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Is My Dog Sick?

Learn how to tell if your dog is sick.

Do you know all the signs dogs give off when they are sick? Since they can't speak to us in our language, it's crucial that we know how to speak theirs. For some canine conditions, getting to the vet early in the disease process can mean the difference between being able to fix or maintain the condition and not. Below are some signs to watch for that can indicate your dog is sick.

Appetite Changes

Often, one of the first signs of systemic illness in a dog is decreased or absent appetite. If your dog turns her nose up to food for more than a day or two, have her checked out.

Vomiting and Diarrhea

GI upset can occur during a considerable variety of canine illnesses. If your dog has vomited more than two or three times or has diarrhea that lasts more than two days or if those signs occur in conjunction with other signs of illness like lethargy or inappetence, get to the vet right away.

Change in Activity Level

If your dog has a sudden change in activity level, it indicates a problem. Sick dogs often lie around more than usual. They might not be interested in their normal routine of playing, going for walks, or simply following their owners around the house, showing interest in what they do.

Coughing and Sneezing

Coughing and sneezing indicate illness in dogs. It could be anything from an upper respiratory virus that will run its course to something more serious, in the case of coughing, like heart disease. If a cough lasts more than a few days or is joined by other signs of illness, a vet should look the dog over.

Bad Breath and Drooling

Drooling and foul breath in dogs can indicate many conditions, from dental disease to toxin exposure to organ dysfunction.


A dog's normal temperature is higher than a human's, so their ears and tummy will always feel warm to us. And, remember, a dry nose doesn't mean a dog is sick. However, if your dog feels warmer than usual to you, it could be a fever. You can take a rectal temperature with a flexible-tip digital thermometer or visit the veterinarian. A temperature above about 102.5° F is a fever. Usually, fever in dogs produces lethargy.

Behavior Changes

Any behavior change in a dog could indicate a medical problem. The most common changes in behavior seen in sick dogs are clinginess to the owner, aloofness or hiding, and increased vocalizations.


Limping or change in gait can indicate injury or illness in dogs. Additionally, reluctance or stiffness getting up and down or sudden difficulty with stairs or jumping means there's a problem.

Enlarged Lymph Nodes

Most of the time, this is noticed by the owner when the lymph nodes under a dog's chin become enlarged. It can look like large swellings or balls hanging below the dog's jaw. Other lymph nodes, such as those in the armpits or in the backs of the rear legs can also become enlarged but may be harder for an owner to notice. Enlarged lymph nodes, or any swelling on a dog, should be checked out by a vet right away.

Lumps, Bumps, or Wounds

Any new lump, bump, or skin wound on a dog should be looked at by a vet. It's good to make a habit of running your hands over your dog's entire body at least once a week to be sure you notice anything new right away.

Remember, this list is not exhaustive. If your dog shows any unusual signs, it could indicate illness and should be checked out.

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Disclaimer: This website is not intended to replace professional consultation, diagnosis, or treatment by a licensed veterinarian. If you require any veterinary related advice, contact your veterinarian promptly. Information at is exclusively of a general reference nature. Do not disregard veterinary advice or delay treatment as a result of accessing information at this site.