As far as dog moms go, I'll admit I'm definitely on the paranoid side. I'm constantly worried about my dog's health and safety, and the fact that he can't text me while I'm out or explain to the vet what's he's feeling when he's not feeling well weighs heavily on said anxiety. Alas, that's a dog for you. They can't talk — which is probably why we love them so much, TBH.
During the first few years of having my dog, I'd be quick to take him to the vet for this and that — it's always better to be safe than sorry. If he coughed, if he sneezed, if he threw up a gum wrapper — there was always something, and I never knew how to gauge the importance of the event. What I learned, though, is that certain symptoms are more worrisome than others, and some casual seeming symptoms are actually really dangerous.
While the answer should be always to take your pet to the vet if you're unsure, I talked to my vet, Dr. Jonathan Olsen, over at Mount Kisco Vet in Westchester, NY, to get some tips on the more detrimental symptoms that are often overlooked by owners. He suggests that if you notice any of these symptoms in particular, you might want to drop what you're doing and get them checked out ASAP. They can indicate that there are some serious time-sensitive concerns:
If They're Drinking And Urinating A Lot
If your dog is over eight years old and is drinking and urinating excessively, it might appear normal, but it actually might be indicative of diabetes, kidney failure, certain cancers, or adrenal gland disease. If you notice a change in your dog's hydration and urination habits, you should definitely bring them in for a check up.
If They're Retching
If your dog is retching, but unable to actually throw up, it doesn't necessarily mean there's nothing in their stomach. It might actually mean there is something blocking their stomach. They might have ingested something that's stuck, or they might have bloat. If your dog is dry heaving for more than a few minutes and is uninterested in food or water, take them to the vet — especially if you have a large breed dog, as they're more prone to bloat.
If They're Excessively Panting
Dogs pant to cool off, but they also pant when they're stressed, in pain, and having trouble breathing. If your dog is either panting at more than forty breaths per minute, or is breathing rapidly while lying down with their mouths closed, they might be in serious distress. Take them to the vet ASAP if you notice this behavior.
If They're Pressing Their Head Against The Wall
Head pressing is a serious behavior that can be be indicative of a lot of life-threatening issues. That said, veterinarians aren't completely sure why exactly dogs partake in this behavior. If you see your dog pressing their head into the wall, they could be trying to alleviate a headache, or they might be showing signs of a brain tumor or inflammatory disease.
If They're Fly Biting
If your dog is twitching or biting the air, it might look silly or you might think they're trying to catch a fly, but if you don't see anything around them, they might be showing signs of a neurological disease. Fly biting is actually a partial seizure and often over-looked. Have your vet determine whether or not this is a behavior or a symptom.
If Their Vomit Has Black Bits In It
When there's blood in your dog's stomach, it's a sign of something serious. If your dog vomits and you can see black bits that look like coffee grinds, that might actually be partially digested blood, which could be a sign of a serious ulcer.
If You See A Hanging String
If your dog was eating a toy or piece of clothing and now has a string or piece of fabric hanging out of his mouth or rear end, don't pull it. If it seems like it might go far back, it could be entangled in their intestines. If you pull it, it might bunch up their intestines and become fatal. If you see a string, take a trip to the vet and let them decide how to handle it — it might require surgery.
If You Find Your Dog Eating Gum
If your dog gets into your gum supply, you're going to want to immediately check out the ingredients. Most sugar-free gums contain Xylitol, which is a great substitute for humans, but for dogs can be toxic. It can spike their blood sugar to a fatal level. You're going to want to book it to your vet, where they'll induce vomiting and put your dog on fluids to protect their kidneys.