How to Spot Early Signs of Illness in Dogs | Animal Friends

Animal Welfare / How to Spot Early Signs of Illness in Dogs

Elena Barnard

Animal Friends Pet Insurance

It is distressing when your pet is under the weather, but it isn’t always easy to spot signs of illness in dogs. Sometimes ill pets appear to be in normal health, so there are some obvious and more subtle things that you need to look out for. If your dog has any symptoms it doesn’t necessarily mean your pet is ill, and only a veterinary diagnosis can determine the cause.

Regular vomiting and diarrhoea are signs that your dog could be unwell. An animal may vomit for many reasons other than being ill, such as if they have swallowed something they shouldn’t have. This is usually nothing to worry about, but is a concern if it is happening repeatedly. There are many reasons why your dog could vomit, including bacterial infections and pancreatitis. Consult a vet as soon as possible if you notice any blood in the vomit, urine or stools as it could indicate gastric ulcers or a number of other conditions. Addressing it immediately rules out anything more serious. Diarrhoea could be the result of a change in diet, an allergic reaction or stress, or something more serious such as kidney or liver disease.

A change in temperament could also mean your dog is ill, for instance, if they switch from a friendly pet that loves company to being irritable and isolated. Your dog could be stressed or reacting to a change in the home, or something could be making them unhappy.

Any unusual behaviour such as panting, excessive lip licking or aggression could be signs of illness. Lethargy and lack of activity also indicate that your dog is unwell. If your usually active dog seems to be spending more time lying down instead of playing with you, there will be a reason. Lethargy can be a sign of mental as well as physical illness, brought on if your dog has suffered some form of trauma.

A dog’s inability to tell their owners exactly how they feel can often be vocalised in other ways. If your dog whines, whimpers, cries or barks more frequently, or at unusual times of the day, they could be trying to tell you they are ill or in pain. Barking may also indicate a behavioural condition in your dog, or could be due to age, such as if your senior pet is going deaf.

Another sign that something isn’t right is your dog urinating more or less frequently than usual. If your pet’s thirst has increased significantly on top of this, your dog could have diabetes. Frequent urination could also indicate liver or kidney disease. If your housetrained dog is urinating in areas they know they shouldn’t, not urinating as often or straining, this could mean kidney stones, kidney disease or a problem with the urinary tract.

Watch out for whether your pet gains or loses weight or any differences in your pet’s appetite, as these changes could also be indicative of a number of illnesses. There may just be a minor problem with your dog such as an infection, but always visit the vet to rule out anything more serious. Weight loss or gain, as well as bad breath, could also be a sign of dental problems or gum disease, digestive or respiratory problems, as well as many other ailments. Ensure you take your dog to the vet if any fluctuations in weight or appetite occur so you can get a full diagnosis.

A dull coat or any skin problems also need to be addressed. Look for signs such as dandruff and sore patches that indicate sensitive skin, but could also mean an underlying issue. Watch out for any behavioural changes such as chewing of the skin as well.

Although stiffness in older dogs is not unusual, it still needs to be investigated by a vet to determine the cause, and especially if any joint-related symptoms seem to be affecting a young dog. Arthritis is common in older dogs but this isn’t always the case, and joint and bone issues should be investigated.

Insuring your pet gives you peace of mind that you and you pet will be covered if anything were to happen. At Animal Friends we offer a range of policies for dogs, cats and horses, and we also insure older pets.


    Hello, fellow animal lovers! I’m Elena, and I take care of social media for Animal Friends Insurance. I’m here to share the latest on animal welfare, our charity work and pet care. I foster and adopt rabbits and have a rescue dog called Luna.