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How Can I Tell If My Older Dog Is Sick?

You and your dog have been together for many years and have shared many good and bad times. When you were a child, you could tell your parents if something hurt or was not well with you. Even as a baby you could at least cry to indicate that something was wrong. However, our beloved pets cannot do either. Besides, a dog’s pain threshold seems to be considerably higher than that of humans, and they will not whimper or cry until the discomfort is quite severe. It is therefore necessary for you to know what is normal for your dog, any changes will be quickly detected. One good way to do this is to develop the following habits of observation.

1. On first greeting your dog in the morning, stop what you are doing, and watch him for about one full minute, allowing him to move about as he wishes.

2. During the morning and evening outdoor activity, observe him for at least ten seconds as he moves up or down stairs, on and off a curbing, porch, etc. Let him walk a short distance ahead of you and watch his body movements for ten seconds.

3. Once a day observe the first twenty seconds of eating a meal, a full twenty seconds during sleep, a complete urination, and a complete bowel movement.

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Many subtle variations from your dog’s normal patterns will be noticed by doing this, even though you are not looking for anything specific. In addition, unconsciously noticed changes will register on your brain and, during the giving of the medical history at your veterinarian’s clinic, they will come into your conscious memory. If gross abnormalities are seen, resist the urge to get upset and excited. Try to objectively watch those abnormalities, so you will be able to describe accurately what has occurred.

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This observation pattern should become a habit. Though it will take practice at first, it will eventually occupy only a total of four to six minutes spread out over your waking day. Most symptoms of illness are vague, general, or non-specific. A single symptom, by itself, is often meaningless, at best, and misleading at worst. There are so-called pathognomonic symptoms which supposedly, in and of themselves, indicate a specific illness or disease. While such symptoms do exist, they are few and far between.

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