Symptoms of a Sick Dog

Dog experts from 1930 discuss some of the telling signs of illness in a dog.

By Dog World Eds | Posted: Dec 18, 2012, 8 a.m. EST

From the Archives of Dog World: Enjoy this all-access pass to dog history from the pages of the longest published dog magazine. This content remains in its original form and reflects the language and views of its time. Health and behavior information evolves and only the most current advice should be followed.

To detect the symptoms of sickness in a dog, compare his present condition against a normal healthy condition. A listless dog, one that does not come quickly, that is little attentive to sudden noises, that moves slowly and not easily, is not in healthful condition.

A dog with a moist nose indicates a healthy dog because the tissues of the nose are soft. A dog with a wet or flowing nose indicates lung or respiratory trouble—a cold, a coming fever, a touch of pneumonia. A dry nose does not in itself indicate a sick dog for a sudden fever of a few moments’ time may dry the nose; if continued however, a sick condition is indicated.

The average normal temperature of the dog is 101 degrees. There is variance with age and even with dog breeds. But a rise to above 102 degrees would indicate a fever. The temperature is taken by a clinical thermometer inserted into the rectum for about two minutes.

A dog with a glassy eye, a staring eye, an eye with enlarged pupil would indicate a sick condition. The gums should be a fresh pink, as a pale pink indicates a bad heart, bad diet, or parasitic worms. A deep red would indicate a fever.

The pulse of the dog is best counted inside the thigh, and the average is approximately 80 beats per minute. A dog with dry skin and hair that is dull through lack of natural oil, would indicate a bad digestive condition.

A discolored ring around the dog’s eye at the white margin, if pronounced, would indicate an abnormal condition, particularly of the blood and the digestive tract. Colored teeth indicate an acid stomach, especially if the dog’s breath is foul smelling. To detect the symptoms of sickness in a dog, compare his present condition against a normal healthy condition. A listless dog, one that does not come quickly, that is little attentive to sudden noises, that moves slowly and not easily, is not in healthful condition.

Excerpted from Dog World magazine, February 1930, Vol. 14, No. 12. For back issues of Dog World, click here.


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