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What is Always Sick?

It is concerning when your typically active dog seems to have suddenly become lethargic, appearing drowsy and uninterested in activity or much else. You may notice that her responses are delayed and her activity is minimal. If you feel that your pet seems to be exhibiting a change in behavior that you would describe as always appearing sick, consult your veterinarian. A check-up may indicate an underlying illness that is contributing to her feeling unwell.

When your dog appears to be always sick, her behavior may be a sign that she is experiencing an underlying systemic disorder or health problem to include: 

  • Anemia or other blood disorder
  • Cardiovascular or pulmonary condition
  • Electrolyte abnormalities
  • Endocrine or metabolic disorders
  • Gastrointestinal diseases
  • Musculoskeletal diseases

A particular medication may also lead to your dog appearing to not feel well. Should your dog act as if she may not be feeling well for more than one day, you will want to seek help from your veterinarian to determine what is causing her to feel poorly.

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Why Always Sick Occurs in Dogs

Your dog may be appearing sick due to:

Anemia or Another Blood Disorder

In hemolytic anemia, for example, your dog’s immune system will consider her own red blood cells a threat and will fight and destroy them. This may be a primary condition or be due to an underlying issue. The reduced number of red blood cells leads to an oxygen shortage which is responsible for numerous symptoms, resulting in your dog appearing ill.

Cardiovascular or Pulmonary Condition

Should your dog be experiencing a cardiovascular or pulmonary condition, she will likely not be able to handle exercise, will appear weak and struggle to breathe, among other symptoms. When a dog has a cardiovascular or pulmonary condition it is likely that they will appear to be sick, prompting you to investigate with the help of your veterinarian.

Electrolyte Abnormalities

A variety of electrolytes work together, including phosphate. If your dog’s phosphate levels are low, it can result in a significant electrolyte disturbance. It is important that electrolytes be balanced as they assist in nerve and muscle function, oxygen transportation and converting food to energy. An imbalance of electrolytes is most often the result of diseases that impact the kidneys and parathyroid glands, leading to an unusually high level of phosphate excretion.

Endocrine or Metabolic Disorder

These disorders include Cushing’s disease, which is the result of increased corticosteroids in your dog’s body and Addison’s disease, which is due to a decrease in corticosteroid being secreted from your dog’s adrenal gland. 

Other conditions that can lead to your dog appearing sick include hypothyroidism, diabetes and adrenal tumors.

Gastrointestinal Diseases

Gastrointestinal diseases like gastroenteritis, inflammatory bowel disease, stomach ulcers and tumors, parasite infections and intestinal blockage can lead to symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, bloody stools, constipation, loss of appetite, pain and discomfort. When struggling with a gastrointestinal disease, your dog will appear sick and uncomfortable.

Musculoskeletal Diseases

A disease of the musculoskeletal system will impact the ability of your dog to move, the severity of which will depend on the particular condition and how severe it is. Diseases of the musculoskeletal system include skeletal and joint disorders, as well as diseases of the muscles and neurologic problems.

Other causes of your dog always being ill include:

  • Chronic inflammation or infection 
  • Urinary tract disorders
  • Cancer
  • Immune diseases
  • Severe skin disease
  • Infectious diseases
  • Neurologic and neuromuscular disorders
  • Nutritional or behavior disorders
  • Infectious diseases
  • Exposure to toxins
  • Physical trauma
  • Eye diseases

What to do if your Dog is Always Sick

While your dog appearing sick may be nothing significant, it can be the result of a myriad of health conditions, some of which are serious. Therefore, it is important that if your dog appears to be sick for longer than one day, that you take her to the veterinarian to be examined. Upon your arrival, your veterinarian will ask you for information about what symptoms you have noticed in your dog and when you first noticed them, as well as any change you have noticed in her behavior. Your veterinarian will conduct a full physical examination of your dog and based on what is seen during the exam along with the symptoms you report, will consider additional testing to determine what is causing your dog to appear ill. Blood work and a urinalysis are typical initial tests that will help your veterinarian decide what other tests will be helpful.

Prevention of Always Sick

To ensure the overall health of your dog, you will want to provide her with a diet that meets all of her nutritional needs. This will help maintain the function of her immune system so that her body is best able to fight potential causes of infection. Regular exercise is also key in ensuring the overall health of your dog. Annual check-ups with your veterinarian are recommended so that any potential health issues can be found and treated before the condition worsens.

Cost of Always Sick

The cost to treat your dog and relieve her of always being sick will vary based upon the condition that is resulting in this symptom. The treatment cost can be minimal should your dog appear sick as a result of something she ate or a minor physical trauma. Other conditions can be expensive to treat; for example, the average cost of treatment for anemia is $3,000 and will vary based on the degree, duration and cause of the condition, as well as the location where your dog is receiving treatment. The average cost of treatment for Cushing’s disease is $2,000 and will vary by location as well.