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Worried About A Sick Puppy?

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

Small sick puppy under a blanket

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.....

Signs & Symptoms of A Sick Puppy

The signs and symptoms of the many dog illnesses which puppies are at risk of contracting are varied.

To make matters more confusing similar symptoms can be signs of either a dangerous disease or a much simpler, less worrying one.

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.

The type of changes to look out for include:

  • ... 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 happy, excitable or mellow...
two veterinarians and dog owne

When it comes to protecting your puppy's wellbeing, this is all important stuff.

This is because one of the earliest signs that all is not well with Fido will most likely be behavior that is unusual for him.

Symptoms That Could Mean Trouble:

  • 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 such as Coccidia or Giardia. Soft stools, or a single bout of mild diarrhea could just mean that your puppy raided the garbage can last night! 

  • 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.

Additional Symptoms To Watch Out For:

There are other, less serious, symptoms that can crop up and suggest that your pup has some type of illness or problem, which still need to be evaluated by your veterinarian.

These 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.

There are many different diseases and too many potential symptoms for me to cover them all on this page.

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.

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 as soon as possible.

It's always better to be safe than sorry!

Having a comprehensive source of pet health information that you can turn to is always a good idea :)  

If you have 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.

Here are some more great books that can help you keep Fido healthy.....

 I'd definitely recommend having at least one of them on your bookshelf.

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.

If you're worried that you may have a sick puppy (or any other pet) 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

As any owner of a sick puppy (or dog for that matter) soon finds out - 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.

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