You play a key role in keeping your dog healthy.  There will be times in spite of your excellent care when your dog will feel yucky, get sick or come down with a disease.  It is important to watch out for the indicators that their health has been compromised.  Unfortunately, your dog cannot tell you what they feel you have to be able to interpret from your dogs behavior if they are ill.  These are the most common physical symptoms which will be your clue that something isn’t right.

If your dog acts a little strange and vomits and then goes back to being his regular self.  You probably don’t need to worry.  They ate something that disagreed with them.  When there is a change that does not improve quickly, or worsens, that is when you need to start investigating.


Common Warning Signs Of Illness


Stomach Upset:  Vomiting / Diarrhea

Vomiting or dry heaves associated with a lack of appetite, weakness and lethargy that lasts longer than 24 hours is a warning sign something is up.  If there is blood in the vomit or the vomit looks like coffee grounds call your vet.  Vomiting or stomach upset can be a sign of hookworms, roundworms or whipworms.

Diarrhea that lasts longer than 48 hours is when to be concerned.  Watch for possible blood or mucus in the poo.  Take a stool sample to the vet.

Loss Of Appetite

If your dog is refusing to eat for over 24 hours and has some other symptoms.  Make a vet appointment.  Dogs like people just are not as hungry some days but when they refuse treats and have additional symptoms this is a cause for concern.


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Change in Drinking Habits

Drinking to little can be a sign of illness.  Just as excessive thirst can indicate a fever, hormone issues, diabetes or kidney disease.

Coughing, Sneezing, Trouble Breathing, Panting

If your dog starts coughing, sneezing, labored breathing or a nasal discharge these are signs of a respiratory problem.  These symptoms could be as simple as a cold or flu or point to a chronic condition.  Chronic coughing can be related to heartworms, lung diseases or heart disease.  Kennel cough can be especially difficult for pugs, Boston terriers bulldogs and boxers.  All of these breeds with flat faces can inherently have respiratory difficulties.

Runny eyes or nose can also be a sign of respiratory issues.

If you notice your dog pawing or itching their eyes, if their eyes are runny or red this can be an indication of an eye infection or glaucoma.

Changes in Elimination

A housebroken dog that suddenly is having accidents can be a sign of illness and should not be ignored.

Straining to urinate, changes in urine volume or blood in the urine can be signs of kidney issues or diabetes.  Older dogs are more at risk for kidney problems and diabetes.  Excessive thirst can also be a signal of liver or adrenal gland disease.  Not urinating enough or straining to urinate can be a sign of a urinary tract infection or bladder problem.  If you can, take a urine sample to the vet with you.

Flaky, Itchy Skin Or Hair Loss

Your dogs skin is an indicator of good health.  Sores, lumps or chronic itching can be signs of fleas or dermatitis.  Signs of flea dirt looks like fresh ground pepper.  Hair loss and itching can be indications of fleas, ticks and mites.  But it can also indicate allergies, fungal infections, yeast infections or endocrine problems.

Bad Breath or Pale Gums

Bad breath can be an indication of tooth decay or illness.  Pay attention to any smell changes in your dogs breath.

Healthy dogs have pink moist gums.  A dog with pale colored gums is a warning sign of illness.  You can check your dog’s gum color by lifting your dog’s lip.  Red or swollen gums and bad breath can be a sign of gum disease or tooth decay.  This can also cause a drop in weight due to the discomfort when eating.

Inactive, Tired, Stiff, Lame, Difficulty Rising

If you notice a change in your dogs activity level.  Keep a close eye for any additional symptoms.  Trouble walking or limping can be a sign of hip dysplasia or arthritis.  After a day of rest and inactivity if your dog does not go back to their normal behavior, visit your vet.  Lyme disease or broken bones are also possibilities.

Hip dysplasia is common in large dogs like German Shepherds, Labradors or Golden Retrievers.  Many little dogs have trouble with their knee joints luxating patella (Knee caps that slip out of the normal position).

Weight Loss Or Weight Gain

If your dog starts to lose weight or gain weight it can me an indication of a health issue.  Sometimes this can take a few weeks to notice but you need to monitor either change to your dog’s weight.

Changes in Personality

A dog that loves people and starts growling at everyone or growls when you touch a certain part of his body is letting you know that pup doesn’t feel well.  Just as we get cranky when we don’t feel well your dog will too. Sick dogs often withdraw and seek quiet and isolation.  Other dogs, may want to be right next to you and become very needy.  Whatever your dog’s normal is, if that changes watch for additional indicators of ill health.



In order to take the best care of our pets regular vet visits can help you diagnose conditions early.  Generally the early you get treatment for an ailment the less expensive it is to fix and the better health outcomes you will have.  A regular vet who gets to know your dog over the years can spot irregularities quicker.  It may be beneficial to look into pet insurance to help with any unforeseen medical expenses.

During a vet visit be prepared to provide:

  • Dog Health History
  • Current Medications
  • Symptoms
  • Date when symptoms started.
  • Frequency of symptoms.

10% of pets that appear healthy to their owners during annual checkups have underlying diseases.



Just like with our children’s health or our own health we need to be aware of the signs and symptoms that something isn’t right with our pets.  Our dog cannot tell us what they feel we have to be able to interpret from our dogs behavior if they are ill.