Staying Healthy

Never Ignore These 8 Symptoms in Your Dog

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Because our dogs are essentially our children, it’s understandable to be concerned, if not slightly panicked, if something just seems “off.” Unfortunately, because our furkids can’t tell us when they’re feeling sick, we have to rely on their behavior, mood, and symptoms as an indication of how they’re feeling.


Although many seasoned pet parents have learned – perhaps after rushing to the emergency veterinarian and spending a small fortune at 2am – that it’s often alright to remain calm, monitor their dog, and schedule an appointment with the veterinarian at a more convenient time, these 8 symptoms should never be ignored.

1. Loss of Appetite

Most dog moms and dads know, the way to your best buddy’s heart is through his stomach! So, if your dog suddenly loses interest in his favorite past time (food!), there could be a problem. While there’s no need to panic if your pup seems uninterested in a meal – as long as he returns to the bowl fairly quickly – if he stops eating entirely, and can’t be enticed with tasty treats for more than 24-hours, it’s time to talk to your veterinarian.

2. Fever

Just as with humans, fever is always indicative of some underlying problem, like an infection or heat exhaustion. Normal body temperature for a dog is 100.5 to 102.5 degrees – any body temperature higher than 102.5 should be reported to your veterinarian. A prolonged fever of only a few degrees can cause irreversible damage to your dog’s brain and other organs.

The most accurate way to determine your dog’s temperature is rectally with a digital thermometer. Check out this guide for step-by-step instructions on Taking Your Dog’s Temperature. Never, ever, give your dog a human over-the-counter fever medication without clear instructions from your veterinarian as these medicines can lead to liver or kidney failure and death.

3. Lethargy or Extreme, Unexplained Fatigue

If your dog seems unusually tired, uninterested, or slow to respond to you or other environmental stimuli for more than a few hours, it’s time to call your veterinarian. Lethargy could be caused by any number of things, from poisoning, to pain, to heart disease and many illnesses or disorders in between. Your dog may be more tired than usual after an extra long walk, a big play date, or a day at the beach, for example, but should quickly return to her usual self after catching up on some rest.

4. Difficulty Breathing

If your dog is having difficulty breathing, she will need to be seen by a veterinarian immediately. Respiratory distress can be caused by an allergic reaction, heart disease, panic disorder, or choking, for example – all of which should be dealt with as an emergency. Sudden and prolonged shortness of breath can lead to a lack of oxygen reaching vital organs, heart failure, or death if not taken care of immediately.

5. Pacing or Restlessness Along With Gagging/Retching

The second leading cause of death among dogs is gastric dilatation volvulus, or bloat. Bloat is a life-threatening event that occurs most commonly in larger breed, deep-chested dogs, but can happen to any breed. Bloat occurs when air fills a dog’s stomach, putting pressure on surrounding organs and compressing veins in the abdomen.  This pressure prevents blood from returning to the heart and the stomach can flip. Dogs experiencing bloat will often pace, become restless, and begin gagging and retching without vomiting.

Although the cause of bloat remains largely unknown, there are ways to reduce the likelihood of it occurring. Use a slow-feed bowl to prevent your dog from eating or drinking too quickly and swallowing large amounts of air. Limit your dog’s activity immediately following a meal. And, feed several small meals throughout the day as opposed to one large meal.

6. Trouble Urinating or Frequent, Painful Urination

As your dog’s keeper, you know his normal potty schedule. If your dog begins to urinate more frequently than normal, strains to urinate, or appears to be in pain (either whimpering, trembling, or excessively licking the area) during or immediately following a potty break, make an appointment with your veterinarian immediately. In some cases, he may simply be dealing with an easily treatable (yet incredibly painful) urinary tract infection or, this symptom may be indicative of a very serious, life-threatening problem.

7. Coughing

It’s not unusual for a dog to let out a single, random cough now and then, especially after eating a treat with too much enthusiasm or chewing voraciously on a stick or dog toy. A single cough, as long as it happens rarely and infrequently, is typically not too concerning. But, continuous or frequent coughing is generally a symptom of a bigger, more serious problem. Dogs can cough because of either illness, like kennel cough or pneumonia, after an injury to their trachea, because of heartworm or other heart-related disease, or because of serious lung disease or cancer, for example. A cough, while not usually an immediate emergency, should never be ignored.

8. Blood in Urine, Vomit, or Stools

Any appearance of blood in your dog’s urine, vomit, or stools should always be addressed with your veterinarian. While not always life-threatening, the causes of blood in your dog’s bodily fluids range from a simple, easily treatable infection, to a minor cut or scrape, to cancer, and any variety of causes in between. Blood can appear bright red, dull, or even black – so, keep an eye on your dog’s “duty” and report any unusual findings to your veterinarian.

Although these 8 symptoms should always be given attention, they may or may not indicate a life-threatening situation. It’s best to always remain calm, but vigilant when it comes to your dog’s health. Keep your veterinarian’s phone number, as well as the number of an emergency veterinarian in your area, handy in the event that your dog exhibits any of the symptoms named above. As a general rule, pet parents should also have a fully stocked pet first aid kit on hand to readily deal with other emergencies that might occur.

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1 Comment

  1. Avatar Of Kathy J Sourbeer

    Kathy J Sourbeer


    About 2 months ago my husband & I had seen this 7 year old female miniature dapple dachshund for sale. She was noted as a “RESCUE” dog. The charge for her was $450.00 which included spaying and she had stage 4 dental work that needed done. The cost of these procedures were to be paid by the owner. We had to sign a paper that any incurring costs above the normal procedures were to be our responsibility. We were told we had 30 days, from the date of the sale, to get this work done at this particular hospital and so, we made an appointment. During the spaying we were told her uterus was so brittle and was breaking apart so he had to remove the uterus. Her teeth were in bad shape and infected so half had to be removed. After the surgeries she developed Peritonitis and had to have surgery again and had to remain in the hospital over the weekend. She was also slightly dehydrated because she would barely drink water. This dog was used strictly for breeding. She doesn’t even know how to play with a toy. She is very untrusting of my husband even when he tries so hard to be kind to her. If he gives her food or a treat she will not eat it. She will only eat if I feed it to her. She doesn’t seem to want anything to do with him. I am 65 with a lot of health problems and my husband will be 70 in February and still works full time. If it were not for charge cards we would never have been able to get the surgeries and medications Pumpkin needed. She isn’t fully housebroken and my having Vertigo does not help. I want to make it clear the we do not yell at her but let her know that we aren’t happy with what she did. I probably should not have gotten her but I am homebound and lonely. I do have some serious health issues and after all of Pumpkin’s problems I am questioning whether to keep her. She is a sweet dog but does have issues, too. Any suggestions? At this time we do not have a fenced-in yard so we have to take her out on a leash which is fine except when I have Vertigo-which I do get a lot. Also, I forgot to mention that the doctor did remove a small part of her bowel because he didn’t think it looked good and also removed a small lesion from her kidney. We are so distraught over loving her and not being able to keep paying out these outrageous doctor fees that were never expected. My husband works full time to pay for my 23 medications I take daily. We both are on Medicare only with no supplement insurance. I feel no matter what decision I make someone will suffer. I also feel that the man who owned Pumpkin should have taken care of all her health needs before putting her up for sale. He used her for breeding only and got rid of her when she couldn’t become pregnant. He let all the major costs of her care to the people who bought her without them realizing just how sick she was. What a terrible shame to do this to that sweet little dachshund. Even if I couldn’t keep her, due to my health problems my husband and I do not regret giving Pumpkin back her health without all the pain
    she had. It breaks my heart how cold she is towards my husband. We have to wonder if she was abused by a man. She won’t even take a simple treat from him. I am everything to her.
    Hope you can advise me because I am at a loss. Thank you kindly.

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