There are an estimated 70-80 million dogs and 74-96 million cats owned as pets in the United States (2), and estimated 7.9 million cats and 5.9 million dogs owned as pets in Canada. In a survey done by Colin Siren of Ipsos Reid, it was also determined that 35% of Canadian households have a dog, while 38% have a cat (1). What does this mean? That there are a lot of pet owners in North America. I myself am a pet owner and I love my fur babies (Louis and Alvin) very much.
Did you know that about 40% of pet owners learn about their pet’s needs through word of mouth (2)? Thats pretty shocking. The moment I brought these babies home, I was proactive in learning more about their breed — the best foods for them to eat, how to groom them properly, and what techniques to use for training. I will admit, however, that since I was the only Shih Tzu owner among my group of friends and relatives, I was forced to do my own research.
Recently, I came across an article by Dr. Karen Becker (3), an integrative wellness veterinarian, which every dog owner could benefit from reading. She has a proactive approach to saving you and your pet from unnecessary stress and suffering by getting to the root of the problem before disease occurs. As she puts it:
Unfortunately, most veterinarians in the United States are trained to be reactive. They wait for symptoms to occur, and often treat those symptoms without addressing the root cause.
Thankfully, she has put together a list of symptoms to watch out for in dogs. Check it out!
Loss of Appetite, Weight Loss
Often, loss of appetite is the very first sign of an underlying illness in pets. There can be many reasons your dog isn’t hungry or refuses to eat, but not eating can begin to negatively impact his health within 24 hours. And for puppies 6 months or younger, the issue is even more serious.
Weight loss is the result of a negative caloric balance, and it can be the consequence of anorexia (loss of appetite) or when a dog’s body uses or eliminates essential dietary nutrients faster than they are replenished. Weight loss exceeding 10 percent of your dog’s normal body weight will be a red flag for your vet. There can be several underlying causes, some of which are very serious.
Lethargy, Extreme Fatigue
A lethargic dog will appear drowsy, “lazy,” and/or indifferent. She may be slow to respond to sights, sounds and other stimuli in her environment.
Lethargy or exhaustion is a non-specific symptom that can signal a number of potential underlying disorders, including some that are serious or life-threatening. If your pet is lethargic for longer than 24 hours, it’s time to make an appointment with your veterinarian.
Coughing in dogs, unless it’s a one-and-done situation, generally indicates an underlying problem. Examples include a possible windpipe obstruction, kennel cough, bronchitis, pneumonia, heartworm disease, heart failure, and tumors of the lung.
All causes of coughing require investigation, and in most cases, treatment.
If your dog’s temperature spikes, it usually means his body is fighting an infection. The normal temperature in dogs is 100.5 to 102.5 degrees F. If your pet feels warm to you and his temp is higher than normal, make an appointment with your veterinarian.
A dog in respiratory distress will have labored breathing or shortness of breath that can occur when she breathes in or out. Breathing difficulties can mean that not enough oxygen is reaching her tissues. Additionally, dogs with heart failure may not be able to pump enough blood to their muscles and other tissues.
Respiratory distress often goes hand-in-hand with a buildup of fluid in the lungs or chest cavity that leads to shortness of breath and coughing. If your dog has sudden undiagnosed breathing problems, she should see a veterinarian immediately.
This includes discomfort while urinating, straining to urinate, and frequent attempts to urinate with little success. If your dog cries out while relieving himself, seems preoccupied with that area of his body or is excessively licking the area, you should make an appointment with your veterinarian right away.
There are several underlying causes of urinary difficulties, some of which can result in death within just a few days.
Bloody Diarrhea, Urine, Vomit
Digested blood in your dog’s poop will appear as black tarry stools. Fresh blood in the stool indicates bleeding in the colon or rectum. Either situation is cause for concern and should be investigated as soon as possible.
Blood in a dog’s urine, called hematuria, can be obvious or microscopic. There are a number of serious disorders that can cause bloody urine, including a blockage in the urinary tract, a bacterial infection, and even cancer.
Vomited blood can be either bright red (fresh), or resemble coffee grounds (indicating partially digested blood). There are a variety of reasons your dog might vomit blood, some of which are relatively minor, but others are serious and even life threatening.
Pacing, Restlessness, Unproductive Retching
When a dog paces and seems unable or unwilling to settle down, it can signal that he’s in pain, discomfort, or distress. One very serious condition in which these symptoms are common is gastric dilatation volvulus (GDV), also called bloat. Another sign of bloat is when a dog tries to vomit but brings nothing up.
Bloat is a life-threatening condition that most often occurs in large breed dogs and those with deep chests.
When a dog collapses, it means she experiences a sudden loss of strength that causes her to fall and not be able to get back up. If a collapsed dog also loses consciousness, she has fainted.
Either of these situations is an emergency, even if your dog recovers quickly and seems normal again within seconds or minutes of the collapse. All the reasons for fainting or collapsing are serious and require an immediate visit to your veterinarian. They include a potential problem with the nervous system (brain, spinal cord or nerves), the musculoskeletal system (bones, joints, muscles), the circulatory system (heart, blood vessels, blood), or the respiratory system (mouth, nose, throat, lungs).
If the white area of your dog’s eye turns bright red, it’s a sign of inflammation or infection that signals one of several diseases involving the external eyelids, the third eyelid, the conjunctiva, cornea, or sclera of the eye.
Redness can also point to inflammation of structures inside the eye, eye socket disorders, and also glaucoma. Certain disorders of the eye can lead to blindness, so any significant change in the appearance of your dog’s eyes should be investigated.
These symptoms could point to a serious underlying disease, but regardless should be given attention and investigated immediately by your veterinarian.