Your pet is a member of your family, and naturally you want to make sure it is healthy and strong. Unfortunately, your pet can’t tell you when something is wrong – it’s up to you to remain alert to warning signs that your pet is ailing. Here are five indications that should alert you to your pet’s condition:
Sleep: It doesn’t take long to become familiar with your pet’s normal sleeping habits. Cats sleep an average of 12 to 16 hours a day, while dogs’ sleeping requirements are more like ours. If your pet suddenly seems to be oversleeping night after night, something could be wrong. If you have a dog, make sure you are offering it enough food and opportunity to exercise – each breed, and indeed each individual, has its own unique requirements. If that’s not the problem, a lethargic pet might be bored, off its feed, or physically uncomfortable. If listlessness persists, bring your pet to your vet’s office for a checkup and observation.
Limp: A physical manifestation, such as a limp or a tender limb, usually indicates internal pain or some other health issue. Limping might be accompanied by bruising, hair loss, wincing, or allergy symptoms. Make sure to check your pet’s paws to see if there is an issue with a nail or a wound. Note that a limp can be a symptom for a serious disease, such as Lyme disease or cancer. Your pet will undoubtedly let you know if you touch a tender spot, which might indicate arthritis or another issue. See the vet immediately if your pet suddenly starts limping or shows other signs of pain.
Personality: Many humans tend toward grumpiness when they get sick. It’s not surprising, then, that pets might also undergo a personality change if they feel unwell. It’s not just grumpiness – a sudden occurrence of obsessive-compulsive disorder, anger, fear, vocalizations or sullenness might mean that something is troubling your pet. Also, be on the alert if you have multiple pets and their interactions change, especially if hostility breaks out.
One tip to another: Check your pet’s bowel movements and urination habits for any out-of-the-ordinary conditions. Frequent urination, loose bowel movements, vomiting, constipation or blood in the stool might indicate more serious problems. Your vet will check for the possibility of worms or other parasites. Be on the lookout for hair loss or itchy skin, especially around the ears – it might indicate ticks, fleas, mange or ear mites, or perhaps a yeast infection. Other factors might include problems with the endocrine glands, bacterial or fungal infections or other issues.
History: Your understanding of your pet encompasses its history. For example, if you buy a pet from a reputable breeder, you should expect your pet to be in good physical and emotional health. On the other hand, if the pet was a stray, it might have been abused, neglected or malnourished. In the latter case, you and your vet should consult about ways to deliver specialized treatment to overcome a turbulent past. Plenty of love, good nutrition, exercise and proper veterinary care can go a long way to heal a pet with a difficult history.
Adopting a pet means assuming responsibility for its health and happiness. Always stay alert to your pet’s condition and keep your vet informed of any changes you notice.
Dr. Paul has a strong interest in avian and exotic animal medicine and surgery, as well as small animal internal medicine and surgery.
He has provided services for numerous breeders, kennels, aviaries, and mini zoos.