There are serious symptoms that should never be ignored. A symptom is defined as “any problem that can indicate an underlying disease” and may be your first clue to the presence of a life-threatening problem in your dog. Here is a list of 21 symptoms that should never be ignored!
- Pacing and Restlessness
In dogs, pacing and restlessness can indicate pain, discomfort or distress. Restlessness can be associated with a condition called “bloat”. Bloat most commonly occurs in large breed or deep-chested dogs. Pacing and restless can be an indicator of a serious problem.
- Unproductive Retching
Dogs that attempt to vomit and are unable to bring anything up is a common sign of “bloat”. You should call your veterinarian immediately.
- Collapse or Fainting
Acute collapse is a sudden loss of strength causing your dog to fall and be unable to rise. Some dogs that suddenly collapse will actually lose consciousness. This is called fainting or syncope. Some dogs recover very quickly and look essentially normal just seconds to minutes after collapsing, whereas others stay in the collapsed state until helped. All the reasons for collapse or fainting are serious and should not be ignored. See your veterinarian immediately.
- Not Eating or Loss of Appetite
Anorexia is a term used to describe the situation where an animal loses his appetite and does not want to eat or is unable to eat. There are many causes of a “loss of appetite” and is often the first indication of illness. Regardless of cause, loss of appetite can have a serious impact on an animal’s health if it lasts 24 hours or more. Young animals less than 6 months of age are particularly prone to the problems brought on by loss of appetite.
- Losing Weight
Weight loss is a physical condition that results from a negative caloric balance. This usually occurs when the body uses and/or excretes essential nutrients faster than it can consume them. Essentially more calories are being burned than are being taken in. Weight loss is considered clinically important when it exceeds 10 percent of the normal body weight and is not associated with fluid loss. There are several causes for this, some of which can be very serious.
- Breathing Problems
Respiratory distress, often called dyspnea, is laboured, difficult breathing or shortness of breath. This can occur at any time during the breathing process, during inspiration (breathing in) or expiration (breathing out). When your dog has trouble breathing, he may not be able to get enough oxygen to his tissues. Additionally, if he has heart failure, he may not be able to pump sufficient blood to his muscles and other tissues. Dyspnea is often associated with accumulation of fluid (oedema) in the lungs or the chest cavity (pleural effusion). This fluid can lead to shortness of breath and coughing. This is a very serious symptom and should be evaluated immediately.
- Red Eye
A “red eye” is a non-specific sign of inflammation or infection. It may be seen with several different diseases including those involving different parts of the eye including the external eyelids, third eyelid, conjunctiva, cornea, and sclera. It may also occur with inflammation of the structures inside the eye, with glaucoma (high pressure within the eye) or with certain diseases of the orbit (eye socket). Either one or both eyes can become red, depending upon the cause of the problem. Some of the possible causes can be serious and ultimately cause blindness.
Jaundice, also referred to as icterus, and describes the yellow colour taken on by the tissues throughout the body due to elevated levels of bilirubin, a substance that comes from the breakdown of red blood cells. There are several causes for jaundice and regardless of the cause; jaundice is considered abnormal and serious in the dog.
- Trouble Urinating
“Trouble urinating” can include straining to urinate, frequent attempts at urination, and evidence of discomfort when urinating. Discomfort may be demonstrated by crying out during urination, excessive licking at the urogenital region or turning and looking at the area. There are several underlying causes. Some of the causes if left untreated can result in death in as little as 36 hours.
- Urinating and Drinking Excessively
These signs are often early signs of disease including kidney failure, diabetes mellitus, thyroid gland problems, uterine infection (called pyometra), as well as other causes. Dogs normally take in about 20 to 40 millilitres per pound of body weight per day, or one to two cups per day for a normal sized dog. If you determine that your pet is drinking excessively, make an appointment with your veterinarian.
A fever is defined as an abnormally high body temperature resulting from internal controls. It is believed that fever is a method of fighting infection. The body resets the temperature control area of the brain to increase the body temperature – probably in response to invasion of foreign matter such as bacteria or viruses. The normal temperature in dogs is 39 to 41 degrees Celsius. If your pet temperature is high, call your veterinarian. Common symptoms to look out for include: red eyes, warm ears, shivering, warm dry nose and vomiting.
A seizure or convulsion is a sudden excessive firing of nerves in the brain. The severity of the seizure can vary between a far-away look and twitching in one part of the face to your dog falling on his side, barking, gnashing his teeth, urinating, defecating and paddling his limbs. A seizure can last from seconds to minutes. Seizures are symptoms of some neurological disorder – they are not in themselves a disease. They can be caused by several disorders including epilepsy, toxins or tumours.
- Bruising and Bleeding
Abnormal bruising and bleeding arises with disorders of hemostasis (clotting). Clotting abnormalities are also called coagulopathies, because they reflect the inability of the blood to coagulate or clot. Bleeding from clotting disturbances may occur into the skin, the mucous membranes, and various internal organs, tissues, and body cavities. The impact of such bleeding on the affected individual may be mild or severe depending on the degree of blood loss.
Coughing is a common protective reflex that clears secretions or foreign matter from the throat, voice box, and/or airways, and protects the lungs against aspiration. It affects the respiratory system by hindering the ability to breathe properly. Common causes include obstruction in the windpipe, bronchitis, pneumonia, heartworm disease, lung tumours, kennel cough and heart failure. Some of the causes are life threatening and all pets with a cough should be evaluated by a veterinarian.
- Bloated or Distended Abdomen
Abdominal distension is an abnormal enlargement of the abdominal cavity. This term is usually reserved for abdominal enlargement due to causes other than simple obesity. One cause of abdominal distension is abnormal fluid accumulation. Another cause of abdominal distension is enlargement of any abdominal organ including the liver, kidneys, or spleen. Distension of the stomach with air (“bloating”) or fluid or distension of the uterus (womb) during pregnancy can result in abdominal distension. Pressure from the abdomen pushing into the chest may make breathing more difficult and pressure within the abdomen may decrease the appetite. NOTE: It is important to recognize abdominal distension because it can be a symptom of potentially life-threatening diseases and should be investigated thoroughly.
- Bloody Diarrhoea
Blood in the faeces can either appear as “melena” which makes the stools appear black and tarry is the presence suggests digested blood in the faeces. Melena is different from fresh blood in the stool (hematochezia). Bleeding into the colon or rectum appears as fresh blood in the stool. Your veterinarian should evaluate bloody diarrhoea as soon as possible.
- Bloody Urine
Hematuria is the presence of red blood cells in the urine. It may be gross (visible to the naked eye) or microscopic. There are several possible causes including bacterial infections, cancer, stones in the urinary tract.
- Bite Wounds
Bite wounds are often the result when two animals engage in a fight or aggressive play. Bite wounds, which may only appear as a small puncture wound in the skin, can actually be quite extensive. Once the tooth penetrates the skin, severe damage can occur to the underlying tissues without major skin damage. Some wounds may appear deceptively minor but may have the potential to be life threatening, depending on the area of the body bitten. All bite wounds should receive veterinary attention.
- Bloody Vomit
Vomiting blood can include fresh blood (which is bright red) or partially digested blood (which has the appearance of brown coffee grounds). There are a variety of causes of vomiting blood and the effects on the animal are also variable. Some are subtle and minor ailments, while others are severe or life threatening.
- Lethargy or Weakness
Lethargy is a state of drowsiness, inactivity, or indifference in which there are delayed responses to external stimuli such as auditory (sound), visual (sight), or tactile (touch) stimuli. Lethargy is a non-specific sign associated with many possible underlying systemic disorders. It may have little to no impact on the affected individual; however its presence may represent severe or life-threatening illness. Lethargy of more than a day’s duration should not be ignored, and should be addressed, especially if it persists.
- Pale Gums
Pale gums or mucous membranes can indicate blood loss or “shock”. The possible causes for either blood loss or shock are life-threatening and thus should be evaluated immediately.
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