Recognising when your dog is sick

When your dog is sick he will show signs or symptoms that are different from normal.

Recognising ill health therefore assumes you can recognise how he behaves and acts in normal circumstances. Observing him in “normal” family situations and every-day activities is very important – learn to know your own dog.


Some abnormal signs may be obvious - such as coughing or limping. However, others may be quite vague with only subtle behavioural changes. These might only be seen in the home environment and so may not be apparent in the veterinary consulting room.

Any condition that causes pain may alter his response to certain human-dog interactions; perhaps triggering an aggressive response which may seem out of character (to find out more, click on aggression in dogs). Different family members may notice different signs, so it is useful to compare notes to get a better overall picture.

Some diseases may show a range of signs and the combination of symptoms may be valuable in making a correct diagnosis. So, all your observations may be useful - even though you may think them irrelevant at the time.

The signs and symptoms of disease section includes a range of the common signs that might indicate your dog is un-well. This is intended to be a useful guide only and is not a complete list.

Professional help is always recommended.

Once you have recognised your dog may be unwell, what do you need to do next? Maybe the range of signs follow a pattern that you have recognised in the past and you may be able to provide the appropriate care or treatment yourself (this is all part of knowing about your own dog). However, in many cases you may wish to seek further professional advice from your veterinarian. This may be simply by telephone enquiry or by visiting the clinic for a consultation.

The You and your veterinarian working together section describes the steps in making a diagnosis, so highlights the areas where your own input is essential. The first of these is the HISTORY and this is the information you can provide about your own observations. This is crucial, and the more information you can provide the easier you can work together to resolve the problem to the benefit of all.

The relationship with your veterinarian should be based on trust and partnership. Not all clinics are the same and the services on offer may vary. The section You and your veterinarian section highlights these differences and will hopefully help you to find a clinic that best suits your needs and with which you can build a long term relationship.

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