When to take your pet to the vet may be a difficult decision for some pet owners. And there are several reasons why:
- Pets are good at hiding pain. This is a survival technique that goes back to their ancestors days in the wild. Any animal that is sick or injured and is in a weakened state is vulnerable as prey so pets have learned not to show pain until it is really bad.
- Pets don’t always use the toilet in front of us or drink water when we are watching so we may assume that everything is ok when in fact your cat may be severely constipated or not drinking at all.
- As our pets age we tend to attribute their stiff muscles or lumps on the skin as ‘old age’ but these are usually signs of serious ailments and must be seen to.
When to take your pet to the vet
Understanding when to take your pet to the vet can help ensure their wellbeing, help them live without pain and provide them with the best possible care for years to come.
- CONSTIPATION If your pet has trouble in passing stool or doesn’t defecate for more than two days, it’s time to consult a veterinarian. Waiting too long to address constipation can lead to serious complications such as megacolon where faeces becomes compacted inside the colon and has to be surgically removed. Dehydration is another danger associated with constipation.
Constipation is a symptom of an underlying disease which can range from kidney disease to back pain and other serious conditions. Any pet that is constipated should visit a vet within 24 hours of noticing that they are constipated. If the pet is also vomiting or has stopped eating then they should visit the vet sooner.
Constipation can be mistaken for other symptoms including diarrhoea or inability to pass urine. Diarrhoea can lead to rapid dehydration and if your pet is unable to urinate then they can become fatally ill very quickly. If you are unsure if your pet is constipated or if they may be straining to urinate then they should visit vet as soon as possible.
- LUMPS AND BUMPS If these appear anywhere on your pet’s body they should never be ignored or dismissed as a symptom of old age. Rather, they may indicate a variety of underlying health issues, including cancer. Prompt veterinary evaluation is crucial to determine the nature of the lump and provide appropriate treatment.
Any new lump or bump should be checked by a vet. The vet will do a fine needle aspiration of the lump, which is virtually painless to assess what ‘s caused the lump and whether or not it is cancerous.
As a general rule, it is better to remove a lump when it is small, before it can spread or become difficult to remove. Lumps on the head, legs or tail can be extremely difficult to remove if they are allowed to grow bigger than about 1cm and should be addressed early.
If you notice a new lump or bump that is painful, red, warm or if your pet is unwell it might be an indication that your pet has an abscess and prompt veterinary care is indicated.
- COUGHING While coughing in pets can be due to a variety of reasons, including minor respiratory infections, it can also be a sign of a more serious heart or respiratory tract condition. Coughing is unusual in an animal and can have many causes. It should never be ignored. If the coughing persists for more than 2 days, the pet should visit the vet for further investigation.
Coughing in cats is rare and can be very serious. Cats can develop asthma which can lead to severe respiratory distress. Coughing cats or cats that are breathing more rapidly than usual or with more effort than usual, should be attended to immediately.
- ALLERGIC SKIN CONDITIONS If your pet develops a red, itchy skin with lumps that resemble hives, they are having an acute allergic reaction. This is often caused by bee stings. They may also experience swelling of the head and neck. These pets should see a veterinarian immediately to avoid progression to anaphylactic shock.
If they have itchy skins that have been coming on for a long time or if they are experiencing hair loss then a vet visit is strongly recommended. There are various conditions that can cause itchy skins and hair loss and the vet will embark on a diagnostic journey to help you get to the bottom of it and to provide treatment that will bring both you and your pet relief.
- DIARRHOEA If your pet experiences diarrhoea that lasts for more than 24-48 hours, or if it is accompanied by other concerning symptoms such as lethargy, vomiting, or loss of appetite, it is crucial to consult a veterinarian. Prolonged diarrhoea can lead to dehydration and electrolyte imbalances, which require immediate veterinary intervention.
If you have a very young animal or a very small animal, they are likely to dehydrate quicker than an older or bigger animal. They should be seen as soon as possible.
If your pet has blood in their diarrhoea then they need to be seen as soon as possible because this can be linked serious medical conditions.
- STERILISATION Understanding the appropriate timing for spaying or neutering your pet is essential to prevent unwanted pregnancies and certain health issues. Dogs and cats can be sterilised from 6 months of age. Dogs undergo puberty at 7-9 months of age, whereas cats can become sexually mature from 4.5-7 months of age.
Sterilisation is critical to prevent unwanted pregnancies and unwanted litters. Sterilised animals are also shown to live longer than unsterilised animals because they are less likely to roam and get into fights with other animals or car accidents.
Pyometra is a condition that is seen frequently in unsterilised female dogs if they do not have a litter at every heat cycle. This condition comprises a severe infection of the uterus and can make the dog extremely ill. They need an emergency sterilisation to treat the condition, but in some cases they can be so severely ill that the condition is fatal. Due to the nature of this emergency, the costs of treating pyometra are 3-4 times more than sterilisation.
Sterilisation before 18 months of age has also been associated with decreased risk of mammary (breast cancer) and other cancers such as prostrate cancer and transmissible venereal tumour (TVT).
- VACCINATION In dogs, the main diseases that we vaccinate against are parvovirus, distemper and rabies. Others include infectious canine hepatitis and some of the viruses that cause kennel cough. Apart from kennel cough, all of the abovementioned diseases can be fatal. In the case of rabies, this disease is a risk for humans as well.
Cats are vaccinated against viruses that cause snuffles, feline panleukopaenia virus, feline leukaemia virus and rabies. These can all cause severe illness and in some cases death.
We recommend annual veterinary visits. At these visits your pet will be given a full examination and this allows the vet to pick up early signs of disease, for example, dental disease, heart conditions and arthritis. Treating these diseases early will improve their quality of life and longevity. Your vet will then spend time assessing your pet’s risk of contracting the diseases mentioned about and recommend an optimal vaccination schedule for your pet.
- DENTAL DISEASE More than 70% of pets over the age of 3 have dental disease! Yearly dental checks and cleanings go a long way to ensuring that your pet’s teeth and gums are as healthy as possible. It is best to bring your pet for regular check ups, rather than only responding when there is a problem. Many owners think that if their pet is eating then their teeth can’t be a problem. Sadly, this is untrue in many cases. If your pet hasn’t had a dental check in the last year, be sure to book an appointment with your vet.
- OTHER CONSIDERATIONS There are numerous other situations in which seeking veterinary care is crucial, such as unexplained weight loss, changes in behaviour, persistent vomiting, difficulty breathing, and more. It is always better to err on the side of caution and consult a veterinarian when you have concerns about your pet’s health. Any change in your pet’s habits or behaviour may be an indication of a problem. Because they can’t tell us how they’re feeling, it is critical to be aware and take action if you notice any changes.
- Knowing when to take your pet to the vet is a crucial aspect of responsible pet ownership. Regular veterinary check-ups are important, but it is equally essential to recognise potential signs and symptoms that require immediate attention. By being proactive and seeking professional veterinary care when necessary, you can ensure your pet’s health and wellbeing, giving them the best chance for a long and happy life. Remember, your veterinarian is your most reliable resource for advice and guidance regarding your pet’s health.