Everything You Need to Know About a Sick Dog

Everything You Need to Know About a Sick Dog

These are the common signs of a sick dog, so you know what to look out for. If you note any of these signs, you will know that your dog is sick and needs prompt medical attention.

The WINPRO Pet team cares about the health, safety, and happiness of your dog, so we wanted to make sure that you know the symptoms of a sick dog and what you can do to help.

First, we’ll begin by explaining the average lifespan of a dog. Next, we’ll dive into common dog illness symptoms like vomit, diarrhea, and weight loss, so you can be better informed about your dog’s health. 

The Average Lifespan of a Dog

As much as we wish that there was a way to scan your dog and know exactly how long they’re going to live, that science just isn’t there… yet, anyway. 

The best that we can do is look at the average lifespan of the breeds of dogs that scientists have studied and make some basic assumptions. 

What we do know is that, overall, the average dog lifespan is around 10 - 13 years. For larger breed dogs, that number decreases by a few years (for instance, “giant” breed dogs live around eight years, maximum). Smaller dogs, on the other hand, can live longer than that average (potentially up to 16 years). 

Here are a few of the more common breeds with their accepted average lifespan:

  • Basset Hounds: 11 years
  • Bernese Mountain Dog: 8 years
  • Border Collie: 13 years
  • Cardigan Welsh Corgi: 13 years
  • Doberman: 10 years
  • German Shepherd: 10 years
  • Golden Retriever: 12 years
  • Great Dane: 7 years
  • Jack Russell: 13 years
  • Labrador Retriever: 12 years
  • Maltese: 12 years
  • Miniature Schnauzer:  12 years
  • Pomeranian: 10 years
  • Poodle: 12 years
  • Pug: 11 years
  • Saint Bernard: 8 years
  • Shih Tzu: 13 years
  • Toy Poodle: 12 years
  • Yorkshire Terrier: 13 years

Keep in mind, this list is just for purebred dogs. 

What About “Dog Years”?

Most people have heard of the concept of measuring a dog’s life not in human years but in “dog years.” The general misconception is that a single dog year is equal to seven human years. The AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association) has a slightly more complicated, science-based calculation. 

For the average medium-sized dog, their first year of life is equal to 15 of ours, from infancy through early teens. Their next year is another nine human years, taking them to their early 20s. After that, each dog year is about five human years. 

But do dog years really matter when it comes to a dog's lifespan? The answer is yes. Mostly, that guide can help you to understand when your dog may have advanced into the “senior” phase of their lives, which requires more care, understanding, and specific support. 

If humans are considered to be seniors around 65 or 70 years old, the typical small dog would hit that around 12 or 13, while a giant breed dog would only be eight or nine. 

Now, more than ever, there are plenty of products out there to help keep them comfortable even in their advanced age. Urinary incontinence, arthritis, or hip pain doesn’t have to be the end of the road for your dog.

If you’re wondering how to spot possible symptoms of ailments early, we’ve outlined a few of the most common issues below so you can get your dog the care it needs. 


It’s easy to take bodily functions for granted, like breathing or the heart beating. They just happen, right? While we may not have a lot of control over when vomiting happens to our dog, we do know why (or at least how) it happens.

The first thing to know is that not everything you might think is vomiting really “counts.” Dogs can also do something known as regurgitation, where they seem to just suddenly be standing there in front of the contents of their stomachs. This is a passive motion, which doesn’t come with all the heaving that accompanies vomiting. If you see large piles of undigested food, it’s probably the result of regurgitation.

Vomiting in dogs, on the other hand, is what you can hear. When you can hear the sounds of your dog throwing up, it’s actually the noise of their upper small intestines and stomach forcefully ejecting anything that may be in it. 

The Two Types Of Vomiting

Dogs can deal with two different types of vomiting, and knowing which one can be a major key to figuring out why it’s happening. 

  • Acute vomiting is not well named because there really is nothing cute about it! Acute vomiting is any time that your dog is throwing up for a short period of time (usually less than three to four days total). However, just because it hasn’t been happening long doesn’t mean it can’t be dangerous. 
  • Chronic vomiting, on the other hand, is long-term vomiting. Usually, this means that your dog has been throwing up at least once or twice a day over the course of more than just a few days. It is usually accompanied by belly pain, weakness, and weight loss and should always be taken seriously. Pay special attention to the times that your dog is vomiting to see if you can figure out a pattern.

When Your Dog Throwing Up Is Concerning

Any time that your dog throws up makes you worry, and that’s ok! It’s a part of being a loving pet owner. 

Knowing when you really do need to be worried can also help you decide between scheduling a regular vet appointment to discuss it or taking a trip to the emergency vet. It’s important to know that you should also always listen to your instincts too. 

It really comes down to the following signs of illness:

  • Is your dog acting sick? A dog that vomits but returns to its regular enthusiasm and activity level is far less worrying than a dog who vomits and then acts uninterested or sluggish. Look out for sick dog symptoms, including nasal discharge, sneezing, coughing, or changes in habits and behavior.
  • How often is your dog throwing up? If vomiting continues either multiple times or for multiple days, your dog has lost a lot of fluids, is at risk of dehydration, and should be evaluated.
  • How old is your dog? Puppies and seniors are especially at risk, especially if they are not fully vaccinated against parvo.
  • Does your dog have a temp? Dogs will normally run between 100 and 102 degrees Fahrenheit. If it’s much higher or much lower than that, an emergency visit is likely in your future. Your dog may have a virus or another illness.
  • Is your dog known for eating things? Blockages can cause your dog to throw up, so make sure to bring your dog in as soon as you notice it, especially if you know for sure your dog has gotten into something.
  • What does your dog’s vomit look like? If you notice any signs of digested blood, which would appear as dark, coffee grounds-like material, call your vet immediately. 

What Can You Do About Your Dog Throwing Up?

If your dog has been throwing up, what the heck can you do about it? The first step is always to contact your dog’s veterinarian to run it by them. They are your best resource when it comes to figuring out what’s going on, and they’ll be the ones to help treat it if it requires that level of care. 

There are many different ways that they can evaluate your dog, including blood tests, checking for parasites, x-rays, an ultrasound, and even surgery if there is an obstruction or other cause. From there, it really comes down to what is causing the vomiting. Typical options to treat vomiting in dogs include medications, injectables, and a bland diet (just like we do when our stomachs hurt!).

Make sure that you’re taking care of your dog’s gut health during the rest of the time they’re not vomiting, too. Preventative healthcare is important for humans and pets alike. Keeping their gut strong and healthy can also help them be able to fight off some of the potential triggers of vomiting. 

Vomiting may also be the result of food allergies, so feeding them a diet that is meant for their specific needs is essential to their overall health and wellness. It’s this holistic approach that is the most beneficial for dogs so that you’re not working to catch up when they start to not feel good.


If you’ve been a dog owner for long, you’ve probably already experienced another one of the dreaded illnesses that your dog can get… diarrhea. Whether you have a puppy, an adult dog, or a senior dog, diarrhea can strike at any time and really wreak havoc with both your pet and your household. 

The definition of diarrhea can get a little confusing, so here’s what technically “counts” as being diarrhea (versus just “loose stools”).

Essentially, loose stools happen once, and diarrhea happens repeatedly. Your dog may have a single episode of looser poop, but that doesn’t make it diarrhea. If he or she keeps going outside and does the same thing, their loose stools have made it officially into the diarrhea category. 

Diarrhea can be softer stools (an analogy often used is that they are similar to “soft serve”) or just pure liquid. While a lot of people think diarrhea is a disease or a health condition, it’s actually just a symptom of something else happening in the body. In a lot of cases, diarrhea is one way that the body attempts to get whatever is bothering it out, just like how we experience the symptoms of food poisoning. 

Types Of Dog Diarrhea

As gross as it seems, in order to figure out where your dog’s diarrhea is coming from, you first need to know more about how to recognize what “type” it is. And yes, there are different types of dog diarrhea. Mostly it comes down to where in the body it is occurring: 

  • Small bowel diarrhea usually shows up as darker in color but not generally more frequent than your pup’s normal poop schedule. However, with small bowel diarrhea, there is usually a lot more of it.
  • Large bowel diarrhea happens frequently. If your dog is desperately scratching at the door to go outside every 10 minutes, that’s a good sign he or she is dealing with a large bowel issue. This type of diarrhea also tends to be painful and can have mucus or bright red blood in it. 

Regardless of where it comes from, it happens because of the speed that the fecal material (AKA poop) is moving through your pup’s GI system. Because it’s moving so fast, it means that fewer nutrients, water, and electrolytes can be absorbed, which is why so many pups also deal with dehydration as a result. It can also get uncomfortable for your pup’s booty, and they may even experience belly cramping and more gas than normal. These are all things to make a note of so that you can tell your vet.

How Is Dog Diarrhea Treated?

The treatment that diarrhea needs is related to what’s causing it and how bad it is. Some pets can do just fine with home treatment, including a bland diet or supplements like Gut Health, while others may need medication and even overnight hospitalization to get them rehydrated. 

The first step is taking a trip to your vet to have them figure out what’s causing it. Because diarrhea is a symptom and not the disease itself, treating it means figuring out what the bigger problem is. Food allergies, eating inappropriate food (or non-food items), parasites, and even stress can be diarrhea triggers, and each is treated in a different way. When heading to the vet to evaluate your dog’s situation, make sure to grab a stool sample (if possible) so that they can check for any signs of infection or parasites. 

If your vet recommends a bland diet for your pet’s diarrhea, there are plenty of ways that you can make it at home with things you probably already have in your cabinets. The goal is to use “binders,” which help bulk up the stool, along with nutritionally dense foods that aren’t known to cause stomach upset. 

Cottage cheese, canned pumpkin, plain yogurt, low fat boiled hamburger, and boneless, skinless chicken breast, along with white rice, are all great choices. You may also be advised to “fast” your dog for a period of time, which helps to reset their belly. This is usually recommended in dogs that aren’t considered high risk for dehydration. 

For another all-natural approach to treating diarrhea or loose stools for your dog, WINPRO’s Gut Health product is designed to use nature’s blood proteins to powerfully combat inflammation in the gut and restore normal function. 

When You Should Call Your Veterinarian

Dog diarrhea is an unfortunate but common issue, from puppyhood all the way through their senior years. However, like vomiting, it can also be a sign of more serious trouble.

If your dog has diarrhea in addition to any of these other symptoms, call your vet as soon as possible to have your dog evaluated.

  • Lethargy (being excessively tired)
  • Stiffness
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Seizures
  • Bloody diarrhea
  • Dark, tarry stool
  • A painful belly

Also, if you believe your dog has eaten a toxin or a foreign body like a sock or a chicken bone (even if they’ve done that before), call your vet immediately. In situations like these, time is of the essence. You should also have your dog checked out if the diarrhea is occurring frequently, even without any of the above symptoms. Be safe rather than sorry, especially when it comes to your furry family member!

It’s also important to note that dehydration can be just as big of a problem as the reason for your dog’s diarrhea, so you should always take this issue very seriously. 

Signs of illnesses such as weakness, fever, vomiting, abdominal pain, or loss of appetite, or if dehydration accompanies diarrhea can all be symptoms of something more severe, like liver disease, kidney disease, or liver failure.

Other Gastrointestinal Symptoms

Your dog may be experiencing GI issues outside of vomiting and diarrhea, or it might have these symptoms alongside other issues like bloody stools or changes in its coat. In this case, your puppy may be experiencing the effects of inflammatory bowel disease. 

Inflammatory Bowel Disease In Dogs 101

Although the way that IBD impacts dogs and humans has plenty of similarities, there’s no arguing that we definitely have two very different body types. That means that inflammatory bowel disease in dogs is naturally different from the same disease that we experience, so you can’t rely on personal knowledge to help understand what your pet is going through. 

When it comes to IBD in dogs, the keyword is inflammatory. What IBD does is inflame the lining of the digestive tract (the bowel). It’s this chronic inflammation that wreaks all the havoc in the body and causes all of the problems. 

With a digestive tract lining that is damaged also comes the side effect of not being able to properly digest and absorb the nutrients from food. It goes further downhill from there, as that lack of absorption can create nutritional deficiencies that can impact the rest of the body as well. 

But what causes IBD in the first place? Unfortunately, that is still something that is being researched by professionals. 

There are some that think that inflammatory bowel disease in dogs isn’t something that happens all on its own and that it’s actually a response that the body has to a variety of other underlying conditions, including:

  • Food allergies (often to the protein in their food)
  • A weakened immune system
  • A parasitic infection (Giardia being one of them)
  • Genetic markers
  • Certain bacteria (including Salmonella and e. Coli)

Regardless of the reason, the result is that inflammatory cells invade the lining of the digestive tract. The result is somewhat similar to the way that the body handles an allergic reaction. That’s why so many of the common symptoms will look familiar. 

Inflammatory Bowel Disease Symptoms

When it comes to the symptoms of IBD, much of what you see directly relates to where in the digestive tract the inflammation happens and how severe it is.

For example, if your pup’s stomach is affected, they may experience chronic vomiting issues. This may be triggered or worsened by certain treats or foods. If you’ve noticed issues with the other end, like frequent diarrhea, it’s more likely that their intestines are taking the brunt of it. 

Diarrhea with blood or mucus can point even more specifically to trouble with the small intestines. There are plenty of unlucky dogs who deal with IBD that experience both vomiting and diarrhea, as well.

Another thing to keep an eye out for is weight-related issues. Because of the difficulty IBD causes with being able to absorb nutrients, many dogs who suffer from it have a tendency to continue losing weight. You probably wouldn’t want to eat either if your stomach was constantly hurting! 

Along with that comes obvious changes to your dog’s coat, due to the nutritional deficiencies that also come along with the disease. However, in some cases, dogs may seem to still be eating well (even voraciously, in some cases!) in an attempt to try to help their body to get what it needs. 

Treatment Options For Inflammatory Bowel Disease In Dogs

It’s important to note that there is no cure for inflammatory bowel disease in dogs, there is only managing the symptoms. A lot of this involves trial and error, like finding the foods that won’t inflame their system more and giving them the right medications (like antibiotics and steroids) that can keep their system healthy and comfortable. 

Even when you find the right combination, don’t expect it to make a difference overnight. It can take a few weeks of consistent treatment for your dog to start to feel better, but it doesn’t end there either. You have to be consistent with whatever routine you settle into, likely for your dog’s lifetime, because even a little slip can lead to a big flare-up. But your dog is worth it, right? We think so! And we’re confident that, if they could, they would totally do the same for you (plus, isn’t that an adorable thought?).

Weight Loss

Have you noticed your dog losing weight? It’s normal for dogs, just like humans, to fluctuate a few pounds here and there. 

But if you’ve noticed that weight loss is a consistent thing and not something that you’re trying to encourage, it’s important to take it seriously. In some cases, unplanned weight loss can indicate a larger health issue. 

When Should I Be Concerned About My Dog Losing Weight?

If you’ve noticed that your dog has lost weight, it’s enough that you should schedule a visit to your veterinarian. Weight loss is considered to be abnormal when it exceeds 10% of your pet’s body weight. 

For example, if you have a lab that normally weighs 60 pounds, it would be abnormal for them if they suddenly lost 6 pounds. Weight loss for a 6-pound chihuahua would be abnormal if it hit just over half a pound. 

Possible Reasons For Your Dog Losing Weight

If you’ve noticed your dog losing weight, you may be wondering what could be causing it. Here are just a few of the possibilities which warrant a trip to your veterinarian:

  • Parasites are not as common as they used to be, but they can still potentially be a cause of weight loss in your dog. 
  • Kidney problems can lead to a slow loss of weight, which is often a lot less noticeable than your dog losing weight quickly. If your dog has developed changes in the amount and frequency that they’re urinating, especially partnered with weight loss, loss of appetite, and vomiting, it’s an indication that a vet visit is needed as soon as possible.
  • Heart disease can actually show up as weight gain (due to fluid buildup), but a loss of appetite associated with weight loss can show that it has started to advance. If your dog is eating their normal amount of food and still losing weight, check with your vet. 
  • Cancer can cause unexplained and sudden weight loss. Dogs of all ages can develop cancer, but it is most often found in older dogs or purebred dogs with a known genetic susceptibility. 
  • Metabolic issues from diabetes to thyroid conditions and Addison’s Disease consider weight loss a symptom, but each needs specific testing to diagnose. 
  • Dental Diseases appear in dogs, just like people. However, unlike humans, dogs don’t regularly brush or see a dentist. That can lead to dental disease, which can make their mouths hurt enough that they experience a loss of appetite (especially with harder kibbles). 

How You Can Keep Your Dog In Shape

Just like with people, getting and staying in shape can be a difficult balance. 

The best way to keep your dog in shape is to focus on its nutrition. You’ll not only want to make sure that they’re eating the right amount of food, but you’ll also want to make sure that their food is made for their particular lifestyle and size. 

It’s normal for dogs to slow down as they age. Just like humans, dogs can develop arthritis and just naturally lose their pep and energy, preferring to spend more time sleeping than running around. However, if that is partnered with weight loss, you may need to change up their diet to support them better. 

How Can I Help Extend My Dog’s Lifespan and Reduce Their Risk of Illness?

Now, to the question you’re really here for! There really is no time that is long enough to get to enjoy our precious pets, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t work hard to keep them with us for as long as possible. 

Besides spaying and neutering a pup at a relatively young age which can positively affect a dog’s lifespan, there are other steps you can take to increase the likelihood your pet will live a long and quality-filled life. 

The number one factor that you have control of as a pet owner is your dog’s nutrition. A great place to start is with a trip to your veterinarian. Different breeds of dogs, different sizes of dogs, different activities and ages… all of these scenarios require a different, customized diet. 

The right diet can also help to keep your dog at a healthy weight, which is important because obesity in dogs can lead to a whole host of other health conditions that can shorten their life. Supplements that help support your dog can and should be considered, too.

Exercise is also important… as long as you’re doing it in appropriate amounts. You don’t want to push your dog too hard, but some exercise is necessary every day to keep your dog both mentally and physically healthy. 

As they get older, focus on helping them stay pain-free by changing up the types of exercise you do. You may even consider things like hydrotherapy or swimming in general, which allows them to get exercise without having to put as much pressure on their aging bones and joints.

In Summary

When you’re dealing with common symptoms like vomit, diarrhea, hair loss, or weight loss, it can be hard to decide whether it was just a fluke or if it’s the result of a bigger, more concerning issue like heartworm disease, bladder stones, or kennel cough.

Recognizing the signs that you should contact your veterinarian can help you get an early jump on treatment and increase the likelihood of a better prognosis! Anything new that’s going on with your dog, from lumps and bumps to bathroom habit changes, should be taken seriously. 

From all of us here at WINPRO Pet to all of you (and your pets), we wish you years of happiness and good health! 



Vomiting in Dogs - Dog Owners | Merck

Dog Vomiting: When Should You Go to the Vet? | American Kennel Club

Warning Signs of Dehydration in Dogs | American Kennel Club

Colitis in Small Animals - Digestive System | Merck

Diarrhea in Dogs | VCA Animal Hospital

Dog Diarrhea: Treatment, Causes & Remedies | American Kennel Club

Abnormal Weight Loss in Dogs | VCA Animal Hospital

Dog and Cat Foods - Management and Nutrition | Merck