Dogs, just like humans, are animals and will be affected by a multitude of different diseases over the course of their lifetime. Unfortunately, unlike humans, dogs cannot communicate that they are sick through words. Therefore, like their human parents, it’s our responsibility to always be on the lookout for signs.
Although you cannot predict when your dog will get ill, you can look for some tell-tale signs of disease. You can also take some steps to prevent dog disease. That, and much more will be spoken about in the coming few paragraphs. But first, let’s talk about how and why dogs will get sick.
So,How to check if your dog is sick
There are a whole bunch of reasons why dogs can get sick. They are very inquisitive animals and check out everything in their surroundings. Also, dogs love to chew on things and might have put something in their mouths that is not good for their internal body. For example, old toys, socks and footwear can contain a host of different harmful bacteria. These enter the dog’s system and lead to illnesses.
Likewise, dogs have a keen sense of smell and use it to know more about their surroundings. They smell almost everything that catches their attention. In this process, they might smell something that contains harmful substances. Flowers for example can cause an allergic reaction in some dogs. Some can even be poisonous and cause a lot of complications.
Food habits are also a major factor in dogs getting sick. A small change in their diets can lead to dog illness. Likewise, eating too rapidly or too slowly can lead to changes in metabolism and in turn, immunity levels. However, the main causes in relation to food habits would be related to eating stale food, human leftovers, scavenging etc. Following bad food habits in the long run can even cause chronic conditions to spring up.
How to Spot Illness in Dogs
A sure fire to conclude that something is wrong with the health of your dog is if it starts vomiting. It is a sign that there is something wrong inside the dog’s body and it is trying to take out the reason for that from the system.
However, there are variations in vomiting too. If it is just a one off case, you can say that it ate something unpleasant like leaves, grass, or some junk.
If vomiting happens multiple times, then it is time to visit the vet. Other vomiting conditions that need to be taken seriously are blood in the vomit, coffee grind like substance in the vomit (which is digested blood), worms in the vomit etc. These cases need special attention as it may indicate ulcers in the stomach or an unpleasant object being swallowed (eg, sharp objects like blades, knives, pins, thorns). Worms in the blood indicate a parasite infection.
Diarrhoea or Stool issues
Another tell-tale sign of something being wrong with your best friend is if it has some issues with stool. Just like vomiting, a one of case can be dismissed as something that is trivial like over consumption of something unpleasant being consumed. However, if there are potty issues throughout the day or longer, it is a matter that needs your urgent attention.
Diarrhoea is also something that can affect dogs due to a lot of reasons. It is one of the most common stool related problems. The usual reasons for it include a change in diet. If you have recently changed your dog’s food habits and you are confident that it’s for his own good and based on a vet’s recommendation, you have nothing to be worried about. If not, then your dog might have scavenged something. Diarrhoea lasting more than a day should be immediately brought to the vet’s attention.
Stool colour is a very good indicator of your dog’s health. If the colour is any shade of brown, you have nothing to be worried about. If it is red, then there is bleeding in the GI tract. On the other hand, if it is maroon or black, it indicates bleeding in the stomach or intestines. Further, yellow stools indicate problems in the liver, pancreas, or stomach. White spots in brown stools indicate worms and green stools means your dog is eating a lot of grass.
Lack of Appetite
A dog owner must be careful while dealing with this issue. It may happen multiple times that your dog’s appetite might have reduced or it may stop eating completely. If this is in the short term like a day or two, there is nothing to be worried about and it may really not be hungry. It may also be a sign that it wants to eat something else or even human food. However, if it continues for longer, it may be due to an underlying dog illness. It will need to be taken to a vet.
Loss of appetite is a serious condition that may lead to future complications like fatty liver, gastrointestinal problems etc. In the short term it is the root cause for loss of energy or lethargy. Loss of appetite might also be due to stress or other mental issues like anxiety. Such illness needs to be handled carefully and differently than physical illness. Take a look at our article here on foods that your dog should not eat
Behavioural changes are a definite way to know that something is wrong with your dog. No one knows your pooch better than you, so if you notice a drop in energy, laziness, attention seeking behaviour, or an increase in irritability, more than the usual levels, it indicates a drop in health conditions. As we have said, a dog cannot communicate through words about its health or feelings. Hence, changes in behaviour are the next best thing that give you signs of trouble.
Lethargy can be due to a lot of underlying issues like stomach issues, heart disease, neurological problems etc. Unlike vomiting and stool issues, it is difficult to spot the health problems that cause behaviour change, mainly because it could mean a lot of different things. It can be a minor dog disease to something very serious, so be cautious and notice any change in behaviour quickly.
As with some other issues or symptoms, behavioural changes may also be due to mental illness. Dogs become ill mentally due to a range of reasons like change in surroundings, change in routine, lack of attention etc. If you have changed anything in the recent past, look at them and try to rectify if your dog does show changes in behaviour.
Change in Urination Frequency
Most likely, you would have been with your dog as a constant companion for many years. Hence, its water consumption and urination pattern would be known to you very well. Any change in this pattern spells danger unless your dog is drinking a lot of water due to rise in temperatures.
A more thirsty dog even though it hasn’t done too much strenuous activity combined with excessive urination is most likely due to diabetes. As with humans, diabetes is a chronic condition in dogs too. It would definitely require regular checkups by a veterinarian. Furthermore, a diet change would also be needed. It is a condition that cannot be taken lightly and mismanagement can lead to more complications and even death.
Also, change in urination pattern is a sign of other diseases related to kidney, liver, or the adrenal gland. Along with fighting against dog illness, you will have to be extra vigilant about your dog urinating inside the house or other inconvenient spaces. They would also need bathroom trips during the night. These two observations are clear signs of disease more than the frequency of urination.
Fever or Coughing
Fever is a universal sign of illness and dogs aren’t different either. There is a common misconception running around that a dog’s nose should be wet and cold. If it is dry and hot, it means your dog has a fever. The only real way to tell if your dog has a fever is through a thermometer. If the temperature is more than 103 degree Fahrenheit, then it is not a good sign.
Just like fever, cough is also a common illness that sometimes may be a sign of underlying dog disease. Heart and lung complications are the only things that can lead to excessive coughing if it isn’t a common infection. These two organs are very important yet sensitive and appropriate treatment needs to be given.
Hair and Skin Issues
You might be thinking hair loss and skin issues are usually caused by things like ticks, mites, and fungus. Yes, most of the time, they are the reason for these complications. But sometimes they may also indicate hormonal problems, major endocrine issues, staph infections, or a multitude of other issues. Like some symptoms, even with this you can’t tell the root illness just be looking at the hair loss or skin issues.
Strange Body Posture and Movement
If you regularly notice your dog moving around with a strange posture that you have not seen before in its lifetime, it may be cause for concern. Arthritis, hip dysplasia, disc disease, and ruptured ligaments will all lead to your dog walking with a stiff posture, becoming lazy, having trouble getting up and sitting down etc.
If your dog is big in size and belongs to the Shepard and Retriever family, then it is at a higher risk of developing these conditions.
In severe cases, dogs may become so unwilling to move around that they start pooping and urinating wherever they are. In turn, this may lead to skin and hair problems in unhygienic conditions. Such conditions usually happen at old age and most dog owners give up thinking it as inevitable due to age. However, arthritis and other such diseases can be treated and mobility can be increased.
How to Prevent Your Dog From Getting Ill
The age old saying “prevention is better than cure” cannot be truer than in the case of dog disease. There are a number of different things that you can do to make illness stay at bay. First off, a yearly complete health check-up is a must for any dog.
As your dog gets older and nears the life expectancy of that breed, the frequency of the complete health check-up should increase. This will show you any major disease that is in its early stages so that you can treat it. Also, timely vaccinations are essential to your dogs health, neglecting them could be a fatal mistake.
Needless to say, the diet you make your dog follow is the cornerstone of good health. There are a number of different factors that affect what you should feed your dogs. The major ones are age, breed, activity level, likes, dislikes and so on. However, by far the most important factor is considering if your beloved friend has some health conditions.
Deworming is another good thing that you can do to prevent dog illness. As you would know, any kind of worm is unhygienic and comes with a load of bacteria. Moreover, deworming is also good for our health as the bacteria can affect us too. Spaying and neutering is also a good tactic to keep away issues related to reproductive organs like testicular or ovarian cancer, uterine infection and tumours.
Dogs may be a part of your life, but for them, you are their entire life. In their short duration of life, they can suffer from a range of different dog diseases if not protected from them with utmost care. In the worst case, if your beloved pooch does get sick, you should know all the signs that indicate its health is declining.
All it takes is your vigilant eye that can notice any change in the normal routine your dog follows. As they cannot communicate their feelings you should be the one watching out for them.