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Signs You Should Take Your Dog to the Vet

15 Signs You Should Take Your Dog to the Vet Leave a comment

Sharing your life with a dog is fun and mainly amazing. Dogs bring you unconditional love and give you emotional support. They truly are the best! I mean, if you are reading this, you KNOW that dogs are awesome. But having a pet is also a huge responsibility. Part of that responsibility is making sure your pooch is healthy, which means knowing the signs that you should take your dog to the vet.

Signs You Should Take Your Dog to the Vet

Here are the Top 15 Signs You Should Take Your Dog to the Vet

You know your dog better than anyone, so it is your duty to make sure they are healthy. You must be mindful of what is going on with them. That said, if you’re a new owner, we have a list of signs that you can refer to see if Fido needs a vet appointment.

Did you know there are breeds that may be more prone to needing veterinary care? Here are “The 5 Dog Breeds Vets Worry About the Most.” But also check out the “7 Dog Breeds With Low Vet Bills.”

1. Changes in Appetite

First, let’s start with the easiest indicator that things can be wrong…changes in eating habits. If there is a sudden loss of appetite or excessive hunger this could indicate health issues. Changes in appetite can be indicative of various underlying health issues, ranging from mild to serious.  

Some of the reasons for changes in appetite for dogs could be illness, pain, stress, dietary issues, or dental problems. Changes in temperature, humidity, or other environmental factors can also influence a dog’s appetite. Consider what your dog may be experiencing.  

It’s important to note that a temporary change in appetite might not be a cause for concern, especially if the dog is still energetic and appears healthy otherwise.

However, if the change persists for more than a day or two, is accompanied by other concerning symptoms (vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, etc.), or if the dog is a puppy, senior, or has underlying health conditions, it’s recommended to consult a veterinarian.

2. Vomiting or Diarrhea

This is another pretty obvious indicator…tummy problems. Frequent or persistent vomiting and diarrhea can lead to dehydration and may be a sign of various underlying problems. It can indicate that Fido’s body is trying to eliminate something harmful or that there is an imbalance within the digestive system.  

The occasional vomiting or diarrhea may not necessarily be a cause for immediate concern. Sometimes dogs can have sensitive stomachs and may experience these issues from time to time. However, persistent or severe cases warrant attention, as they can be indicative of more serious health problems.  

The real concern is dehydration. When there is vomiting and diarrhea make sure your dog has access to water. And if necessary, seek prompt veterinary care to determine the underlying cause and receive appropriate treatment. 

There are just so many reasons why a dog may throw up or have diarrhea. The issues could be something very serious or they could be something as simple as motion sickness or eating something that was off. Your vet can help narrow down the potential cause. If you decide to wait it out a bit, it is SUPER important to monitor your dog’s overall condition along with vomiting and diarrhea.

3. Lethargy

We all, our dogs included, get tired but lethargy is something else. Lethargy in dogs refers to a state of abnormal tiredness, sluggishness, and lack of energy or enthusiasm. This is beyond just lazing around.  

Lethargy is often one of the first signs that a dog is not feeling well. It is another issue that can be mild or serious. In addition, older dogs may just naturally be more lethargic.  

It is important to consider other symptoms in conjunction with lethargy to get a clearer picture of what might be causing lethargy. Notice if your dog is experiencing lethargy along with other concerning signs such as vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, difficulty breathing, persistent pain, or changes in behavior. If the other symptoms are present, then it is recommended to consult a veterinarian. 

4. Labored Breathing

This is an issue that would need immediate attention from a vet. Rapid or difficult breathing could be a serious symptom that can indicate various underlying health issues. 

Your veterinarian will perform a thorough examination and tests to determine the underlying cause. Prompt intervention can make a significant difference in your dog’s outcome, especially in cases where treatment needs to be administered quickly to improve breathing and address the underlying issue. 

Labored breathing is nothing to mess with. If you notice this then treat it as an emergency. Better to be safe than sorry.  

5. Excessive Thirst 

Typically, if your dog is excessively thirsty then they are probably increasing their urination. If you notice your dog drinking more water than usual and urinating frequently, it’s important to consult a veterinarian, as these symptoms can be indicative of various conditions. 

Changes in drinking or urination patterns could indicate diabetes, kidney problems, or other health issues. However, be mindful of any environmental factors such as hot weather. If it is hot or if your dog is doing a lot of exercising, then there could be increased water consumption.  

Getting help quickly is key. Timely diagnosis and appropriate treatment are important to address any potential health issues and ensure your dog’s well-being. Find out if there is a reason for the thirst.   

6. Limping

Limping in dogs refers to an abnormality in their walk or their movement. Are they favoring one leg over the other?  It’s important to carefully examine your dog’s leg or paw for any visible signs of injury, swelling, or discomfort.  

Your dog may have the occasional sore leg or even a strained muscle. But they typically resolve themselves quickly. This is the next level of limping.  

Persistent limping, stiffness, or difficulty moving could indicate joint problems or injuries. Early intervention can help manage pain, address the underlying issue, and prevent further injury. A vet is needed to do tests and provide a proper exam.

If your dog appears to be in ANY pain at all, even if it seems mild, it is important to get help. A recent study found that there are actually biological differences in pain sensitivity between breeds. So, your pooch may seem like he’s in just a bit of mild discomfort but he could actually be hurting in a major way.

Signs You Should Take Your Dog to the Vet

7. Excessive Scratching 

We all have seen that leg just moving trying to scratch that itch. However, frequent scratching, licking, or biting at the skin might be a sign of allergies, skin infections, or even parasites. Yuck! 

Dogs scratch or even bite themselves to relieve itching, pain, or irritation in the affected areas. While some scratching and grooming behavior is normal, when it becomes excessive, it could indicate an underlying issue that needs attention.  

Some of the issues could be hot spots, dry skin, or something more. Scratching can lead to skin damage and or secondary infections. If the behavior is severe or prolonged, consult a veterinarian. 

8. Swelling or Lumps

Sometimes dogs may have swelling or even lumps. It could be bug bites or something else benign. However, unexplained swelling, growths, or lumps on the body should be examined by a vet to rule out tumors or other issues. 

Swelling or lumps could be so many things. For example, abscesses, cysts, tumors, or hematomas could all be an issue. Or even a splinter can cause swelling.  

It is important to pay attention to the characteristics of the lump or swelling, such as its size, location, texture, whether it’s painful, and whether it is changing in size or appearance over time. If you discover a new lump or swelling, or if an existing lump changes in any way, consult a veterinarian. Your dog will need an exam, a test, or even a biopsy. 

9. Eye Issues

Eyes may be the window to the soul, but they are also a great indicator of health. Persistent redness, discharge, tearing, or rubbing of the eyes or ears may indicate infections or other problems. 

Do you notice the eye tearing up? What about any cloudiness? Any change in the eyes is a big deal. 

If you suspect that your dog is experiencing an eye problem, it’s essential to consult a veterinarian promptly. They can provide a proper diagnosis and recommend appropriate treatment.

Never attempt to self-diagnose or treat your dog’s eye issues without professional guidance, as some conditions can worsen if not addressed correctly.

10. Ear Issues

Ear issues are common in dogs and can range from mild irritations to more serious infections. Proper care and regular ear maintenance can help prevent many ear problems. 

You may see your dog pawing at their ear. Or perhaps they are holding their ear a little strangely. You may even notice a foul smell coming from their ear.  

If your dog is showing signs of ear discomfort or if you suspect an ear problem, it’s important to consult a veterinarian. A vet can diagnose the issue and recommend appropriate treatment, which might include ear cleaning, medications, or other interventions. 

11. Weight Loss or Weight Gain

Big changes in your dog’s weight can be indicative of big problems. Losing weight and gaining weight can be a lot of things. It can mean an underlying health issue. 

One issue that could lead to weight gain or weight loss is stress. Stress and anxiety can make a dog eat a lot or not at all. Once again early detection and intervention are crucial for addressing potential health issues. 

Keeping your dog at a healthy weight is essential for their overall well-being and longevity. Always work closely with your veterinarian to address any concerns about your dog’s weight, as they can provide tailored advice based on your dog’s specific needs and circumstances.

12. Change in Stool

Yes, we already covered diarrhea, but let’s just get into the topic of poop. Changes in stool in dogs can be indicative of various underlying health issues affecting the gastrointestinal tract. Monitoring your dog’s stool is an important part of assessing their health.  

You are already probably naturally monitoring your dog’s poop. When you are picking up the waste just be mindful of what you are seeing. You want to see regular looking stool. 

Blood in stool, mucus, or changes in consistency should be addressed promptly.

If you notice any significant or persistent changes in your dog’s stool, it’s a good idea to consult a veterinarian. Check to poop for health, it is a part of the gig. 

13. Seizures

Now this seems like a no-brainer, but if your dog has seizures or uncontrolled shaking they should be seen by a vet immediately. Neurological symptoms can be concerning and may indicate an underlying health issue affecting the brain or nervous system. These symptoms can vary in severity, duration, and frequency.  

During a seizure, it’s important to stay calm. Ensure your dog’s safety by moving away any objects that could cause harm.

Do not attempt to restrain your dog or put your hands near their mouth, as they might unintentionally bite due to the convulsions. Time the seizure to monitor its duration; most seizures last only a few minutes. 

Some of the conditions could be epilepsy, metabolic issues, toxicity, or other issues. Treatment options will depend on the cause of the seizures or tremors. But it is important to get professional help.  

14. Foul Odor

Smelly dogs are a thing. However, if there is persistent bad breath, strong body odor, or foul-smelling ears that might be a sign of dental or other health problems. Smells can indicate health problems or hygiene issues.  

Some of the reasons why your dog might be smelly could be a lack of grooming, infections, anal gland issues (I know, I know, but it is a thing), or dental problems. However, it could be skin conditions, diet, or hormone changes. It is good to find out the reason for the smell.  

Regular grooming, dental care, and visits to the veterinarian can help maintain your dog’s overall health and hygiene. If the foul odor is accompanied by other concerning symptoms like changes in behavior, appetite, or activity level, then it is cause for concern. 

15. Changes in Behavior

This last sign you should take your dog to the vet is a little subjective. However, drastic changes in behavior, such as aggression, excessive anxiety, or depression, might signal underlying health issues. 

Changes in behavior in dogs can be indicative of various underlying factors, including physical health, emotional well-being, and environmental changes. Observing shifts in your dog’s behavior is important for detecting potential issues early and addressing them appropriately. 

You know your dog the best so you are the one who has to decide what seems “off” about your dog. The time you spend with your dog and the love you have for your furry family makes you an expert about them. So use your best judgment to make sure they see a vet if things seem awry. 


It is important to note that you should always go to the veterinarian if you have any questions about your pet’s health, even if Fido isn’t experiencing any of the signs above.

Early intervention and proper medical care can often lead to better outcomes and improve your dog’s overall quality of life. Always trust your instincts and prioritize your dog’s well being. 

We want our dogs to live as long as they can and be as healthy as they can be. Part of it is providing routine care. The other part is getting help when they need it.  

Dogs are awesome, but they are also a big responsibility. However, their ROI is huge and they are worth every penny to keep them healthy.  

Have you ever questioned if a trip to the vet is necessary? Let us know your stories.  

Johanna Kennelly Ullman

Johanna is married with two kids and a LOT of animals. Johanna has
three dogs: two Wired-Haired Pointing Griffons and a Chorkie
(Chihuahua and Yorkie mix). She also has three cats, one leopard
gecko, several chickens, and a few fish. She has been in the Pacific
Northwest since the dream was alive in the 90s but has Southern roots
and hails from Arkansas. The family spends a lot of time at some sort
of sporting event for the kids. Johanna likes to fast craft, garden,
host parties, and bake. Johanna and her crew go hard traveling,
DIY-ing, and are always up for a new adventure or challenge. Johanna has a Master of Science in Communication from Portland State University.

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