A dog who’s under the weather will try very hard to convince you she’s just fine. This has been developed from thousands of years of instincts.  In the wild, an obviously sick or weak animal is likely to be attacked by the others.  Even though your dog may not need to worry about that any more, your dog’s instincts still tell her to disguise any signs of illness. You’ll need to be a detective to catch some of the more subtle clues.  Of course, the better you know your dog, the easier it will be.  The way your dog looks, acts, eats, and drinks is a good indicator.  For instance, inappropriate weight loss or weight gain.  A ten percent change in weight (which could be as little as a pound in a small dog) is something to bring to your vet’s attention.

It’s not unheard of for a dog to skip a meal or two, especially if it’s hot outside. Any more than that is something to be concerned about. If your dog turns up her nose at food for more than two days, call your vet. Some diseases cause dogs to develop eating habits that are unusual for them.  A dog who has never been a food thief and suddenly starts raiding the rubbish bin or stealing food off the dinner table may be telling you she needs a check-up.

A dog who starts drinking like a fish could be developing diabetes or kidney disease or may have a deep seated infection that she is trying to flush out. You may not notice the dog’s extra water consumption straight away, but you will pick up her increased intake by paying careful attention to what comes out the other end.  She’ll be producing much larger amounts of urine and have to go outside more often.  She may also start having accidents in the house.

A healthy dog has a thick, shiny coat.  A dull coat or one with rough, dry, or bald patches is an indication that something’s wrong. The problem could be the type of food your dog is eating, a flea allergy, or a skin problem.

A more subtle sign of illness is your normally active dog becomes lazy or sluggish.  A dog who’s lethargic might show no interest in going for a walk, even though that’s usually the highlight of her day. She doesn’t want to play, not even her favorite game of fetch the tennis ball.  Now, sometimes lethargy can be put down to a hot day, being sore after an extra long walk, or just feeling out of sorts. If it continues for more than two days, though, talk to your vet.

A familiar and not-so-subtle sign of illness is vomiting. Vomiting in a dog is not as dramatic as it is for us, and dogs may even vomit deliberately to get rid of something that doesn’t agree with them (yesterday’s rubbish, for instance). Occasional mild vomiting usually isn’t anything to worry about. But if your dog vomits frequently or several times in a row, has a fever, seems to be depressed or in pain, or is vomiting blood, you should see the vet immediately.

Finally, go on poop patrol.  You can tell a lot from a dog’s poo!!!  A healthy dog’s stools are small, firm, and moist. Dry, hard stools that cause your dog to strain on elimination may be a sign your dog isn’t getting enough water, or it may be a hint of another dietary or health problem. Squiggly, rice-shaped segments in the faeces indicate worms. It’s not unusual for an occasional stool to be loose or liquid or to contain mucous or even a tinge of blood, but diarrhoea, straining, or mucous or blood-tinged stool lasting more than two days should prompt a visit to the vet. If the elimination problem is accompanied by other signs – fever, vomiting, lethargy, loss of appetite, bloody diarrhoea – call the vet immediately.

Basically if you dog appears to be in any way off colour, a visit to the vet is called for.

…  Anne