As pet parents, we know how many good things a dog can bring into our life. From helping to reduce our blood pressure, to giving us more reason to exercise outdoors, to repaying our care with unquestioning devotion, they make life better. The one thing they can’t do is talk, so we have to be vigilant for signs that all is not well with their health. Here are some of the most common warning signs that your dog may have a health problem.
Although a dog’s appetite can change as it gets older, if you notice a sudden change in the way your dog wants to eat, this should be monitored carefully. Stress can be a cause, so if you’ve just moved home or there’s been another major upheaval in your pet’s life, the result can be a temporary appetite loss. However, if there’s no apparent reason, and the dog can’t be tempted with favorite foods and treats, there may be a more serious underlying cause. If the behavior persists for more than a day or so, seek veterinary advice to identify the cause and avoid more serious issues developing.
Occasionally, your pet may vomit due to what is sometimes referred to as ‘dietary indiscretion’ – and we all know what that means. He or she has simply eaten something which even their strong digestive system will not tolerate. Check that your dog hasn’t swallowed a foreign object, such as a small plastic toy. If it has, or if the vomiting persists, you should treat this as a potential emergency, and seek urgent veterinary diagnosis and treatment.
The cause of persistent vomiting can be any one of a range of problems, from infections of the digestive tract, to problems with the liver, kidneys, gallbladder or pancreas. Vomiting can also occur as a result of heatstroke or even car sickness.
Unexplained changes in body weight
If your pet seems to be eating normally but is losing weight, there could be several underlying causes.
The first thing to do is to take a good look at the quantity of food he or she is consuming. For example, have you recently cut down on certain snacks or treats which may have been high in calories? Another thing to consider is the quality of the food –if it is missing one or more nutrients, this can have an effect which only becomes apparent over time.
If loss of appetite seems to be involved, try providing more frequent, but smaller meals. Finally, if the problem persists, let your veterinarian diagnose the problem, which could be anything from an intestinal parasite to something more serious.
On the other hand, your dog may be gaining weight, despite a stable diet and enough exercise for the breed. This could be due to anything from water retention to hypothyroidism, or as a side effect of certain medications. Again, it is worthwhile consulting your veterinarian to identify the cause and address any issues before they become more serious.
Changes to the eyes
If you notice changes in or around your dog’s eyes, there could be a whole range of causes, but these need to be checked immediately by a vet. One of the most common symptoms is an excess of tears, which can cause reddish or brown staining of the face.
Some breeds are more prone to this than others, and the problem is more visible with white-coated animals, but dog tear stains can also be caused by eye infections, enlarged tear ducts, or allergies. Any of these will cause your pet discomfort, so consult your veterinarian
If you notice that your dog has suddenly started to drink much more water than usual, you should take this as an important warning sign that something may be wrong. There is a whole range of causes, from cancer to kidney or liver infections, or diabetes. Your veterinarian will most likely want to carry out blood and other tests to determine the cause accurately.
If you notice that your dog’s coat has lost its usual shine, that he or she is scratching or licking excessively, or that there are unexplained sores or areas of redness, it will probably be a sign that your pet is experiencing irritation, discomfort, or even pain.
There is a whole range of reasons why the coat and skin may have one or more of these symptoms, ranging from food or household allergies to ticks or fleas, ringworm (which is highly transmissible to humans), or even lupus, a severe autoimmune disease. That’s why it is essential not to neglect any issues with your dog’s skin or coat, but to allow a vet to examine, diagnose, and prescribe appropriate treatment.
While an occasional shake of the head is normal behavior and no cause for concern, if the behavior continues, it could be a sign of a problem which your dog is trying to alleviate. It may be trying to remove a foreign object, such as an insect, from inside the ear. It could be a response to a bacterial or yeast infection. It is important to take action promptly because continued vigorous head shaking can lead to more severe issues such as aural hematomas which could even require surgery.
Loss of interest in everyday activities
Just as with humans, dogs may slow down and lose interest in certain activities as they age. However, if your young dog suddenly seems to be ‘moping’ and loses his curiosity or love for life, it’s essential to identify the underlying cause. The cause may be emotional, such as the disappearance of a loved family member (human or canine), or physical, indicating that your pet is in pain or ongoing distress. Other signs that indicate an underlying problem include self-isolation or avoiding certain situations. As a responsible pet parent, you’ll understand that although your dog can’t tell you what’s wrong, it’s your job to seek help from a veterinarian, so he can enjoy a healthy and happy life.