Our pets can't talk so it's difficult to know when they're feeling under the weather. If you're paying attention to your dog and watching for the more obvious signs of illness (not eating, not drinking, lethargy), you're already doing one thing right. But also watch for these five subtle signs of a possible medical issue:
He’s got bad breath: Nope, “doggie breath” isn’t normal. When dogs have bad breath, it’s because they have bacteria in their mouths. The bacteria results in the build-up of plaque, which can travel to the arteries, affecting the heart. Regular toothbrushing and cleanings by a veterinary dentist can keep those chompers pearly and white and your pet happy and healthy. If your dog is wilting leaves with his death breath, it might be time to take him to the vet for a check-up.
He’s acting out: Your perfectly housetrained angel is having accidents in the house. Or once gentle and tolerant, he’s now growling at the kids. A change in behavior can indicate that something isn’t right. Growling or shaking can indicate pain. And potty accidents could be a urinary tract infection or even a kidney issue. If your dog has always been well-behaved and something is off, don’t assume he’s being bad—he may be trying to tell you something in a way you’ll understand.
His coat has dandruff: Like in a human, a dog’s “hair” can say a lot about his overall health. A dry, dull, flaky coat could mean an issue with your pet’s diet or could be the sign of an underlying condition, like an underactive thyroid. Talk to your veterinarian if you notice a difference in your pet’s appearance.
He’s drinking a lot: Unless it’s an especially hot day or your pet’s been more active than usual, an increase in drinking could indicate a medical issue. Kidney problems, for instance, often cause excessive thirst as does hyperthyroidism and diabetes.
He’s just not himself: You, the owner, know your dog best. If you notice your pet is a little off—a little quieter than usual or perhaps his ears aren't as high, his tail isn't as wiggly—there may be something wrong. Dogs have a natural instinct to hide their pain from humans, going back to a time when they could be seen as prey by showing weakness. Trust your gut, and speak up if you notice something’s not quite right.