Is Your Dog Really Sick?There are times dog-owners find themselves asking the question - is my dog really sick? Is this an emergency or not? Here are some guidelines to help you answer those questions. These are guidelines only - be sure to check with your veterinarian if you have questions.
First - get to know what is normal for your dog. Each is an individual and you know your pet better than the veterinarian. Some of the observations might make you uncomfortable but they are important. They may even make the difference between life and death for your dog.
Next observe their gait.
- How much food does your pet eat?
- Is is eaten all at once or a little at a time?
- Do they gobble treats or pick at them daintily?
- How much and how often does your pet drink?
- How often do they urinate and what color is it?
- Is the urine a steady stream or do they "squirt" or dribble? If it's a male, does he lift his leg while urinating?
- How large is the stool, what color and how often do they have a bowel movement?
- What is your pet's sleeping habit; do they sleep a lot or are they very active during the day?
- Do they drool a lot normally?
- When do they pant - only when its hot? When they are nervous? Any other time?
- Run your hands over the dog, get to know all the bumps and curves - learn what their normal weight feels like, can you feel the ribs, hips and back bone or are they fleshy?
- Open their mouth and see what the teeth and gums look like. Are the gums light or dark pink? Smell their breath, is it sweet or sour?
- Check their eyes, do they normally look droopy and red or are they tight with light pink inside the eyelids?
- Do the ears feel thin or do they have some thickening to them? What is their normal ear carriage, (even with drop eared dogs like Pyrs) - are they even or does one droop more than the other?
- How about the nose, is it dry & scaly normally, a little damp or very wet?
- Look at the coat, how shiny is it? Does it feel springy or stiff, soft or dry?
Now that you know what is normal for your dog, you can make yourself a mental checklist when you think there may be something wrong with him or her.
- Do they walk and trot in a straight line or do they "crab" sideways a bit?
- Do they land evenly on all fours or do they favor one leg?
- Is the stride shorter on one side or the other?
- Does the dog move both hind legs together when running or galloping?
- Can the dog stand easily on its hind legs?
- Do they like to climb or jump - in or out of your car, onto the grooming table etc - or is it difficult for them?
How do you decide if there is something wrong that needs veterinary attention or if your dog is just having a bad hair day?
This is by far not a complete list, and of course if you are in doubt at all about the health of your pet, see your veterinarian. It is better to be safe than sorry when dealing with the life of a loved one.
- Eating Habits
- Dog's food intake is reduced. A good warning sign that there may be something wrong however, keep in mind that dogs eat less in very hot weather, when in "season" or if traveling. If the lack of interest in food is combined with the below warning signs, or if continues more than a few days, take your dog to the vet.
- Excessive drinking - except in very hot weather, is not normal. If your dog seems to be drinking more than normal, a trip to the vet is a necessity. There could be any number of minor reasons but several serious problems are associated with excessive water intake.
- If your dog's urine is darker than usual, it could be an indication of blood in the urine. It's especially a concern if it's associated with either of the above problems or a high temperature in the dog. A dog that squirts or dribbles his urine could have a bladder problem, or in males - a prostate problem.
- Diarrhea? Usually a sign that your dog has eaten something he shouldn't and not always something to worry about - BY ITSELF- but, if it's accompanied by any of the above or vomiting or a high fever, or it continues for more than a day, call your vet. If your dog has blood in his stool at anytime - take him to the vet, it could just be a load of worms but is usually much more serious. (Even worms can be fatal)
- A dog will pant to cool off or when nervous, normally - Or if they are in pain or having difficulty breathing. If your pet is panting at bedtime, in the middle of the night or during cool weather - and it's not from nerves or exercise - this indicates a problem. Especially if accompanied by any of the above warning signs.
- If the dog is coughing, it could be something simple, a virus perhaps - but if coughing is accompanied by panting, loss of appetite and/or, diarrhea or listlessness, you may have something much more serious - like pneumonia or heart failure.
- Red gums or eyelids
- If your dogs gums or inside the eyelids are not normally dark or red- red eyelids by themselves may only be allergies. Dark gums may be normal in your dog but if they're not - and your dog has any symptoms of distress - panting, coughing, diarrhea or excessive drinking - they could be an indication of serious stress or an internal disorder.
- Drooping ear carriage
- Often it's a simple ear irritation but always a sign that there is something wrong. If cleaning the affected ear with an approved cleaning solution does not solve the problem and/or it's accompanied by head shaking and scratching, see your vet. Your dog may have a small object lodged inside or a nasty infection. Both ears drooping are another sign that your dog is generally not feeling well.
- Unusually dry nose
- Another sign that your dog may not feel well. It may be normal in your dog, especially in dryer climates and older dogs but know what is normal for your dog, it is often a sign that your dog has a fever.
- Dull, dry coat
- Possibly a sign of a chronic condition or poor diet. A simple blood test can determine if diet is the cause.
- A dog that "crabs" (travels with it's butt off to one side) does not necessarily have a problem. But if they normally travel straight, and start crabbing, it could be an indication of a back problem. If it's accompanied by a tense abdomen and/or a sudden refusal to jump or climb, see your veterinarian or veterinary chiropractor. A dog that regularly travels with both hind legs together when galloping, unless it's a puppy, may have a spine or pelvis disorder like hip dysplasia.
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