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Recognizing Danger Signs in Dogs: How to Identify Urgent Health Issues

Dogs can’t talk, so it’s up to us to be aware of the signs that they’re not feeling well.

Dog symptoms and red flags can affect a dog very quickly.

Dog health red flags, signs of canine emergencies. How to recognise danger signs in dogs. It would be lovely to think we would never have to deal with extreme emergencies with our dogs. Some owners may have dogs throughout their lives but be lucky enough never to experience that moment of heart-stopping panic as they look at their dog and realise that something is seriously wrong.

How do I know if my dog is unwell? The Red Flag

For most of us, though, we have to face the fact that illnesses can strike without warning and that accidents can happen, even when we carefully watch over our dogs.

Many dogs decline gradually through illness, but some life-threatening problems can shit from seemingly mild to critical in minutes. This is why anyone who looks after a dog should be aware of red flags.

Red flags can be slow-burners and may initially seem innocuous. They make us uncertain about how to react when they indicate an emergency that needs immediate attention.

Although some of the problems described in this article may not look serious at first glance, the longer you delay getting help, the more likely you will lose your dog. These are not just signs of ill health; they are much more severe.

Never forget that shock kills and should be treated urgently, just as you would if a human were suffering. Signs of shock after an incident, such as pale gums accompanied by a tranquil demeanour, are severe. A dog yelling after an accident might worry us, but it is apparent that he is breathing and conscious.

Dehydration will affect a dog very quickly and is dangerous. 

One of the most important things to remember about dogs is that they do their best to cover up pain or vulnerability, so if something looks extreme, it is life-threatening.

Some flags described here are self-explanatory; a dog unresponsive to stimuli, for example, is an obvious source of concern and will cause us to act immediately.

However, others can easily miss or dismiss them as “off days”. For instance, a loss of appetite is easy to overlook, mainly if the weather has been scorching or if there have been lots of changes in the dog’s life recently, including moving house, the addition of a new dog or puppy to a household or adult children moving back in after finishing uni.

But if a dog stops eating, cannot be tempted, and previously has a good appetite, this is a red fag.

The same applies to a sudden change in drinking habits. Of course, not all dogs are the same, but we all know how much our dogs drink over a day.

We are right to acknowledge that they tend to drink more in hot weather or if the central heating is high in the winter. However, deviations from the norm still need to be checked.

There are exceptions, but a dog that begins to drain a water bowl could be in danger of diabetes or other serious diseases. Drinking less than usual should also be noted and investigated, as this could signal a bladder or urinary tract infection, which can be severe if not treated.

Please rely on your first instinct and act on it. You are your dog’s advocate, and he would thank you for it if he could 

It is worth noting that taking some water from your regular supply is always a good idea if you go away with your dog. Many dogs will refuse to drink water if it smells odd, which may happen when you change from an area of soft water to dirty or vice versa. Adding a small amount of your “normal water into the bowl can aid the changeover.

Dehydration will affect a dog very quickly and is dangerous. A dog with gastrointestinal problems will become far more dehydrated from vomiting than from diarrhoea, and hydration levels only have to drop to 12% below average to result in death.

It is never a good idea to “wait and see” when it comes to acute vomiting and sickness. Another red flag that is easy to miss is lethargy.

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Lethargy or extreme fatigue can be a slow build. It can be hard to identify, especially if a dog is getting older and slower, but even a prolonged decline needs to be placed.

Rapid change should never be expected in a fit and healthy dog; ignoring or dismissing such signs is hazardous.

Unlike some red flags that always ring alarm bells in our minds – such as seizures, tremors, a sudden loss of mobility or sudden lameness; lethargy can too quickly be put down to odd behaviour.

Other serious situations include unexpected and unexplained aggression. Dogs that exhibit aggression should always be checked thoroughly by a vet. People often put aggressive acts down to dominate – a concept that should never be associated with dog behaviour. Actual aggression is often a symptom of pain issues and rarely means a dog is “behaving badly”.

How do I know if my dog is unwell? It could be in danger. 

If a dog suddenly becomes aggressive, it is essential that you get your dog to a vet or, better still, a veterinary behaviourist as soon as possible.

Dogs will only bite if something is wrong, and time is of the essence. Wounds can be deceptive, too. We would immediately seek veterinary attention for our dogs in severe bleeding.

Never hesitate to seek help if your dog is bleeding from the nose, mouth or rectum, coughs up blood, passes blood in the urine, or bleeds for more than five minutes. Unfortunately, however, we are far more likely to miss puncture wounds, especially after attacks of any kind.

Puncture wounds are the most dangerous type as they are easily missed; internal damage can be extended due to deep penetrating wounds; you may not spot this until shock sets in only after the dog’s shock. Therefore, always take any attack seriously. Road traffic accidents are always severe due to the complications that can arise.

Some symptoms may not be apparent immediately after incidents, including highly coloured urine with an unusual smell, extreme anxiety or a fever (over 40 degrees). These remain red flags even if your dog has not been involved in any accidents.

Most people would recognise that a bloated or swollen stomach, loss of consciousness or continuous and exhaustive panting are all emergencies. Still, there are circumstances where these signs can be misinterpreted.

Identify and understand your dogs’ emergency.

These symptoms can accompany accidents and indicate other severe illnesses or life-threatening conditions like heatstroke. In addition, extreme behaviour changes need immediate veterinary attention.

Some red flags may be puzzling initially, but, as mentioned in the previous paragraph, any unusual behavioural changes should be considered suspicious.

A dog presses its head against a wall and exhibits behaviour that indicates the onset of acute pain; the dog needs immediate veterinary attention.

The list also includes swollen lymph nodes, any notable increase in urination, a deep cough (often referred to as a “graveyard” cough), any difficulty with breathing, including non-stop gagging, and an inability to pass faeces or obvious pain when urinating or defecating.

Seasonal flags include extreme sneezing, especially if a dog runs in the long grass. However, sneezing may not immediately signal a problem if you haven’t been with your dog when this occurred.

Other serious problems include bulging eyes or constant rubbing of the eyes, extreme anxiety or loss of balance; you may only start to worry as you look at the empty chocolate packet on the floor or suspect some ingestion of other poison.

Many of us will be familiar with these red flags, but sometimes that germ of uncertainty can be why you may decide to delay and see what develops.

If it is a false alarm, there might be a vet bill to pay, but it won’t have the far-reaching effects that would follow if you had judged incorrectly. So please rely on your first instinct and act on it. You are your dog’s advocate, and he would thank you for it if he could.

Here are some of the most common signs that your dog may be unwell:

  • Changes in appetite: If your dog is suddenly uninterested in eating or drinking, this could be a sign of illness.
  • Changes in behaviour: If your dog is suddenly more sedentary or less active, this could also be a sign of illness.
  • Changes in bathroom habits: If your dog suddenly has accidents in the house or has diarrhoea, this could be a sign of a digestive issue.
  • Vomiting or diarrhoea: If your dog is vomiting or having diarrhoea, this could be a sign of a stomach bug or a more severe illness.
  • Pain: If your dog shows signs of pain, such as limping or whining, this could indicate an injury or illness.
  • Changes in coat or skin: If your dog’s coat is suddenly dull or dry or has developed any sores or rashes, this could be a sign of a skin condition.
  • Changes in breathing: If your dog suddenly breathes heavily or rapidly, this could indicate respiratory distress.
  • Temperature changes: If your dog’s temperature is suddenly higher or lower than expected, this could indicate illness.

If you notice any of these signs in your dog, you must take them to the veterinarian to get checked out. Early diagnosis and treatment are often the best way to prevent severe illness or injury.

Thank you for reading the article to the end. Your reading contribution was significant to us.

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The "Frenchie Breed" website is a blog aimed at dog owners. We regularly publish articles about our four-legged furry friends. Among the contents of our blog, you will find ample space on the latest news in the sector, with information and in-depth analysis dedicated to the world of dogs in all its forms, the latest trends and news of the moment, curious facts, events devoted to dogs, product reviews, as well as an intense activity of information regarding the health and well-being of pets.

Please Note: The articles in the 'Frenchie Breed Blog' are for information purposes only; nothing published can or should be construed as an attempt to offer professional advice or consultation with a physician, veterinary surgeon or another health professional.

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Written by Frenchie Breed

The "Frenchie Breed" website is a blog aimed at dog owners. We regularly publish articles about our four-legged furry friends. Among the contents of our blog, you will find ample space on the latest news in the sector, with information and in-depth analysis dedicated to the world of dogs in all its forms, the latest trends and news of the moment, curious facts, events devoted to dogs, product reviews, as well as an intense activity of information regarding the health and well-being of pets.

Please Note: The articles in the 'Frenchie Breed Blog' are for information purposes only; nothing published can or should be construed as an attempt to offer professional advice or consultation with a physician, veterinary surgeon or another health professional.

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