Is Your Dog Sick? 9 Subtle Signs You Should Never Ignore


sick dog on grass

Knowing when your dog is sick isn’t always a straightforward matter. It is despite the fact that your pet can’t tell you what they’re feeling, hiding their discomfort is an instinct that is ingrained in their canine DNA.

As pack animals, dogs still mask their discomfort. This is to avoid being the vulnerable member of the pack, which now includes you (their human) and your brood.

This explains why many dogs hide any overt signs of sickness to avoid calling attention to themselves. They become quiet and subdued until they’re too sick to hide what they are feeling.

That being said, it is up to you to determine when your furry baby needs extra care or possibly a visit to the vet. To help you identify when something is wrong with your pet, here are nine subtle signs that you should never ignore:

1. Eating Pattern Changes

Does your pet ignore meal even when you serve their favorite dry dog food? Or perhaps the enthusiasm he previously showed during mealtime has dwindled somewhat?

This could be a sign that something is amiss. After all, most dogs are food-centric and losing their appetite should be seen as a significant red flag.

Sudden changes in how much a dog eats or their behavior towards food could be an early sign of illness. However, it could also mean that he finds his new food less palatable.

That said, any eating pattern changes that emerge without dog food or household routine changes call for a trip to the vet, especially if your pet experienced sudden weight gain or weight loss.

2. Drinking Pattern Changes

Like eating, changes in drinking patterns in dogs also call for a closer probe. These changes include both decreased and increased water intake. It should be remembered though, climate can also be a reason, i.e., dogs drink less than usual during cold weather and vice versa on hot days. Nonetheless, drinking more or less than normal, which is out of context is a possible sign of health problems, not to mention these also lead to other medical issues. If they drink less or refuse to drink at all, dogs could be at risk of dehydration, particularly during hot weather conditions.

To check for dehydration, gently pinch the loose skin at the back of your four-legged pal’s neck. If it bounces back quickly, you have nothing to worry about. But if it doesn’t or does it slowly, try to rehydrate and bring your dog to the vet immediately. 

A sudden increase in water intake may also be not a good sign, either. Like humans, dogs can also experience diabetes, and insatiable thirst could be an indicator. To be sure, have your dog checked by a licensed veterinarian.

3. Stinky Breath

While their breath is far from minty fresh, dogs with consistently stinky breath could be secretly ill.

According to experts, bad breath or halitosis could signify many health concerns, including liver problems and kidney disease, though the most common cause is plaque build-up.

To be sure, have the vet check your pet. If it’s a dental concern (which is both the most likely and best-case scenario), a thorough oral cleaning should prevent it from getting worse. If it’s something else, early detection makes treatment easier.

4. Sudden Outbursts and Behavioral Changes

As a pet parent, you need to pay attention to how your dog behaves, as it could also signal that they're not feeling well.

If he seems grumpier than usual and suddenly snaps or growls without just cause, it could be a sign of sickness indicating anxiety and stress.

Take note that such changes could be subtle and may develop over time. They also range widely and may include how your pup greets people or how their posture changes when interacting with them.

5. Sudden Clinginess

Besides increased aggression, you also need to watch out for sudden clinginess in your pup. Though many dogs are affectionate to their pet parents, they tend to be a lot more attached to you when they're not feeling fine.

So, if your dog comes over, paws at you, and seeks more than a quick pat on the head, it’s a good idea to give him your undivided attention. Like human babies, pups become clingier and more affectionate to communicate that they need help.

6. Frequent Scratching

Dogs can bite and scratch themselves occasionally, which could last a few hours or so. But if you notice them scratching their ears, biting or licking their feet continuously, it may be time to have the vet take a look.

Cases of excessive scratching could mean fleas, allergies, lice or other similar concerns. These could even point to a dental issue, especially if they tend to scratch the sides of their mouth.

Your vet can confirm if it’s a dental problem, particularly if the scratching is accompanied by bad breath and changes in their eating habits (e.g., loss of appetite due to oral pain). If this goes on, the vet could prescribe dental extractions and antibiotics.

If the matter hasn’t worsened yet, you might want to offer him some dental sticks that could be bought at a local or online pet store in Dubai.

7. Frequent Urination

Does your dog leave puddles of pee all over the house even if you’ve already trained him to go outside when the need arises? If so, don’t scold him just yet.

Instead, bring him to the vet to rule out medical issues that led to the unsavory behavior.

Some of the possible medical concerns that could cause a potty-trained dog to urinate around the house include:

  • Urinary tract infection
  • Bladder stones
  • Kidney disease
  • Diabetes

8. Sneezing and Coughing

The occasional sneezes shouldn’t be a cause for concern. However, if these are accompanied by other symptoms like runny nose and coughing, your pup might be sick.

There are several illnesses that could cause sneezing, including:

  • Kennel cough
  • Distemper virus
  • Dog flu

The surest way to know what they are suffering from is to bring your pet to the vet.

It is also a good idea to pay attention to the cough. Take note whether it is wet or dry, or if it only occurs when the dog is exercising or lying down. This information can help your vet make a more accurate diagnosis. In some of the respiratory conditions, x-rays (radiography) can be termed essential along with physical examination.

Remember that some illnesses are short-term and will not cause any significant damage to your dog’s health. However, some – like the distemper virus – could be fatal if left untreated.

9. Dull-Looking Fur and coat

Did you know that your dog’s fur and coat can also tell you much about their health?

According to experts, dull-looking hair, bald patches, and greasiness indicate that a dog is suffering from a medical condition. Plus, many chronic diseases could change the way a normally shiny coat looks.

Again, even if grooming and regular bathes doesn't resolve the issue, visit your vet to be sure.

Give Your Pet The Attention They Need

Besides regular check-ups with the vet, paying close attention to your furry pal can help keep him in tiptop shape. Watch out for the subtle signs of pain, and don’t hesitate to ask experts should any red flag appear. Should you dog experience any serious issues that incur costs, it is important to consult your pet insurance company. Once your dog feels better, here are some care tips for keeping your dog healthy.