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Breed & Health Resources

Signs Your Pet May Have an Infection

By Roxanne Hawn

black lab licking mouth

No one knows your pet better than you do. That’s why paying attention to what’s normal and what isn’t is so important. Little changes in your pet’s behavior, in how she moves, and even in how she smells might just indicate something icky is brewing inside.

While regular veterinary exams and diagnostics such as blood work can catch many things, your veterinarian relies on you and your family for the best intel on your pet’s health changes.

My Crazy Example

When my Border Collie, Lilly, began receiving injections of a new chemo drug last year, her breath and urine suddenly reeked. I mean utter stink-o-rama. Urine smells like one thing, but this was something else entirely – chemical smelling and awful.

Because we’d just started the new medication, it was easy for me to assume the stench came from that. Fast-forward five months. It turns out Lilly’s unrelenting stink came from a terrible – and dangerous – infection that nearly ruptured her bladder.

A few days before her diagnosis, Lilly’s ongoing incontinence became suddenly worse, but since it waxed and waned, I didn’t think much of it. I even heard air coming out of her bladder when she squatted outside. I thought it strange, but I had no idea it meant imminent danger.

It wasn’t until Lilly suffered her first seizure in a year and began peeing blood that I realized something was terribly wrong. Talk about guilt? It turns out this rotten infection had been brewing a long time. Even with Lilly seeing her many veterinarians often, we just didn’t know an infection was afoot.

Signs Your Pet May Have an Infection

Here are a few signs that your pet may be harboring an infection. Be sure to alert your veterinarian, if you notice any of these changes. Better to err on the side of caution.


  • Terrible smelling breath
  • Unusually bad smelling urine or feces
  • General body stink, especially on a pet’s coat


  • Hiding
  • Sudden fears of things where there weren’t before
  • Paying attention to (looking, licking, etc.) to any part of the body
  • Sudden incontinence


  • Swelling on the skin
  • Swelling near joints
  • Color changes or swelling inside a pet’s mouth

General Attitude

  • Lethargy (seeming really tired)
  • Dullness of response to you or day-to-day life
  • Blank stare


  • Sudden stiffness
  • Trouble rising
  • Avoidance of stairs


  • Air/explosive sounds while going potty (either way)
  • Sudden, excessive gurgling during digestion
  • Unusual vocalizations

Tell us Your Story

Have you ever noticed something weird about your pet that turned out to mean she was sick? Share your story so that others can learn and watch for signs of illness. 

While you can't predict when your pet is going to get sick or injured, you can protect yourself from expensive veterinary bills. Embrace Pet Insurance gives you the freedom to do what’s best for your pet without stressing over the cost. Easily personalize your coverage to fit your budget and your pet’s needs, then visit any vet for nose-to-tail coverage. Check out what the Embrace plan covers or compare pet insurance providers to learn more.

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