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5 Signs Your Pet May Be Ill

Posted September 21, 2015


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 which actually signify that the disease process is going on. Frequently, I get calls saying, “My pet is not himself or herself”; in those cases I say, “Come in immediately!”

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

1. Canine and Feline Gastrointestinal Signs of Illness

My most common presentation for, “My dog or cat is just not right!” Gastrointestinal signs of illness include: Vomiting, diarrhea, straining to defecate, abnormal color of stools, and vomiting excessively with bile or coffee ground like consistency. These signs indicate your dog or cat ate something he/she shouldn’t have and now its 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.

2. Changes In Behavior Indicating Illness

Any change in behavior that is constant such as urinating more, drinking more water, urinating less, and trying to urinate but nothing comes out (this is a serious dangerous clinical sign of urinary obstruction—see vet immediately), hiding, wanting to be by his or herself when normally very social, (a big sign in cats if something is wrong), off balance, overall weakness, eating less or more than usual, painful crying out.

3. Canine and Feline Coughing

Coughing can be a sign of an upper respiratory infection, lung disease or heart disease. Any cough that is consistent should be checked out by your veterinarian. Other signs of respiratory or cardiac disease include exercise intolerance, panting excessively, or decreased activity level in general.

4. Changes In Your Cat or Dog’s Skin, Eyes, and Ears

The tell tale sign of ear problems is odor from the ears, pain and shaking head a lot, or even swelling of the ear lobes. All of these signs should be addressed by your veterinarian immediately. Any change in eyes should have medical attention right away. Changes in the eyes of your cat or dog include: Discharge, discoloration of the eyes (red), cloudy, or painful eyes— which is an emergency. Hair loss, itchy skin, or color changes to the skin such as bruising, red color, or black color changes to the skin could mean many underlying serious problems that should be seen by your vet.

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

These clinical signs could mean hip dysplasia, arthritis, or acute diseases such as intervertebral disc disease, tick borne illnesses, or underlying metabolic or endocrine diseases.

Dr. Hillary Cook is a graduate of Virginia Maryland Regional Veterinary Medical school. She has been practicing holistic and integrative veterinary medicine for fifteen 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!

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