Is My Dog Sick?

We know our own bodies so well; small changes are often noticed immediately. Animals, on the other hand, seem to have a higher tolerance to pain and discomfort. This means that we don’t notice illnesses until they are too far advanced to be curable. Let’s look at some of the ways we can determine that our dogs are ailing.

Change in Appetite

We associate a loss of appetite with sickness. While this is true the opposite is also true. Eating too much can have many causes. Perhaps you have instilled this habit by overfeeding your dog. In this case, obesity and all its resulting symptoms can cause illness in dogs. Yet, eating too much has other insidious causes such as central nervous system damage, hormonal/nutritional imbalances, or parasitic infections. Overeating can be an indication of Cushing’s disease which is the overproduction of hormones in the adrenal glands.

Eating too little is a very vague symptom as well – but it usually stems from some sort of discomfort caused by an illness. An injured mouth or dental problems, an upset stomach, or just too much pain will cause a dog to avoid eating. As eating requires a dog to maintain a certain position, perhaps she is too tired or cannot stand over her bowl. You can try hand feeding your dog some appetizing food such as boiled chicken or beef to see if she is hungry. If she eats from your hand, then you’ll know that she wants to eat but physically cannot feed herself. 

Excessive Drinking

When dogs drink too much water vets point out this could be caused by diabetes, kidney failure, or Cushing’s disease. These are all serious diagnoses which can only be made by a veterinarian. You might notice that your dog is “leaking” urine, but this condition could also be caused by incontinence. 

Bad Breath and Drooling

Bad breath can be caused by dental neglect such as periodontal disease. Small dogs especially are prone to bad breath. Their tiny mouths and crowded teeth are magnets for plaque and bacteria. All dogs should get professional teeth cleaning, but small dogs may need it more often. 

Drooling is caused by several factors, so it’s good to be aware of the circumstances surrounding the drooling. Toxic substances, throat infections, and periodontal disease are all different causes. Sometimes sickness is not the issue – your dog may be expecting!

Breathing Trouble

Any abnormal breathing sounds is a sure sign of sickness. How severe can only be determined by your vet. Loud breathing, raspy or wet coughs, and rapid breathing pace are never normal and should be checked immediately. Heavy-set or husky dogs are in danger because labored breathing puts too much stress on their bodies.

Urination/Defecation Issues

A leaky bladder and prolonged diarrhea aren’t normal, but sometimes only require small changes. A leaky bladder might just be, as mentioned before, due to weakened sphincter muscles. In this case, a readily available and inexpensive drug called Proin is very effective. For soft stools and diarrhea, a change in diet might be key. Try well-boiled white rice and white chicken mixed with a tablespoon of pure pumpkin puree. If this doesn’t work, it’s time to go to the vet.


Is your dog hiding away? Is she agitated or lethargic? None of these behaviors are normal. When an animal is in pain it will often try to find a quiet, solitary place. This is an instinctive behavior but we don’t want our dogs to feel alone in their pain! Whatever the behavior it will be hard to figure out what is driving it without professional help. Enlist the advice of a vet who is skilled in reading behaviors. 

First Stop: Veterinarian

Going to a doctor is expensive! Of course, we want to try home remedies first. And, often, they are effective. Good eating habits and careful monitoring are sometimes the cure for our canine friends. If you don’t see a change, don’t drag it out for weeks. When I’ve finally enlisted the help of a vet, I’ve often been pleasantly surprised that the remedy was easy and inexpensive. Plus, the relief from anxiety was priceless.

By Gabrielle Allemeier


Wag: Overeating in Dogs
Pet Health Network: My Dog Is Drinking a Lot of Water (Polydipsia)

About the Author
Gabrielle Allemeier volunteers her free time as an animal rescuer and foster pet parent. As an animal lover, she enjoys sharing the knowledge she has gained from her experience with a variety of animals. Along with being an animal lover, Gabrielle is a globetrotter. She lives in Los Angeles, California with her terrier, Thisbe.