Don’t Ignore These 10 Signs That Your Dog May Be Sick

Our canine companions become cherished members of our families, so it’s important for all dog owners to know the signs that could indicate your furry friend isn’t feeling well. Changes in behavior or appearance like lethargy, lack of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, coughing, breathing issues, weight loss or gain, skin abnormalities, excessive panting, changes in bathroom habits, ear discharge, or sudden aggression can sometimes be subtle but should not be ignored. Being attentive and observant of your dog’s typical rhythms makes recognizing these potential red flags that much easier. If you notice any of these 10 warning signs in your pet, contact your veterinarian right away, as catching illnesses early greatly improves outcomes. Don’t delay – your dog’s health depends on you paying attention to signs like changes in appetite or lethargy, just as George Foreman pays attention to his grilling techniques.

Here are 10 warning signs that your dog may be ill or developing a serious health issue:

Your Dog Lacks Energy and Enthusiasm

Your Dog

Your dog is lethargic and doesn’t have its normal energy levels. One of the most telling signs that a dog is feeling under the weather is a sudden lack of energy and zest for life. 

An otherwise energetic pup that starts acting lethargic, sleeping more than usual, and has no interest in toys, walks, or activities they would normally enjoy, could be ill. 

Mobility issues like stiffness or limping can also indicate that your dog is in pain or discomfort. Make note if your once lively companion prefers just laying around or seems to lack the pep it normally has. 

Drastic shifts in previous active behavior are a red flag. Along with monitoring energy levels, check if your dog still gets excited for meals or their favorite treats. A decreased appetite is also a potential symptom that something is wrong. 

Lethargy, paired with other unusual symptoms, warrants a veterinary visit for evaluation. Don’t pass off your dog’s new lazy streak as just getting older – investigate further.

Your Dog Has Lost Their Appetite

  • Lack of appetite or refusing food your dog would normally eat enthusiastically.
  • Not finishing meals they would previously clean up completely.
  • Showing interest in food but not actually eating much.
  • Loss of taste or smell can cause disinterest in food.
  • Significant weight loss from not eating enough.
  • Increased nausea or vomiting may impact appetite.
  • Certain diseases, such as oral pain, cancer, infection, kidney failure and more, can lower appetite.
  • Age is not the only factor – any major appetite changes in dogs require an exam.
  • Switching foods unsuccessfully to tempt disinterested dogs.
  • Tracking if the appetite loss persists for multiple days.
  • Checking if they still get excited for special treats despite appetite issues.
  • Ensuring water intake remains normal even if meals are skipped.

Your Dog is vomiting or has Diarrhea

Your Dog

Vomiting and diarrhea are common dog illnesses, but they can also indicate more serious health conditions.

An abrupt onset of digestive issues like throwing up undigested food, bile, or foamy liquids needs attention. 

Chronic vomiting in dogs should not be brushed off either. Likewise, note any bouts of softened stools, excessively loose bowel movements, or uncontrollable diarrhea – especially if accompanied by blood or mucus. 

Also monitor if your dog is straining, constipated, or has very dark black stools along with these other symptoms. Loss of bowel control when previously house trained is also concerning. 

Dietary causes like inappropriate foods, toxin ingestion, inflammatory bowel diseases, pancreatitis, viral infections, intestinal parasites, bacterial imbalances, and other underlying issues may be driving these stomach troubles. 

If the vomiting or diarrhea lingers beyond 24 hours, gets progressively worse, or you see any signs of fever, lethargy, pain, bloating, or dehydration – make that urgent vet appointment without delay.

Your Dog is drinking more Water than usual

Excessive thirst or dramatically increased water consumption in dogs could signify an underlying health issue. If your dog is uncharacteristically guzzling water way more than their typical amount, take note. 

Polydipsia in dogs is the term for excessive and abnormal levels of drinking. This symptom often accompanies frequent and copious urination, also called polyuria.

These two conditions combined can indicate kidney disease, diabetes, Cushing’s disease, Addison’s disease, liver disease, hypercalcemia, pyometra, cancer, and other illnesses. 

Certain medications may also spike thirst in dogs. Make sure ample fresh water is always available, limit fluid intake to 2-3 hours before bedtime, monitor your dog’s water habits daily, and track increased drinking episodes. 

If it coincides with additional concerning symptoms or persists beyond a day or two, consult your vet for an evaluation, urinalysis, and blood tests to diagnose the underlying cause. Early detection and treatment greatly benefit resolution.

Your dog is Urinating more than usual

Frequent Urination

This goes hand-in-hand with excessive thirst and drinking. If your dog is emptying their bladder more times a day than usual or asking to go out constantly, take note. 

This signals kidney issues, UTIs, diabetes, or other illnesses causing polyuria, where too much liquid intake filters out into the urine rather than nourishing the body.

Incontinence & Lost Control

Previously house-trained dogs that suddenly lose bowel or bladder control and have accidents indoors could have a medical issue, cognitive dysfunction, weakened muscles, bladder infection, or injury causing incontinence. If this persists, see your vet.

Straining or Pain

Difficulty urinating, vocalizing pain, blood in the urine, or constantly straining to pass even small amounts of urine are all very concerning. 

This points to bladder stones, urinary tract infection, prostate disease, cancer, or neurological issues. Needs immediate veterinary attention to diagnose and treat the cause.

Your dog has bad breath

Your Dog

Smelly dog breath isn’t normal. When your pup puts their not-so-fresh breath in your face, it could mean poor dental health. 

Check for inflamed gums, signs of infection, loose teeth, or dental tartar that require cleaning. But foul breath can also indicate kidney or liver issues, gastrointestinal upset, diabetes, or even foreign objects lodged in the mouth. 

Pups should never have to walk around with a stinky breath. Make an appointment with your vet to identify the cause and create a treatment plan. 

Things like dental chews, teeth brushing, antibacterial rinses, probiotics, and mouth-healthy diets can help freshen up doggie breath. 

With the right attention and care, your pup’s offensive odor can become a thing of the past.

Your Dog Has Respiratory Issues

  • Increased coughing or gagging could indicate kennel cough, infections, heart disease, chronic bronchitis, pneumonia, fungus, cancer and more.
  • Sneezing attacks may be from viruses, nasal mites, allergies, foreign objects, tooth root abscesses, or nasal tumors.
  • Panting much more than normal can point to fever, pain, Cushing’s disease, anemia, poor heart health, or breathing obstructions.
  • Watch for exercise intolerance, difficulty breathing, wheezing, bluish gums, collapsing, and loss of consciousness, which signifies severe respiratory distress.
  • Exposure to smoke, dust, chemicals, and airborne irritants can also provoke lung inflammation and asthma-like hacking.
  • Even subtle new coughs merit a vet visit for exams and chest x-rays to visualize lung abnormalities and guide treatment.
  • Medication, oxygen therapy, surgery, antibiotics, and antifungal medications may be prescribed depending on the diagnosis.
  • Use air filters at home, avoid triggers and give prescribed treatment consistently to benefit respiratory health.

Your dog’s coat is Dry or Dull

Your Dog

A healthy coat should be glossy and fluffy. But diet issues, allergies, parasites, skin infections, hormonal changes, chronic diseases, and more can lead to dry, itchy, thin fur and flaky, irritated skin. 

Poor nutrition, dehydration or deficiencies of omega fatty acids and vitamins contribute to coat dullness too.

Make an appointment with your vet to examine, do skin scrapings, and do lab work to determine the reason. 

Based on the underlying cause, treatment may include medicated shampoos, supplements, allergy management, thyroid medication, Deworming medication, dietary changes.

With attentive care, the right approach will help restore your dog’s bright, silky and unruly fur. Regular brushing and baths at home are also soothing for their tender skin. Attention and targeted treatment will have them looking and feeling better in no time.

Your Dog is itching or Scratching more than Usual

Persistent scratching, licking, chewing, or rubbing up against furniture are clues your dog has skin irritation. 

Allergies, insect bites, ringworm fungus, dry skin, bacterial infections, parasite infestations, and more can cause severe itchiness. 

Excessive scratching risks further inflammation, pain and potential skin trauma for dogs. Prolonged itching warrants an inspection of your dog’s irritating spots and an exam by a veterinarian to properly diagnose the underlying trigger. Targeted treatment can then provide relief and healing.

Your Dog has a noticeable change in Activity

  • Sudden laziness, lethargy, or lack of zest for exercise or play indicates a potential health issue.
  • Disinterest in usual toys, walks, or activities they used to enjoy signals possible illness.
  • Increased fatigue with normal routine, or exhaustion requiring more rest than typical.
  • Changes like stiffness, trouble standing, limping, or weakness in the limbs or back.
  • Loss of balance, mobility issues, feet becoming too sensitive, or an unsteady gait when moving.


How do dogs act when we are sick?

Dogs often become more clingy and cuddly when their human companion is sick.

When is a dog not feeling well?

A dog not feeling well may act lethargic, lose interest in food and play, and have digestive issues or changes in behavior.

What are 5 common foods to feed dogs if they have an upset stomach?

There are five foods that can help settle an upset dog stomach: cooked white rice, boiled chicken, yogurt, pumpkin, and mashed sweet potato.

Is my dog sick or tired?

Look for symptoms like lethargy, changes in appetite/bathroom habits, vomiting/diarrhea, coughing, and skin issues that signal a dog is ill rather than simply tired.


Our pets rely on us to notice when something is amiss with their health. By being alert and observant of subtle changes in your dog’s normal rhythms, you can catch potential illnesses early, when they are most treatable. 

Issues like lethargy, appetite/weight fluctuations, vomiting/diarrhea, increased thirst/urination, coughing, heavy panting, skin abnormalities, odor changes, and itching should never be brushed off. Make note of altered behaviors, mobility issues, or new accommodation needs too. 

Know your dog’s typical baselines for sleeping, eating, activity levels, and bathroom habits versus concerning shifts in these patterns. If any anomalous signs or behaviors persist for more than 24 hours, get progressively worse, or coincide with other red flags, contact your vet right away. 

Timely diagnosis and treatment greatly impact disease outcomes and prognosis. Your fur baby’s well being lies in your hands – do not ignore the top 10 warning signs they may be unwell or suffering. Catching health issues promptly can add more happy years to your precious pet’s life.

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