How to Tell if My Puppy is Sick [Watch For These 10 Signs]

One of the hardest parts of being a dog owner is trying to figure out when your dog is sick or when they’re just tired and need some rest. Humans and dogs are similar in so many ways, but expressing signs of sickness is NOT one of them. Us humans tend to be a little overly-dramatic when it comes to our illnesses. Dogs, on the other hand, try to hide it as much as possible. The good news is it’s slightly easier to tell if a dog is sick compared to a cat. Just one of the many reasons dogs are better…Sorry cat lover!!

sick puppy laying in bed showing one of the top signs of being sick

Top Signs Your Dog is Sick

Below we will list the bullet points on how to tell if your dog is sick. Later in this article, we will go through each one in a little more detail and talk about what each sign or symptom might mean.

  1. They aren’t themselves. You know your dog best, if they are acting strange something could be wrong.
  2. They are grumpy
  3. Vomiting and diarrhea
  4. Lack of appetite along with lethargy
  5. Noticeable weight loss
  6. They prefer being alone
  7. Bathroom schedule has changed
  8. Hair Loss
  9. Fever
  10. Cough

Emotional Vs. Sick

Now here’s where things can get a little challenging. You need to decide if your dog is actually sick or if they are just emotional. Yes, dogs have emotions too. As you can see from the list above, one of the signs is a change in bathroom schedule. This could be a sign of illness, but it could also be a sign of stress or anxiety. Same is true with them preferring to be alone, grumpy, loss of appetite, and so on.

So how do you know if your dog is being emotional or if they are actually sick? The key is to analyze the situation. Did something recently happen that would cause them to be sad, angry, stressed, nervous, etc.? For example, if your child recently went away to college, your dog might be lethargic because they are missing one of their friends.

Before assuming your dog is ill, you might want to take time to analyze the situation and determine if anything recently happened that would cause your pup to be more emotional than usual.

Self Diagnosing The Signs

Once you determine that your dog is more likely sick than emotional, the next thing you’ll want to do is analyze their signs and figure out if it’s something you can treat at home or something that requires attention from the vet.

Quick Note – It’s always a good idea to see the vet either way. Your vet will be able to diagnose much better than you can and will also have access to the tools and equipment you don’t have.

They Seem “Off”

You should know your dog’s behavior, schedule, and mannerisms better than anyone. If they seem a little off, it could be a sign they are sick and trying to hide it.

They’re “Grumpy” 

Grumpiness is usually a sign of pain. Think about it, when you are in pain do you want someone to touch you where you’re hurting? Since dogs are never sure where we are going to touch them when we go to pet them, they might growl or snap at you. They aren’t doing this out of anger, they’re just letting you know they are in pain and don’t want to be touched.

Vomiting and Diarrhea 

These two symptoms are no big deal if they happen every once in a while. They may vomit because they ate too much grass, and they may have diarrhea because their stomach didn’t respond well to something they ate while playing around outside.

However, if the vomiting and diarrhea and consistent and last more than 24 hours, you know your dog is sick.

It’s crucial you keep your dog hydrated during this time. Vomiting and diarrhea can cause severe dehydration. If your dog refuses to drink water, take them to the vet ASAP.

Lack of Appetite + Lethargy

Lack of appetite alone doesn’t mean your dog is sick. It may just mean they aren’t hungry that day. Lethargy alone doesn’t mean your dog is sick. It might just mean that they didn’t sleep well or ran around too much the previous day.

However, when the two are combined, it’s usually a sign of the flu. The best thing you can do when your dog has the flu is to allow them to go 24 hours without eating. If they refuse to eat after the 24 hours, take them to the vet.

Noticeable Weight Loss

You may be thinking this should be included above with “loss of appetite,” but weight loss doesn’t always mean lack of eating. If your dog has maintained their regular eating schedule but is still losing weight, it could be a sign of a parasite such as tapeworms. The good news is these are easy to treat.

They Become Unsocial

When you’re sick, do you want to be near people? Probably not. Same is true with your dog. If you have a social dog who suddenly becomes unsocial, they are probably sick. If they won’t even get up to eat food and drink water, try bringing it to them and see if they’ll eat and drink. It’s ok if they don’t eat for 24 hours, but you need to make sure they are drinking water.

Change in Bathroom Schedule

This one can mean multiple things, which is why if it lasts longer than 48 hours, you should take your dog to the vet.  A change in bathroom schedule might mean your dog developed a food allergy, they have a bug that the body is trying to eliminate, or it could even mean they are developing diabetes. The 48 hour mark is the magic number here. If it lasts longer than 48 hours, get medical attention.

Hair Loss

This one can also mean several things — anything from cancer to a simple hot spot. One thing to watch for is if the hair loss is isolated to one location or if it’s on the whole coat. Typically when it’s isolated, the illness that’s causing the hair loss is less severe than when it’s the full coat. However, a vet visit should be scheduled either way.

Is There a Fever?

If you don’t have a dog thermometer, take a quick trip to the dog store and pick one up. Every dog owner should have a thermometer because it’s one of the easiest ways to tell if your pup is sick. Dogs run much hotter than humans. A normal temperature for our K9 friends is anywhere between 99.5 and 102.5. Anything above 103 is considered high. If it gets up to 103.5-104, take your dog to the vet ASAP. It could be a sign of a heat stroke.

Is There a Cough? 

When humans get a cough, it’s typically nothing to be concerned about. However, when your dog has a cough, it’s almost always a sign of an obstruction or an infection…both of which require medical attention.

When Should I See The Vet?

It’s never a bad idea to take your pup to the vet as soon as possible to be on the safe side. Especially when you aren’t sure what’s going on. However, if you want to wait it out, wait 48 hours. If the symptoms are still around, it’s time for a vet visit.

Also, if your dog goes more than 24 hours refusing to drink water, take them in ASAP.

Once Healthy – Time to Prevent

Always remember that YOU play a significant role in the health of your dog. Here at K9Nerds, we are big believers that the best medicine is prevention. Make sure you keep your dog on a consistent feeding schedule with foods that are full of nutrients and quality protein.

You’ll also want to schedule two vet checkups per year. Many dog owners only do one per year, but a year is a long time. If your dog gets sick two months after the visit, they will go ten months without another checkup. If you go twice per year, you may be able to catch certain illnesses before they have a chance to turn into something serious.

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