Six things that many dog owners think are normal, but that actually indicate potential health proble

Six things that many dog owners think are normal, but that actually indicate potential health proble

Health & Safety

All responsible dog owners want to do the very best for their dogs, and to keep them safe, healthy and happy for the duration of your lives together. This means providing an appropriate diet and exercise, protecting your dog from harm, and seeing the vet when needed, among other things.

But when it comes to taking your dog along to the vet, if you don’t even realise that something is wrong, you won’t realise that they need to get checked out in the first place.

Even very experienced dog owners make the odd error in judgement from time to time, and dog ownership is a lifelong learning process that never really stops. Sometimes, even people who have owned dogs all of their lives will find out something they didn’t know before that can help to enhance their dog’s care and quality of life.

There are also a wide range of symptoms of potential health problems or care issues that a large number of dogs in the UK display – and which a large number of owners don’t even realise are actually an issue that can and should be corrected.

With this in mind, this article will outline six things that many dog owners think are normal traits for their dogs to display, but which can actually indicate a potential health problem that should be looked into. Read on to learn more.

Bad breath

One of the most common dog problems in dogs over the age of around four is bad breath, and this is something that a huge number of dog owners think is simply the normal way that a dog’s breath will smell once they’ve gotten to a certain age and their teeth aren’t in as good condition as they used to be.

Bad breath doesn’t occur for no reason, and as is the case for humans, bad breath in the dog is almost always a symptom of dental problems, such as loose, rotting or broken teeth, plaque and tartar, and gingivitis or inflamed gums. All of these things will cause your dog pain and discomfort and may affect their ability to eat normally, and should not simply be ignored or considered normal.

Book your dog in with your vet for a dental check-up and potentially, a dental procedure to thoroughly clean their teeth and correct any problems.


Some dogs will begin to snore very faintly when they get older, and certain breeds of dogs might snore when sleeping all of their lives – and so it might seem obvious that this is perfectly normal and not a problem, but that is not completely true.

Snoring can occur or develop for a range of reasons, often because of too much fat around the dog’s neck combined with a weak trachea or short soft palate, which can result in snoring and other audible noises when your dog breathes during their sleep.

Snoring is particularly common in brachycephalic dog breeds like the pug, due to the conformation of their head and face, and unless the snoring is laboured or acute and something can be done to correct the physical issue causing it, may well be something that you can just ignore.

However, whether your dog has always been a snorer or if this is a new development, you should let your vet know and ask them to check your dog out, to assess their conformation and identify if the issue causing the snoring is causing any other problems too.

Noisy breathing

Another issue that tends to be more common in brachycephalic dog breeds but that can affect all sorts of dogs is noisy, laboured or wheezy breath sounds when awake. All dogs will pant after exercise or if they’re too hot, but when your dog is at rest or has not been exercising hard, you should not be able to hear noises like snorting, grunting, rasping, whistling or wheezing – nor the sort of sounds that sound like snoring while the dog is awake.

A dog whose breathing is noisy or laboured most of the time might be suffering from BOAS or brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome, and this will cause not only the noise you hear but problems for the dog in getting enough oxygen, which is stressful and uncomfortable and also places additional pressure on your dog’s major organs.

Once more, ask your vet to assess your dog and make suggestions for ways to resolve or improve the issue.

Stiffness in the mornings

Few of us feel at our very best immediately after we first wake up, and dogs too usually take a few minutes to wake up fully and begin to move around.

Stiffness in the mornings after your dog has woken up can make them a bit slower to get going and may make getting up and those first few steps uncomfortable or even painful. Older dogs in particular are likely to be a little stiff in the morning, and this is something that commonly accompanies canine old age.

However, you should still talk to your vet to find out why this is – your dog my be suffering from arthritis, and when you have a diagnosis, you can work with your vet to find ways to make your dog more comfortable.

A “doggy” coat smell

A dog shouldn’t have a distinctive doggy-smell to their coat or leave your hand smelling a bit pongy if you pat them, and if this does happen, the dog is either sorely in need of a bath, or may have a skin, coat, or other issue causing the problem.

If your dog is dirty enough to smell bad, they won’t feel very good either and a dirty coat can be itchy and uncomfortable and generally unpleasant for both you and your dog to deal with.

If your dog’s skin and coat are clean and they still smell bad, ask your vet to check them over to find out if there’s an underlying health problem causing the issue.

Being overweight

A huge percentage of dogs in the UK – well over 50% by some estimates – are overweight to some extent, and many significantly so. The canine obesity epidemic in the UK has become so acute in fact that across many dog breeds, a lot of owners would have problems identifying a healthy-weight dog without thinking they were too lean, so common are overweight dogs in the UK as a whole.

Most of us can tell if we’re really objective if our dog is carrying too many extra pounds, but it is all too easy to think of this as just a minor or cosmetic issue that isn’t actually a problem.

However, even being a little bit overweight can have a significant impact on your dog’s overall health, particularly later in life, so ask your vet to assess your dog’s weight if you’re not sure if it is within normal parameters, and provide advice on how to slim them down.

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