How To Tell If Your Dog Is Sick

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Sick Black Dog Lying in the Ground

Many dog parents think that a veterinarian is the only one who can tell if there is anything wrong with the health of their dog. However, this is not the case in every case. Dogs do not speak by themselves, but they are very expressive of their behavior and emotions.  Therefore, everyone can assess when their dog is sick, though the definitive diagnosis will be made by your pet’s vet.

In this article you will learn how to tell if your dog is sick, the signs of a sick dog, the chances for your dog to get sick from humans, and what to feed a sick dog.

Why is it necessary for me to know when my dog is sick?

You need to know when your dog is sick because if you suspect something is wrong with your dog, you may not be able to tell your vet what you have actually felt that was weird. There might be any health issue that you didn’t notice in your dog, and you may feel guilty later that you were unaware of the pain that your dog was suffering from.

Sick dogs may show some prominent symptoms like vomiting or diarrhea. On the other hand, there are some behaviors in sick dogs that you need to notice and it may not be possible unless you know about them. So that’s why you need to know all the major signs and behavioral changes that your dog might have when he is sick.

What are the common symptoms when my dog is sick?

Dog resting on bed

 There are some noticeable symptoms of a sick dog, however, some of the symptoms may not be visible. Therefore keen attention to your dog and knowledge of sick dog symptoms are needed.

Dullness or Over-excitement

Whenever a dog gets sick, the first and most noticeable symptom is behavior change. Dull and depressed behavior is prominent in most diseases in dogs except the over-excitement in rabid dogs.

Your dog may be sluggish enough that he is not wagging his tail even you talk to him. He may not be excited to go out for a walk even in daylight. Apart from any sickness in your dog, the change in the behavior may be due to over-tiredness, change in the feed, or not seeing his favorite person or toys.

So, whenever, you feel that there is a change in your dog’s behavior, always look for these aspects too. When you are sure that the change in the behavior is not related to these aspects, always seek consultation from your pet’s vet.


One of the most noticeable symptoms in a sick dog is vomiting. Vomiting can be mild or may be life-threatening. There are some frequent causes of vomiting in dogs which include

  • Eating from scrap
  • Food poisoning
  • Eating not edible things
  • Motion sickness
  • Diseases such as parvovirus infection, canine distemper


When your dog is having loose, watery, and more frequent poop, your dog likely has diarrhea, a notable symptom of a sick dog. Diarrhea may be due to

  • Going to trash
  • Change in the feed
  • Ingesting foreign objects
  • Bacterial or viral infections

If your dog has only one episode of diarrhea and is acting normal, you can wait and look for any progression. If there is no further progression in the symptoms, there is nothing to worry about the health of your dog, and if vice versa, immediately visit your pet’s vet.

Change in Eating Habits

Dogs have their set eating habits and may eat more or less on different days. However, when you notice that your dog has not eaten for 18-24 hours, there might be a problem with your dog. Try to offer some of his favorite foods and treats in this condition. If nothing works and there are some associated symptoms (weakness, lethargy, vomiting diarrhea, salivation) too, you should get your dog examined by a nearby vet.

On the other hand, when your dog is eating too much without gaining weight or he is losing weight instead of normal eating, your dog may have a problem with his stomach. You may have skipped the usual deworming schedule for your dog and he may have a worm in his stomach.

Change in Drinking Habits

Your dog may change his water intake according to the weather i.e.,

  • More water intake in dry and hot weather
  • Low water intake in cold and humid weather

However, drinking too much water or too less irrespective of weather conditions may depict some problems with your dog. Drinking too less water indicates that your dog is not well because he is not interested in eating or drinking. If your dog is drinking too much water, this may be an indication of

  • Fever
  • Diabetes
  • Hormonal issue
  • Feed issue
  • Kidney issues

Changes in Eyes

Normally dogs have clean, wet, and shiny eyes. If you observe any of the following signs, you need to take your dog to your dog’s vet.

  • Runny or dry eyes
  • Pale or red eyes
  • Squinting eyes
  • Sunken or cloudy eyes

Runny Nose, Sneezing, and Coughing

The dogs usually have wet and non-runny noses. Some people think that a dry nose is not normal, in fact, a dry nose is not always associated with any problem. However, a runny nose depicts that your dog may have got a cold, pneumonia, or any bacterial or viral infection.

Your dog may have a cough when eating fast and anxiously or may sneeze when exposed to certain irritants such as smoke, perfumes, etc. Excessive coughing and sneezing are something to worry about because these are associated with infections (bacterial or viral) that need medical care.

Excessive Urination

Dogs usually urinate when you take them for a walk. When you notice that your dog started urinating at various places in your house, there must be health issues with your dog.

Be aware of the following:

  • Difficult urination
  • Any changes in the volume of urine
  • Signs of blood in the urine

Frequent urination with an increased urine volume may be related to kidney issues or diabetes mellitus. Bloody urine may be due to infections in the urinary tract, stones in the kidney or bladder, tumors in the urinary tract, or any problems in the blood of your dog. These signs are important to be observed in elder dogs as compared to younger dogs. If you notice any of these signs in your dog, immediately take your dog to your dog’s vet so that proper treatment can be started.

Unexplained or Sudden Changes in Weight

All dog breeds gain body weight according to the bread’s characteristics and age progression. When there is a sudden gain or loss in the weight of your dog, there must be an underlying cause for this. Your dog might be suffering from diabetes mellitus or having intestinal or blood parasites or some other health issues.

Hair Fall or Itchy Skin

A healthy coat is an indication that your dog is also healthy. If you feel hair fall or itchy areas on the body of your dog, this can be due to skin issues. Hair fall can be in the form of patches or diffused forms. The reasons for hair fall may include

  • Fungal infection
  • Flea infestation
  • Hormone issue
  • Skin allergies

Hypersalivation or Excessive Drooling of Saliva

In summer, dogs dissipate heat from the body by producing more saliva which is normally observed after playing or exercising in summer. However, if there is excessive drooling of saliva, there may be issues with the gums of your dog or he may have any kind of obstruction in the feeding tube.

General Lethargy

Lethargy is one of the common symptoms of a sick dog. If your dog is playful and active normally, but suddenly he looks energy-drained and dull, this may be an indication of a health issue. Lethargy can be due to overexertion or a serious health issue. If the lethargy remains for 24 hours and no other signs of any sickness develop, there is nothing to worry about your dog. However, if you notice that lethargy is persistent with progressing signs of sickness, you need to consult with your vet.


The normal body temperature of dogs is slightly higher than the human body temperature. So when you pet your dog, he may feel a little warm. However, if you feel that your dog is much warmer, he might have a fever. Fever in your dog can be due to a tumor, or bacterial or viral infection.

Head shaking

Dogs do not shake their head in normal conditions. When you observe that your dog is shaking his head vigorously and repeatedly, this can be an indication of infection in the head area or the ears of your dog.

What to feed a sick dog?

If the dog is sick and has no appetite, it is always advised to offer liquid or semi-solid feed that can be easily digested. Here are some ideas:

Boiled chicken and Rice

This is an easy-to-digest meal. You can prepare it at your home by boiling boneless chicken and rice (combined or separately). You can offer this meal to your sick dog to stimulate hunger.

Bone Broth

Bone broth is also a nutritious and delicious feed for sick dogs to stimulate their appetite. Boil the chicken bones, turkey bones, or beef bone marrow for 24 hours, then remove the bones and offer the broth to your sick dog after cooling it down.

Commercial foods

You can also use some commercially made jellies that either contain chicken broth or turkey broth. Sick dogs like the aroma of jellies and start eating them.

Can my dog get sick from humans?

Dog diseases and human diseases are usually caused by different causes, so there are very less chances that your dog may get sick from sick humans. However, there are some reports in which some diseases were reported from humans to dogs. These diseases include salmonellosis, MRSA, tuberculosis, ringworm, and COVID-19.

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