Is Your Dog Sick? 10 Signs Your Dog May Be Sick

By Sam M. •  Updated: 02/09/24 •  6 min read

As a seasoned dog owner, I know the concern that arises when our furry companions are not feeling their best. Understanding the subtle signs that indicate a dog might be sick is crucial for their well-being. Dr. Julie Buzby, an integrative veterinarian, sheds light on 15 key symptoms that could signal your dog is unwell. Recognizing these signs early can make a significant difference in your dog’s health.

When our dogs exhibit unusual behavior, it’s natural to question if they are simply tired or if something more serious is at play. Learning how to differentiate between a lethargic day and a potential health issue is essential for every pet parent. By being proactive and attentive to your dog’s cues, you can provide the necessary care and prompt veterinary attention when needed.

Recognizing the Signs Your Dog May Be Sick

Changes in Appetite and Weight

Noticing changes in your dog’s eating habits and weight can be crucial in determining their health status. A sudden increase or decrease in appetite, or significant weight loss or gain, could be indicators of an underlying issue. If your dog is eating too little, too much, or refusing food altogether, it might be a sign that something is wrong and requires attention. Similarly, fluctuations in weight without a clear cause could signify various health concerns, prompting a visit to the vet for a thorough evaluation.

Unusual Behavior and Lethargy

Understanding your dog’s typical behavior is key to spotting deviations that may signal illness. Changes in behavior such as lethargy, unusual aggression, or excessive restlessness can hint at an underlying problem. If your usually active pet becomes unusually lethargic, it could be a red flag. Likewise, if your dog displays uncharacteristic behaviors like excessive whining or sudden disinterest in activities they usually enjoy, it’s essential to consider consulting a veterinarian for further assessment.

Vomiting, Diarrhea, and Digestive Issues

Digestive problems like vomiting and diarrhea are common indicators of health issues in dogs. If your dog experiences persistent vomiting or diarrhea, it could be a sign of gastrointestinal problems, dietary issues, infections, or more severe conditions. Keep an eye on your dog’s bowel movements and any signs of discomfort during defecation. Prompt attention to digestive issues is crucial to prevent dehydration, nutrient deficiency, and further complications, necessitating veterinary intervention for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Respiratory Problems and Coughing

Respiratory symptoms, such as coughing, wheezing, or difficulty breathing, should never be ignored. These signs could point to respiratory infections, allergies, pneumonia, or more severe conditions like heart problems. If your dog exhibits persistent coughing, labored breathing, or nasal discharge, seeking veterinary care is essential to identify the underlying cause and provide appropriate treatment to ensure your pet’s respiratory health.

Skin, Coat, and Ear Changes

Changes in your dog’s skin, coat, and ears can also indicate underlying health issues. Keep an eye out for signs like hair loss, itchiness, redness, or inflammation on the skin. Skin issues can be linked to allergies, parasites, infections, or systemic diseases. Similarly, abnormalities in the coat texture, excessive shedding, or ear irritation could signal problems that require veterinary evaluation. Regularly inspecting your dog’s skin, coat, and ears can help you detect potential health issues early and address them promptly for your pet’s well-being.

Understanding What Different Symptoms Mean

When to Worry About Weight Changes

Noticing sudden weight changes in your dog can indicate underlying health issues. If your furry friend is losing weight unexpectedly, it could be a sign of various conditions like parasites, dental problems, diabetes, or even cancer. On the other hand, sudden weight gain might point towards issues such as hypothyroidism or excessive feeding leading to obesity. Monitoring your dog’s weight regularly and consulting with your vet if you notice significant changes is crucial to ensure your dog’s health.

Interpreting Behavioral Changes

Changes in your dog’s behavior can often signal that something is amiss. If your dog is unusually lethargic, aggressive, anxious, or withdrawn, it could be an indication of physical discomfort or underlying health problems. Additionally, excessive barking, paw licking, or destructive behavior can also be signs of distress. It’s essential to pay attention to these behavioral changes and consult with a vet to identify and address the root cause promptly.

What Digestive Symptoms Could Indicate

Digestive symptoms in dogs can vary and may indicate different issues. Vomiting and diarrhea could stem from dietary indiscretion, infections, food allergies, or more serious conditions like pancreatitis or intestinal obstruction. Blood in the stool could signify parasites or gastrointestinal bleeding. It’s crucial to observe your dog’s eating habits, stool quality, and any signs of discomfort to determine the severity of the digestive problem. Consulting with your vet for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan is vital for your dog’s well-being.

Recognizing Serious Signs in Respiratory Health

Respiratory symptoms in dogs should never be ignored as they can quickly escalate into critical conditions. Coughing, wheezing, nasal discharge, or difficulty breathing could indicate a range of issues from a common respiratory infection to more severe conditions like kennel cough, pneumonia, or heart problems. Any honking noise or blue tint to the gums should be treated as a medical emergency. If your dog shows respiratory distress, prompt veterinary attention is essential to ensure proper diagnosis and timely treatment.

Steps to Take When You Suspect Illness

Monitoring and Recording Symptoms

When I suspect my dog is sick, the first step I take is closely observing and recording any symptoms. By monitoring changes in my dog’s behavior, appetite, energy levels, and any physical signs like coughing, wheezing, or scratching, I can provide crucial information to the vet. Clear documentation helps in tracking the progression of symptoms and aids the veterinarian in making an accurate diagnosis.

Deciding When to Visit the Vet

Deciding when to visit the vet is a crucial aspect of caring for a sick dog. If my dog displays persistent symptoms such as lethargy, unusual breathing patterns, or signs of discomfort, I know it’s time to contact the veterinarian. It’s important not to delay seeking professional help when my furry friend’s health is at stake.

Preparing for the Veterinarian Visit

Before heading to the veterinarian, I ensure thorough preparation. I gather all relevant information about my dog’s symptoms, changes in behavior, and any recent alterations in their routine. It’s helpful to jot down questions for the vet and be ready to provide a detailed medical history of my dog. Additionally, I prepare to follow the vet’s recommendations diligently to ensure my dog receives the best possible care.


Recognizing the signs of illness in our furry companions is crucial for their overall health and happiness. By staying vigilant and observant, we can detect subtle changes in behavior, appetite, and physical appearance that may indicate an underlying health issue. Remember, our dogs rely on us to be their advocates in times of need. Prompt action and proactive care are key to ensuring our pets receive the attention and treatment they deserve. Stay informed, stay attentive, and prioritize your dog’s well-being. Your furry friend will thank you for your dedication to their health and happiness.

Sam M.

Hi! I'm Sam, the founder of, I created to help pets live healthier through better food. I combine my love for animals and research to guide pet owners in choosing the right meals for their pets.

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