While most people understand the importance of taking their pet to the vet’s office on a regular basis for basic checkups and preventative care, it’s often difficult to determine whether the smaller ailments you’ll be met with between visits warrant immediate care.
Here are 7 signs that your pet needs veterinary care.
1. Loss of energy or changes in feeding behavior. Dogs and cats stop eating for a host of reasons, including: fever, pain or stress. Changes in energy level – or feeding behavior – that last more than 24 hours are cause for concern, and should result in a visit to the vet.
2. Hair loss or itchy skin. Fleas, ticks and mites are the most common causes of hair loss or itchy skin in pets, and this condition is easily treated with medication. While typically a simple and easy to treat ailment, hair loss and itchy skin often involves staph infections, fungal or yeast infections as well as a whole host of other issues.
3. Stiffness or lameness when moving. Pets that struggle to move, get up or down, walk or even lift their head may have arthritis, disc disease, ruptured ligaments, pulled muscles, or hip dysplasia. In addition, tick-borne diseases – such as lyme – can also cause these symptoms and may lead to death if untreated.
4. Bad breath. Most would argue that all pets have varying degrees of bad breath, but when it becomes worse than usual it may be time for concern. Conditions such as kidney failure, diabetes and oral cancer are often tied to bad breath, so it’s worth taking your pet to the veterinarian to get checked.
Bad breath may also be an indicator of severe dental disease. A teeth cleaning is indicated in these cases but often times more aggressive treatment is warranted. A tooth is similar to an iceberg in many ways. As a pet owner, you may only be aware of tooth damage above the gums just as an iceberg is only visible above sea level. Significant disease is often present below the gum line just as most of an iceberg remains below what the naked eye is able to see along the horizon. Severe dental disease often affects the tooth root, underlying bone and even other organs such as the kidneys and liver. In these cases, bacteria from the mouth spreads through the blood stream seeding these organs. Over time renal failure, heart and liver disease may arise. Only gentle probing by a veterinary technician or dental X-rays while a pet is under anesthesia is effective to determine the extent of disease and if extractions are indicated.
5. Vomiting or diarrhea. Cats and dogs vomit with some regularity, often without being seriously ill. However, pets that vomit or move their bowels several times a day are often in need of veterinary attention. Additional risk signs such as lethargy, lack of appetite, or blood in the vomit or stools are signs that your pet needs immediate care. Vomiting or diarrhea could be indicators that your pet has gastrointestinal illness, hookworms, whipworms, roundworms or giardia.
6. Frequent/infrequent urination. Increased urination is often easy to spot as housebroken pets begin to go in the house, or your pet that normally sleeps through the night now needs a nocturnal bathroom break. Straining to urinate or lack of urine during your scheduled potty breaks are typically signs that something is wrong. Both symptoms are tied to urinary tract problems – such as infection – or bladder stones.
7. Coughing. Chronic coughs can be tied to a number of issues, such as: heart disease, heartworms or lung ailments. Often, it’s nothing more than “kennel cough” which is a relatively mild form of bronchitis that is treated with medication when it’s caught early. For more severe cases of kennel cough – and puppies especially – it can progress to fatal pneumonia. Get it checked.
Taking your pet to the veterinarian when they display any abnormal behavior is the best way to treat the symptoms early, before they develop into complicated medical diseases. It’s best to find out early as opposed to waiting for that chronic cough to turn out to be late stage heartworms without many treatment options.
If you notice any of these symptoms in your pet, it’s time to get them to the vet!