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How to Tell if Your Dog Is Ill

By: PetPlace Veterinarians

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Your dog cannot explain his symptoms, so it's the responsibility of you and your veterinarian to keep him healthy. Dogs are very good at hiding their illness so it is up to you to observe your dog for abnormalities.

Common indications of a "sick pet" include: lethargy, disorientation, weakness, weight loss, seizure, lack of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, unproductive retching, straining to urinate, bloody urine, difficulty or inability to walk, bleeding, pale mucous membranes, difficulty breathing and persistent cough. You know your pet best and can often notice subtle early warning signs that someone else may not detect. If you observe any of the mentioned symptoms or other signs that concern you, call your veterinary hospital. The safest approach would be to have your pet examined.

Once your pet is at the hospital, your veterinarian may ask additional questions to help localize or diagnose the problem. It may help to be prepared to answer some of the following questions:

  • How long have you owned your dog?
  • Where did you get your dog (adoption center, breeder, previous stray)?
  • What other type of pets do you have?
  • What is the age of your dog?
  • Has your dog experienced any previous illnesses?
  • Is your dog currently under treatment for an illness or disease?
  • What preventative medications is your dog currently taking?
  • Does your dog receive consistent flea treatment?
  • Are any other pets ill?
  • Has he/she been vaccinated? If so, when? Which vaccines?
  • Have there been any recent pet acquisitions?
  • Have there been any recent activities such as boarding, grooming, trip to the park?
  • Is a majority of your pet's time spent indoors or outdoors?
  • Have there been any recent changes in diet or eating habits?
  • What brand of food, how much and how frequently does your dog eat?
  • What type of table scraps are offered and how frequently?
  • What type of treats are offered and how frequently?
  • How much water does your dog typically drink per day?
  • Have there been any recent changes in water consumption?
  • Have you noticed any coughing or sneezing?
  • Have you noticed any lumps or bumps on your dog?
  • Is your dog urinating normally?
  • Is your dog having normal bowel movements?
  • When is the last time he/she had a bowel movement?
  • Have you noticed any recent weight loss or weight gain?

    After answering some general questions, more specific questions need to be answered. A brief cursory exam of your pet at home can help you determine the answers. These questions are also commonly asked when pet owners are seeking help over the phone. Be prepared to answer the following questions, depending on the problem with your pet:

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