chronic pain. A dog that is experiencing serious muscle or joint pain such as hip dysplasia may tend to be more aggressive than usual or dogs that are normally not aggressive may suddenly become aggressive.
  • Excessive barking: dogs are meant to bark and a dog may bark for different reason but when a dog that does not have a history of excessive barking begins to bark at all times then one need to unearth the reason behind it. Illness induced barking may be caused by pain, disease, distress as a result of separation e.g. from owner

Observe changes in physical appearance

Once you have noticed some behavioral changes in your dog, you should take a closer physical look at him. Check his coat for signs of parasites like ticks or flea, observe his eyes, ears and belly for visible changes. Any noticeable physical changes will be very helpful in diagnosing the cause of the dog’s sickness and by extension the treatment required to restore his health.

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One of the foremost signs of a sick dog is the changes in the dog’s physical appearance, so as a dog owner you should pay attention to the following:

  • Changes in the dog’s body weight
  • Runny nose
  • Bad smells
  • Swollen, red eyes
  • Itchy ears – observe if you see your dog scratching its ears
  • Balding spots
  • Tumors, bumps etc

Some common dog illnesses symptoms beyond the physical appearance:

A loss of appetite

While it is not exactly strange that a dog may sometimes show a lack of interest in food, if this unwillingness persist for about 2 days or more then it may be a sign of that the dog is sick.

Loss of appetite in dogs that is as a result of an illness could be an indication that the dog may be suffering from a serious illness such as kidney failure, cancer, liver or dental disease, pain or infection.

If your dog equally shows an unwillingness to drink water during this period, then you have a clearer sign that your dog may urgently need to visit the vet. However, unusually high intake of water and urination may suggest that the dog may be suffering from diabetes, kidney or liver disease.


A casual or one-off vomit is nothing unusual; perhaps she has eaten something that irritates her guts and then she throws up. However if the dog vomits multiple times in a day or over a few days then this may be a clear sign that the dog may be unwell.

Sometimes the cause of the vomit is because the dog may have swallowed an indigestible object like a little stick, a toy, sharp bone etc. This may also be the cause of blood in the vomit as the object may have cut the dog after swallowing it or while trying to vomit it.

The underlying causes of vomiting may be difficult to diagnose so you should pay closer attention to see if there are other symptoms that may be helpful in diagnosing the cause of the vomiting. Other symptoms to look at for in addition to blood in the vomit are weight loss, an increase or a drop in water intake and urination, lethargy and diarrhea.

Sneezing, difficulty in breathing and coughing

These symptoms may be an indication of respiratory related health problems; a coughing dog particularly when it is persistent may be showing signs of lungs or heart disease and if the coughing is accompanied by phlegm or mucus then the dog should be check for pneumonia.

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Respiratory allergies are usually the cause of dog sneezing besides the occasional sneezing which is pretty fine. But if you observe that your dog tends to sneeze a lot at certain period of the year then it may be due to some seasonal allergy such as pollen or plant that the dog is reacting to. However if the sneezing is a one-off experience that seems to persist for more than 2 days then you should visit the vet for further examination of the dog.

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