Dogs lack the communication ability to tell their owner when they are a bit under the weather. Often odd behaviors are an indicator of a medical illness. However, odd behaviors are also an indicator of emotional issues as well. A dog that has been through changes, stress, or other disturbance to his surroundings may start to act a little differently than normal. It can be difficult to tell sometimes whether your pup’s unusual behavior has more to do with his emotions or his health.
Even issues such as dog diarrhea or dog vomiting can be either issues relating to your dog’s health or it could mean that your dog is sick. Learning to discern one from the other is part of dog ownership, and often this gets easier as the relationship between the human and the dog grows.
“Is my dog sick?” is often a relative question. Sick can mean he has the runs and isn’t quite himself, or sick can means sudden lethargy, dehydration, and fevers. Just as humans have different degrees of being ill, so do dogs. Some ailments are easily cared for at home while other ailments require immediate emergency medical care.
Symptoms of dehydration and fever require veterinary care. These can both be an indication of infection or serious illness and treatment should not be delayed. Alternatively, lethargy and listlessness can be either a sign of illness or emotional distress. The definition of lethargy varies from that of fatigue. If your dog had an excessive amount of exercise the day before and just wants to sleep, that is fatigue. If your dog is disinterested in his normal activities without any changes in daily activity, this is listlessness or lethargy. A pup can go on a hunger strike over a change of food or environment, or can lose his appetite when he is sick. All of these possibilities makes it difficult to tell of your dog is just stressed out and tired or actually ill and waiting for you to call his doctor for him.
An evaluation of his environment over the twenty four hour period previous to his changes in behavior can often help to determine the answer to the question. The more you understand your dog, the easier the changes in his environment will be to detect. What is stability in a dog’s life can vary from stability in a human’s life. Some dogs can get themselves worked up into a hunger strike over some changes in the furniture while other dogs don’t notice anything outside of a missing human or the addition of another dog.
Once you have determined whether you believe there is something in his environment he is reacting to (this includes the argument between his humans the night before) or whether there is no apparent change to explain his behavior, it’s not a bad idea to place a call to the veterinarian’s office. Simply explaining his behavior and why you’re concerned won’t get you an over the phone diagnosis, but a little guidance can help determine what you’re next step might be.
The most difficult part of self diagnosing dogs is that you might be wrong. Dogs can’t communicate where it hurts or how they feel, so it’s up to human interpretation. If there is about to be a significant hiccup in his life, such as a family vacation, a new puppy coming into the home, or something of the sort, then he should make a scheduled stop at the veterinarian’s office for a check up. In cases as such it is better to be safe than sorry.
Symptoms of a Sick Dog
There are some symptoms which indicate a life threatening illness, or the possibility thereof that should never be ignored. These include labored breathing, bloody diarrhea, difficulty urinating, inability to urinate, abdominal swelling, unconsciousness, convulsions, uncontrolled bleeding, vomiting blood, or a thick mucous drainage from the rectum. Thick mucous drainages from the rectum is usually accompanied by fevers and the dog typically will carry his posture in a hunched up manner indicating abdominal discomfort. This is a sign of a bowel obstruction and requires immediate medical care as left untreated for even just a day can cause shock, hypovolemia, and death.
Lyme disease, a growing problem through the United States, is indicated by severe pain. This is usually obvious as the dog will wince during his efforts to get up, and will often require the assistance of his human to go out to go to the bathroom. Often this is the only noticeable symptom but it is typically noticeable enough to alert the human that something is quite amiss in the pup’s life.
When trying to determine if your dog is sick don’t feel bad if you miss the mark. Even the most compassionate and intuitive dog owners have difficulty interpreting the behavior of an ailing dog.