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Is My Dog Sick? Dog Illness Symptoms

Anne has a BSc Hons in Applied Psychology (inc. animal psychology) and has trained dogs, cats, rabbits and donkeys over the past 40 years.

Some Minor Dog Illnesses Symptoms

A happy, healthy dog has a shiny coat, bright eyes, a cold wet nose and is alert and responsive.

If your dog is all of the above, then chances are there’s not much wrong with them. But if you notice any sudden or unusual changes in their behavior, for example if they seem excessively thirsty, listless or uncharacteristically aggressive, then it’s time to investigate further.

Give your Vet as much information as possible regarding your dog’s normal behavior and how it might have changed. Of course there are other more obvious dog illnesses symptoms or even just signs that your dog is not as healthy as they could be. These include:

Minor Illness Symptoms

SymptomPossible Causes

Bad Breath

Food or bone stuck between teeth or across palate .


Inflamed or infected gums


Abscessed tooth

Itchy/Bald Spot





Over production of yeast






Cuts or bruises


Thorn or splinter


Irritation of pads


Fractured/Broken bones




Dog's Bad Breath

There are several reasons why your dog might have bad breath or Halitosis.

This can be anything from having a foreign object stuck between the teeth or across the palate, to inflamed or infected gums caused by a build up of calculus (a hard deposit from the salts in the saliva that clings to the teeth and must be removed by a Vet) or even an abscessed tooth or teeth.

There are several products available to alleviate bad breath, but best to check the reason for the bad breath in the first place.

Your Vet can quickly ascertain the cause and explain to you what’s needed to solve the problem.

Itchy or bald spots on dog's skin

Not one of the more obvious dog illnesses symptoms, and it may be something as simple as fleas or ticks (though just as unpleasant for you and the dog!)

Check his coat carefully. Small black dots indicate the presence of fleas.

Ticks are easier to locate, you can often feel them before you see them. On no account should you try to pull the tick out, or pour warm oil on it, or try to burn it; all remedies you may have heard or read of. They will only serve to stimulate the tick to release more saliva, which it toxic, and could cause you dog to become seriously ill.

Your Vet will advise you on the best method of dealing with these parasites.

Other causes of Itchy or bald spots are allergies, (to food, pollen, dust, etc) an over production of yeast by the body, or mange or ringworm.

If your dog is persistently scratching, take him to the Vet to ascertain the cause and advice on treatment.

Dog Limping

Observe which paw you dog is favouring, or he may even be reluctant to put it on the ground at all.

Gently check it for any obvious signs of injury; cuts or thorns on the pad or anywhere else, red patches on the skin, bald patches, etc. If there are no obvious injuries, but your dog shows signs of distress or pain when you touch or squeeze it, then he may have fractured or broken a bone.

If your dog is elderly or old, he may have developed arthritis in his hip. Your Vet as always will know how to find the cause of the problem and will advise you on treatment.

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More Serious Illness Symptoms

SymptomPossible Cause


Change in diet


Reaction to medication


Eaten something that doesn't agree with dog


Intestinal Infection




Eaten something that doesn't agree with dog





Abdominal Swelling

Several possible serious reasons.Contact your vet urgently


Several Possible serious reasons. Contact your vet urgently

Serious Dog Illness Symptoms


If your dog is suffering from diarrhea, then something is not right.

It may be something as simple as a change in diet, or reaction to medication and if that’s the case, it more than likely will clear up in a few days. If you haven’t made any changes to his diet, and he’s not on any medication, then he may have eaten something elsewhere that doesn't agree with him.

More serious causes of diarrhea though are intestinal infection, caused by bacteria, virus or even parasites, or he may even have an obstruction.

Obviously if your dog is showing any signs of distress take him to the Vet without delay.

If on the other hand he seems otherwise okay you can probably just keep an eye on him for a couple of days to see if it clears up. Give him plenty of water to drink so he doesn’t get dehydrated and make sure he doesn't start showing other dog illnesses symptoms like listlessness, whimpering or vomiting.

If in any doubt, you Vet will advise you.

Dog Vomiting

Vomiting is one of the more obvious dog illness symptoms.

As in humans, vomiting is the stomach’s way of rejecting something that can cause harm to the body. If you dog is vomiting, then he has may have ingested something that doesn't agree with him, up to and including poison. Or he may have an infection of some sort.

Never ignore vomiting if it goes on for longer than a couple of hours, or if your dog is showing any other signs of illness or distress

Dog Abdominal Swelling

Often combined with other dog illnesses symptoms like vomiting or diarrhea above.

Abdominal Swelling is often a sign of serious illness and your Vet should be consulted immediately

Dog Convulsions

Seizures or convulsions are very distressing both for the dog and its owner.

They can be mild, such as shivering, whining, drooling and/or loss of bladder control. Or they can be more severe, such as foaming at the mouth, contortions, loss of bowel and bladder control and even loss of consciousness.

It should go without saying that you must contact your Vet immediately if your dog is having seizures.


Keeping your dog well

It may seem obvious, but keeping your dog healthy and in good condition can avoid , or at least lessen the possibility, or him/her developing any of the dog illnesses symptoms above.

Careful and proper feeding, immunization, regular exercise and grooming will help keep him in tip-top shape.

Somewhere warm and dry to sleep is a must, and plenty of love and attention. As with children, discipline and boundaries are also important for a dog's well-being, so train your dog well.

Of course, as with humans, even the most well-cared for pet can develop an illness or have an accident. If you’re worried about any symptoms not listed above, or if you need more information, put the phrase “Dog Illnesses Symptoms” into your search engine.

And remember, you Vet is always there to help and advise



annerivendell (author) from Dublin, Ireland on June 18, 2012:

Thank you Conservative Lady, I agree, they are part of the family. Besides, part of the deal in having a pet is to take good care of them. They are totally dependent on us humans now that we've domesticated them.

Sheila from Surprise Arizona - formerly resided in Washington State on June 17, 2012:

Very useful and informative Hub, thank you for sharing. Our pets become our family members and keeping them healthy is so important.

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