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?
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:
What is the heart rate? Place your hand or your ear on the left side of your dog’s chest, just behind the elbow. You should be able to feel or hear the heartbeat. Count how many beats the heart pumps in one minute.
Regarding the abdomen/stomach area
Has your dog been having any diarrhea or vomiting?
Is your dog able to eat and drink normally?
Does the abdomen/stomach area appear swollen or distended?
Does your dog appear to be in pain when the stomach area is petted?
Is your dog known to chew on non-food items such as clothing, towels, rocks, or other items?
Regarding the urinary and reproductive systems
Have you noticed any difference in urinating?
Does your dog seem to strain to urinate or cry in pain?
Does your dog repeatedly try to urinate with no urine produced?
Has your dog been excessively licking at one area of his/her legs?
Does your pet show signs of pain when walking?
Is your dog able to walk normally?
Does your dog walk on his/her knuckles?
Does your dog drag any legs when walking?
Does your pet seem to be in pain when petting him or her?
By supplying the answers these questions, your veterinarian will be in a much better position to help your pet. Additional tests may be necessary to find out what the problem is but the answers to the above questions can greatly narrow the area of concern.