Top 5 symptoms of doggy sickness (and what you should do about them)

Dogs will let you know when they're sick.
A sick dog is a cause for concern. ©Brian Taylor.

Like those of a human, a dog’s chances of developing a chronic disease increase with age. Depending on her breed she may also be prone to acute illnesses or predisposed to congenital disorders such as the dislocation of the stomach. Read on to discover how paying attention to doggy signs of malady could save a life.

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There are a wide range of symptoms exhibited by a sick dog. Some are minor (vomiting, itchiness, coughing) and are caused by things like motion sickness and eating too fast. But others point to more serious problems. Here we’ve listed five symptoms you are most likely to witness, which warrant further investigation:

1. Blood in vomit and stool (possible liver failure, gastric dilatation, heart-worm, bowel disease)
2. Watery eyes (possible nasal virus, trauma of facial bones, tumour of eye lid)
3. Localised or general pains (possible injury, cancers)
4. Loss of weight (possible fever, tumours, blood loss from injury, disease)
5. Seizures (possible idiopathic epilepsy, brain injury)

What should you do if you notice these symptoms?

Sometimes a sick dog doesn’t need immediate medical intervention. The Kennel Club has published a useful list: symptoms it suggests should trigger nothing more than a call to your local vet’s practice for advice. Of course, the practice may then ask you to bring the dog in but that is something they will do once they have all the facts.

A sick dog is hard to diagnose
Dog’s can’t tell you what’s wrong. ©Patrick Carr. Unsplash

If your dog is seriously ill and has become so over a short period of time the worst thing you can do is panic. Remember, dogs know when something is up; if they hear your raised voice and see you rushing about the room they will start to worry. Just call your vet and calmly tell them what has happened. If you are calling out of office hours you may need to wait for the vet to ring you back.

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Unless you are actually a vet do not try to deal with something yourself. A dog has a different anatomy from a human and if you try to intervene you may cause her more pain than she is already in. Furthermore, if you do have to wait for a call from the vet don’t give her water or food, just in case she needs to be operated on.

What will the vet do?

The vet will check your dog’s vital signs. These include her temperature, her rate of breathing and her heartbeat. They may also do a physical examination and run their hands over your sick dog’s belly. In so doing they can tell whether there are any obvious problems with her internal organs such as swelling due to infection, or a gastric torsion.

Take your sick dog to the vet.
A gastric torsion can be fatal. ©Seth Reese. Unsplash

The Department of Veterinary Surgery at Anand University in India produced results of research, which shows that some dogs are more susceptible to gastric dilatation and volvulus syndrome (GDV) than others. They include the Great Dane, German shepherd, standard poodle, basset hound and dachshund.

Additional tests may include:

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• A blood test
• A urine test
• A chest X-ray
• An ECG


A sick dog can’t point to where on her body she feels pain; all she tells us is that she isn’t well. To make matters worse we can’t be sure whether her symptoms are due to a life-threatening ailment or merely the result of a bug she picked up while out for a walk.

That being said, don’t hesitate to call your local vet’s practice when the time comes. The causes of her sickness could be a stomach dislocation or her eating food too fast but the former problem could kill her within minutes. So don’t waste time: call the vet and let them decide the next course of action.

Read also: On a walk, what can I do to avoid my dog getting ticks?

Nick John Whittle lives and works in Birmingham, UK. He is a specialist copywriter, journalist and theatre critic. Over the years Nick’s family has owned dogs, cats, rodents and birds. The history of animal domestication and of people’s relationship with their pets over the centuries interests him a lot. He cares greatly about the welfare of both feral and domesticated animals and supports ongoing protection of endangered species.