Since dogs obviously can't tell us when they're not feeling well, it's important to be aware of
signs your dog is sick, so you can come to their rescue, and take them to a vet when necessary. “We usually don't actually see clinical signs from them until things have been going on for a while,” says Dr. Tierra Price DVM, founder of BlackDVM Network, and shelter and emergency vet in Los Angeles. For many dogs, signs of illness will look the same — they won't want to eat or play, they'll have diarrhea, etc. — but any type of change is worth noting, and looking into.
If you're familiar with your dog's personality and their day-to-day activities, it'll be easier to spot changes as they happen, and the moment they seem "off" or start acting different, you should start thinking about your next move. "If you're not paying attention, the issue can progress, and then you don't necessarily know until it's too bad, or too late for us to do anything,” says
Dr. Ashley Randall DVM, owner of the West End Animal Wellness Center in Atlanta, Georgia.
your dog isn't feeling well, it never hurts to bring them to the vet for a check-up. "It's better to be overly cautious than not cautious enough," Robert Trimble DVM, co-founder & Head of Veterinary Services at Fuzzy, tells Bustle. But it's also obviously a good idea to do everything you can to prevent illness from happening in the first place, by following a few simple tips from your vet.
"One of the easiest ways to provide the best care for our pets is to have a veterinarian perform a physical exam twice yearly, provide preventative vaccinations, and administer anti-parasitics (flea preventative, heartworm preventative, and intestinal parasite treatment) to deter easily preventable diseases," Trimble says. Randall also notes the importance of having a relationship with a vet and bringing the animal for a check-up at least annually. She stresses the importance of this due to unforeseen issues in the future. By having a reliable relationship with a vet, you can ensure your puppy gets the proper help in any kind of situation.
If any health concerns arise between appointments, definitely speak up. If the situation is becoming serious, quickly, and you need help immediately, call (888) 426-4435. This is the
ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center and it is a 24/7 hotline there to help you, and your pup in any situation. Here are a few signs your dog might be feeling ill, so you'll know when to take them to the vet. 1 They Seem A Bit "Off" Photographer, Basak Gurbuz Derman/Moment/Getty Images
Dogs are usually pretty consistent with their behavior, so if they have any new habits or seem to be in a bad mood, it should cause you to raise an eyebrow.
"A change in behavior is typically the first indication your dog is not feeling well," Jme Thomas, executive director of
Motley Zoo Animal Rescue, tells Bustle. "Each dog's behavior is unique, so it's important to assess how their behavior and mannerisms have changed and in what period of time."
If you think your dog is sleeping more than usual, for example, you should follow up with your vet.
2 They Seem Grumpy Or "Snappy"
If your dog is usually down for a pet or a hug, take note if they're suddenly growling when you touch them or snapping when you get too close.
"Growling, snapping, and reactive behaviors can indicate pain and discomfort," Thomas says. "When a dog 'acts out' people think it's a behavior or training thing, but it may very well be a health issue."
And usually, the health issue is something that's causing them pain. "A change in this kind of mannerism is really important to note and keep track of, especially where the dog may be being touched or handled that seems to elicit a response," Thomas says. "For example, an ear infection may result in your dog growling if you pet their head, or snapping if you brush that side of their face."
3 They're Keeping To Themselves
On the flip side of aggression, your dog might also retreat to their crate, or hide somewhere and seem way less social than usual. "If he or she is not as playful or active as normal, this is something to be concerned about," Mindy Tenenbaum, M.Sc, founder and president of
DNA My Dog, tells Bustle. "If your dog is hiding or laying in a remote area or perhaps resting in his or her bed when your dog would normally be active and interacting with the family, this could be a sign that he or she is ill." 4 They Have Diarrhea
If your dog's poop seems to be watery, or they're suddenly having accidents in the house, it may be worth a trip to the vet. "Simple diarrhea due to dietary indiscretion can often be treated with a bland diet such as boiled chicken and rice for a few days," Dr. Gary Richter, a veterinary health expert with
Rover.com, tells Bustle. "Dogs with persistent or chronic diarrhea [however] should be evaluated by a veterinarian to determine the underlying cause." 5 They Don't Want To Eat
Most dogs are pretty food-centric, so it's definitely worth paying attention if your dog seems to have lost his appetite. "Of course, if you change your dog's food to something he finds less than palatable he may stick his nose up and refuse to eat," Tenenbaum says. "However, if there have been no changes in food and all other household routines are the same, you should be concerned." Again, a trip to the vet can determine the underlying cause for why your dog has lost his appetite.
6 They Won't Drink
As with eating, it's not a great sign if your dog won't drink water, not only because it can be a sign of a health problem, but it can also
lead to health problems, too.
"This should be taken very seriously because it does not take long before your pet can become dehydrated, which is dangerous," Tenenbaum says. "You can check for dehydration by gently pinching the loose skin on the back of the neck. It should bounce back quickly, and if it doesn't, your dog is dehydrated and will need veterinary attention immediately."
7 They Are Acting More Affectionate Ling Jin/Moment/Getty Images
Another really surprising way to tell if your dog isn’t feeling well is when they are acting exceptionally attached to you. “Sometimes even just being more affectionate. So coming over, pawing at you, looking for more attention, is sometimes the first sign of something's going on,” says Price.
Although cuddles may be a common occurrence between you and your pup, again, anything in excess is an unusual sign. Extra affection may be a dog’s way of communicating,
hey, I need help, something’s not feeling right. 8 They Keep Coughing
The occasional cough or sneeze is nothing to worry about, since dogs cough and sneeze just like we do. But if they're hacking, coughing, wheezing, and sneezing all day long, it might be a sign of illness.
"This could be a sign of infection or a heart-related issue, as well as a number of other underlying health conditions," Tenenbaum says. "Some breeds of dogs are prone to respiratory issues and older dogs are prone to heart murmurs. It's important to be on the lookout for coughing or shortness of breath so that treatment measures can be taken to manage any condition."
9 Their Eyes Are "Runny"
Did you know dogs can have allergies, too? "If you notice that your dog is scratching or licking incessantly and/or has runny eyes, diarrhea, or dry skin and scabs, these could possibly be signs of an allergy or another health condition," Tenenbaum says. "Common allergies include certain foods, pollen, dust mites, and other environmental factors, as well as ingredients found in common household items, such as perfume, cleaners, shampoos, etc."
If your dog's eyes are watery and they seem to be sick, your vet can give them an allergy test to figure out what's wrong. "Allergies are very uncomfortable and somewhat common, so it's important to be on the lookout for these signs."
10 Their Hair Looks Dull
While it may not seem like a big deal, your dog's coat can actually tell you a lot about their health. As Tenenbaum says, "If your dog's coat is looking dull, greasy, and/or there are bald patches, this could indicate an underlying health problem. There are many chronic diseases that cause a normally shiny coat to change texture."
11 They're Scratching More Often
All dogs scratch and bite at themselves occasionally, so don't panic if yours spends a few minutes biting his foot, or scratching his ears. If they keep it up, though, definitely point it out to your vet.
Sometimes, scratching can be a sign of an allergy, fleas, or similar issues. But if they're scratching at their mouth, it may mean they have a dental issue. "Some key signs of dental problems in dogs are scratching the side of the mouth where there may be pain, as well as bad breath," Tenenbaum says. "If the problem is really painful they may stop eating altogether. There may be a need for antibiotics and dental extractions to get your pet's mouth back into shape."
12 They're Lying Around Or Won't Get Up
If your dog is in pain, it might not want to get up or might struggle to do so. "Dogs don’t display pain as we might expect," Richter says. "They don’t always cry or whine. Sometimes the pain is displayed through the pet being quiet, hiding, or not eating well. Sometimes they appear to be sleepy and may have an increased respiratory rate. Never assume your dog is not in pain just because they aren’t crying or whining."
By knowing and keeping an eye out for these signs, or anything else that seems out of the ordinary for your dog, you'll be able to spot a health problem right away. "If your dog is acting strange or exhibiting any of the signs or symptoms outlined, call your vet to discuss and don't hesitate to bring him or her in for a check-up, if they persist," Richter says. It's always better to be safe and have a vet take a look.
13 They Drink Too Much
“Drinking more water is probably the one that confuses pet parents the most, but that can absolutely be a sign of something, dehydration, kidney disease, liver disease, a multitude of things,” says Randall. She goes on to say, “a lot of times [pet owners] will think that’s a good thing. They’ll say, ‘Yeah, he's drinking plenty, he's drinking three bowls of water a day.’ And I’m like, ‘that's too much.’”
Just like humans, anything in excess is not good for animals, either. If you begin to notice that your dog is worn out and gravitating toward the water bowl quite often, there’s a good chance something else could be going on.