Your wonderful pet means the world to you, and if something is causing them pain, you want to know right away. Pets usually hide ill health signs until a condition becomes advanced. Your pet’s stoic behavior is instinctual, because, in the wild, sickness and injury would alert predators to their vulnerability. To help ensure your pet stays comfortable and healthy, you need to learn to recognize common disease signs. 

Our Valley Center Veterinary Clinic team describes 10 pet health signs so you can get your furry pal the treatment they need. Keep an eye out for these pet health and behavior changes you should not ignore.

Signs that your pet may be ill

You can be proactive about your pet’s health care needs by tracking changes in their demeanor, habits, and energy level. By keeping a record of basic daily indicators, such as the amount your pet eats and sleeps, and how they behave, you can easily spot changes. Your cat or dog needs veterinary care if they exhibit these signs:

  1. Lethargy or inactivity — If your pet has been sleeping more or doesn’t seem interested in those daily walks, they may be ill. This is especially concerning when your pet has a sudden disinterest in their usual activities. 
  2. Difficulty breathing — Flat-faced (i.e., brachycephalic) breeds, such as pugs and bulldogs, are prone to breathing problems, as their facial structure impacts their airways. However, no matter your dog’s or cat’s breed, persistent coughing and wheezing require veterinary attention. 
  3. Weight loss or weight gain — If your pet is losing or gaining weight with no known cause, you should be concerned. Several diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, and arthritis, contribute to pets’ weight fluctuations.
  4. Excessive thirst — If your cat or dog is drinking water like they’re in the Sahara, take notice. Kidney disease, as well as diabetes, frequently causes excessive thirst in pets.
  5. Rough or unkempt coat — A dry coat can sometimes be caused by the environment, especially during the winter months. Diet also factors in but so do some diseases. Cats are fastidious with their fur, so if your whiskered pal has stopped grooming or their coat is dull and dry, make an appointment with our team.
  6. Vomiting (with or without diarrhea) — A pet may vomit or have diarrhea for a number of reasons such as basic stomach upset, pathogens, including Giardia, which is found in ponds, ditches, standing water, and poisoning. Frequent vomiting, especially with blood, is a veterinary emergency and should be treated immediately. 
  7. Eye redness — Your pet’s eyes should be bright and clear. Eye changes, such as redness or discharge, should be treated immediately. Eye injury or ongoing infection can lead to blindness if left untreated.
  8. Behavior changes — If your pet’s behavior has changed suddenly and they are exhibiting aggression, isolation, or howling, something’s amiss. Pain is a common reason for sudden behavior changes in pets. 
  9. Limping or loss of coordination — Dogs are prone to leg muscle and ligament injuries. Limping is usually the result of injury, but diseases, such as Valley fever (i.e., Coccidioides immitis) can result in lameness. Loss of coordination can indicate ear infection, stroke, and head injury. 
  10. Abdominal pain or distended abdomen — If your pet winces when you touch their stomach, they may have a simple tummy ache or something serious such as pancreatitis. Abdominal distension is a major indicator that your pet has gastric dilation volvulus (i.e., bloat), an emergency situation.

What constitutes a veterinary emergency?

When you suspect your pet is unwell, you feel concerned. In the best-case scenario, your pet gets a clean bill of health after a veterinary examination. However, some situations require you to act quickly. These signs indicate that your pet is experiencing a veterinary emergency:

  • Bleeding from any orifice
  • Lameness or inability to stand or walk
  • Excessive vomiting and/or diarrhea
  • Stumbling
  • Heatstroke
  • Abdominal pain with or without bloat
  • Crying or howling
  • Bite wounds
  • Hit by a vehicle
  • Eye injury
  • Seizures

If your pet is experiencing an emergency, seek care immediately. Call our clinic or your nearest emergency veterinary hospital if your pet is experiencing any of the emergency health signs we have discussed here. 

In a perfect world, your pet will never have a veterinary emergency. However, no matter how you try to prevent your pet from having an emergency, accidents occur and at times, you need to act quickly. If you notice changes to your dog’s or cat’s health, contact our Valley Center Veterinary Clinic team.