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A sick dog
"If your dog just isn’t his normal, healthy self, it’s worth taking a closer look."

Sick Dog Symptoms - Know the Signs

If your dog is sick, it’s important that you know what warning signs to look out for so you can take appropriate action.

Dog danger signals

It’s an unfortunate fact of life that, just like you, your dog can fall ill. While the more serious problems should be dealt with by your vet, some minor issues like fleas can be dealt with at home.

Learning to interpret the danger signs and knowing what action to take can help you decide the best course of action in the event your dog does start feeling under the weather.

It’s not always easy to detect illness in your dog, so you’ll need to look for a range of subtle signs that may indicate a potential problem. If you do notice anything out of the ordinary, don’t rely on books or websites for a diagnosis. Contact your vet immediately.

Symptoms to watch for in your dog


If your dog has persistent constipation or diarrhoea that lasts for longer than 48 hours, visit your vet and, if possible, take a fresh stool sample with you.

Repeated vomiting, gagging, sneezing or coughing

Persistent sickness or choking when eating is a concern. Vomiting can be a sign of a developing allergy or a more serious infection, particularly in older dogs. Kennel cough can also be a serious illness.

Refusal to eat for over 24 hours

For a range of reasons your dog’s eating patterns may occasionally become irregular. But if your dog refuses food for a day or more, consult your vet.

Excessive thirst or urination

Unusually excessive thirst and frequent urination is a common sign of illness.

Red or swollen gums

Reddened or swollen gums, particularly when associated with bad breath, are an indication of gum disease. When severe, dogs may lose teeth, drop food from their mouths and suffer weight loss due to difficulty eating.

Difficulty urinating

Look out for yelping when urinating, a hunched back or blood in the urine.

Runny eyes or nose

Sneezing, panting, runny eyes and nose or other flu-like symptoms may be signs of respiratory problems, as are gasping or shortness of breath.

Itchy, flaking skin

Skin condition is a good general indicator of health. Skin should be smooth and pink or black. Persistent itching and signs of dermatitis could indicate an allergic reaction, particularly to fleabites.

Progressive changes in weight

You should be concerned if your dog appears to lose weight progressively over two to four weeks, or shows a slow but steady weight loss over a longer period. Unexpected weight gain can also indicate a problem.

General lethargy, tiredness – just looking unwell

If for any reason your dog just isn’t his or her normal, healthy, active self, it’s worth taking a closer look. Like humans, dogs can just look unwell – and even if there are no obvious clues to what’s wrong, a trip to the vet is a good idea if symptoms persist.

Knowing what signs to look for can make all the difference and following our monthly healthy dog checklist can be a good, proactive approach to monitoring your dog’s health.


About the Purina PetCare Advice Centre

PetCare Advice Centre The Purina PetCare Advice Centre brings together a team with in-depth knowledge, experience and special interests with the skills to advise about health and nutrition, behaviour, training, socialisation, as well as basic first aid for your cat or dog. Our team of dedicated pet lovers can also provide information about Purina products and services to help you give your pet the best possible care. If you've got a question about any aspect of pet care, then ask the Purina PetCare Advice team.

Last updated: 08 June 2016 at 04:21 PM
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