Sadly, your dog can’t tell you when he is sick. He may yelp in pain when you touch an injured paw or sore back, but it’s likely that he will suffer in silence. It is scary to consider that many pets who appear healthy to their caregivers have underlying diseases. Awareness of the signs of the most common diseases is one way to help reduce your pet’s risk of being affected by them. Physical changes are often the most noticeable, and lumps and bumps should be carefully monitored, and if there are sudden changes in old lumps and bumps or sores that are bloody or oozing, call your vet. Hair loss, rash, persistent itch or continual shaking of the head or scratching at ears are outward signs of problems.
Dogs can have trouble breathing, and the signs of respiratory illness include a honking cough,wheezing or noisy breathing, or a cough that disrupts sleep or lasts more than 24 hours. If your dog is struggling to breathe, check the color of the gums and tongue. They should be pink, and if you notice a bluish tint, seek emergency care immediately. Pay attention to any persistent nasal discharge, especially with mucus or blood. If you notice your dog has trouble passing urine or pooping, or if she starts having frequent accidents even though she is previously housetrained, check with your vet.
Top signs that your dog may be ill, according to the Pet Health Network include:
- Excessive drinking or urination
- Bad breath or drooling
- Change in appetite associated with weight loss or gain
- Difficulty or stiffness in getting up or climbing stairs.
- Change in activity level and loss of interest in doing things they once enjoyed
- Sleeping more than normal, or other behavior or attitude changes
- Coughing, sneezing, excessive panting, or labored breathing
- Frequent digestive upsets with vomiting or changes in bowel movements
- Dry or itchy skin, sores, lumps, or shaking of the head
- Dry, red, or cloudy eyes
Preventive care screening helps detect disease in its earlier stages, when it is most likely to respond to treatment. It can also help you avoid significant medical expense and risk to your dog’s health if an illness goes undetected. By establishing your individual pet’s normal baseline lab values during health, your vet can more easily see when something is wrong with your pet. Regular screening is the best preventive medicine because signs of specific problems are sometimes overlooked. It is wise to give your dog preventive care testing including:
- Tests to identify if your pet may have heartworm, tick-borne, or other infectious diseases
- A complete blood count to rule out blood-related conditions.
- Chemistry and electrolyte tests to evaluate internal organ status to ensure your dog isn’t dehydrated or suffering from an electrolyte imbalance.
- Thyroid test to determine if the thyroid gland is producing too little thyroid hormone
- Urine tests to screen for urinary tract infection and other disease, and to evaluate the effectiveness of the kidneys.
- An ECG to screen for an abnormal heart rhythm which may indicate underlying heart disease.
Your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your dog is your veterinarian, and although some of the tests are costly, prevention is always better than cure. Keeping your dog healthy will make life better for both human and canine!