show your support

Dog Symptoms - Complete List of Common Dog Symptoms

There's a saying amongst veterinarians, and that is "common things occur commonly". Most vets would agree that most of their time is spent diagnosing and treating routine problems such as sore legs, itchy skin, ear infections and upset stomachs.

Let's have a look at some of the more common dog symptoms vets have to deal with on a daily basis, and what they may mean for your dog.

Choose your dog's symptom from the list below - and discover your best course of action:

Dog Depression and Lethargy
Sometimes dogs just don't seem to want to do too much. They just want to lie around, and they don't appear very interested in what's going on around them. This is quite a vague dog symptom, and can be hard to work out what is causing your dog to feel this way. It can be associated with any number of physical conditions, such as fever, gastroenteritis, liver disease and hormonal disorders.

If your dog is lethargic, it means that there is something wrong. Make an appointment with your vet to find out what is causing it. Starting treatment early in the course of an illness often means less expense for you, and a quicker recovery for your dog.

Dog Shaking and trembling
Dogs can tremble for many reasons, both physical and emotional. They may tremble because they're in pain, or because they feel anxious or afraid. It could even be something as simple as they're cold!

Have a look around and see if you can identify what might be upsetting him. If the weather is bad, perhaps he'd appreciate a coat. A noisy environment can be scary to a sensitive dog, and you may want to move him somewhere a bit less stressful.

If there's no obvious reason for your dog's shaking, it may be that he's sore somewhere, and your Vet is the best person to work out what's happening with him.

Dog Weight Loss
At least one third of dogs who present to a vet are overweight and would benefit from a diet. However, dogs can also become excessively lean quite quickly, even though they're eating well. This usually indicates that there's a problem.

There's no simple solution to this; in most cases these dogs need diagnostic tests such as blood tests and x-rays to reach a diagnosis. Common causes include diabetes, difficulty in absorbing nutrients in their food, and even cancer. If your dog starts to lose a lot of weight, take him to your Vet straight away. Early diagnosis and treatment of such illnesses have a much better chance of a good outcome.

Dog Not Eating?
It's not unusual for dogs to go off their food on occasion. They may have eaten something that has made them feel a bit queasy, or they may have had too many between-meal snacks. If your dog isn't interested in dinner, but is otherwise bright and active, you may want to just keep an eye on him for 24 hours to see if he feels better.

If he's depressed and not acting normally, then a visit to your vet is in order. Loss of appetite is a very vague symptom and it can be associated with disease of the stomach or intestines, or problems in other organs such as liver or kidney disease.

dog symptoms

Dog Vomiting
It's not fun when your dog is vomiting. Not only are you concerned about his well-being, but you've got a bit of a mess to clean up. Vomiting is often caused by problems with the gastro-intestinal tract, but it can also be associated with diseases of other organs.

Common gastro-intestinal conditions which will make your dog vomit include stomach ulcers, pancreatitis, and dietary indiscretions - dogs seem to relish eating rotten scraps, compost or horse manure, and these can make them throw up. Sometimes things they eat get stuck in their intestines, and the first sign is vomiting.

Most dog owners are familiar with parvovirus, a viral infection of a dog's intestines. Often the first sign of infection is vomiting, but these dogs are also very depressed and obviously unwell.

Liver and kidney disease are often the culprits when a dog is throwing up. These organs are involved in getting rid of toxins such as urea and ammonia from the body. If they're not working as well as they should, these toxins can build up in the bloodstream and cause vomiting, lethargy and other signs of illness.

As we've already mentioned in relation to not eating, if your dog is vomiting but otherwise appears quite well, you can skip his meals and keep an eye on him for a few hours. If he's out of sorts, or the vomiting doesn't stop, he needs to see your vet. Having said that, you can certainly visit your vet sooner rather than later if it will put your mind at rest.

Dog's Got Diarrhea?
Diarrhea is another extremely common reason for dogs to visit the vet, and it is usually caused by intestinal disease. Worms are often involved, particularly in young pups.

Dogs with food allergies and inflammatory bowel disease can also present with loose stools.

Sometimes a bacterial infection will lead to diarrhea, and again, eating the wrong thing will cause your dog to have runny poos.

You can manage diarrhea in your dog in the same way you would if he was vomiting - withhold food, and providing he's well, keep an eye on him. However if there is blood in his motions, take him to your vet immediately. We have already mentioned parvovirus, and one of the main symptoms of this deadly disease is foul smelling bloody diarrhea.

There is another condition called hemmorhagic gastro-enteritis, where a dog will have profuse watery diarrhea containing bright red blood. This is quite frightening to see, and an affected dog needs immediate veterinary care. This is one dog symptom that can't be taken lightly.

Dog Constipation
This is the opposite of diarrhea. Affected dogs pass very few bowel motions and the ones they do pass are small and hard. They're difficult to pass, and you'll notice your dog straining to defecate.

Dogs that eat bones have very firm feces, and may at times have trouble passing them. Other causes of constipation include physical abnormalities of the rectum and anus, and internal organ disease such as prostate enlargement in male dogs.

One condition that can look like constipation is colitis. This inflammation of the large intestine causes frequent straining, but any feces that are passed are loose, and may contain traces of blood or mucus. This can also be related to diet, but can also be caused by worms or infection.

Don't be tempted to treat your dog yourself, because without knowing why he is constipated, you're not likely to completely solve his problem. Take him to your vet for an examination and you'll be able to get started with the right treatment for him.


Tummy Pain
How do you know if your dog has a tummy ache? He will be restless, and won't be able to settle down comfortably. He may turn and look at his tummy. He may also lean on his elbows and stretch out with his rump in the air.

This is a very non-specific dog symptom and on its own it doesn't give you much information. You'll need to look at what else your dog is doing to get an idea of the cause. Is he drinking a lot of water? Is he vomiting? If his discomfort persists, have a chat to your Vet. Nobody, not even your dog, enjoys having a tummy ache.

Dog Limping
Some dogs are very active, and they can inadvertently hurt themselves as they charge through life. If your dog suddenly becomes lame but can still put a little weight on his foot, he may have strained a muscle or sprained a ligament. Both of these injuries can wait a day or two to see if they improve with strict rest. If your dog isn't using his leg at all, he will need to see your Vet straight away. He may have a broken bone or a torn ligament. An examination often reveals the likely cause of your dog's sore leg, but your vet may suggest x-rays to get an accurate diagnosis.

If your dog has a chronic limp, he may have arthritis which is a painful inflammation of his joints. Again, x-rays may be needed to confirm the diagnosis, and pain relief medication will have him feeling more comfortable in no time.

Dog Coughing
Dogs cough for many reasons, usually associated with diseases of the lungs and airways. Bronchitis and pneumonia is often due to bacterial or viral infections, such as kennel cough, but may also be caused by allergies. In most cases, your vet can make an informed diagnosis without performing further tests, for example if your dog has been playing at the dog park and there has been an outbreak of kennel cough. If it's not that easy to work out the cause of your dog's cough, then chest x-rays and blood tests are next on the to-do list.

Heart failure can also cause coughing, because as this disease progresses, your dog's heart becomes less efficient at pumping blood around his body. This means that blood moves slower as it flows through the lungs, and they become congested. This will make your dog cough.

Dog Hair Loss Without Itching
Although some dogs only shed their hair at certain times of the year, others seem to lose hair constantly. If your dog's skin is normal and his coat is healthy, this isn't necessarily a problem. It's more of a concern if there are large patches of hair loss which show bare skin underneath. There are times where this is to be expected; dogs that have recently had a litter of puppies often lose hair on their flanks, thought to be associated with the stress on their bodies.

There are genetic causes of hair loss, such as color dilution alopecia. This leads to bald patches on a dog's blue or fawn coat, and occurs in many breeds including Doberman Pinschers and Whippets. There's no cure, and in most cases, it doesn't cause any problems.

Some young dogs have a problem with Demodex mites which lead to patchy hairloss, particularly around their head. Their skin can develop a secondary infection, and this often becomes quite itchy.

Other causes of hair loss that doesn't seem to cause itching are hormonal problems such as hypothyroidism or high estrogen levels. If your dog is looking a bit bald, it's a good idea to just have him checked by your vet to make sure there isn't a medical reason for his hair loss. It will give you peace of mind.

Dogs With Itchy Skin
It's most annoying to sit on the couch cuddling your dog as you watch a movie together, and he's chewing and scratching himself. Fleas are a major problem for most dogs, their bite will have your dog chewing his back, tail and down his hind legs. Although less common, sarcoptic mange causes severe itching, and it can spread to you!

Allergies are very common in our dogs - flea allergy, food allergy and atopy (allergy to dusts and pollens) will cause itching, scratching and chewing at their skin. When the skin is traumatized, it gives bacteria the opportunity to multiply and cause infection and this makes the itching worse.

Sometimes the itching can be caused by something as simple as overuse of a harsh shampoo which dries out your dog's coat.

If you're using reliable flea control and your dog is still scratching excessively, it's time to visit your vet for an accurate diagnosis. Treatment may include corticosteroids, antibiotics, insecticides and medicated shampoos.

Dog Urination Problems
Both male and female dogs can have trouble urinating, and this indicates that there is a problem with either the bladder or the urethra - the tube carrying urine from the bladder to the outside. In female dogs, the urethra is relatively short, so bacteria can easily make their way into the bladder. This causes a bladder infection, or cystitis, which is very painful indeed. Symptoms include straining to urinate, trying to pass urine often and even drops of blood in the urine.

As they get older, male dogs can develop an enlarged prostate gland. As the gland grows, it presses on their rectum and makes it hard to pass feces, but it can also interfere with urination.

Minerals in the urine sometimes aggregate into little stones which irritate the bladder lining. This hurts, and if it isn't treated, can lead to blood in the urine and even blockage of the urethra. This is life threatening, and you must get in touch with your vet as a matter of urgency.

Incontinence is a relatively common problem in spayed female dogs as they age. The sphincter which holds the urethra closed loses its tone, and becomes a bit loose. These old girls often urinate where they lie, and are unaware of it. Incontinence is not in itself painful, but it's smelly, and the urine may cause scalding and irritation of their skin.

Any problems with urination need to be dealt with by your Vet and the sooner the better.

Dog Drinking Lots of Water?
Every dog is different, and they all need different amounts of water. If your dog has always been quite thirsty, this isn't necessarily a problem. However, if your dog suddenly starts spending all day at his water bowl and you have to refill it frequently, he may have a problem. Increased thirst usually indicates a hormonal condition such as diabetes or Cushings Disease, or an internal organ problem like kidney disease. The only way to deal with this is to take your dog to your vet and have blood tests done to see what may be making him so thirsty.
Dog Drooling and Salivating
Excess salivation is often related to pain or inflammation in your dog's mouth. Perhaps he has dental disease or an ulcer on his tongue. Dogs with kidney disease can develop irritation along the edges of their tongue, and this can make them drool.

Like us, dogs salivate when they feel nauseous. If your dog is drooling saliva, he may be having difficulty swallowing it because of a problem with the back of his throat.

Your vet will need to have a good look inside your dog's mouth and throat before they can do anything about it. Because your dog's mouth may be sore, he may need a general anesthetic to allow a thorough examination.

dog symptom

Dog Sneezing
We sneeze if we are exposed to an irritating smell such as perfume or insect repellent, and our dogs are the same. They can also suffer from allergies which will make them sneeze, as well as cause itchy feet, itchy eyes and itchy ears.

A bacterial or viral infection can cause a snotty nose and sneezing, and is often accompanied by coughing. Dogs can also get a fungal infection up their nose and this initially shows up as a discharge from just one nostril.

If your dog has something up his nose, such as a blade of grass, he will sneeze frequently and may have a snotty discharge just from that one side. Another more serious reason for your dog to have a one-sided nasal discharge is cancer.

Have you ever seen a dog have a fit of loud snorting that just won't stop? It's quite spectacular! This is known as a reverse sneeze and suggests that there's an irritation in the back of his nasal cavity. However, in many cases there's no obvious reason for this behavior, and it doesn't appear to cause the dog any problems.

Dog Got Itchy Ears?
Ear problems are a very common reason for dogs to visit their vet. Food allergies or allergies to dusts and pollens can make your dog's ears red and itchy. You'd have heard of ear mites - little insects that live inside a dog's ears. These are extremely irritating and will make your dog scratch his ears constantly.

When your dog has an ear problem such as those described, the changes inside the ear can allow bacteria to grow and multiply in there. This infection makes things worse, and his ears will become extremely painful. You'll notice a discharge from his ears, and they'll smell bad!

If his itchy ears aren't treated promptly, his repeated head shaking and ear scratching can break a blood vessel in the flap of his ear, also known as the pinna. This forms a large blood blister or hematoma, which will need surgical drainage. This is one example of how early treatment can save you money in the long term.

Weepy Eyes
Conjunctivitis can be caused by viruses, bacteria, or irritation by dust and wind. The discharge often starts out clear and watery but becomes thick and yellowish when a secondary bacterial infection develops.

Ulcers can occur on a dog's cornea. These are extremely painful and can take some time to heal. These ulcers, depending on their severity, may leave scarring on the cornea, or even lead to rupture of the eye.

It's absolutely vital that your dog's eyes are checked by your vet straight away, to make sure there is no ulceration. Treatment of uncomplicated conjunctivitis usually consists of regular bathing and antibiotic eye ointment.

Dog Seizures
The causes of seizures in dogs are divided into two groups - those of cranial (inside the brain) and extra-cranial (outside the brain) origin. Cranial causes include a bump to the head, a brain tumor or an infection which causes inflammation of the brain.

Extra-cranial seizures are usually related to internal organ disease, and include low blood sugar and liver disease. In many cases, there is no obvious reason for a dog's seizures, so the diagnosis is idiopathic epilepsy.

If your dog has a seizure, take him to your vet straight away for a check-up and blood tests. This isn't something to be complacent about. If he does happen to have epilepsy, it's important to start treatment early because the more seizures your dog has, the more likely he is to have more seizures.

Dog Got Lumps and Bumps?
You can get quite a fright when you find a lump on your dog, because in many people's minds, a lump equals a tumor. This isn't always the case.

Lumps on the body can be due to hematomas, or bruises, or they can be associated with allergic reactions. They can also be due to abscesses associated with foreign bodies such as grass seeds. Older dogs can develop fatty lumps called lipomas, and these can grow quite large. It's often better to have them surgically removed while they are small.

Certainly some lumps are cancerous, and common cancers which develop into obvious lumps in dogs include mast cell tumors and breast cancer. Your vet can perform a fine needle biopsy of these lumps, and examine it under a microscope to get an idea of malignancy. Tumors are usually best removed before they become too large, or spread to other organs.


These symptoms are all a regular part of a veterinarian's daily routine.

If your dog displays any of these signs, you'll now have an understanding of what may be causing them. Your vet is your ally when it comes to keeping your dog healthy. Don't be hesitant about taking him for a check-up if he's not well. It's important that you get a proper diagnosis and start treatment early, especially if he is uncomfortable or in pain.

For a full list of other health problems please visit - Dog Health Care.


More articles we recommend: 

Please consult the services of a Professional Dog Trainer, Behaviorist or Veterinarian before implementing any of the advice contained on this site.