How to Know If Your Dog Has an Infection

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A dog looking lethargic.
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Some of the signs and symptoms of infection in dogs are lethargy, fever, or the presence of pus. Your dog can get an infection related to an illness or an injury. Some common illnesses may include a urinary tract infection, ear infection, and leptospirosis. Left untreated, an infection can become serious enough to kill your pet. Always take him to his veterinarian if you suspect any type of infection.

Lethargy and sluggishness

A dog who has an infection is likely to be very lethargic, sluggish, and to seem uninterested in regular activities. Typically he will no longer want to play, go for walks or ride in the car. He's more likely to prefer to sleep most of the time and may hide in an out-of-the-way spot so that he's less likely to be disturbed.

Suspect an infection in any dog who was active and has become lethargic. Also consider infection in an older dog who seems less energetic than usual.

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Running a fever

If your dog has an infection she will likely have a fever, though her temperature may be normal with a localized infection such as a bite wound or other injury. The normal temperature for a dog, typically taken rectally, is between 101 and 102.5 degrees. A temperature higher than 103 degrees is considered to be a fever and may be one of the symptoms of infection in dogs.

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If you don't have a thermometer for your dog, look for other signs of fever such as red eyes, warm ears, a dry warm nose, and shivering. Unless there is an obvious cause for the fever, such as a vaccination within the past day or two, take your dog to the vet.

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Changes in eating and drinking

A loss of appetite may signal that your dog has an infection. A previously hearty eater may refuse food or just nibble at it. They may even refuse their favorite treats if they've got an infection.

Even if your dog is refusing food, your dog may begin to consume more water than usual, a possible sign of a urinary tract infection. Such an infection may be accompanied by more frequent urination, strained urination, whimpering or crying when urinating, and having accidents in the house. Urine is often foul-smelling, bloody, or cloudy.

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Symptoms of infection in dogs

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The specific signs of an infection depend a lot on the type and location of the infection. Some things to watch for that indicate your dog has an infection are the presence of pus or an abscess. If it's a skin problem, near the surface of the skin or in his ear you also may notice that she scratches or digs at the spot or that the skin is hot, red, or swollen.

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An ear infection may cause additional symptoms including headshaking, a head tilt, a bad odor in the ear, yellow or brown ear discharge, and a swollen ear. Symptoms of a more severe infection include hearing loss, poor coordination, loss of balance, and strange eye movements.

Some infections will cause your dog to cough, with or without the presence of mucus; they may vomit, have an obvious nasal discharge, or show other signs of illness. In all cases, they should be seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible to get an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan and prevent further complications.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.

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