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5 Signs Your Pet May Be Ill

Vet Talks 2 min read
How to know if your pet is sick

Many times it is the subtle changes in your dog or cat’s behavior or body language, which may not necessarily alarm you to visit your vet, but actually signify that a disease process is going on. Frequently, we get calls saying, “My pet is not himself or herself”; in those cases, we say, “Come in immediately!”

Signs to look out for that your pet may be ill:

1. Gastrointestinal Signs of Illness In Your Pet

Our most common presentation for, “My dog or cat is just not right!” Gastrointestinal signs of illness include vomiting, diarrhea, straining to defecate, the abnormal color of stools, and vomiting excessively with bile or coffee-ground-like consistency. These signs indicate your pet ate something he/she shouldn’t have. It is stuck somewhere in the GI system, or it is a toxin, among other problems. Other reasons for vomiting and diarrhea include underlying internal parasites, metabolic disease (liver, kidney), inflammatory bowel disease, and sometimes, unfortunately, cancer somewhere in the body.

Subtle changes in your pet’s behavior or body language signify that a disease process is going on.

2. Changes In Your Pet’s Behavior Indicating Illness

Any change in behavior that is constant such as urinating more, drinking more water, or urinating less might indicate illness. Your pet might be trying to urinate but nothing comes out (this is a dangerously severe clinical sign of urinary obstruction—see a vet immediately). Other symptoms include hiding, wanting to be by himself or herself when normally very social (a big sign in cats if something is wrong). Also, they might become off-balance, have overall body weakness, eat less or more than usual, or uncomfortably cry out.

3. Canine and Feline Coughing

Coughing can be a sign of an upper respiratory infection, lung disease, or heart disease. Your veterinarian should check out if there are consistent coughs. Other respiratory or cardiac disease symptoms include exercise intolerance, panting excessively, or decreased activity level in general.

4. Changes In Your Pet’s Skin, Eyes, and Ears

The telltale sign of ear problems is odor from the ears, discomfort, and head-shaking a lot. There might be even swelling of the ear lobes. All of these signs or changes in the eyes should be addressed by your veterinarian immediately. Changes in the eyes of your pet include discharge, discoloration of the eyes (red), cloudy, or uncomfortable eyes— which is an emergency. Hair lossitchy skin, or color changes to the skin, such as bruising, red color, or black color changes, could mean many underlying issues that your vet should see.

5. If Your Pet is Stiff, Lame, or Has Difficulty Rising

These clinical signs could mean hip dysplasia, arthritis, or acute diseases. Some examples include intervertebral disc diseasetick-borne illnesses, or underlying metabolic or endocrine diseases.

If your furkiddo has any sign above, a trip to the vet is necessary. If you have any concern, feel free to click on the button below to chat with a pet expert!

Dr. Hillary Cook DVM

Dr. Hillary Cook DVM

Dr. Hillary Cook is a graduate of Virginia Maryland Regional Veterinary Medical school. She has been practicing holistic and integrative veterinary medicine for over 20 years. She certified in Veterinary acupuncture and is fully qualified in Western and Chinese herbalism. She is the owner of Animal Wellness Center, an integrative veterinary clinic in Crozet, VA. She enjoys spending time with her husband, two children, and a menagerie of pets including dogs, cats, and chickens. When time allows, you can find her in the garden or on the tennis court!

Published: September 21, 2015

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