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How To Tell If Your Great Dane Is Sick: A Comprehensive Guide

If your Great Dane is acting a little different than normal, then there’s a chance that they may be sick!  In many cases, there are many different subtle (and sometimes not subtle) signs that would indicate that your Great Dane is sick.  

Take a look at this list of 19 signs that may indicate that your Great Dane is ill and potentially needs to see a veterinarian for further attention.

Common signs that would indicate that your Great Dane is sick include:

  1. Not eating
  2. Vomiting
  3. Diarrhea or Abnormal Stool
  4. Lethargic
  5. Hyperactive
  6. Panting
  7. Licking the Air
  8. Drooling
  9. Shivering or shaking
  10. Excessively Drinking water
  11. Urinating More Frequently
  12. Abdominal swelling
  13. Weight loss
  14. Hair loss
  15. Color of Gums
  16. Coughing, Sneezing or Labored breathing
  17. Runny Nose
  18. Wheezing
  19. Sleeping A Lot

If your Great Dane is showing any of these signs, it would be best to take them to your vet.  They can figure out what is causing them and start your Great Dane on the correct treatment so they can return to their normal happy and healthy life. 

With that, let’s jump into each sign to learn more about what to look for!

Sign #1 – Not eating

Most Great Danes have absolutely no problem cleaning their food bowl of every delicious piece. So, when you walk by your Great Dane’s bowl is still full, there may be a problem.

Not having an appetite may not be the end of the world, but it is a sure sign that your Great Dane may not be feeling well. 

Great Danes love to get into things they should not.  These fun little trips into the garbage can are a perfect example of why your Great Dane may have a stomachache ache today.

Often a stomachache from eating all that left-over spaghetti can cause them to not want to eat for a day or two, but if your Great Dane’s appetite does not come back very quickly, then it may be time to take your Great Dane to your vet.

If your Great Dane is not eating like they normally do, this would be the first sign to alert you that there is something wrong.  When your Great Dane first starts to get sick, they will not eat all of their food or will stop eating altogether. 

If your Great Dane is not eating regularly, make an appointment to see your veterinarian.

Another issue from exploring in the trash can or finding that dead squirrel in the backyard is something getting stuck. We have all seen that Great Dane, who sees you coming to get what they are playing with. 

They will then quickly try to gobble down whatever disgusting treasure they found before you can take it away. This could have been almost anything that they found that was tasty. 

If this was something like a left-over bone, it could get lodged in your Great Danes intestines, causing a life-threatening situation that will now need emergency surgery.

Sign #2 – Vomiting

Some Great Danes will occasionally vomit, especially if they ate something they should not eat or got a few bites of your food from the table. 

If your Great Dane is vomiting every time they eat and cannot keep any food or water down, this is a true emergency.  They need to see your veterinarian right away!

Usually may notice that your Great Dane does not have an appetite, but as things progress, you may notice your Great Dane will start to vomit occasionally.

This is when you should start to worry about the possibility of a foreign body, an object that does not belong where it is.

If your Great Dane has an intestinal blockage, it usually does not take long for the vomiting to get worse.

You may think it’s just vomiting, we all do it when we are sick, but deep-chested dog breeds such as German Shephard, Boxers, and Great Danes can vomit so hard that they can flip their stomach and cause gastric dilation and volvulus GDV, also known as bloat

Without immediate surgery, this will cause your Great Dane to have a very slow and painful death.

Sign #3 – Diarrhea or Abnormal Stool

Diarrhea can be caused by something as simple as your Great Dane being stressed from being in a new situation or parasites to gastroenteritis.  If your Great Dane is young and having bloody diarrhea, most vets will worry about parvo.  

Some diseases that cause your dog to have diarrhea are very serious, while some are due to your Great Dane eating something that does not agree with their stomach. 

If your Great Danes have diarrhea, taking them to a veterinarian is best.  This is usually not a very fun mess for you to have to clean up every day.  

Most vets will start your Great Dane on GI antibiotics, probiotics, and medication to help stop the large amounts of diarrhea. 

At home, you can feed a bland diet of boiled chicken, rice, and scrambled eggs.  This is very easy for your Great Dane to digest and can sometimes correct their diarrhea. 

Sign #4 – Very Lethargic

An early sign that something is very wrong in your Great Dane is a change in their behavior.  Your Great Dane may be lazier and lying around sleeping more.

Your Great Dane may also seem disorientated or having trouble walking around normally. These early signs indicate that your dog needs to go to see your vet right away.

Most Great Danes are usually playful. If they just want to lay in their bed and sleep, this is a definite sign that they are not feeling well. If you notice your Great Dane is lethargic, it is a good idea to see if they still have an appetite. 

Many times if you offer your Great Dane some water and a snack, it may be just what they need to start to feel better again.

Sign #5 – Hyperactivity

Hyperactivity is just the opposite of being lethargic. If your Great Dane is running around very nervous acting, and for some reason, they just cannot seem to sit still. 

This may be their way of telling you that they are not feeling right. This could be anything from a stomachache to having a fever.  You will notice that they just cannot seem to get very comfortable. 

You may even notice that they are panting a lot too. 

These bouts of hyperactivity times are different from those playing.  You will notice they seem painful and uncomfortable. 

This would be a reason that you would need to monitor your Great Dane for any other problems and take them to your vet.   

Sign #6 – Panting

Great Danes pant for many reasons, and not feeling well is one of them. When your dog is panting more, it could be a sign that they are sick or in a lot of pain. When they get a stomachache, they pant a lot because they are in a lot of pain. 

 Another reason for excessive panting that is seen in a Great Dane is that they may have been outside too long and may have become overheated. Dogs do not sweat the same way that people do, so panting is a way to cool themselves.

A Great Dane that has been left outside for too long may develop heatstroke.  Your Great Dane would need to see a vet for IV fluids and monitoring for other heatstroke problems. 

Sign #7 – Licking the air

Have you ever noticed your Great Dane licking the air for no reason?

When a dog looks like it is licking the air, it can be a sign that they are feeling nauseated.

This can also be a sign of dental problems or that they have something stuck in their mouth. 

Dogs cannot just reach in their mouth and remove anything that is causing them problems as we can, and they must constantly lick to get it to come out. 

Sign #8 – Drooling excessively

This sign may be a little more difficult for someone who has a Great Dane as a pet, but drooling is another way your dog might tell you they are not feeling so good.

Excessive drooling is a common sign of nausea and sometimes can be very tricky to notice.  Usually, this excessive drooling with quickly lead to vomiting, which will help you distinguish between normal Great Dane drool and drooling from being nauseated. 

For more information on this topic, make sure to take a look at our dedicated article on Great Dane drool.

Sign #9 – Shivering or shaking

When your Great Dane is in pain or uncomfortable, you will notice it seems to shake or shiver even when it’s not cold. It’s kind of like when you are feeling under the weather, and you rub your arms or chest.

By doing this, you’re comforting yourself, but dogs don’t have hands or fingers to massage their pain or sickness away, so they instead shake and shiver as a way to comfort or calm themselves.

When humans are sick, we like to snuggle up in a nice warm blanket to feel better, but unfortunately, not all dogs have this luxury and have developed their own way of coping. 

Sign #10 – Excessive drinking

Diseases like diabetes and kidney disease are all too common among dogs. Just like in people, when diabetes starts to present in your Great Dane, you may notice that your Great Dane is drinking more water than usual. You may think they are just very thirsty when they do not feel good. 

Kidney disease is also a worry when your Great Dane is drinking a lot of water because although your dog is staying hydrated, their kidneys are not functioning correctly, which can lead to a potentially life-threatening situation.

Your vet can easily test for these diseases with a simple blood panel.  These diseases can be managed with medication and diet changes.  

Sign #11 – Urinating More Frequently

If your Great Dane is having problems urinating, this can be a problem. 

If your dog cannot pee at all, they need to be seen by a vet as soon as possible, as this problem can come life-threatening. 

If they are urinating more than they normally do, this can be due to diabetes, kidney disease, urinary tract infections, or urinary incontinence. 

Female Great Danes are very prone to developing urinary tract infections and having urinary incontinence.  These both can easily be treated by your vet. 

Sign #12 – Abdominal swelling or bloat 

If your Great Danes stomach seems to be swollen and bloated, your pet needs to see a veterinarian as soon as possible. 

There are conditions such as heart failure, cancer, and bloat that can be life-threatening if not treated. Many of these problems will need your vet to help you treat and get your Great Dane back to their normal life. 

You can also learn more information on this topic, read my full guide on Great Dane bloat.

Sign #13 – Weight Loss

If your Great Dane has suddenly lost a lot of weight and you have not been actively trying to get them to lose weight. 

This should be a very significant warning sign that your Great Dane has something wrong with them. 

Many times, weight loss is seen in older Great Danes. Your vet will want to run bloodwork and perform other tests to figure out what is going on.  

Sign #14 – Hair Loss

Hair loss is another sign your Great Dane is not feeling well. Common things such as fleas and ticks can cause your dog to lose their hair. If your  Great Dane is on flea and tick prevention, then the likelihood they are causing their hair loss is very slim.  

Thyroid and Cushing’s disease are two of the most common reasons that your Great Dane may be losing their hair.  Like many other diseases, these can make your Great Dane feel very bad.

A visit to your vet is needed where different tests can be run to figure out why your dog is losing hair.   Both of these diseases can be easily managed with daily medication from your vet.  

Sign #15 – Gum Color

If you notice your Great Dane’s gums are a different color than the usual pink color, your dog may be having a problem. 

  • Pale white gums usually indicate that your Great Dane does not have enough blood. 
  • Blue to purple color means that your Great Dane is not getting enough oxygen. 
  • Dark red color indicates that your Great Dane may be experiencing a shock.

Sign #16 – Coughing, Sneezing, or Labored Breathing 

If your Great Dane is coughing, sneezing, or having trouble breathing, your dog may be sick. 

If you notice these in your Great Dane, it could be something as simple as allergies but could be very severe. 

If your Great Dane is ever having trouble breathing, take them to the nearest vet as soon as possible.  This could be a sign of a life-or-death emergency.

Sign #17 – Runny Nose

A runny nose can be an early sign that your Great Dane may be sick. 

Some Great Dane’s noses will run if they have allergies, but if the discharge from the nose becomes thick or yellow or green in color, it is more serious.

Green and yellow discharge usually indicate an infection that can lead to severe upper respiratory disease.

Sign #18 – Wheezing 

If your Great Dane is wheezing or having trouble breathing, this can be a very severe problem that would need to be seen by your vet as soon as you can. 

This may not be a very severe problem for your Great Dane as some wheezing may be normal.  Sudden signs of wheezing can be a very big issue, and can even lead to death if not treated.

Sign #19 – Sleeping A Lot

Some Great Danes, as they get older, will start to sleep a lot more. Some will also just sleep a little more after a hard day of playing. 

If your Great Dane has just suddenly started sleeping a lot more and not being as active as they usually do, they may be sick. 

Your vet can help you figure out if something is wrong with your Great Dane or if they are just starting to slow down a little more because of their age.

It’s important to point out that you should be looking for changes in sleep patterns. You can fully expect even healthy Great Danes to sleep plenty, especially if they are puppies.

For more information about caring for a Great Dane, please consider taking a look at my book “The Great Dane Puppy Handbook“.

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What Do I Do If I think My Great Dane Is Sick?

Most of the time, it is best for your Great Dane to see your vet. 

They can run bloodwork, take x rays, and examine your Great Dane to figure out why they are showing these signs. They can also prescribe you the medication that you need to help your Great Dane start to feel great again. 

Some of these diseases can also be prevented by vaccinating your Great Dane or making lifestyle adjustments. 

Feeding your Great Dane, good quality food, and giving them plenty of exercise, your Great Dane will be on the right track to be healthy and happy. 

Final Thoughts

 Your Great Dane can be sick for many different reasons.  These are the most common reasons that vets see when a sick Great Dane comes into their office. 

Many of these can easily be fixed with medication, but some will need lifesaving surgeries. 

By closely monitoring your Great Dane, you will be able to notice these signs and get them to your vet right away.  The quicker you start treating these problems, the better the outcome. 

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1 thought on “How To Tell If Your Great Dane Is Sick: A Comprehensive Guide”

  1. I have a 2-year-old great dane that was rescued for my breeding form he was surrounded over from the person who rescued him now that he is with me I cannot get him to be accepted into the pack I have another great dane of my own and a bullmastiff and a chaffee staffy mixed with old English bulldog Duke the rescue is very sensitive and has an aggressive streak in him I have gotten him fixed I have taken to the vet and got lab work done I got all his vaccinations completed he had some infection we took care of all that but I still cannot get him to get along with the others so I have to keep him isolated which I do not like I’ve hire the trainer who is working with him and we are still having trouble I don’t want to put him down but I don’t know what else to do and I cannot adopt them out unless I find someone who can take him that has no other dogs or no children and it’s too difficult to find. If I cannot get him turned around soon because I cannot keep him isolated in the garage I will have to euthanize him. When he is by himself he is awesome he’s loving he’s playful but when he’s around my others he growls and snarls and barks and becomes aggressive also I noticed he shakes all the time his back legs his constantly shaking I’m not sure why that is because we’ve gotten everything done on him the only thing I can think of is that maybe anxiety or possibly separation anxiety I don’t know I’m just trying to save this dog. I’m thinking about getting him an e collar but again will that make his situation worse I don’t know I am pleading for help in saving this dog’s life do you have any advice thank you


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