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How to tell if your dog is sick: 9 Signs to look out for

It’s never a pleasant experience when your best pal is sick. 

No doubt you’d do anything to keep them happy and healthy. But illness in dogs isn’t always so easy to spot.  It can be easy to dismiss symptoms when they aren’t so obvious. 

So with that in mind, it becomes important to look out for any subtle signs that might infer your furry friend is not so well. 

Keeping an eye out for symptoms or changes in normal behaviour is a great way to ensure quick action in getting your dog the help they need, whether that be through a simple change in diet or a trip to the vet. 


Nine signs your dog is sick

While every dog owner's experience will differ, there are nine common signs and symptoms that could indicate your dog is sick.

It’s important for you, and your dog, that you spot any symptoms early to avoid more serious health problems and large medical costs in the long run.

1. Changes in appetite

Just like people, your dog’s appetite can fluctuate. Some days, they may not be so hungry, while on other days they’ll chow down on everything in sight (and then some). However, if you notice an irregularity in their eating habits that lasts more than two days, it's very likely that something isn’t quite right. 

Another telltale sign is unexplained weight loss or weight gain. This could imply a serious health condition, especially if it’s sudden. 


2. Bathroom issues

From excessive urination to diarrhoea to not being able to go to the bathroom at all, any abnormal bathroom habit you notice might be a sign of an underlying illness or food allergy. 

Just like in humans, a dog’s stool can act as a window to their overall health. If you’re noticing a strange colour, worms, mucus or blood, they might have some form of gut-related or dietary issue. 


3. Vomiting

Sometimes we eat something that we shouldn’t and it results in an upset stomach, or worse, food poisoning accompanied by the inescapable urge to throw up. 

Dogs are the same, except they’re much more likely to have eaten something a bit funky. While it's usually ok if they’ve mistaken a dead rodent for a gourmet lunch, if vomiting persists for longer than a day, it’s time for a trip to the vet. 

If you notice something odd in their vomit, such as blood or another indigestible object, or they’re dry-retching, you should seek veterinary attention immediately, as this can be a sign of something more serious. 


4. Abnormal eyes

If your dog’s eyes just don’t look right, there’s a possibility your dog is not right either. If they have red eyes, cloudy eyes or an odd discharge, it’s a good idea to take your furry friend to the vet. It could suggest an injury or infection, and not treating a potential eye disease might lead to blindness


5. Prolonged fatigue

If your little pal is lethargic or super sluggish for a substantial amount of time, it could be a sign of an underlying disease. They might have lost interest in playing or going for walks, and have started sleeping excessively. Obviously, this could be the sign of an ageing dog, but if they’re relatively young, lethargy could mean something’s not quite right. 


6. Excessive thirst

If your dog is suddenly thirsty or dehydrated, it could be a sign of an underlying medical condition. 

On a hot day or after a lot of activity, your dog is going to be thirstier than normal. However, if their excessive thirst lasts for a long time, it could be time for a check-up. 

Diabetes, Cushing’s disease, cancer, kidney and liver disease are all serious conditions that can cause a change in drinking habits. This being said, sometimes it’s the medication used to treat these conditions that actually cause their excessive thirst. If you think this is the case, discuss with your vet if there are alternative treatments. 

It can be hard to monitor how much your dog is drinking, so if you’re worried, developing a water routine is a great way to notice changes. Refilling the water bowl to the same level at roughly the same time each day is a great way to monitor how much your dog is drinking. 


7. Changes in behaviour

If your furry friend is suddenly not so friendly, it might be a sign of an injury. If their aggressive behaviour persists, try to take note of whether they’ve been favouring a certain spot on their body, as it could indicate a bite or cut and mean they’re in pain. 

Other changes in behaviour, such as disorientation or appearing lost, should be examined by a vet as they may be mental symptoms triggered by an underlying illness. Signs to look out for include not recognising a familiar person in their life, or forgetting general training practices. 


8. Dry or itchy coat

If your dog’s coat is appearing patchy, rough or dry instead of thick and shiny, then it’s time to contact your veterinarian. Changes in fur or hair loss could suggest an allergy or skin infection that needs to be treated. 

If your dog is excessively itching or scratching, a vet can help you determine whether it’s a parasite or if there’s another culprit causing the discomfort.


9. Stiffness or trouble moving 

Sudden difficulty in movement is generally a sign your dog is in pain or injured. Look out for signs such as,  difficulty getting up, walking upstairs, limping or hiding.

When you know it’s time to go to the vet

If any of these symptoms persist for more than 24 to 48 hours, it's a good idea to take a trip to the vet. Some symptoms will present more seriously than others, especially in senior dogs,  so use your common sense to decide on the best course of action when the sign first appear. 

So what do you do if it’s an emergency and the vet is closed? Well, like humans, pets also have a 24/7 emergency department. We hope your dog is never in a situation where they need this, but if they do, call your vet first and they will usually be able to give after-hours help and redirect you to the nearest ED. 

It’s always best to be prepared for these situations, so saving your vet’s contact information or knowing where the closest emergency service is, will assist you in taking quick action when needed.


Make your dog’s health a priority

Dogs are more than just a pet, they’re family. Looking after your pet should be easy and stress-free because a happy dog means a happy life.

With years of experience in the pet pharmaceutical industry, Scriptly provides high-quality, affordable and convenient pet care to Australians.

View our range of pet meds available online.