How Can You Tell If Your Dog Is Sick?

sick dog

How many times have you wanted the ability to converse with your beloved puppers? It is just so difficult to try to determine what is going on in their minds and bodies. Just like having a human baby, we have to educate ourselves on the tell-tale signs of diseases and abnormalities in our pups in order to help them live their best lives possible.

Yearly physical exam

Just like you and I, our pets need regular physical exams. Not only to for routine vaccinations, laboratory testing, and to possibly identify if some type of disease process is going on, but it is also important to establish a baseline with your dog. In terms of medicine, a baseline is when information is documented at the start of treatment or maybe when your dog starts seeing a new veterinarian. This information can be critical if your dog should develop some type of illness or disease. Prevention is the key.


Common dog diseases and disorders

Below is a list of some of the most common canine diseases and disorders I found at and along with their most common symptoms. As you may or may not know, our pets can get many of the disease we know to afflict humans as well.

  • Cancer – unusual lumps, swelling, persistent sores, bad breath, lethargic, rapid weight loss, sudden lameness, black stools, decreased or loss of appetite, and difficulty breathing, urinating, or defecating.
  • Diabetes – change in appetite, increased thirst and urination, weight loss, fruity breath, lethargic, frequent urinary tract infections, cataracts or blindness, and chronic skin infections.
  • Distemper – stage 1: fever, nasal discharge, purulent discharge from eyes, lethargy, no appetite, weight loss, coughing, vomiting, and diarrhea. Stage 2: head tilt, circling, paralysis, seizures with increased saliva and chewing motions, repetitive eye movements (nystagmus), muscle twitching, and death.
  • Heartworm – difficulty breathing, coughing, vomiting, weight loss, and fatigue after just moderate exercise.
  • Kennel cough – persistent cough with a “honking” sound, gagging, coughing up white foamy mucous, fever, and nasal discharge.
  • Leptospirosis – fever, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, severe weakness or lethargy, joint stiffness, jaundice, infertility, and kidney failure.
  • Lyme disease – fever, decreased appetite, swollen lymph nodes, and limping.
  • Parvovirus – lethargy, severe vomiting, decreased appetite, and bloody foul-smelling diarrhea.
  • Rabies (takes 2 to 8 weeks to incubate and manifest symptoms) – changes in behavior (snapping at anything, attacking others and inanimate objects), restlessness and pacing, apprehension, licking, biting, or chewing at the bite area, fever, hiding in dark areas, eating unusual objects, paralysis of the throat or jaw, foaming at the mouth, disorientation, incoordination, and staggering, paralysis of hind legs, decreased appetite, weakness, seizures, and sudden death.
  • Ringworm – skin lesions, and crusty, patchy bald spots of the fur.


Vaccinations are of utmost importance to help keep your dog healthy and free of disease. There are two types of vaccines: core and non core. Core vaccines are either required by law or highly recommended by your veterinarian. Noncore vaccines are more subject to recommendation based on the



area where you live, dog’s age and/or health, or a particular disease that may be prevalent at the time. Puppies, of course, will require more vaccinations during their first year than at any other time in their life. I have listed below a general guideline of when vaccines are typically recommended.

  • 6-8 weeks: core distemper and parainfluenzae. non core bordetella
  • 10-12 weeks: core DHPP (combination of distemper, adenovirus (hepatitis), parvovirus, and parainfluenzae). non core coronavirus, leptospirosis, bordetella, and lyme
  • 12-24 weeks: core rabies
  • 14-16 weeks: core DHPP non core:coronavirus, leptospirosis, lyme
  • 12-16 weeks: core rabies and DHPP
  • adult: core rabies every 1-3 years dependent on local laws. non core DHPP yearly

Suggestions for a happy, healthy dog

There are other topics to consider when trying to give your pup the best life possible. According to the AKC, along with proper care to prevent diseases and illness, these items are also necessary for you pup:

happy black dog

  • appropriate shelter
  • clean, dry bedding
  • clean, fresh water
  • high-quality food
  • proper body weight
  • daily exercise
  • play with your dog daily
  • yearly vet visits
  • keep control of your dog at all times
  • give a purpose

Listen to your instincts

It is very hard to determine if we are doing right by our pups with all there is to know and do. One can spend hours researching everything that goes along with being an informed pet parent ( I’m racking up some serious hours). Of course not all dogs are going to manifest every symptom just as it is in a textbook. Like everyone always say, go with your gut instinct. No one knows your pup like you do and do not hesitate to call your veterinarian if you suspect anything or your pup just doesn’t seem right. Parents are usually spot on when our babies are sick.

Here’s to long, healthy, and happy lives.

happy corgi

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *