9 Sick Dog Symptoms to Watch Out For Warning Signs That Your Dog Could Be Sick

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Dogs can be hard to read at times, so it may be difficult to tell if your dog is sick. We've compiled some telltale symptoms you can keep an eye out for.

Dogs canโ€™t tell us with words when something is wrong, but they can tell us with behavioral changes and physical symptoms. This is why itโ€™s important for pet parents to keep a close eye on their dog and to take note of anything that seems unusual. These are some symptoms that may mean that your dog is sick:

Symptom 1: Vomiting

  • Less Serious Causes: All dogs throw up once in a while, and it is often because they have eaten something they shouldnโ€™t have or devoured their food too fast.

  • More Serious Causes: Vomiting several times a day, especially when accompanied by other symptoms like lethargy and lack of appetite, is a sign that your dog needs veterinary attention. Blood in the vomit is another indicator that your dog is unwell. More serious causes of vomiting include but are not limited to: poisoning, foreign bodies in the intestines, gastric ulcers, gastrointestinal illnesses, viral infections, bloat, pancreatitis, liver failure, kidney failure, and parasite infections.

Symptom 2: Diarrhea

  • Less Serious Causes: Dogs can have diarrhea as a result of changes to their diet, food sensitivities, or stress.

  • More Serious Causes: If your dogโ€™s diarrhea continues for more than a day or two, contains blood, or is accompanied by other symptoms such as fever or vomiting, it is time for a trip to the veterinarian. More serious causes of diarrhea include but are not limited to: poisoning, ingestion of a foreign body, gastrointestinal illnesses, parasite infections, inflammatory bowel disease, bacterial or viral infection, kidney or liver disease, cancer, hemorrhagic gastroenteritis, colitis, and parvovirus.

Symptom 3: Lack of Appetite

  • Less Serious Causes: A dog may eat less because of stress, recent vaccinations, pickiness, or because they are getting older. While these causes are less serious, you should still contact your veterinarian if your dog is refusing to eat for more than 24 hours.

  • More Serious Causes: A decreased appetite can also be a sign of illness, especially if your dog is exhibiting other symptoms as well. More serious causes of appetite loss include but are not limited to: liver problems, kidney failure, cancer, infection, dental disease, and pain.

Symptom 4: Lethargy

  • Less Serious Causes: Your dog may be tired simply because they had a busy day or a long run at the park. If you donโ€™t notice any other symptoms, your dog probably just needs to sleep it off.

  • More Serious Causes: Lethargy can also be caused by any number of serious medical conditions, including but not limited to: heart disease, parvovirus, distemper, kennel cough, heartworm disease, liver disease, diabetes, and hypoglycemia. Your dog may also pick an unusual place for rest, and this is what is referred to as hiding behavior.

Symptom 5: Increased or decreased urination

  • Less Serious Causes: Urinating more or less frequently for a day or two could simply mean that your dog has consumed a lot of water or not enough.

  • More Serious Causes: If your dog is housebroken and urinating inside of the house, drinking excessively, straining to urinate, or needs to go out more often than usual, it may mean that one of these issues is to blame: diabetes, liver disease, kidney disease, adrenal gland disease, urinary tract infection, or bladder stones.

Symptom 6: Coughing

  • Less Serious Causes: A dog might cough because they have something stuck in their throat. In less serious cases the foreign body will typically work its way out, but if you notice the symptom continuing, contact your veterinarian.

  • More Serious Causes: Persistent coughing could mean kennel cough, heart disease, heartworms, lung disease, tracheal collapse, tumors, or congestive heart failure.

Symptom 7: Scratching or hair loss

  • Less Serious Causes: Fleas, ticks, mites, skin conditions, allergies, stress, and anxiety can all cause a dog to scratch. While these causes are less serious, they still need to be treated.

  • More Serious Causes: Itchy skin and hair loss could also be caused by a number of serious medical conditions, including but not limited to: endocrine problems and fungal, yeast, or staph infections.

Symptom 8: Stiffness or Lameness

  • Less Serious Causes: Unless your dog has recently had an operation or injury that would result in this symptom, stiffness or lameness usually means that your dog needs veterinary attention.

  • More Serious Causes: If your dog is having difficulty getting up, lying down, going up stairs, or if they are exhibiting stiffness or lameness, they may be suffering from one of the following conditions: hip dysplasia, arthritis, disc disease, or ruptured ligaments.

Symptom 9: Pale Gums

  • Causes: Veterinarians are always saying โ€œcheck the gums,โ€ and this is because gums often change color when a dog is sick. If your dogโ€™s gums are pale, bluish, bright red, splotchy, or yellow, it probably means something serious. Conditions that could cause your dogโ€™s gums to change color include but are not limited to: liver disease, diabetes, hypoglycemia, anemia, shock, poor circulation, lack of oxygen, overheating, carbon monoxide poisoning, blood-clotting problems, and jaundice.

7 Signs of a Sick Puppy - And the Solutions

Having a puppy can be a real treat, but it certainly isnโ€™t without its fair share of challenges. Just like babies of any species, puppies can get sick, and when they do, it can be a handful, especially since puppies arenโ€™t the best at communicating what is wrong.

Knowing the signs that something might be wrong can help you get the jump on a budding sickness, giving you a leg up in the fight against puppy infirmity. Here are seven common signs your furry little buddy might be under the weather:

1. Lethargy

Puppies need lots of rest -- it's just a part of the developmental stage they are in. However, when they are not napping the day away, they should be playful, inquisitive, and energetic (some more than others). If you notice that your puppy is lazing around, or exhibiting a general lack of enthusiasm, consider taking them to the vet, as this could be a sign of a wide variety of illnesses, from bacterial infections to a virus such as parvo.

2. Loss of Appetite

Your puppy may stop eating for a number of reasons. Perhaps they are nervous about moving to a new place, or anxious about the loss of a family member. It could be that you have been spoiling them with table scraps (how can you say no to that face?) and now they refuse to eat anything else. At the same time, it could be something far more dire.

First, you should try coaxing them into eating. If they still refuse, there is a good chance that their reluctance to eat is caused by something serious, in which case you should plan to take them to the vet.

3. Diarrhea

It is something that plagues us all, and when it strikes, itโ€™s no fun for anybody. While diarrhea could just be caused by anxiety (i.e., moving to a new home), it could also be caused by a virus or parasite. It could be a good idea to take a stool sample over to the vet for them to analyze. If, however, you notice that the diarrhea has blood in it, you should take your puppy to the vet immediately, as this could be a sign of gastrointestinal disease.

4. Vomiting

Just like with diarrhea, vomiting could also just be a nervous reaction to a change in the routine. However, it could also be the result of something more serious. Perhaps your puppy has been eating their food too quickly, in which case you should consider giving them smaller meals at more frequent intervals to prevent them from scarfing it all down. If the vomiting persists, or is unusual (i.e., has blood in it) they should be taken to the vet immediately, as it could be symptomatic of something much larger.

5. Whimpering

Just because your puppy canโ€™t speak to you, doesnโ€™t mean they wonโ€™t try. If you notice your pup making unusual noises, or whimpering incessantly, it could be they are trying to tell you something about their health. It could very well be that they are just vying for attention, but if the whimpering persists, or if it seems like they are not whimpering to be noticed, it might mean that they are injured in some way, or possibly suffering from internal pain, which could indicate an illness. Use your best judgment, but donโ€™t hesitate to visit a vet if you think they are hurting.

6. Licking or Itching

Puppies are still dogs, and dogs lick and scratch themselves. It's just part of being a dog. However, if you notice that they are really going after one spot in particular, it could be caused by a rash or an allergy, in which case you might want to consider getting them an antihistamine or soothing ointment -- but only after getting the go ahead from your vet.

7. Dizziness (ataxia)

Puppies are certainly no stranger to unusual behaviors, often chasing their own tail or things no one else can see. It is all part of how they are hardwired. But if it seems like they are walking around listlessly, or in a drunken manner, it could be symptomatic of low blood sugar or dehydration. For low blood sugar, you can try rubbing some karo syrup on their gums and see how they respond. Beyond that, if symptoms persist, you should take them to the vet as soon as you can, as this could become serious.


It may seem like the overall response to any symptom is to rush over to the vet, and this article is not intended to make an alarmist out of you, but the reality is that it can be very hard to tell when your puppy is just being a puppy or if there is something more serious going on below the surface. Use your best judgement when trying to help your puppy get back to normal, and never hesitate to let a vet take a look. Better safe than sorry.

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.

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This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.

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