How to Tell if Your Dog is Sick

Your dog doesn't tell you in words when he is feeling under the weather, but he exhibits changes in behavior or habits that should alert you to his health. Digestive issues, diminished appetites and energy levels, changes in urination habits, coughing, limping and a fever are all indicators that your dog is sick and needs to see his veterinarian.

Labrador Retriever Resting Peacefully
Sleepy dog laying down in house.
credit: Dean_Fikar/iStock/Getty Images

Diarrhea or Vomiting

It is not unusual for a dog to eat something that causes gastric distress and results in vomiting or diarrhea. However, vomiting or diarrhea that continues several times in a day is a cause for concern and requires a trip to your veterinarian for a diagnosis. Either can be one of many things causing distress including a gastrointestinal illness or internal parasites, such as roundworms, whipworms or hookworms.

Low Appetite and Energy Level

As a dog owner, you know the normal amount that your four-legged friend eats as well as his regular activity level. A lack of appetite or decreased appetite can be a sign that your dog is not feeling well. Healthy pets eat the same amount of food willingly every day. Dogs who seem tired or lethargic after normal exercise or who refuse to exercise are experiencing some sort of medical illness. Take your pet to your veterinarian for an exam to determine the cause of his loss of appetite or low energy level.

Urination Changes

If your pet is going out to urinate more or less frequently than normal, he may have an illness. If your dog is drinking more water than normal, or requiring more potty breaks, he could have diabetes. Decreases in urination may be due to bladder stones or a urinary tract infection. Get a diagnosis from your veterinarian if you notice any changes in your dog's urination patterns.

Coughing Dogs

A persistent cough in your dog is definitely a reason for a veterinary visit. Your furry friend may have kennel cough, heart disease, lung disease or heartworms. He could just have allergies that require removal of the allergens from his environment, but it is best to get him checked out.

Limping and Stiffness

Dogs limp when they are favoring a limb from overexertion or an injury. If the limp does not dissipate, an underlying cause needs to be determined. In some cases, dogs have arthritis or hip dysplasia, or they can have arthritis caused by Lyme disease from ticks. Pets with arthritis and long hair may have a difficult time getting up from lying down and have accidents, resulting in dirty coats that need cleaning more often.

Dogs with Fever

A healthy dog has a cool nose that is slightly wet to the touch. A warm, dry nose can be a sign of a fever that accompanies an illness. Your dog's rectal temperature is 100 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. If your dog's temperature is higher than 103 degrees, a trip to the vet is in order.