“Is my dog sick?“Should I visit the vet?” These are questions that most dog owners will ask at some point. Learn how to examine your dog if you think he’s sick.

At some point, every dog owner is faced with a situation involving an ill, sick or injured pet and many pet parents are left to wonder if the condition is severe enough to warrant a trip to the vet’s office. Understanding how to check things like the dog’s temperature, gum color, and the dog’s pulse can help pet owners accurately assess their dog’s condition.

“Timely veterinary care is key. Delaying care is going to take its toll on an animal’s body, making the illness or condition more difficult, and more costly to cure or treat,” explained Dr. Michael Levine, DVM, a practicing vet, and professor of veterinary medicine.

Is My Dog Sick?

Dr. Levine first recommends looking at the dog’s general appearance, adding, “An ill dog is going to stop eating and drinking, they’re going to be lethargic and off-color.” Dehydration and hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) can set in in less than 24 hours, so it’s vital to seek help as soon as a pet stops eating or drinking; the situation could turn deadly in just a matter of hours.

Taking a dog’s temperature can be done rectally. A healthy dog’s body temperature will be between 100.5 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. A temperature outside of this range is an indicator of canine illness and therefore warrants a trip to the vet’s office.

Is My Dog Sick?

Is My Dog Sick?

Checking a dog’s gum color can also offer insight into whether a dog is ill. Healthy gums should be a shade of pink. Abnormal gums, which are white, grey, blue or yellow, can be indicative of internal bleeding, anemia, or a disruption of normal blood flow, which prevents proper oxygenation of dog’s blood or results in a loss of blood or red blood cells (anemia.)

Pet owners can also look for signs of pain and distress in a dog. Symptoms include drooling, panting and restlessness. A dog’s heart rate can be a good indicator of suffering and pain. The average canine heart rate varies depending on the size and age of the dog, but a consistently quick or slow pulse indicates distress and illness.

A puppy has a heart rate of about 180 beats per minute. An adult dog will have a frequency between 60 and 160 beats per minute. Small toy breeds can have standard heart rates of 180 beats per minute. According to Dr. Levine, the younger and smaller the dog, the faster the heart rate.

Also, owners should know what’s normal for their pet regarding their general appearance and the values mentioned above. Dr. Levine concluded, “If you don’t know what your dog’s gums look like when he’s healthy, you’re going to have a difficult time determining if your dog is ill. Know what’s normal for your pet and detecting changes will be much easier.”

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Tips to Help a Sick Dog

Recording a dog’s symptoms and behavior in a pet log will also make the diagnostic process much more comfortable, as pet owners can provide complete information to the vet without having to worry about forgetting important details due to the stress and anxiety that’s often associated with caring for a sick pet.

Also, pet owners should know where to find help in advance. Locate a 24-hour veterinary clinic in your area and visit the clinic in advance to ensure familiarity with its location. Pet owners shouldn’t waste valuable time locating a 24-hour clinic in an emergency situation involving their pet. Knowing where to seek help may just mean the difference between life and death for your furry friend.

How To Tell If Your Dog Is Sick