by Joseph Printer
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Dogs get sick, just like us. They get colds, depressed, arthritis, and cancer, but with some maintenance, you can help your dog stay healthier, happier, and hopefully with you a bit longer. Though your dog can’t speak directly to you it can show you distress in many different ways. Some are conscious while others are a natural biological response to ensure you understand what they need. When you get a pet it’s always good to have a veterinarian so you can check their health on a regular basis.

But, what are these health issues and how do you know if your dog may be ill? Here’s a fact that may surprise: 10 percent of pets are sick even if they appear healthy, so it’s crucial to check the internal state of your dog. It is especially important to remain aware of subtle illnesses if your dog is aging. Many owners may attribute these changes to age, rather than sickness. With that said, let’s get into those possible symptoms.


Bathroom changes accompany illness, at times. If you notice these symptoms then contact your veterinarian.

  • Difficulty urinating or defecating
  • Increases in the frequency of urine or amount of urine
  • Incontinence or fecal accidents in a trained dog

There can be a variety of issues happening when you notice this behavior. Some may be related to digestion or something else.


These are the most easily noticed. When bathing your dog you will want to run your hands over its entire body each time to look for any abnormalities such as:

  • Lumps and bumps that weren’t there before
  • Changes in old lumps and bumps
  • Bloody, oozing lumps or sores
  • Sudden weight loss or gain
  • Rash
  • Loss of hair
  • Persistent shaking of the head, itching, or scratching at the ears


sad dog lying on the bedYour dog’s behavior may change drastically or subtly, but as you know it very well, you will most likely be the first to notice these changes.

You may notice your dog is more lethargic, withdrawn, irritable, agitated, or clingy. These changes from its usual behavior may indicate a variety of different illnesses that should be addressed by your veterinarian.


Most dogs do not alert anyone to their pain. They will not whimper unless the pain is excruciating or if you touch the sore area. Never give your dog pain medication unless it is prescribed for your dog, including any human medication. This may be toxic to your dog.


Illness often comes with fever. As your dog should have a cold wet nose, if you feel it is warm and dry that is a problem. This is a misconception, though, so is not always reliable. Taking your dog’s temperature is the only real way to know if your dog is running a fever.

If our dog’s temperature is above 103 F, call the veterinarian. If it is above 104.5, this is a medical emergency and also life-threatening. This temperature is a sure sign of heat stroke, so you will want to cool your dog down quickly and go to your veterinarian immediately.


These changes can be overt or implicit, but either way, if you see the following changes in your dog’s respiratory behavior, then speak with your veterinarian.

  • A honking cough
  • Noisy breathing that may be accompanied by wheezing
  • A persistent cough that interrupts your dog’s sleep or lasts longer than 24 hours
  • Nasal discharge that is persistent. If you notice blood or mucus this is quite concerning
  • Persistent gagging
  • Breathing that seems as if it is difficult. If this occurs, check your dog’s gums and tongue. If either is blue, get care immediately


Every dog experiences diarrhea or vomiting at times. This can be caused by too much human food or snacks found on the sidewalk, but when your dog has the following symptoms that are combined with lethargy and decreased appetite, talking to your veterinarian is highly advised.

  • No appetite
  • Repeated vomiting or large amounts of diarrhea that last for more than one day
  • Pain in the abdomen or swelling
  • Diarrhea that is bloody

Bloat. This condition is often seen in large dogs and involves repeated dry heaving, distended belly, and restlessness. The possibility of this condition should be talked about with your veterinarian as bloat is life-threatening.


vet checking up a dog using stethoscopeWhen you take your dog to the vet, they may receive a variety of tests to help assess their actual health. These may include:

Tests that measure the chemical makeup of your dog’s body including the electrolytes to ensure your dog is getting enough water or may have an imbalance of its electrolytes

Tests that will determine if your dog has ticks, heartworm, or another infection or diesease.

A test that will assess your dog’s blood count to ensure it doesn’t have a blood-related condition

Urine tests may be conducted to look for urinary tract infections and to look at your dog’s kidneys.

A thyroid test may be given to see if too little thyroid is being produced

An EKG may be used to look for any abnormalities of your dog’s heart which may mean heart disease is present but hidden.

Other tests may be given if needed.

These tests are excellent because they establish a baseline for your dog’s health which can then be used to look for any future differences. Screening your pet once a year is recommended to ensure its health is still good.

Visiting your veterinarian is the best way to ensure the health of your dog if any of these conditions persist for a reasonable amount of time. If you feel something is wrong, trust your instinct.

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