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Is My Dog Sick??

Updated on April 24, 2014

Could My Dog Be Sick?


og owners encounter all sorts of questions relating to their pets. Make this your headquarters for learning about pet health and more.

Wondering "Is my dog sick?"

In this article, you'll learn how to tell if your dog is sick by checking physical symptoms like temperature, gums and heart rate. And learn what abnormalities - like vomiting blood, pale gums, and dehydration - mean for your dog and his health.

Vomiting and diarrhea in dogs are common signs of gastrointestinal illness. Learn how to help your dog at home and find out when to visit the vet.

Think Your Dog's Sick? Check Out These Links!

Could your dog be sick? Check out these links for more on how to help your ill dog at home. Learn home remedies for your pet and find out when it's best to visit the vet.

Is My Dog Sick?

How to tell if a dog is ill. Learn how to examine gums, temperature, pulse and more.


very dog owner will at some time wonder, "Is my dog sick?"

Checking a pet's vital signs and performing a basic exam at home can help dog owners determine if their dog is sick and in need of a vet visit.

According to Dr. Michael Levine, DVM, there are several things that should be checked to help pet owners determine if their dog is, in fact, ill. The following values should be checked hourly and recorded, so pet owners can determine if the dog's condition is worsening, improving or remaining stable.

- Has your dog stopped eating? An ill dog will not eat at all, or the dog will consume much less in terms of the amount of food. A dog who isn't eating will need supplemental sugar to ward off hypoglycemia.

- Has your dog stopped drinking? A dog who feels unwell will stop drinking, which can quickly lead to dehydration and ultimately, death due to organ failure.

- Is your dog lethargic? A sick dog will sleep more and their activity level will be below normal. The dog may be hesitant to get out of bed, go for a walk, or play.

- Does your dog have a normal temperature? A dog's normal rectal temperature is between 100.5 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Ear temperature will be slightly lower. A temperature outside of this normal range is an indicator of a sick dog and a trip to the veterinarian is in order.

- Do your dog's gums look normal? Normal gums should be a shade of pink, while problems like internal bleeding, anemia, or a disruption of normal blood flow will cause gums to be a shade of white, grey, blue or brick red, or yellow in color.

- Is your dog panting or drooling excessively? Panting can be a sign of distress, pain and discomfort.

- Is your dog restless? A restless dog is often a sick dog who is experiencing serious discomfort.

- Is your dog's heart rate abnormal? Normal heart rate varies from dog to dog based on age, size and activity level, but a consistently fast or slow pulse can be indicative of illness and distress. A puppy or small dog's heart rate will be around 180 beats per minute. And adult dog or a larger dog will have a normal rate somewhere between 60 and 160 beats per minute.

- Is your dog vomiting? Vomiting all food and drink for 18 hours or more can lead to serious dehydration and it can be a sign of a serious problem like an intestinal obstruction. Also look for projectile vomiting, blood in the vomit (either bright red or the consistency and color of coffee grounds), or a foul smelling vomit that smells similar to excrement.

- Does your dog have diarrhea? A dog with chronic diarrhea can end up seriously dehydrated. Other signs of a problem include blood in the feces or unproductive straining.

- Is your dog dehydrated? Pinch a dog's skin between the shoulder blades. A healthy dog's skin should flatten right out. A sick dog's skin will flatten out over the course of several seconds. Also feel the gums; they should be slick and wet, not dry and sticky.

- Is your dog urinating frequently? Frequent urination, pain while urinating and straining can be a sign of a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) in dogs.

- Has your dog stopped playing? A normally playful dog will be less active when he's sick.

Pet owners should also where they can find help for their pet in the event of an emergency.

In advance of a pet illness or injury involving a pet, locate a 24-hour veterinary clinic in your area and visit the clinic so you're familiar with its location. Pet owners shouldn't waste valuable time locating a 24-hour clinic in an emergency situation involving their pet.

Related Reading:

- Illness in Your Dog

- Why Isn't My Dog Eating?

- Symptoms of an Infection in Your Dog

- First Aid Kits for Pets

Dog Health and Wellness Reading

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And if you're left wanting more, check out one of these top picks!

Why Isn't My Dog Eating?

Causes for a Canine Inappetance


dog will stop eating for a variety of reasons, including digestive ailments, illness, disease and pain or discomfort from an injury, arthritis, or another physical problem.

According to Dr. Michael Levine, DVM, a dog who isn't eating is virtually always ill or injured, so it's not a symptom that should be ignored.

Causes for Inappetance

There's an array of situations that will cause a dog to stop eating, and when pain or discomfort is the cause, the degree of inappetance can vary from dog to dog. Some sick dogs will stop eating entirely, while others simply eat less or they're more selective with what they eat.

Upset stomach is a common cause for a dog's refusal to eat. Signs of an upset stomach include, vomiting, diarrhea, flatulence, and gurgling and bubbling sounds in the stomach.

When digestive upset isn't to blame, one of the following causes may be to blame:

- Bloat or Gastric Dilitation Volvulus

- Intestinal Obstruction

- Infection

- Viruses

- Pancreatitis

- Tooth Decay

- Mouth Injury and gum disease

- Disease affecting major organ systems

- Pain from trauma

- Discomfort from chronic pain

- Discomfort due to hot weather

- Anxiety or emotional distress

Treatment for a Dog Who Won't Eat

In a case of an upset stomach, dog owners can withhold food for 18 to 24 hours to allow the system to rest. Inflammation in the stomach and intestines is a common condition that's associated with digestive upset and withholding food will allow that inflammation to recede.

After 18 to 24 hours in the case of an upset stomach, pet owners can offer small portions of bland food like plain white rice, cottage cheese, boiled hamburger or boiled skinless and boneless chicken. Serve a small amount - just a bite or two - at first, and if the dog keeps the meal down with no vomiting for a period of four hours, offer a bit more and repeat the process until he's eating about one-third of his normal meal size. Slowly but surely is key to help avoid further digestive upset.

When upset stomach is not present, owners can offer small amounts of bland food as mentioned above, providing there is no sign of intestinal obstruction, like vomiting blood, bloody diarrhea and an inability to keep down anything that is consumed. This suggests an emergency situation that requires immediate veterinary attention.

Lethargy is often seen in a dog who won't eat. Often, it's associated with the problem that's causing the inappetance, and in other situations, the lethargy results from hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), which occurs when the dog does not eat for 12 hours or more.

To combat hypoglycemia and lethargy in dogs, offer one teaspoon of maple syrup per each 15 to 20 pounds of body weight, every four to six hours. Nutritional supplements like Nutri-Cal are also beneficial. Gels like Nutri-Cal and maple syrup can be easily be rubbed onto the gums if the don't won't eat them voluntarily.

Related Reading

- Helping a Dog Who Won't Eat

- Is My Dog Sick?

- Why Is My Dog Lethargic?

Dog Nutrition and Health Reading

Check Out Mia Carter's Pet Care Articles.

And if you're left wanting more, check out one of these top picks!

Vitals Look O.K., But You Still Suspect Your Dog is Sick?

While it's great to monitor your dog's vitals at home,not every condition will cause a change in values like temperature, gum color or heart rate. So if you genuinely feel your pet is unwell, then opt for a vet visit. Trust your instincts!

How Often Does Your Dog Visit the Vet?

How frequently does your dog visit the vet for illness, injury or check-ups?

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Questions? Comments? Suggestions?

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    • benjamindlee profile image

      benjamindlee 4 years ago

      My dog got really sick... It took awhile for him to recover. Scary because there is so much info, but how can you know it is right?

    • miacarter profile image

      Mia Carter 4 years ago from SW Florida

      @anonymous: Worms are generally more of a chronic problem vs. episodic as you have here. I would definitely take her to the vet as there's clearly an underlying problem that doesn't seem to be going away on its own. And usually, the longer you wait, the sicker the dog becomes. So I would get her to the vet ASAP. :-)


      Mia Carter

    • miacarter profile image

      Mia Carter 4 years ago from SW Florida

      @anonymous: If the dog is vomiting, but appears okay otherwise, you can generally wait 24 hours to see if it will pass -- it often does in the case of some table scraps that caused an upset stomach. But anything beyond 24 hours warrants a visit to the veterinary clinic! And if you see any other symptoms of illness, you'll want to take him in to see the vet.


      Mia Carter

    • ionee251 profile image

      ionee251 4 years ago

      Thank you for sharing this lens.I haven't yet checked on my dog's gum color. He hasn't been active since yesterday and eat less. He is still under home observation. Often his nose is dry but hot but when it's wet, it is cold. Been sleeping much the whole day. Is it a simple fever? Seriously, I've been so worried that i wanted to take him to the hospital as I don't want to lose another best friend.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Just wondering if we need to bring our dog to the vet or if theres something we can do from home to help her. I can tell she's not feeling well for a few days now. She has diarrhea. She's still eating but not as much and she just wants to lay around. I'm going to look up the signs of worms. Any advice would helpful.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I have a puppy that is about 12 months old and i woke up the next morning to him vomiting and doesn't want to eat he just lays there but he still wags his tail and drink water.its been about two days now.what should I do?

    • greenqueen09 profile image

      Laura 5 years ago from Australia

      very informative, thankyou!

    • miacarter profile image

      Mia Carter 5 years ago from SW Florida

      @anonymous: Indeed, it's very possible that Maxx has an upset stomach. Rawhide can really upset their digestive system, especially if they eat a lot of it. It can also cause obstructions, so just be careful to watch him to ensure he's going to the bathroom! (No. 2) If he's not feeling better by tomorrow morning or if he shows signs of distress (panting, pale gums, pacing, lots of vomiting or diarrhea), it's time to bring him to the vet for an exam.

      Best of luck with Maxx!

      Mia Carter

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      My dog Maxx was fine yesterday, playing, happy and eating well. We went for our a.m. Walk and he didn't want to eat and went to his doggie bed. He's been sleeping all morning. Also I can hear his stomach gurgling. He is small, 9 lbs. he ate a lot of rawhide bone yesterday. Could this have upset his stomach?

    • AlphaChic profile image

      AlphaChic 6 years ago

      Helpful lens. Thanks.

    • CherryTriggerCola profile image

      CherryTriggerCola 6 years ago

      very informative. thanks for sharing1

    • profile image

      Edutopia 6 years ago

      Great lens, really helpful. Its important to remember though that if your dog is displaying any symptoms you should always consult with a vet. Information on the internet can only take you so far.

    • jadehorseshoe profile image

      jadehorseshoe 6 years ago

      Return Visitor. VERY useful lens.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      this was very helpful(:

    • viscri8 profile image

      viscri8 6 years ago

      My god is not sick! Blessed!

    • WriterJanis2 profile image

      WriterJanis2 6 years ago

      Lots of great info!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      thanks for the awareness on this, should think of my dog more when it comes to her health. 'thumbs up' for your article.

    • profile image

      kyhillbullies 6 years ago

      Love it!

    • brbrooks profile image

      brbrooks 6 years ago

      You have some great information, nice job on this lens.

    • profile image

      katesmart 6 years ago

      Great lens!

    • hlkljgk profile image

      hlkljgk 6 years ago from Western Mass

      useful guide for dog owners

    • profile image

      squidoolover76 6 years ago

      A very colordul and informative lens,Thanks for sharing

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Great tips to make sure that your pet dog is healthy and not sick.

    • profile image

      dog-separation-anxiety 6 years ago

      A very enjoyable informative lens, and one I will keep coming back to!

    • jeremecausing profile image

      Jereme Causing 6 years ago from Philippines

      like this lens :)

    • MargoPArrowsmith profile image

      MargoPArrowsmith 7 years ago

      Lovely lens. I have featured it on Helping Your Pet Pass On A Personal Account

    • profile image

      WriterBuzz 7 years ago

      Your lens is great. Very informative. I liked your lens with a thumbs up.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Great posting. . . tnx for the info

    • Infonitum profile image

      Infonitum 8 years ago

      Great info! Five stars... and a lensroll!!!

    • Infonitum profile image

      Infonitum 8 years ago

      Great info! Five stars... and a lensroll!!!

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      Thank you very helpful information

    • profile image

      genostory 9 years ago

      What a great lens! Wonderful information!

    • Lady-in-Window profile image

      Lady-in-Window 9 years ago

      Your lens is EXCELLENT! I write about cat health. Between you and me we can educate a lot of people about animal care.

      Bless you :) and good luck,