How to Tell if Your Dog is Sick
6 November, 2012

If your dog is seemingly lethargic and/or not acting like his usually upbeat self, he or she could be sick.    As an owner, you are probably aware of your dog’s behavior, so if he is not quite himself and doesn’t want to go on a walk or eat, he could be “under the weather”.  However, you don’t have to always run to the vet at his or her first sign of illness.  Sometimes this affliction (or whatever it is) can pass in a day.

Do an overall glance at his body

Similar to human’s, if your baby or child is sick, you take his or her temperature and check their overall condition.  In a dog, you can check his or her whole body, from nose to tail, and look for signs of illness such as matted fur, swelling or unusual discharge.  There should be clear fluids form his nose and a normal pulse for a pup is within the range of 50 to 130 beats per minute, depending on the breed. In addition, check for dehydration by twisting the skin of his shoulder. A healthy dog’s skin will snap right back.

Next step if your pup seems sick

While some signs of illness are general and can be indicators of any number of dog diseases or problems, other symptoms point to specific, common illnesses.   Try to write down everything you see and hear down in your dog’s medical diary and get to the vet as soon as you spot a real problem. If you take your dog for a checkup every year and generally keep up with normal preventive care, you’ll usually be able to get him or her feeling normal in no time.

When to Call the Vet

There are many common canine ailments, some more likely to afflict certain breeds than others. Although vaccinations will generally keep your dog safe from infectious diseases such as canine distemper, parvovirus, Lyme disease and rabies, there are times when disease will get through to your pup. You should always be on the lookout for signs of illness, no matter how many booster shots your dog gets.


Parvovirus (known as parvo) is a disease that damages your dog’s intestinal lining, and is often fatal to young or unvaccinated dogs.   The signs are usually a fever, weakness, a poor appetite, depression followed by vomiting and severe diarrhea.  If you suspect it is parvo, take your dog to the vet right way.   Because parvo is picked up via the stool of an infected dog, keep your dog away from the feces of others.

Canine Distemper

Canine distemper is a highly contagious and dangerous health condition in a dog so make sure your dog is vaccinated.  The signs are usually loss of appetite, nose and eye discharge, neurological problems such as drooling, head shaking and even seizures. Look for hard skin patches on the feet or nose.

Viral or Bacterial Infection

This used to be called kennel cough and can be treated by a vet with medication.  The signs are usually coughing, hacking, listlessness and poor appetite, followed by a recurring cough.

Of course there are many other infections or illness that can afflict your pup, but the above are the most common.  If you do keep up with your dog’s annual vet visits and shots, he or she should not be sick for too long.   Try not to wait for more than a couple days to take your pup to the vet if his or her behavior isn’t normal.  Good luck!

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