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Top Ten Health Warning Signs

There are several health warning signs that may appear as a dog ages. Frequently these signs go unnoticed. Here are the ten most important changes to watch for as warning signs for potential health problems or disease processes. Note that any change in your dog’s behavior or appearance warrants further examination. The purpose of the top ten list is to make sure that you are familiar with the types of changes to look for and report to your veterinarian.


Loss of appetite is best detected when the dog is fed meals on a schedule and not allowed free access to food throughout the day. A lack of appetite which persists longer than one day should be investigated. It can denote a variety of problems ranging from infection to organ failure. Weakness may also denote a variety of problems. Weakness could be a symptom of anemia, organ failure, infection, cancer or diabetes. Even if the weakness resolves on its own, see your veterinarian. Increased thirst can be an early warning sign of diabetes, organ failure (especially kidney failure), Cushing’s disease, internal bleeding, and some cancers. Except under severe conditions of heat and exercise, a dog should not consume more than one cup of water per day for every seven pounds of body weight. If your dog drinks more than that amount per day, consult your veterinarian. Dogs that start having broken house habits, if they are housebroken, may be sending a signal that there is a medical problem. Loss of control over urination and/or bowel movements is a sign of many disease processes, such as urinary irritations or infections, nerve degeneration, hormonal imbalances and a variety of other ailments. Severe or persistent coughing should be investigated by a veterinarian. Coughing is the most common sign of heart disease. It may also be a symptom of asthma or bronchitis. If there is a sudden weight gain or abdominal distention you should contact your veterinarian as soon as possible. Hormonal imbalances, such as hypothyroidism and Cushing’s disease can cause weight gain. An enlarged abdomen can be caused by a number of problems, including heart failure and the growth of tumors. Weight loss should be considered significant when the change in weight is greater than 10% of the average body weight or if other symptoms of illness are noted. Weight loss may be due to a number of changes ranging from worms to cancers. All lumps and bumps should be reported to your veterinarian for professional evaluation. Some lumps and bumps may be nothing more than benign cysts, while others may be malignancies. Vomiting and/or diarrhea may be a sign of something serious, especially if the symptoms persist. Vomiting and diarrhea may be signs of infection, inflammation, cancers or organ failure. Bad breath is a sign that most likely denotes a problem in the mouth or nose. Severe tooth decay, oral and nasal tumors, and infections can cause bad breath. Bad breath should be reported to your veterinarian to avoid any preventable problems.

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Courtesy “The Essential Book for Dogs Over Five”

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