Ask any fur parent what their greatest worry is, and it will likely involve their dogs getting sick. Because we cannot stand to see our best friends in pain, we take great pains to keep them healthy and happy. But no matter how many precautions we take, it is simply impossible to eliminate the risk of disease entirely.
So once we’ve covered all the bases in preventing sickness, the next thing to work on is recognizing signs of sickness. The earlier we notice something is wrong, the earlier we can act on it, and the higher the likelihood of recovery.
And while our dogs can’t just come up to us and tell us what’s wrong, there are many ways we can tell if they are feeling under the weather.
Know Your Dog
The number one tool you need to tell if your dog is sick is knowing how your dog acts when he’s healthy. As fur parents, we have a huge repository of information on our dogs like for example how much they eat, how often they potty, where they like to hang out, how much they sleep. We know how to tell if they’re excited or scared or tired.
This seemingly useless information becomes very important when you’re trying to find out if something is wrong with your dog. Now that you have a baseline for your dog’s “normal”, it is easier to tell when something is off.
Sickness Manifests As Change
A disease is a condition wherein the normal function or structure of the body is impaired. Something about your dog will definitely change. It may be sudden, it may be gradual, but it is definitely there. All you need to do is notice it.
Changes In Behavior
Think about your dog’s routine and habits. What time does he usually get up? How does he act when he knows it’s time for a walk? How long does it take for him to finish his food? All these represent opportunities to notice changes in behavior.
The usual signs of sickness include lethargy, intolerance for exercise, increased scratching or licking, difference in gait or posture, and loss of appetite. But with the entire plethora of diseases that dogs can get, there are many different kinds of symptoms that can occur. For example, some illnesses manifest as anuria or an inability to produce urine. But other sicknesses manifest as polyuria, or overproduction of urine.
It’s very difficult to memorize all the possible changes in behavior that could indicate illness. Your best bet is to know your dog’s baseline and make a judgment call based on deviations to it.
Change In Appearance
Many types of diseases manifest in the physical appearance of dogs. Note that this may or may not happen in conjunction with behavioral changes.
Visually noticeable symptoms include swollen and red skin, discharge from bodily openings, loss of fur, lumps or bumps, wounds, and changes in body condition.
You might also notice things using your sense of smell or hearing. Funky smells and increased verbalization could point to diseases as well.
Observe For At Least 24 Hours
Let’s say you’ve noticed that something is off. How can you be sure if it will pass or if it’s worth going to the vet for? If it’s not obviously an emergency, you may want to observe your dog for the next 24 hours to see if things improve.
During this time, make your dog feel as comfortable as possible. Make sure there is easy access to clean water and enticing food. Give them comfort and let them know you’re there.
Note the time and keep a record of your observations so you can tell if his condition is getting better, staying the same, or getting worse. If stays the same, you may wait for another couple hours to see if it lets up. But if it’s getting worse, that’s your cue to head to the vet.
Use Your Intuition
At the end of the day, you know your dog best. If you think the change in behavior is so radically different from his normal, go ahead and consult your veterinarian. If you keep tossing and turning in worry even if it’s only been three hours since you noticed the change, for your peace of mind alone it is worth the trip to the animal clinic.