Is My Dog Sick?

Communication is a frequent problem in the life of a dog. It is more so in sickness. Most of the owners remain blissfully unaware if their dog is sick. And quite a few of them get hyper at the slightest suspicion of their pooch being sick. Both the extremes are bad. No doubt the dog suffers a lot either way, but if you ask me it is the Vet who suffers more. People take their pooch to the Vet and start with a long story of how they got the dog and how they hand reared him with drops of milk squeezed in to his mouth via cotton wool balls etc.

A busy Vet has hardly time for all that crap and moreover he is keen to know other things rather than the lineage, source of acquiring and the cost of the pooch. But the owner’s discourse not only wastes his time, it delays the treatment as well. Many times the owner presumes his dog is terribly sick, but the Vet is kind of unmoved and prescribes a relief without even touching the dog. The baffled owner is at a loss whether to trust the Vet or not! In reality the Vet is able to observe what the owner has missed and makes a diagnosis and prescribes a treatment.

It is pertinent to learn what the Vet would like to know from you, when you present your dog to him. However, before understanding that, let us run down through a check list to confirm if your dog is really sick or not? 

If you notice that your dog has swollen and running eyes, sometimes with purulent discharge, dry and crusty tip of the nose, panting / breathing rapidly, listless, seeking dark corners, off food, motions either watery or black and extra hard, frequent urination, foul smelling mouth and ears, shaking the head again and again, pawing the ears and head you can be sure that everything is not normal with your dog. In all probability all these symptoms may not occur together. But some like a dog going off food, dry crusty nose and the dog seeking dark and quiet places are often combined and in all probability your dog is running temperature.

A healthy dog’s temperature is 101.40 to 102.40 F and breaths 15-20 times a minute with a pulse from 80-120 per minute. A healthy dog has pink gums, eyelids and tongue and is active, playful without any bad odor from mouth or ears.

You might be thinking it is easier said than done, ‘how to take the temperature of a dog?’ It is not difficult to take temperature of the dog, provided you have trained himfrom the beginning to obey your commands, particularly the command to Stay. Just make the dog Stand and Stay and insert a thermometer lubricated with a film of Vaseline in his anus. Mind you his sphincter muscles are powerful and he can easily reject the insertion. You have to be careful but firm in while inserting the thermometer. Push about one and half inch length inside and hold the portion nearest to his anus; else he will expertly push it out! Wait for one and half minute and take out the thermometer, wipe clean the soiled portion with cotton wool, take the reading and then wash it with water and finally rubit clean with denatured spirit before restoring it back to its box.

However, in case you have not developed any communication with your dog and have not been able to train him or to control him then do not take chances of learning how to take the temperature. A dog not disciplined enough can injure himself more than injuring the owner.

In case the temperature is high then do not hesitate to take the dog to the Vet. But if the dog is not eating food and has normal temperature then look for other symptoms. Such a dog may be having hyperacidity. Dog’s digestive juices are highly acidic and in case a dog is not fed the right type of food or has a gastric upset he develops hyperacidity frequently. Such a dog may be vomiting yellowish bile or froth especially in the morning after eating grass blades from the lawn. This is nature’s own way of taking care of minor ailments and your dog knows these cures instinctively. Instead of panicking and rushing to the Vet you may observe minutely and discuss the issue with the Vet on phone. If the Vet feels your dog needs his intervention he might ask you to come over. Generally hard-pressed for time Vets prescribe some medication in case the problem is a minor one. 

Once you have observed all the symptoms of sickness you have to decide to or not to rush to the Vet. In case you have puppy up to six month’s old or a geriatric dog (seven years or above) a delay in decision may cost his life. Therefore in such cases ignore all what I have said and rush to the Vet. For dogs of any age, if there are uncontrollable lose motions and there are bouts of vomiting, then also do not delay reaching the Vet. In such cases however you may start administering ORS or the life-saving rehydrating fluid orally, drop by drop. Rehydration is extremely important as a dehydrated dog may collapse faster than you can imagine.

In case your dog has high temperature, then also do not delay taking him to the Vet. Never try a self-medication as you may damage him beyond recovery, despite all your good intentions. If the dog is shivering too, then better wrap him in a blanket to make him feel better. Many times there is a gap of few hours before you reach the Vet. In such cases if the Vet prescribes a drug to lower the temperature you may administer it as told.

Majority of the owners do not teach their dogs from the puppyhood to accept medicines orally or the injectable. Problem comes during such emergencies. In case you have not been able to teach your dog to accept the pill, there is a way to control the dog without hurting him physically. Wrap the dog in a blanket or a thick cotton bed-sheet. Wrap him well, so that except his head the entire body is under the wraps. If you try to force the pill in his mouth without immobilizing him he will certainly hurt you with his claws. With a blanket around he cannot use his legs. Make him sit on a table all wrapped up. Now hold his muzzle with your strong hand (usually the right hand) and press the sides at the point where his upper and lower jaws are hinged with your forefinger and the thumb. This pressure compels the dog to open his mouth. Quickly insert the pill held between the fore and middle finger of your other hand as deep in his mouth as possible. This is important as a dog can raise his tongue to block your fingers and expel the tablet the moment you leave it there. Shut his mouth the instant the pill is in position and keep it shut till you can feel him swallowing the pill. All the time soothe him with sweet words and shower all the love through your eyes.

Normally for teaching a dog to accept the pill I recommend inserting a tiny piece of cheese or his favorite biscuit in lieu of the pill. Make this a routine and the day you require to administer the pill, you won’t have to wrap the dog in a blanket. But after the pill it is always better to reward him by inserting his favorite tidbit in his mouth. In case you have not trained the dog and you decide to give him the pill by wrapping him up, even then a reward after the ordeal will ensure that the dog accepts further pills without much trepidation.The same thumb rule applies for an injection as well. If the dog is in a condition to be rewarded orally a tiny piece of liver works wonders, the moment the syringe is taken out. Dog remembers this reward and looks for it the moment the Vet fills the syringe.

When you go to the Vet it is better to make a note of all that you have been able to observe - like change in his urination pattern or the number of motions he had since past 12 hours, change in his appetite, change in behavior like hiding behind the sofa, growling, baring his fangs when touched, coughing, vomiting etc. A dog that constantly shakes his head, scratches his ear and groans while doing so may indicate an infected ear. Don’t try to put ear drops you were prescribed for your son, instead take the dog to a Vet. Constant scratching may lead to a swelling of the ear lobe, a condition known as hematoma. Only a Vet can help the dog in that condition and a delay might lead to a surgery.

Poor animal does not have a spoken language like ours and he cannot express if he has a tummy ache. You have to know it from the symptoms. A dog avoiding food and trying to stand with a roach back may actually be contracting his stomach to reduce his pain. Don’t wait for the pain to subside, rush him to the Vet immediately.

Lastly no amount of reading about sicknesses can help you. Your own observations about the dog, his food habits, excretion pattern, and his behavior are some of the factors that have lots of tales to tell. Therefore, please do not waste time meticulously reading this blog, better start observing him for his healthy future. 

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More By  :  V. K. Joshi (Bijji)

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