“Common” does not equal “normal” and many conditions accepted as almost a given by owners can be signs your dog is sick.. or is on the path to being sick if you don’t make a change.
Take itchy skin or symptoms that get called “allergies”.
Just because many dogs suffer from these problems does not mean it’s an inevitable part of being a dog.
The best example of all is obesity.
This post is for general informational and educational purposes only. I encourage readers to see my full disclaimer here.
A majority of dogs in countries like the United States, the UK and Australia are overweight. Is it normal for a dog to be fat? Of course not. It’s a problem they’ve developed in association with us. Humans. Their owners who would do anything for them, right?
Yet we fail them on an epic scale by accepting these niggles, resorting to drugs like benadryl as a quick fix, and carrying on. And don’t worry, I’m pointing the finger at myself here too.
But here’s what I’ve learned.
What itchy skin, or so-called allergies — or any other abnormalities — mean is that you should pay attention. Something in your dog’s body is getting out of whack.
These minor symptoms are like a warning light in your car.
If you don’t address the cause, and drive blithely on with the red light blinking, the car will eventually break down. It could be as simple as filling up the oil or putting some air in the tires. But ignore it and you’ll soon have a much bigger problem on your hands.
It’s the same with your dog’s body. If you don’t remove the cause of early symptoms, more serious disease will result.
Common Dog Symptoms Every Owner Should Take Seriously
Here are some common dog health problems that our pets will not have if they’re 100% healthy:
- bad breath
- tear stains
- itchy paws
- hair loss
- “food sensitivities”
- brown or yellow teeth
- gunky ears
- goopy eyes
- red eyes
- cracked nose
- hair loss
- hot spots
- dog “acne” or red spots on chin
- red-brown discolored nails
- anal gland problems
- body odor
- excessive scratching
These are all signs your dog is sick or sickening. It’s time to take action.
The Usual Trajectory
The first port of call for the average dog owner whenever they notice a problem is …the vet.
The vet, more often than not, dispenses medication — typically antibiotics or steroids or Apoquel or Cytopoint shots.
These drugs appear to work like magic.
The dog seems immediately more comfortable. The owner is happy and goes on to swear by the treatment and recommend it to other dog owners as a miracle cure. The vet gets a repeat client who’ll be back for more drugs next time the symptoms present. It’s the medical model in action.
Everyone feels better. For the moment.
Certainly, the medication has successfully suppressed the symptoms. But has the root cause of those symptoms been removed?
Or have you just stuck a big ol’ strip of masking tape over that warning light in the dash, so you can’t see it’s still flashing like crazy underneath?
Want To Avoid Common Diseases Of Dogs? Look At Your Pup’s Diet
The first question that should leap out when there are signs your dog is sick is: What am I feeding my dog?
It’s a conversation many owners don’t want to have.
It’s easier to pop a pill. In this on-demand society we expect health to come in a packet of vitamins or a bottle of drugs, a shot in the arm. We’ve transposed the same expectations onto our dog’s healthcare.
The body, human or canine, doesn’t work like that. Everything is connected.
Your dog’s itchy paws don’t happen for no reason. His bad breath doesn’t come from nowhere. Nothing occurs in isolation.
It’s stating the obvious to say, but you have to treat the body as a whole, as the integrated system it is. Yet our approaches to health suggest we believe otherwise.
“It’s A Prescription Diet The Vet Put Him On. I Can’t Change It.”
So, the very first question to ask yourself if your dog is anything less than thriving is: What am I feeding? It’s worth asking this question even if your dog is currently well, because dietary mistakes take time to show up as symptoms. Young dogs can get away with a lot, but in middle age, things catch up.
Owners dismiss food as a potential cause of their pets problems by saying “The food hasn’t changed recently” or “It’s a prescription diet the vet put him on. I can’t change it.”
If the food has been fed for a long time that might actually make it more likely to be the cause of your dog’s problems.
Toxins, whether from the environment, diet, chemical wormers or flea and tick poisons, accumulate in your dog’s body over time. Just like the heavy metal mercury and other pollutants accumulate in the tissues of fish in the ocean, and travel all the way up the food chain. So, for a while perhaps the food seems to cause no problems. But eventually, if it’s less than optimal, there will be consequences.
As for “prescription” diets? These might be formulated to be low in this or high in that. But they are still highly processed pet foods that come with all the problems of other kibble and canned products. They are a far cry from a dog’s natural, evolutionary diet.
Be Prepared To Think Independent Thoughts
Vets are educated to diagnose and treat disease. Comparatively little of their education deals with dog nutrition and how to avoid the conditions that create the need for their services.
To take one example, many vet clinics will gladly put your dog under general anaesthetic on a regular basis because his teeth are in such bad shape they need cleaning. All the while they accept or downplay bad breath as “dog’s breath”. They fail to suggest (or actively advise against) raw meaty bone-based diets, a dog’s natural food which has been proven to dramatically reduce dental calculus — not to mention the many nutritional benefits.
What you put into your dog’s body on a daily basis is one of the most powerful influences on his health and wellbeing. If you’re feeding kibble or canned dog food, there is a lot of room for improvement. Currently, your dog is ingesting a host of fillers, additives, preservatives and other extraneous ingredients.
It only makes sense to optimize the diet before you give up and resort to drugs. There is every reason to avoid unnecessary medical intervention. Though commonly prescribed and one of the main tools of the veterinary trade, medication inevitably comes with side effects.
Side effects may be more or less obvious. But many can be serious and long-lasting and even lead to secondary diseases that are worse than the original condition being treated. Think of the horrid skin condition calcinosis cutis caused by prednisone and leaky gut syndrome caused by antibiotics.
What If It’s Not The Food?
If you’re already feeding a fresh, raw, species-appropriate diet and your dog is still showing symptoms, examine the other aspects of his life and environment.
Is his backyard sprayed with herbicide or other lawn care chemicals? Is he ingesting chemicals in the form of worming tablets or internal flea and tick preventives? Are you using chemical-laden household cleaners in the home?
In Conclusion: Don’t Ignore Signs Your Dog Is Sick
The signs of acute disease are obvious. Fever. Vomiting. Collapse. Seizures.
But many low-grade, chronic conditions can precede serious disease. They ought serve as a warning that something needs to change in your dog’s care.
Medicating might suppress those particular symptoms, but it’s vitally important to identify the actual cause and fix it. More often than not, there are ways to better the diet. This is how to avoid more devastating, irreversible problems down the track.