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When to Call the Veterinarian

You and your dog have gotten to know each other pretty well by now, and hopefully you’ve had one vet trip together just to get his overall health checked. But what if he’s not feeling well? Will you recognize the signs? The better you know your dog, the more likely you’ll notice when something is wrong.

Often, a change in behavior is one of the first indicators of a medical problem. Watch for signs that your dog is not acting like himself. For example, if your normally energetic dog is lethargic and not interested in his beloved daily walk, something’s probably up. When your dog suddenly starts acting or looking different, it may be time to seek medical help. Here are signs that you need to call your veterinarian:

  • Difficulty breathing or excessive panting
  • Lack of appetite or sudden weight loss
  • Unexplained weight gain
  • Bleeding, tenderness, redness, swelling or open sores
  • Urinating in the home (in housetrained dogs), frequent or infrequent urination
  • Vomiting, diarrhea, constipation lasting more than 24 hours, or blood in stool
  • Persistent whimpering, whining or yelping, which may signify pain
  • Fever of 103°F or higher
  • Ears that are red, hot, smell bad, or are sensitive to the touch, or if your dog shakes his head excessively or scratches his ears, which could indicate an ear infection
  • Red or swollen eyes, with or without excessive or colored discharge
  • Inability to walk or persistent limping
  • Excessive water consumption, which could be a sign of diabetes or kidney problems
  • Dry, sticky mouth, loss of skin elasticity, slow capillary refill time, sunken eyeballs, muscle twitches, or cold paw pads, which indicate dehydration. Learn more on the importance of hydration.

If something is wrong, it’s best to catch it early so it can be treated right away. Your veterinarian helps to identify potential health problems at your dog’s annual exam, but it’s also very important to do your part at home between visits. During weekly grooming sessions, carefully look over your dog’s body. Become familiar with the signs of normal health, and you’ll know when something doesn’t look right.

Here’s what to look for:

  • Body should have a healthy weight: the ribs should be felt but not prominently seen.
  • Skin and coat should be free of odor, grease, dandruff, lumps, bald spots, cuts and irritations. Also, carefully inspect the skin for ticks and fleas.
  • Eyes should be bright and clear, with no discoloration, cloudiness or heavy discharge.
  • Ears should be clean, pink and odorless.
  • Mouth should contain white teeth, pink or black gums with no redness or swelling, and no bad breath.
  • Nose should be clean and not runny.
  • Paws should be free of any cuts or scrapes, and nails should be trimmed.
  • Under the tail should be clean, with no redness, bumps or colored discharge.

No one knows your dog better than you. He’s your best friend, after all. Trust your gut. When he’s not acting like himself, give your veterinarian a call. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

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