Symptoms to Watch Out For in Your Dog
Your dog can't tell you where it hurts--but he can give you lots of clues if you know how to ask. You are your dog's most important health care provider, as you're the one who sees him every day and decides when he needs to see the veterinarian. You know him better than anyone else---don't ignore what he's trying to tell you. Look for the following clues:
Is his temperature abnormal? To take your dog’s temperature, lubricate a rectal thermometer and insert it about 2 inches into the dog’s anus, leaving it there for about a minute. Normal is from 101 to 102 o F. If the temperature is 103 oF or above, or 98 oF or below, call your veterinarian for advice; if it’s 105 oF or above, or 96 oF or below, go to your veterinarian.
Is his gum color off? If you suspect a problem, check the gums. They should be a deep pink, and if you press with your thumb, they should return to pink within 2 seconds after lifting your thumb. Very pale gums or slow re-pinking may indicate anemia, shock, or poor circulation. Bluish gums or tongue can mean a life-threatening lack of oxygen. Bright red gums may indicate overheating or carbon monoxide poisoning, and yellow gums jaundice. Tiny red splotches may indicate a blood-clotting problem. Tooth and gum problems will often cause bad breath and pain.
Is he acting differently? The most common sign of illness is lethargy, in which the dog seems to have no energy. Just like you, when your dog doesn't feel well he tends to want to go lie down in a quiet place. Sick dogs often lie quietly in a curled position. But if he's in pain he may be irritable and restless, and may hide, dig, pant, and tremble. Dogs with abdominal pain often stretch and bow. A dog with breathing difficulties may refuse to lie down or if he does, will keep his head raised. Dogs with neurological problems may be confused, press their head into furniture or corners, or may have seizures.
Is he eating, drinking, urinating or defecating more or less than normal? Dogs that don't feel well often don't want to eat. Some illnesses, however, can cause increased appetite, so don't ignore your suddenly ravenous dog. Increased thirst and urination may indicate kidney disease or diabetes. Frequent, sudden attempts to urinate, especially if only small amounts are produced or if accompanied by signs of pain, may indicate a urinary tract infection or stones. Painful urination, straining to urinate, or blood in the urine may indicate urinary stones. Inability to urinate is a life threatening emergency.
Is he regurgitating or vomiting? If your dog throws up food right after eating---before it even reaches his stomach--- he may have a swallowing problem. Vomiting food after it’s been in the stomach can indicate poisoning, blockage, or a host of problems. Occasional vomiting of bile or grass is usually no cause for worry, but consult your veterinarian immediately if your dog vomits feces-like matter (which could indicate an intestinal blockage) or blood (which may resemble coffee grounds), has accompanying fever or pain, or if the vomiting lasts more than a few hours.
Does he have diarrhea? Diarrhea can result from nervousness, a change in diet or water, food sensitivities, intestinal parasites, infections, poisoning, or many illnesses. It’s not uncommon for dogs to have blood in their diarrhea, but watery diarrhea, diarrhea with lots of blood, or diarrhea accompanied by vomiting, fever, or other symptoms of illness warrants a call to the veterinarian.
Is he coughing? Coughing can be caused by foreign bodies, tracheal collapse, tumors, kennel cough, heart disease, or lung disease, among others. Coughing that occurs mostly at night or after exercise may suggest congestive heart failure. Kennel cough is characterized by a gagging or honking cough, often a week after being around infected dogs. Some toy dogs have tracheal collapse, which can worsen quickly to the point they may not be able to breathe. If your dog is coughing over and over, has difficulty breathing, or abnormally bluish gums, he needs to see his veterinarian immediately.
Whenever in doubt, call your veterinarian. A false alarm is better than ignoring a sick dog.