Subtle signs of illness in dogs

Many of us enjoy a close bond with our canine companions and, when they’re under the weather, will quickly pick up on the fact that they are not themselves. While there can sometimes be obvious signs that something is amiss (such as vomiting, diarrhoea or a cough), this is not always the case and we may need to do a little detective work.

What illness signs should I be on the lookout for?

A dog that is ‘just not themselves’ may be showing signs that are hard to put into words. Potential symptoms of illness to be aware of would include:

  • A change in appetite or thirst
  • Sleeping more
  • Being less eager to go on walks and being less energetic when outside
  • Struggling to jump up or get about
  • Panting more or panting when inappropriate (such as when resting)
  • A bloated abdomen
  • A tail that is held down.

Did you know, a dry nose is not always cause for concern. Many owners worry when they find their dogs nose isn’t wet but this can be normal for some. We check their hydration by feeling their gums. Dry gums can indicate dehydration and is something that is worth looking in to.

What if my dog still seems alert and happy?

If a dog is showing very subtle symptoms (such as mild lethargy) but is otherwise well, you may decide to see how they do over the next day or so. If their signs are caused by e.g. a mild viral infection, they may perk back up quickly without intervention. However, if they are not improving or seem to be getting worse, a trip to the vet is needed.

What will the vet do?

When a dog is not themselves but we aren’t sure why, we will start with the basics. This means a full physical exam, checking for any ‘hard to spot’ issues such as a rotten back tooth or anal gland impaction. If required, after the physical exam, the vet may also order some tests such as a blood test or abdominal ultrasound. Once we know that is going on, we can then start the most appropriate treatment.

While it can be worrying to realize that your dog is poorly, paying close attention to them is important. This way, we can spot any issues early and have them treated by their vet swiftly.