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How Can I Tell if My Dog is Sick?

How Can I Tell if My Dog is Sick?

How do you know if your dog has a fever? Guessing leads to worrying so let’s look at the ways you can tell. Knowing the signs and being able to determine when it’s time to go to the vet will give you peace of mind.

Diagnosing major diseases and conditions at home is not recommended, so what we’ll be looking at is signs that your dog needs to see the Doc.


A dog’s temperature, when healthy, should be between 99.5 F and 102.5 F.

Do not ever use a glass thermometer in taking a dog’s temperature! You can take your dog’s temperature with a rectal thermometer or a digital ear thermometer. An ear thermometer is the better choice because it is more comfortable for your sick pooch and is much less fuss.

If Fifi’s temps are above 103 F, it’s time to go to the vet. Do not let the fever go any higher. A temp over 106 F damages internal organs. Fevers are serious, especially in dogs.

Signs that you need to take your dog’s temperature are:

  • Dry, warm nose
  • Little appetite
  • Shivering
  • Warm ears
  • Red eyes
  • Lethargy
  • Coughing
  • Vomiting

Other reasons you should watch for fever are recent injury, sores, wounds, scratching at or shaking ears frequently, drooling, teeth problems, or irritated urinary area.

While preparing to go to the vet, try to reduce the fever. Do NOT give the dog any form of human fever reducers like aspirin or ibuprofen. Instead, wet his ears and feet with cool, damp toweling until his temp drops below 103.

If you think your dog may have been nosing around in toxic plants, antifreeze in the garage, medicine, or tasty forbidden foods, but aren’t certain, take his temperature. You should always take the dog to the vet if you think she has ingested a toxic substance. Remember to check any unauthorized food she has eaten for the sweetener Xylitol. It is extremely toxic.


A dog that vomits more than once and is heaving needs to see the vet. Otherwise, monitor the situation.

Below are various types of vomit and their meaning:

  • Yellow foam – Your dog’s stomach is probably empty. The yellow foam is bile that has irritated the stomach and has come up. However, if she continues to vomit bile a few times, it could indicate a more serious problem like pancreatitis or a kidney or liver problem. In that case, go to the vet immediately.
  • Glob of food – A chunky glob of food vomited while eating or just after eating is pretty much just food. Your dog ate too quickly or got too playful after food time. He’s probably going to try to re-eat it. Don’t let him! If it’s been a long time since dinner, monitor the situation. If he starts heaving, it could be more serious.
  • Granular vomit – If the vomit is partly liquid with digested bits in it, it has had time to digest. The granules are often tiny bits of blood. Watch your dog closely for heaving, retching, and diarrhea.
  • White foam – Your dog probably does not have rabies. When dogs cough they often produce a white foam from their mouth. This can also happen when they eat something toxic. Take your dog to the vet as white foam can indicate both kennel cough and the ingestion of a toxic substance.
  • Clear – Purely clear vomit is most likely excessive salivation from stress. If it is not followed by stomach contents it is probably intense drooling.
  • Purely liquid – If the vomit is mostly liquid, the problem was likely not something he ate. It could be a sign of an underlying issue as in the case of repeated yellow foam mentioned above.
  • Brown vomit – If Rover hasn’t eaten anything brown, this vomit can indicate bleeding ulcers, intestinal blockage, gum disease, or tumors. It’s time to go to the vet.

This guide is not the last word in how to tell if your dog is sick. If your dog is very young, old, or has pre-existing conditions, call your vet at the first sign of fever or any type of vomiting.


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