There is nothing worse than seeing your beautiful pooch in pain or seeing them act differently to normal. When their head and ears hang low, their puppy dog eyes are more apparent than usual and they seem unhappy, you just know there must be something wrong.
Sometimes it is hard to tell whether or not there is something terrible wrong with your puppy or whether they’re just having an off day. Obviously as your dog cannot speak your language, they cannot communicate exactly what is wrong in the same way you or I could. Instead, they may show you different signs that they are feeling under the weather and may use their body language.
I’m going to talk you through 8 different signs that you have a sick puppy. Hopefully they will help you to determine whether or not there is something wrong with your pooch. It is important to remember that the advice I share in this article is based on my experience with dogs as well as thorough research.
There are a number of illnesses and symptoms that your dog could have, so if you have major concerns then make sure that you go to the vet as soon as you can.
1. They’re not their usual, bouncy self
The majority of puppies are excitable, bouncy and curious. If your puppy is feeling unwell, you might notice that their attitude completely changes from being positive to being mopey, uninterested and sad.
You may notice that your pup does not seem excited when you:
- Pick up their leash ready to take them for walkies
- Come home from being away from them for a little while
- Try to encourage them to play with toys
- Meet new people with them
If your puppy does not seem to be as excitable as normal, try to watch for any other symptoms that show that they could be feeling sick. When I lived with Nelly the Cockapoo, she used to mope around the house feeling sorry for herself when she felt sick. You could tell she was unwell by the fact that she did not want to go far from home.
Just like us, dogs can have down days too. Vetted suggests that dogs experience sadness in a different way to humans due to the size of their brain. If sadness in your dog is something you are worried about, take a look at the warning signs for sadness in dogs to see if it could be psychological.
Nelly the Cockapoo is a lively dog and therefore it is usually easy to tell if she does not seem very well.
2. They spend a lot of time laying down or sleeping
Puppies, and humans and adult dogs alike, can get quite lethargic when they are unwell. If you notice that your puppy is laying down or sleeping a lot as well as seeming uninterested in other things, you might want to consider whether they need a trip to the vet.
However, there are other reasons why your pup seems lethargic and these could include:
- Hot weather
- Being tired after a long walk
- They’re adapting to new surroundings
- They’re missing someone
If your pup has seemed tired and sleepy for longer than you’d usually expect, make sure that you seek professional help. It’s best that you observe your puppy’s behaviours as much as possible, as this will allow you to understand whether particular behaviours are normal. You might want to write down the specific times they sleep or lie down so that you have a record to show the vet.
Oz the Cocker Spaniel puppy is always busy doing something. Whether that’s playing with toys, trying to steal a sock or eating, he never stops… Some of that is certainly his puppy behaviours but it’s easy to tell when something does not seem right. Oz only sleeps when he is given absolutely no other choice.
3. Their appetite has changed
If there is one thing I have learnt from owning and borrowing dogs it’s that they love food. Although not all dogs eat all of their dinner straight away, I have not met many dogs who turn down a treat or two.
If your dog seems to be avoiding their dinner and even seems uninterested in treats, this could be a sign that there is something wrong. Of course, it could also be that they do not like the specific treat. For example, Charlie the Westie was always picky on what type of treats he had. If the texture and the size was not to his liking, he would not take or eat the treat. However, if your dog seems to be consistently avoiding food, this is a sign that there might be something wrong.
FitBark says that the main concern is when a dog who usually loves food suddenly starts to lose interest. They advise you to make a note of your dog’s eating habits over the next several hours and the following day or two. If nothing changes then it is best to take your pooch to the vet.
You could try the following:
- Giving your dog a small human treat that is safe for them to eat
- Giving your dog a different brand of dog food
- Trying your dog with wet or dry food, depending on what they usually have
- Giving them a strong-scented treat
- Warming their food
Oz, the Cocker Spaniel that we see occasionally, is always very vocal about his dinner time. Without a doubt, he will let us know that he should be eating! From this, it’s easy to tell if he is not feeling himself.
If you notice that over time your dog is losing or gaining weight unexpectedly, make sure you go to see a vet so that they can see if there are any underlying issues that need to be solved.
Oz the Cocker Spaniel likes to eat anything and everything, including socks! We have to keep a close eye on him to make sure he does not swallow something he shouldn’t.
4. They’re being sick
This one is probably an obvious one. If your puppy is being sick, it indicates that something is wrong. There are many common reasons why your pup could be being sick as well as a few more serious ones.
According to Vetsnow, common reasons include:
- A change in diet
- Motion sickness
- Eating too quickly
- Eating too much
They suggests the serious reasons for a dog being sick are:
- Eating something toxic
- Other critical conditions which includes diseases
5. They’re slow
If your puppy seems a lot slower than usual, make sure you monitor their behaviour to see if there could be a particular reason. If they feel unwell, they’re probably feeling quite fragile. As a result, they might be slow to react, climb stairs, slow to eat their dinner along with other tasks.
The main thing to note down here is whether or not they are slow in conjunction with other symptoms. For example, if you notice that your dog is slow to walk around the house and seems unsettled before being sick, you know that their usual behaviour when feeling unwell is to be slow.
I remember whenever Nelly the Cockapoo felt unwell, she would look up at me slowly with her puppy-dog eyes and then look back down at the ground before retreating to a corner on the floor. As well as slow, she would not bark or react to much at all.
6. Their eyes look different
Your puppy’s eyes should look clear, clean and without dirt or redness. Eye gunk is normal for dogs and puppies, so not all residue is a concern.
However, look closely to see if your puppy’s eyes are:
- Very dry
- Producing more gunk than usual
- Producing something yellow or green
These could be signs of an infection or an underlying eye issue. It’s best to seek the advice of a professional to get a diagnosis and to see if it is anything to worry about.
George the Cockapoo has beautiful eyes and only occasionally seems to get gunk. It would be easy to tell if something was wrong because his eyes are always bright and clear.
7. They’ve got diarrhea
Hopefully, a dog’s bowels should be regular if they are given the right diet. However, one way to tell that something is not quite right is if they have diarrhea. Those of you who have dogs, or have had one in the past, will know the fear of trying to pick up a runny number 2 in the park.
The best way to make sure your dog’s diarrhea is nothing to be concerned about is to try and find out the cause. There are a number of common causes of dog diarrhea which includes:
- Bad diet
- Side effects from medication
Make sure to track whether or not your puppy’s diarrhea persists. If it does and it poses great concern, get him checked out. Diarrhea is common in dogs and can happen from time to time – the best thing to do is to make sure it is not a frequent occurrence. If it is, it could be a sign of underlying issues.
8. They’re making whining noises
A dog cannot speak our language, just as we cannot speak theirs. If your puppy is making whining noises, it could be that he is trying to tell you that something is wrong.
For example, have you ever noticed that when a key person in their life goes out and they are looking around the house and whining for them? They’re trying to tell you that they want that person back by their side and that they do not understand why they have gone.
If your dog is whining as well as looking lost or giving you that face that begs you for a solution, it could be that they are trying to tell you that they do not feel very well. There are plenty of other reasons why your dog could be whining, including when they are looking for attention. The key thing here is to try and understand whether it is at a particular time, for example when you’re busy with something else. If it is, that could be a sign that your dog just wants attention.
However, if your puppy is whining in a different way to usual and is perhaps inconsistent, they may be telling you that there really is something that does not feel quite right.
Oz the Cocker Spaniel loves to eat anything he finds, both inside the house and out on a walk.
None of us want our puppy to get sick but it is important to understand if there is something wrong with them!
To summarise what I’ve discussed in this article:
- Eye gunk is normal for dogs and puppies but make sure you notice any changes to your puppy’s eyes
- Dogs can become ill from something they found to eat when out and about
- Puppies may whine when they want your attention
- You know your puppy best – if something does not seem right, perhaps it isn’t
- Always seek professional help if you’re concerned for your pup
Have you noticed any other symptoms of a sick puppy?
Jen Jones is a professional dog trainer and behavior specialist with more than 25 years of experience. As the founder of ‘Your Dog Advisor’ and the ‘Canine Connection’ rehabilitation center, she applies a holistic, empathetic approach, aiming to address root causes rather than merely treating symptoms.
Well known for her intuitive and compassionate approach, Jen adopts scientifically-proven, reward-based methods, encouraging positive reinforcement over punishment. Jen specializes in obedience training, behavior modification, and puppy socialization. Her innovative methods, particularly in addressing anxiety and aggression issues, have been widely recognized. Jen has worked with many of the world’s leading dog behaviorists and in her free time volunteers with local animal shelters and rescue groups.