How You Can Recognize Subtle Signs of Dog Illnesses

If your dog is very unwell, you’ll notice it quickly. He’s likely to have quite obvious symptoms such as vomiting, coughing or diarrhea. Sometimes, however, it’s harder to tell that he’s not feeling good. It’s important that you do learn to recognize it though, because earlier treatment usually means a faster recovery.
Subtle Signs of Dog Illnesses
Here are some more subtle symptoms that you may notice but not know that they can indicate a number of dog illnesses.

Toileting Accidents

Should your dog start to forget all his toilet training and leave a mess or two on your carpet, don’t get cross at him.  He may be starting to come down with an illness or there may be some other medical reason for what he’s doing.

Bladder stones and infections can result in frequent urination, often without much warning. Some medical conditions cause increased thirst and with this comes increased urination. Elderly animals may lose control of their bladder or bowels, or their stiff old joints might not allow them to get outside in time.

All of these conditions can be managed successfully.

Drinking Lots of Water

If you are topping up your dog’s water dish more than usual, it means he’s drinking more. It’s certainly possible that this may be because it’s been very hot recently, or you’re exercising him more. However, it can be because he is developing diabetes, kidney disease or some hormonal disorders. 

It’s a good idea to have some blood tests done to find out exactly what’s going on.


If your dog is usually cheerful with a wagging tail and he starts getting grumpy and even a little aggressive, something is definitely not right. It can mean he is hurting somewhere, or is feeling nauseous and unwell. Your first port of call is to your veterinarian to check for medical issues. If all is well, then you may want to seek advice from a behaviorist. Aggression can be an indicator of anxiety in dogs and it can be managed with the right treatment.

Staring into Space

Have you noticed your dog just sitting and staring at nothing?  In some dogs, this is considered to be a form of epilepsy. Whether treatment is needed depends on the severity of the episodes. Some dogs may progress to grand mal seizures so speak to your vet about whether treatment is necessary.

Nail Biting

Many people bite their nails but it’s not a usual behavior in dogs. Licking and biting at the paws can suggest an allergy, either to food or to dusts and pollens in the environment. It’s not comfortable for your dog so don’t overlook this symptom; go along to your vet for a proper diagnosis and treatment.


You may be familiar with the play bow, when your dog goes down on his elbows with his tail in the air. This is an invitation to play. It can also be an indicator that your dog has a tummy ache so if he’s doing this but doesn't look enthusiastic about a game, get him checked out by your vet.

Sometimes it’s hard to decide whether a hardly noticeable symptom is really worth following up.  Maybe it’s nothing, maybe it will stop by itself. That might be the case but it’s a good idea to visit your vet sooner rather than later. Many medical conditions are easier to manage if diagnosed earlier, which is much better for both your dog and your budget.