Warning Signs You Need to Take Your Dog to the Vet

There’s nothing worse than seeing your four-legged best friend in pain. We’ve all been there—you come home from work and realize your pup spent his day digging in the trash, or they’ve been playing outside and you aren’t sure what they got into. 

You freeze—do you pack up and head to the vet right away? Or do you wait it out and see what happens? 

You want your dog to be safe, but you don’t know if you’re overreacting or underreacting. The worst part is that your dog can’t communicate with you to tell you what’s wrong. So how do you know when to pay the vet a visit? 

Read on to find out the top signs that you need to take your furry pal in right away. 

Rashes or Skin Irritations

If you notice your pet has a rash that has developed quickly and spreads fast, it’s good to have a professional check them out. The same goes for any major irritations, cuts, or wounds. This could be the sign of an allergy or a toxic reaction. 

A dog’s instinct is to lick rashes and wounds—it’s their way of trying to clean it out. But, depending on what the cause is, licking can actually make the irritation worse or lead to infection. 

To avoid further irritation, try to cover the area if possible until the vet gives you the all-clear. 

Change in Appetite 

If your dog is suddenly eating less or not eating at all, you need to call the vet right away. This could be the sign of a blockage, or a foreign object that made its way into their intestinal tract. (Even seemingly innocent household objects, like coins, toys, string, or bones, can potentially be dangerous for your dog!) 

Other reasons for a decreased appetite include gastrointestinal viruses and parasites—none of which you want to leave untreated.   

Before you panic, consider your dog’s typical behavior. Older pets often have smaller appetites and will occasionally turn down food. Puppies and younger dogs, on the other hand, should have a hearty appetite (in fact, they will usually eat anything and everything)! 

If you have a young, active pup that’s turning down food, take them to a vet immediately. 

Refusing Water

Dogs should be drinking water throughout the day—at least one fluid ounce per pound of body weight. It’s important that your pup is drinking plenty of water, especially in warmer weather months. Dogs are susceptible to heat exhaustion and dehydration.

Refusing water is also a sign of underlying illness, such as kidney disease, diabetes, or even cancer, so it’s important to have them seen right away. 

If you notice your pet isn’t finishing their normal water bowl in a day, consult your vet immediately. You can also offer your pet ice and see if they will take that instead. 

Mood Changes and Extreme Fatigue

You know your pet better than anyone, so you know they have their own unique personality! Just like humans, changes in behavior can signal medical issues. It’s important to take note of changes, especially if they’re extremely fatigued or irritable. 

It’s not uncommon for dogs to wear themselves out and have a sleepy couple of days! But if you notice your furry friend is too tired to take a walk or play their favorite game, keep a close eye on them. If you notice your pet is extremely lethargic or unresponsive take them to the vet right away. 

Grumpiness and fussiness can also be a sign of underlying issues. Dogs all have their quirks, but if yours is getting irritated about things that never bothered them before, something might be awry. 

Irritability can indicate that your dog is in pain or struggling with sensory problems. (In older dogs, this can be a sign of hearing, vision loss, or even dementia.)  

Vomiting and Stool Changes

Digestive issues like vomiting and diarrhea are fairly common in dogs, especially if they eat something unusual. But if the symptoms persist, or are combed with loss of appetite, refusal of water, or extreme lethargy, a visit to the vet is necessary. 

Other digestive issues can also indicate something is wrong. If you notice that your pup hasn’t pooped or if you see blood in the stool, take your dog in immediately. (The vet may recommend you bring in a stool sample to be tested.)

These digestive disruptions can be signs of blockages, parasites, illness, or ingestion of something toxic. In these instances, it’s better to go with your gut and air on the side of caution—if you feel they need to go in, don’t hesitate. 

Weeping or Crusty Eyes

Eye irritations can be signs of minor issues, like allergies, but they can also be symptoms of something more serious. Your dog could have an infection or something stuck in their eye. 

If you notice redness or see any objects stuck in the eye, leave it to the professionals. Never try to remove something from your dog’s eye yourself—this can result in scratching or damage to the eye itself. 

Difficulty or Rapid Breathing

Sometimes dogs cough or pant, especially after long walks or excitement. But wheezing or difficulty breathing is not normal and needs to be addressed right away.

You should also take your dog to see a professional if you notice rapid breathing that isn’t slowing down while resting. This can happen for a variety of reasons, and your vet will need to run tests to determine the cause. 

Whining, Crying, or Wincing

Dogs often mask their pain, and it can be hard to tell if they’re hurt. If you notice your pet is whining or crying with movement, or wincing when being pet, it’s a surefire sign that they’re in pain. Another sign of pain is getting aggressive when you’re petting them in areas they normally love. 

Monitor their behavior, and if it persists call the vet and ask if you need to bring them in. Pain signals can be a sign that your dog sprained or even broke a bone (which can even happen from playing too hard!) In older dogs, these behaviors can be a sign of arthritis or dysplasia. 

You Know Your Pet Best

At the end of the day, you are the best judge of what your pet needs. If you think they need to go to the vet—take them in. Trust your instincts and use your best judgment. There’s nothing wrong with being overly cautious about your furry friend!

The best way to keep your pet healthy is by making sure they are up to date on vaccines and getting their annual checkups. Your dog deserves the very best—a healthy, active, and pain-free life!

If you’re interested in more ways to keep your dog healthy, be sure to read our post about the healthiest dog treat options for your four-legged pal!