Worried About A Sick Puppy?

Taking care of a sick puppy can be worrying, confusing, heartbreaking... and often expensive.

When Fido doesn't seem to be feeling well, it's easy to panic, and it can be difficult to figure out if there really is something wrong..... and to decide exactly what you should do about it.

But your little guy is relying on you to take care of him, and to get him the right kind of help, right when he needs it, so it's important to that you know how to recognize the most common signs of illness and to make sure that puppy health care is a high priority in your home.

Read on to learn how to tell if you really do have a sick puppy on your hands.....


How To Tell If Your Pup Is Sick

two veterinarians and dog owne

There are a few serious, potentially fatal, infectious dog illnesses that your puppy could catch if his little body doesn't have the necessary antibodies.

That's why it's so important to begin scheduling his puppy vaccinations right away.

The signs and symptoms of these dangerous diseases are varied, and to make matters more confusing they can often also be the sign of an entirely different, or much less serious, problem!

Just as you know your own children so well that you instinctively recognize when one of them is acting 'out of sorts', it won't take long for you to see your puppy's' special pattern of behavior.

You'll soon know what's normal for him, for example:

  • ... how long he can play for without getting tired
  • ... how much he eats in a day (or at each meal)
  • ... how often he needs to 'potty' and what's normal for his bowel movements
  • ... whether he's normally very happy and excitable or more mellow etc. etc.

When it comes to protecting your puppy's wellbeing, this is all important stuff, because one of the earliest signs that all is not well with Fido will most likely be behavior that is unusual for him.

If you see any of the following, your little one could be ill, and you need to get veterinary help right away:

  • Change in activity level. Particularly if your normally active, playful puppy seems exhausted, listless and disinterested in his toys, games... even you!

  • Change in appetite. If your puppy suddenly seems to lose his appetite and won't eat, or drink, this is a red flag. If he's vomiting too, it's even more critical that you talk to your vet immediately.

  • Change in bowel movements. A big indicator of your puppy's health is his stools! If you suddenly find that Fido has diarrhea (with or without vomiting), it could signal the beginning of one of several illnesses and your pup is quite likely to get very sick, very fast.

    Repeated, watery or bloody diarrhea is an emergency situation and if your regular veterinarian's office isn't open, you need to get your puppy to a 24 hour pet clinic immediately.

    It could be Canine Parvovirus or another serious, potentially deadly, puppy illness. Soft stools, or a single bout of mild diarrhea could just mean that your puppy raided the garbage can last night! Check out my Puppy Diarrhea page to find out how to tell the difference.

  • Panting, shaking or whining. Fido can't tell you if he's not feeling well, or what hurts. But his behavior can give you clues. Panting, shaking/shivering, unusually 'clingy' behavior or constant whining can all mean there's something wrong and he's trying to tell you about it.

  • Weakness, dizziness or disorientation. There can be a number of different reasons for these symptoms of puppy illness, and if your little guy shows any of them, you need to have him evaluated by your veterinarian quickly. 

    In small and tiny breeds, a drop in blood sugar can cause hypoglycemia which can result in all three symptoms. Giving your pup a little Karo syrup can help alleviate symptoms of hypoglycemia, but if it happens more than once you need some expert advice.

In addition to the signs above that indicate you have a sick puppy on your hands, there are some other symptoms that can crop up and suggest that a puppy illness or puppy health concern of some sort is present.

These often aren't cause for concern at the level of the above list, but they still need evaluation by a professional veterinarian.

They include.........


  • Unusual/excessive scratching or licking. If your pup starts to lick himself all the time it could signal a skin problem and/or dog allergies (if he's licking his belly/paws an allergy is likely). Allergies are not generally life-threatening, but they are very uncomfortable for your puppy. Check out the link above that goes to my Dog Allergies page for help and advice on finding the allergy 'trigger' and alleviating symptoms.

    If he's licking his genital area, and is urinating more than normal it could mean a urinary tract infection. These are more common in female puppies than males, but any pup can get a UTI. If you have a sick puppy and suspect this might be the problem, then get him to a vet right away, antibiotics usually clear things up pretty quickly, but left untreated these types of infection can cause some serious issues.

    Obsessive scratching could mean parasites such as fleas or mites which cause mange in dogs etc.). Constant head shaking can also mean allergies, ear mites or infection.

  • Change in coat. If your puppy's coat seems to be dull, patchy or coarse it could mean he has parasites or allergies. Or it could also be an indication that his diet is lacking in certain nutrients. Check out my Puppy Kibble page for more on choosing a food which provides optimum nutrition for your little one.


This handy tool can also help you figure out what those symptoms mean and can link you to over 2000 articles on pet health.....

There are too many potential symptoms for me to cover on this page. But the ones listed above are the most common, and are seen over and over again in the questions that I get asked on a daily basis.

If you don't see the symptoms that your puppy has that doesn't mean that he's just fine, it could be something that I haven't mentioned or a more unusual problem.





If you have this book on hand - The Veterinarians' Guide to Your Dog's Symptoms - you'll always be able to find a list of the potential cause of just about any symptom you're likely to see. Written by veterinarians, it's perfect for everyday reference and points you in the right direction, whether that is a trip to the vet's office or a home remedy.

The bottom line is this... if your puppy is acting in a way that isn't normal for him, or you are at all worried, then you need to get a professional veterinary evaluation to make sure that he's not sick. It's always better to be safe than sorry in these cases!

Having a comprehensive source of pet health information that you can turn to is always a good idea, and here are some more books fit the bill perfectly. I'd definitely recommend having at least one of them on your bookshelf.


Dog Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook

The Complete Healthy Dog Handbook

The Nature of Animal Healing

The Merck/Merial Manual for Pet Health

Veterinary Help Online

You can get a quick, professional answer to your puppy question (or a question about any type of pet for that matter) from a qualified veterinarian without the cost of a real-life visit.

Get access to this useful service on my Ask A Vet page.

Of course this is NOT the route to take if your pup is really ill, or you have an emergency situation!



Choosing A Healthy Puppy

Although even the healthiest little guy can fall ill or have an accident, you can help prevent a certain amount of problems by making sure that you pick a healthy puppy, from healthy parents, to begin with.

You'll find lots more tips, advice and information to help you HERE


Protecting Your Puppy's Future Health

Any pet owner soon finds out that veterinary care doesn't come cheap! Fortunately for our pets, veterinary science is moving forward in leaps and bounds and many conditions that used to be a death sentence are now very treatable.

Unfortunately the treatments are also often extremely expensive, and if your pup gets injured or becomes seriously ill you could be looking at thousands of dollars worth of vet bills in the blink of an eye.

But you can protect both your pup, and your bank account with pet health insurance.

Check out my Pet Dog Health Insurance page to find out more  - including the questions to ask the insurance company, how to compare policies, and even get free, no-obligation, quotes for your pet/s.


› Is My Puppy Sick?


Back To Top Of Page




I love to hear feedback on content from my site's visitors... so why not join in and have your say about what you just read!

Just leave me a comment in the box below.

... and if you found this page useful or enjoyable I would really appreciate a 'Like', 'Share' or '+1' to help get the word out to other dog lovers/owners. Thanks!