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Is Your Dog Sick? Here’s How To Tell From Their Behavior


When your dog is sick, you want to know about it immediately! You want to get them to the vet as soon as possible and bring them home again knowing they’re going to be alright. And when your beloved pooch is in need of urgent treatment, time is very much of the essence. 

That’s why you need to pay attention to the signs your dog might be showing you. It’s not just about their emotions – although you can get a good insight into those based on body language. You can also find out how your pet is physically feeling by watching the way they behave. 

Whether you’ve just gotten a new puppy or have known your dog for years, certain behaviors and actions indicate illness or injury. And no matter how careful you are as an owner, your dog can eat something that doesn’t agree with them or hurt themselves without you knowing.

So don’t beat yourself up about pet health worries; every owner out there will have to deal with them at some point. But to help you spot trouble coming from a mile away, here’s a list of symptomatic behavior they might exhibit when they’re not feeling very well. 

There’s a New Bad Smell

We all know dogs can pick up a bad odor from their outdoor activities. Maybe they’ve rolled in mud and tracked it in, or even stepped in their own mess? Always check for signs of debris in their fur first, as it could be as simple as that! 

But if your dog suddenly smells quite bad and there’s no sign of dirt, it could be due to a dodgy stomach or a blockage somewhere further down their gut. 

Note where the smell seems to be coming from. If it’s their breath, something deeper could be at work here – a sweet or fruity scent could be a sign of diabetes, for example. If it’s coming from the other end, it might be something they’ve eaten, or even a sign they’re struggling to go to the toilet. 

They’re Panting a Bit Much

Panting is a sign of many things in a dog. If it’s a hot day out, it’s what they do to keep themselves cool. Similarly, a fast pant could be due to excitement, if there’s a guest round or you’ve just come home from a long day at work. A slow and steady pant, on the other hand, could mean they’re feeling relaxed and happy. 

Really, panting can mean a lot, and figuring out what your dog is feeling depends on the other symptoms present alongside it. If you don’t notice any, there’s a good chance your dog is doing OK. 

But if they’ve been letting off bad smells, limping or making pained noises, or they might have swallowed something they shouldn’t, and they’re panting at the same time, you could have a problem on your hands. 

They’re Refusing to Eat

When a dog refuses to eat, it’s very, very worrying. Usually they’re happy to have their bowl served to them, and it’s a struggle to get them not to wolf it down! So when their behavior is the exact opposite, you’re going to notice straight away. 

At a time like this, most owners will take their usual food away and provide something more bland, such as plain chicken. If your dog is still interested in eating, this will be much easier for them to stomach. 

On the other hand, this sudden disinterest in wanting to eat their usual food could simply be because they don’t like it anymore! At a time like this, check out Nextrition’s salmon recipe and other tailor made dog foods to spice up their diet a little. 

However, it’s best to keep an eye over their eating habits for at least the next 12 hours – if this behavior continues, call the vet. If they’ve suddenly stopped eating and don’t want to try anything at all, it could be a very bad sign.  

They’re Drinking a Lot

Water should always be available to dogs, at all times of the day and night. However, if they’re regularly heading over to the bowl and they’ve drained it a couple times already, the behavior could be troubling. 

Drinking a lot means your dog is super thirsty and can’t quite beat the sensation. If they haven’t recently been on a long walk or spent a couple hours at the dog park, you’ll want to do a little more investigating. 

Are they eating OK? Do they seem alright in themselves? Say, is their energy level the same as usual, or are they more lethargic or drowsy? These could all be signs of a bigger problem you should ask a vet about. 

Of course, if your dog has recently been put on a new medication, this could be an unfortunate side effect. Phone your vet and ask about the possibility – they might be able to immediately put your mind at rest. 

They’re Struggling to Go to the Toilet

This is one of the most worrying behaviors you can notice in a dog. They might be taking ages to pee or pass a stool when they’re outside, or even letting it out when they’re indoors, even if that’s rare for them. Either way, a misbehaving bowel is a sign your dog is struggling with something to do with their health. 

Most commonly this occurs when a dog swallows something they shouldn’t have. Usually this is something inedible, like a hard object that’s done its best to pass through their intestines but now has gotten stuck. 

However, both constipation and diarrhoea could also be a sign their diet is unbalanced, or that their anal glands are blocked. You’ll want a vet to know about the possibility immediately, so be sure to call as soon as you see signs like these. There could be serious knock-on effects if it’s left. 

They Seem to Be in Pain When Walking

As we said earlier, dogs are quite good at hiding their pain. However, sometimes it’s overwhelming and shows in the way they move. Most specifically, they may show signs of physical pain when changing elevations, like going down the stairs or jumping up on a sofa or bed. 

If you notice your dog limping, failing to put weight on a certain leg, or wobbling when walking, get them to sit down and feel around the affected area. The issue could be very simple – sometimes a sharp bit of grass gets stuck in a paw pad or there’s a small scratch in a similar place. 

If you find this is the problem, clean the wound and try to bandage it up. This should then be the end of the problem. But if you can’t see any visual issues, it could be a muscle, joint, or bone problem. Be sure to palpate gently but firmly; if your dog reacts to what you’re doing with a bark, growl, or even tries to nip at you, they’re definitely in pain and need to see a doctor. 

When your dog gets sick, they’ll do their best to hide it. Our pets are usually pretty good at hiding their pain, simply because they don’t want you to worry! But there will always be signs in their behavior that you’ll see soon enough. If you notice any of the above symptoms, call the vet and ask for their advice – it could be nothing, but you’ll never know until you’ve had it investigated. 





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