You can diagnose your dog's symptoms by becoming familiar with the warning signs of illness. If you've noticed that your dog's behavior seems a little off, it's important to take note of what has changed and look for other physical signs of sickness. Although some symptoms are obvious, such as vomiting, others are harder to discern. Once you've come up with possible causes for your dog's symptoms, taking him to the vet will provide a more accurate diagnosis. You should also be aware of conditions that require immediate help so you can get your dog to the emergency clinic for treatment.
If your dog's symptoms involve scratching a lot or biting at his fur or paws, he might have an allergy or external parasites such as mange mites. Your vet can help you determine the cause of an allergic reaction and recommend an effective treatment. External parasites can range from minor nuisances such as fleas to major conditions such as demodectic mange, which require extensive treatment.
Dogs who are sick often experience changes in appetite. They might refuse food altogether or eat much less than they normally do. An occasional bout of vomiting is usually no concern, but frequent vomiting or unproductive retching can signal more serious problems. A condition known as bloat can be deadly within a matter of hours without medical treatment. Watch for other signs of bloat such as drinking an excessive amount of water and having a distended belly.
Lethargy is another symptom that must be taken seriously if it lasts more than 24 hours. It is characterized by extreme drowsiness and longer response times to noises, sights or being touched. Several diseases and disorders, including heart problems and immune disorders, are associated with lethargic conditions in dogs.
If your dog's symptoms include changes in stool or urine, this can be a result of several possible causes. Difficulty urinating or passing stool can indicate problems such as urinary infections or bowel obstructions, which require veterinary care. Diarrhea can result from a mild illness, although prolonged cases can lead to dehydration. Urine or stool that is darker in color also require a trip to the vet.
Dogs who shake their heads and scratch their ears frequently often have an ear infection. Other signs include redness and a foul odor in the ear. This condition should be treated by a vet to prevent serious complications.
Rapid breathing or shortness of breath is often seen in dogs with conditions such as congestive heart failure, although there are several other reasons for breathing difficulties. These include obstructions in the nasal passages and broken ribs. Most of the conditions associated with labored breathing require veterinary care.