Dogs are wonderful creatures and whether you have adopted a puppy who bounds around full of energy or you have an old dog who prefers to spend more time under his blanket, they are good communicators. They can give you a single glance and you know that they want you to ruffle their ears. Or sometimes they are even more direct than that. How many times has your dog brought you his lead as a clear instruction: you will take me for a walk now?

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But sometimes, your dog isn’t just trying to get a tasty snack or persuade you to put some boots on and head out in the rain for a long walk up a muddy track. Sometimes, they are trying to tell you something much more important and you might not have recognised the signs.

There are three common symptoms that dogs display when something is wrong and while all of these symptoms can have multiple causes, if you act fast, you will be able to help treat your dog and return him to his normal self as soon as possible.

Here’s what you need to know:

Scratching = I Have Fleas!
When dogs get fleas, they feel itchy because the fleas live in their fur, lay eggs and bite. Just as we might scratch a mosquito bite, dogs are compelled to scratch flea bites. Cats and dogs share the same breed of flea, so if you see your cat scratching too, you definitely need to find a treatment soon for each pet and probably your house as well. Fleas are quite happy to bite you too.

One treatment brand, Advecta, is ideal because they don’t just make spot on treatments and shampoos for dogs, they also make sprays for indoors and in the yard to get rid of any fleas waiting to pounce. If your dog has a pale coat, you will usually be able to see flea dirt in his fur or even the brown fleas themselves. It takes a while to completely get rid of fleas, but you will be able to monitor the situation by gently combing his coat as you would comb a child’s hair for head lice.

Though every dog gets fleas once in awhile, you can also use topical preventative treatments to reduce the amount they occur. One of the best things you can do – and your dog or cat will love – is regular brushing with a flea comb. This will help to remove the odd flea and make sure it doesn’t have an opportunity to start breeding. You should also keep your home clean and vacuum regularly to suck up any fleas or eggs that may be left in the carpet. This is especially important when you know that you pets have fleas or have had them recently.

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Sickness and Diarrhea = I’m Not Very Well
Cats throw up all the time to help get rid of any furballs collecting in their stomachs, but this behaviour is not so normal for dogs. When your dog is sick, you might not need to go to the vet, but you must keep any eye on him to make sure that his symptoms don’t get worse. If you know that your dog has eaten chocolate, go to the vet immediately to seek help. They will be able to make sure that all the chocolate is safely removed from his stomach (they make him more sick!) and they can also provide pills to help slow his pounding heart to a safer level.

Most of the time, though, your dog will just be a bit under the weather so let him sleep it off in his bed, letting him cover himself with a blanket if he likes. Your dog is probably best placed to know what he needs to do when he is sick, so if he doesn’t want to go for a walk, don’t make him. Just give him some time to recover quietly on his own in bed – just what you would want! Keep an eye on him and if you notice any signs that he is getting worse, or the symptoms last for longer than a day, take him to the vet for a check-up to be on the safe side.

When they are sick, dogs have a tendency to drink too much at once and this can make them sick all over again. The best thing to do is provide water little and often so that they don’t drink too much. If you are concerned about your tap water, the best idea is to boil it and then allow it to cool completely before presenting it to your dog to ensure that there is absolutely no bacteria in there.

Tiredness and Coughing = I Might Have Heartworm
There are lots of reasons for both of these symptoms, but you should always have them checked by a vet to make sure that they are not being caused by heartworm. This is a parasitic worm that lives in your dog’s heart and lungs and should be treated as soon as possible.

The good news is that you can help to prevent any instances of heartworm using a simple spot-on treatment, pill or injection. These treatments must be administered regularly, though, as they are ineffective on adult heartworms. Your vet should also carry out annual tests, just to be sure.

Your dog is really very good at telling you things and now you have a better idea of what he means, you can both be much happier together! The main thing to remember is that if you have any doubts about your dog’s health or behaviours, you should take him to see the vet, if only to settle your own worries.

Most dogs will get a bit poorly from time to time, just as we do, and it is usually nothing to worry about. Make sure you take all the usual precautions with preventative treatments for fleas and heartworm as well as the usual vaccinations. All being well, your dog will live a long and healthy life with you.

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