It is not always obvious to tell when a dog is ill. Animals are very good at hiding pain. It is only when a health problem gets severe that you may start to see obvious signs of pain and discomfort – by which point treatment could become more complicated and more expensive. If you have a dog like I do, you never want it to get to that point, so I’m sharing some ways that you can detect problems early in your canine companions, so you can seek veterinary advice as soon as possible if something seems amiss.
Loss of appetite
If your pup is anything like mine, they’ll love their food (and probably your food too!) If a dog isn’t eating, then it’s usually a sign that something could be wrong. There are lots of possible reasons as to why a dog may not be eating. They may be feeling nauseous, which could be the result of a virus such as the flu or digestive problems. They may be experiencing dental problems that make chewing painful, which could have put them off eating. Whatever the cause, it’s usually worth seeing a vet. Of course some dogs can be fussy eaters. If you’ve recently changed their food, then this may be the reason.
Dogs can lose weight if they are eating less or being more active. If neither of these seem to be causes, then it’s possible that your dog may be experiencing a health problem. Digestive issues (particularly parasites like tapeworms) can sometimes cause weight loss. In other cases, an underlying condition may be to blame (e.g. an infection or cancer). A vet will usually be able to find the root cause. Rapid weight gain is also not good. If your pooch is rapidly putting on the pounds, you may also want to see a vet (conditions such as low thyroid function can sometimes lead to this).
An easy way to keep track of weight is to weigh yourself, then pick up your pooch and weigh yourself holding them. This can be a bit challenging if you have a large breed like mine, so if your dog is too big to do this, you may find that your local pet shop has a dog scale that you can use, or you can ask for a checkup with the veterinary nurse if concerned.
You can tell a lot about a dog’s health by their bowel movements. Funny coloured poos can sometimes be a bad sign. Diarrhoea and constipation are also signs that something may be wrong. This dog poo colour chart (yup, that’s a thing!) offers a few possible causes for unusually coloured faeces. If your dog has diarrhoea, it could be because they’ve eaten something that didn’t agree with them (possibly something toxic if their behaviour has also changed). Constipation meanwhile could be caused by a problem such as an obstruction. In all cases, seeing a vet is a good call.
Be wary that diet changes can sometimes be the cause of unusual bowel movements, in which case there’s usually nothing to worry about, but dogs can develop intolerances to some types of food, so if it is ongoing, you should definitely get it checked out.
Is your dog acting very lethargic or unplayful? Or are they acting unusually aggressive? Any behavioural change could well be due to a health problem. They could be sick, in pain or possibly even developing deafness or blindness (unresponsiveness and clumsiness are common symptoms of this). Older dogs may also suffer from mental deteriorative diseases such as dementia. If the change in temperament is severe or goes on for a few days, then it would be worth seeing a vet or a behavioral expert.
If you notice any unusual physical problems it’s always better to be safe and consult a veterinarian. This could be problems walking for example, pain in joints or favouring a specific leg. It could be skin complaints or unusual lumps and bumps, or perhaps a cut or injury. It could also be breathing problems, excessive panting or laboured breathing. In short, you want to keep an eye out for any unusual physical problems and follow up on whether there’s anything to worry about.
I hope that these five tips have helped you feel at ease that your dog is currently in good health, but if anything on this list does show up, you should consult a professional.