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How to Tell if Your Dog is Sick

Golden Retriever with puppy eyes laying on the floor with its paws back

There are many signs that you may notice that your dog may be sick. Some signs are very subtle, and some are very obvious. If you see anything different in your pet, take them to a veterinarian as soon as possible.  

Early Warning signs

Some signs you may notice very early. Once you see these early signs getting medical attention is best as the sooner you treat a disease, the better.

Gum Color is Off

If you notice your pet's gum color different than the usual pink color, your pet may be having a problem. Pale white gums will usually mean that your pet does not have enough blood. Blue to purple color means that your pet is not getting enough oxygen. Dark red color indicates that your pet may be experiencing shock.

Change in Behavior (Lethargy, Orientation)

Sad looking pug laying on a plush pink shag rug

An early sign that something is wrong in your dog is a change in behavior. Your dog may be lazier and laying around sleeping more. Your pet may also seem disorientated or having trouble walking around normally. These early signs indicate that your pet needs to go to see your veterinarian.

Loss of Appetite

If your pet is not eating like they usually do this could be the first sign that there is something wrong. When a dog first starts to get sick, they will decrease the amount of food they eat or will stop eating altogether. If your pet is not eating regularly, make an appointment to see your veterinarian.

Major Signs Your Dog is Sick

Black Lab laying on a deck scratching its snout between its two paws

While some signs may be minor, some are major and should set off alarms that your dog needs veterinarian attention right away.

Unexpected Weight Loss

If your dog has suddenly lost a lot of weight and you have not been trying to get them to lose weight. This should be a significant warning sign that your dog has something wrong with them.

Excessive Sleeping

Some dogs, as they get older, will start to sleep more. Some will sleep more after a hard day of playing. If your dog has just suddenly started sleeping a lot more and not wanting to play like they usually do, they may be sick. Your veterinarian can help you determine if something is wrong or your dog is just starting to slow down a little more due to their age.

Coughing, Sneezing, or Labored Breathing

If your dog is coughing, sneezing, or having difficulty breathing, your dog may be sick. If you notice these in your dog, it could be something as simple as allergies but could b very severe. If your pet is ever having trouble breathing, take them to the nearest vet as soon as possible as this could be a life or death emergency.

Runny Nose

Sad looking beagle peaking its head over the back of a tan leather couch

A runny nose could be an early sign that your pet may be sick. Some dog's nose will run if they have allergies, but once the discharge from the nose becomes more thick or yellow/green, it is more serious. Green and yellow discharge indicate signs of infection which can lead to severe upper respiratory problems.


If your dog is wheezing or having trouble breathing, this can be a severe problem that needs to be seen by your veterinarian as soon as possible. This may not be a severe problem for your dog. Some wheezing is not a big issue, while others can lead to death if not treated.


Diarrhea is never a fun thing to have to deal with for you or your dog. There are many different causes of diarrhea, some which are mild and easy to treat while others are severe and need medical intervention to get back to normal


Young Boxer looking sick while laying in bed

Some dogs will occasionally vomit, especially if they have gotten into something that they should not or got a few bites of people food from the table. If your dog is continually vomiting every time they eat and cannot keep food or water down, this is an emergency, and they need to see the veterinarian right away.

Trouble peeing or pooping

If your pet is having problems peeing or pooping, this can be a problem. If your dog cannot pee or poop, they need to be seen by a vet as soon as possible as this can come life-threatening.

Abdominal swelling or bloat

If your dog's stomach seems to be swollen and bloated, your pet needs to see a veterinarian as soon as possible. There are conditions such as heart failure and bloat that can be life-threatening if not treated.

What To Do If Your Dog Is Sick

Beagle laying on the ground with its mouth lips plopped about

When your dog is sick, the first thing we want is for them to get better right away. While some things can be treated at home, but most of the time, a quick vet trip will help get them to feel healthy and happy and back to their usual selves.

Consult a Veterinarian

Taking your pet to your veterinarian should be the first thing you do, especially if they have more severe signs or signs that have been ongoing. They will be able to run blood work and check for any abnormalities in your pet.

Change diet for an upset stomach

If your dog has an upset stomach, many times your veterinarian will put your dog on a bland diet. This will help your dog's stomach calm down and get better. This diet is the same as people eating bland foods when they are nauseated.

Use prescribed medication per instructions

If your veterinarian prescribes your dog medication, make sure to give them as directed. All antibiotics should be given until they are finished. Some medicines must be given with food, and some must be given on an empty stomach. Make sure to follow the directions given to you by your veterinarian. Some veterinarians may also use holistic supplements like CBD oil which you should also follow the vets instructions carefully.

Sold out

It can be hard for you when your dog is sick. But noticing these simple signs will help you catch a problem early. When you first notice that something is wrong with your dog, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian. The sooner your dog gets treatment, the quicker they can recover and be back to their healthy and happy life.

Meet The Author 

Dr. Sara Ochoa DVM


Since she was a little girl, Dr. Ochoa knew that her dream was to become a veterinarian. With a tremendous passion and love for animals, she is now a great source of knowledge for others. Dr. Ochoa lives happily with her husband Greg and her babies: Ruby the Schnoodle and Bam-Bam the bunny.

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