Your dog is a member of the family, and as a responsible dog owner, you want to be sure that you are doing all you can to keep it happy, healthy and safe. Taking your dog for regular check-ups and getting vaccinations are part of that process.

However, there are some instances where your dog may be in pain or suffering, and you cannot tell since you either don't recognize the symptoms. Also, since our pets can't speak, we don't understand that something might be wrong. Your dog may always seem happy to see you despite its pain.

Keeping a close eye on your furry friend doesn't always let you know that something is awry. First, you must understand the various warning signs your dog demonstrates that might cause alarm or warrant a call to your veterinarian.

So, just what and how are you supposed to be able to tell that your dog might need a vet? Here are some of the more unsuspecting signs that your dog needs medical attention.

Rapid or Laboured Breathing

It could be that it is a hot day outside, and you notice your dog is panting more than usual. However, after resting and temperatures have cooled, if you notice that your dog is still panting or has rapid breathing, there may be some cause for concern.

Your dog may be only experiencing some allergies or a cold, especially if the climate changes have gone up and down frequently. But, if you are concerned your dog is having trouble breathing or is doing a lot of panting when it shouldn't, you should pick up your phone and contact your vet for a check-up in case it is a more severe health problem.

Rough or Dry Skin/Coat

If you brush your dog's fur, it should be shiny, soft, and relatively thick, depending on its breed. Some dogs may have shorter hair or need grooming because they don't shed, but it should still be relatively smooth and lustrous.

Keep an eye out if you start to notice your dog's fur become coarse or rough. If you see any bald spots where hair should be, look for a skin rash. If you notice your dog is constantly itching or scratching at an area, you should not let it suffer. Your veterinarian can help to determine the cause of the skin rash or hair problem so that your dog can find relief.

Balance Issues

You may notice your dog limping after bumping it on something, which is normal. Dogs get bruises just as we do. But if the reason behind your dog running into things has to do with poor balance, then this could be a much more severe problem.

Dogs with problems moving, such as walking sideways, losing their balance often, or having difficulty standing straight, indicate issues with balance. You should contact your veterinarian right away, as it could be a neurological problem that needs immediate attention.

Losing Energy or Lethargic

Dogs sleep a lot, and it is not usually a reason to think something might be wrong. However, a dog losing interest in things that it usually wouldn't or not getting excited about playtime when prompted could be a sign that your dog is ill or suffering from a disease.

When your dog typically goes outside for a walk or to the bathroom, and you see that it doesn't want to get up, it is time to contact the vet. There could be a physical injury causing your dog pain, or it could be something more serious.

Cockerpoo dog with bowl
Cockerpoo Dog with Bowl

Changes in Eating or Drinking

Your dog should typically eat at the same time(s) every day. However, if you happen to see a change in how your dog is eating, such as eating too little, not at all, or having excessive hunger, there could be some indication of a digestive problem, and you should contact your vet.

Another indication of an issue is a change in how your dog drinks. If you see that it is excessively thirsty and drinking often, or the complete opposite - it barely drinks and isn't going to the bathroom, this could be a kidney disease or diabetes problem.

Consistent Weeping or Irritated Eyes

Sometimes your dog's eyes could look red or tear up or produce a lot of mucus. There are multiple infections of the eye that a dog might contract. Take note if your dog is frequently squinting, there is a lot of redness or swelling in the eye area, or your dog is holding its eye closed for long periods.

These could be an issue with something having gotten into your dog's eye or some bacterial infection. Your dog might have also suffered a scratch on the cornea, which might potentially cause blindness if not treated properly.

Unusual Behaviour or Sudden Aggression

When a dog is in pain, it may sometimes react aggressively. If you see that your dog's behaviour has changed for the worse, it is a strong sign that something is wrong.

If you have a friendly dog, you may have contemplated making your dog a service animal to help others. But a dog that acts out aggressively would never be considered a service animal, so you should be on alert if you notice this change.

Behavioural problems can sometimes stem from physical illness and are not behavioural issues. For example, dogs might suddenly be barking, growling, or pacing more due to inflammation or pain. You should ensure that your veterinarian does a thorough check on your dog to locate and rule out any potential injury or illness as a cause for sudden aggression or unusual behaviour before seeking out an animal behaviour specialist.

Dog at vet examination
Credit: Gustavo Fring, Pexels

Don't Be Afraid To Call

As a responsible dog owner, you know when something is wrong or off. If you are experiencing any concerns or are unsure if something may be wrong, do not hesitate to pick up the phone and contact your vet.

Don't wait for the problem to exacerbate or become worse before bringing your dog in for an examination. Taking care and keeping your dog healthy and safe is a priority for long and happy life.