What to do if your pet isn’t acting quite right but you’re not sure what’s wrong?
Should you call your veterinarian and speak to one of our wonderful nurses, or wait a few days? Sometimes your pet may not act very ill but problems persist for more than a day or two. Coughing frequently, vomiting or diarrhoea more than twice or limping and walking gingerly all merit a call to the vet.
If you’re worried about your animal’s health, call your vet. They’re there to help you with your pet’s care and can identify potential problems. It’s always better to report a minor problem than it is to let things escalate to an emergency.
The following tips will help you know when your pet needs to be seen by a vet.
Is your pet lethargic?
This is perhaps the most important signal to phone your veterinarian. If your dog or cat is not responsive to calls for play or favourite treats and seems weak or unable to stand, you should get them to a vet quickly.
Is your pet in pain?
Pain, indicated by crying, panting and restless pacing, should not be ignored. Pain can also be indicated by a reluctance to move around.
Is your pet lame?
Limping that persists more than a few hours warrants a call to the veterinarian. A pet will often bear its weight on the affected leg, or the leg will become painful to touch. Paralysis, usually indicated by your pet unable to stand or dragging a leg with or without pain, needs emergency care as well.
Is your pet losing blood?
Bleeding from the mouth, nose, vulva or rectum demands immediate attention.
Is your pet unable to go to the bathroom?
Male cats seen straining in the litter box may have a dangerous urinary tract blockage. If your dog seems to be straining or having urinary or bowel movement more often than usual it should be reported to your vet as soon as possible.
Is your pet having trouble breathing?
Steady laboured breathing is a sign of serious trouble. If these symptoms occur, or if your dog passes out/faints call your vet immediately. Constant coughing or gagging also needs to be checked.
Is your pet having seizures?
Seizures are a serious neurologic condition that must be monitored. Call your vet immediately. Signs of a seizure include shaking, lying on the floor and paddling the legs, loss of awareness of surroundings, possible loss of bladder and bowel control, excessive salivation, and a clamped jaw.
Is you pet suffering from excessive vomiting or diarrhoea?
These symptoms could indicate anything from a simple stomach upset to a serious disease. Call your vet immediately. Even if your pet is not seriously ill, ignoring these symptoms could lead to dehydration.
Is your pet unconscious or difficult to awaken?
Dazed behaviour can occur with fever, metabolic disease, ingestion of medications meant for people, changes in blood sugar levels, or diseases of the brain. It’s important to have your pet examined that day.
Is your pet refusing to eat or drink?
Your pet should not go more than a day without drinking. If your dog or cat won’t eat their usual meal but will hungrily scarf down treats or table food, this may mean a problem exists. Call your veterinarian if food is vomited more than once in a day, the normal appetite does not return in two to three days, or if your pet acts well but refuses to eat for more than 24 hours.
Is your pet experiencing eye problems?
A healthy eye should be clear and bright, free from dirt, discharge and inflammation. Indications of eye problems include:
- red or inflamed eyes or inner eyelids;
- matter ‘stuck’ on the surface or in the corners of the eye;
- a cloudy or dull eye surface;
- the “ third eyelid” protruding across the eye;
- excessive tearing or unusual discharges;
- tear-stained fur around the eyes.
Eye conditions can progress rapidly and early veterinary treatment is essential to avoid major complications or loss of sight.
Is your pet experiencing ear problems?
Scratching ears and shaking head are common signs of ear irritation or pain. All ears are prone to infection (otitis) but dogs are more commonly affected. All ear infections should be seen by your vet to correctly diagnose and effectively treat the problem. Most ear infections as easily cured and can result in serious damage if left untreated. Use a recommended ear cleaning product and wipe away debris and excess cleaner using a cotton wool ball. Never insert cotton tips or other objects into ear canals.
Is your pet experiencing trauma?
Trauma cases are common in pets and include road traffic accidents, falls and bites or attacks from other animals. Often it can be difficult to assess the severity of internal trauma so we recommend bringing your pet for examination immediately following trauma, even if they appear uninjured. Some injuries such as internal bleeding or ruptured organs (e.g. bladder) may take time for symptoms to develop. Wounds may be deeper or more severe than they appear and complications such as infection can develop if veterinary treatment is delayed. Most traumas also cause pain so it is beneficial for your pet to have pain relief administered by a vet.
Is your pet experiencing heat stress?
Heat stress is a state of extreme hyperthermia (increased body temperature). Symptoms include excessive panting, weakness or lethargy, vomiting and diarrhoea, muscle spasms and collapse.
Predisposing factors include a warm or humid environment and lack of adequate shade, water or ventilation. Heat stress commonly occurs when dogs are left inside stationary vehicles or on utes. Small animals including rabbits and birds are highly susceptible to heat stress, and it also occurs in horses and livestock with inadequate shade or water.
Heat stress can develop quickly. It is an emergency and veterinary treatment should be sought immediately if suspected, as animals can die quickly.