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Is My Dog Sick?

When Pet Owners Should Take Their Dog to the Veterinarian

Identifying the signs of sickness in a dog can be challenging, even for 
the most vigilant pet owners. Since a sick dog is unable to verbally 
communicate what hurts, pet owners must pay close attention to identify 
the signs of illness. Subtle changes in behavior or appetite may be 
symptomatic of an underlying health problem. While dogs cannot verbally 
tell us when they are sick, they use physical symptoms and behavior 
changes to communicate.

Determining when a trip to the doctor is warranted can be challenging. 
One of the most common symptoms of illness is vomiting or diarrhea. 
Dogs, however, may vomit on occasion without actually being ill. Eating 
food too quickly or drinking water too fast can cause vomiting, although 
the dog will feel much better afterwards. So how can a vigilant pet owner 
tell when a dog actually needs veterinary care?  Profuse vomiting, bloody 
vomiting, lethargy or anorexia concurrent with vomiting all require 
immediate medical intervention.  Vomiting or diarrhea for more than 
24 hours is a sign that a pet needs veterinary care. Vomiting or diarrhea 
for an extended period may be symptomatic of many things, including 
pancreatitis, infections, ingestion of foreign material,  accidental poisoning, 
or parasites, all of which require urgent veterinary care.

Dog owners should also be alert for signs of lethargy. If a normally 
active dog suddenly loses interest in playing fetch or no longer runs 
across the room, this may be a sign of illness. A long run at the park may 
cause exhaustion, but if a pet owner cannot identify a specific cause, then 
contact a veterinarian. Lethargy can be symptomatic of hundreds of disorders, 
one example is  heart disease, which requires veterinary care. Pet owners 
should also look for a change in exercise tolerance and unexplained weakness. 
A loss in consciousness, difficulty breathing, bleeding, or seizures always 
requires immediate emergency care for all animals.

Pet owners should also be on the lookout for the following symptoms: 
poor appetite, lameness, weakness, frequent urination, excessive scratching 
or licking, nasal discharge, constipation, an unusual bump, or excessive thirst. 
If these symptoms occur for more than two days, pet owners should 
contact their veterinarian.

In general, it is better to be proactive about veterinary care than to wait. 
In the wild, animals instinctively mask symptoms of illness so they will not 
appear weak to predators or be shunned by their own kind. Consequently, 
a dog will instinctively try to hide any health problems. Prompt care thanks 
to a vigilant pet owner can make a big difference for a dog's health.  
If you question whether a visit to the doctor is needed, please call and 
discuss it with your veterinarian.

American Animal Hospital Association, “Urinary Tract Infections.” 2013.

Is Your Dog Sick?

If your dog exhibits the following symptoms, contact your veterinarian 

•    In distress with Vomiting or diarrhea
•    Swollen abdomen
•    Labored breathing
•    Collapse, loss of consciousness or seizures
•    Bleeding
•    Symptoms of acute pain, such as crying out, whining or whimpering

If your dog exhibits these symptoms for more than 2 days, contact your 
pet's doctor

•    Lethargy or general weakness
•    Excessive thirst
•    Frequent or inappropriate urination 
     (e.g., wetting the bed, or accidents in the house)
•     Frequent panting

When in doubt, talk to your veterinarian.

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