Warning signs your pet’s not healthy (or happy)

Warning signs of pain and discomfort aren’t always easy to spot in our pets. Though they are sentient beings that experience the same discomforts we do; cold, heat, hunger and pain they hide their pain far more effectively than humans. That’s because in the wild, an ill or injured animal is vulnerable to attack, so they’ve learned to mask their pain. As pet owners, we need to be aware of this because by the time they yelp or cower, the disease or injury that plagues them is probably already far advanced and could be difficult to treat.

Here are some early warning signs:

Drinking excessively

Kidney disease is one of the most common illnesses likely to affect our pets yet because symptoms only appear after 75% of kidney function has already been lost, early detection is vitally important. An increase in thirst may be one of the first signs. Also look out for house-soiling, reduced appetite, weight loss, and bad breath.

Cats with diabetes also tend to drink a lot of water. If diabetes isn’t diagnosed soon enough, a serious condition known as ketoacidosis can develop. See your vet immediately.

Urinating in inappropriate places

Cats are, by nature, solitary animals and multiple cat households may be stressful for some. Stressed cats can develop interstitial cystitis, a painful inflammation of the bladder, which may cause them to urinate in inappropriate places. You might notice blood in the urine too.

Urinating outside of the litter box, or on beds, in baths or on the floor could also indicate diabetes, kidney failure, and arthritis. Don’t ignore this behaviour or scold your cat. The sooner you see your vet, the greater the chances of successful treatment.

Dragging hind quarters on the ground

Even pampered pets from clean homes carry worms and unfortunately only two kinds can be seen with the naked eye. Some infestations cause few or no symptoms. If you see your dog or cat dragging his or her hindquarters on the ground, they may be infested with tapeworm. Look for dried, white, grain-like segments in faeces or under your pet’s tail. Your EberVet Vetshop carries a range of dewormers that last several months.

Coughing or wheezing

This is often an early sign of congestive heart failure.  Congestion builds up in the lungs if the left of the heart is failing, filling with fluid the tiny sacs where normally only air should be. This fluid makes exchanging oxygen more difficult. The pet has to take more breaths to absorb the same amount of oxygen. This increases the breathing rate and effort, sometimes causing a cough.

Sleeping a lot, refusing exercise

Like humans, many pets suffer arthritis as they age, and it can be extremely painful. It can also be particularly hard to spot because they simply become less active, which the owner may interpret as ‘normal’ for an older pet. Other symptoms include licking or biting a limb, limping, irritability, inability to jump onto things or climb into the litter tray.

Weight loss in cats and weight gain in dogs

This is an early indication of thyroid issues; dogs commonly suffer from hypothyroidism and cats from hyperthyroidism, or high hormone levels. Dogs with hypothyroidism become lethargic and put on weight, while cats with hyperthyroidism have excessive energy levels and eat a lot yet lose weight.

Itchy skin

If your dog or cat is constantly licking and biting himself or pulling out his fur, he could be suffering an allergy. Food allergies are relatively common, but they can be difficult to isolate so it is always best to ask your vet for help. Flea allergies are very common; only 5% of adult fleas can be seen with the naked eye so your pet may be infested without you even knowing it. Ask your EberVet Vetshop for help with flea preventives; there are highly effective formulas that protect your dog or cat for several months.

Struggling to urinate

If your cat frequently squats but passes no urine, this is one of the signs of a blocked bladder which may be caused by feeding poor quality pet food. Certain foods, usually poorer quality supermarket varieties, may cause the formation of crystals in your cat’s bladder. These crystals can block the urethra and your cat will not be able to pass urine. This happens more often in male cats. A cat with a blocked bladder must be treated as soon as possible as it is not only very painful but can also cause kidney damage and may lead to death.

Straining when having a bowel movement

A constipated dog, especially if it is well-trained and evacuates at regular intervals daily, is described as being constipated if it is experiencing difficult bowel movements and physical distress (straining, frantic behaviour). Grass particles, matted faeces, string, or other objects in or around the anus is also indicative of constipation. The size of the faeces will be abnormally small and once the condition has progressed, lethargy, vomiting, and loss of appetite may develop. The most common cause of dog constipation is swallowing objects that are not easily digested but it can also be caused by an enlarged prostate, kidney disease or hernias. If you can see grass in the anus, gently ease it out and trim hair around the anus. Wash the area with warm, soapy water  and apply a soothing, water-soluble jelly (such as K-Y) to the inflamed area. If constipation persists for more than 24 hours, see your vet immediately.

A honking cough, runny nose and sneezing

These are all symptoms of kennel cough, a highly contagious respiratory disease usually passed on to unprotected pets in boarding kennels, dog parks or at dog shows.  Vaccination is your dog’s best protection.

Excessive panting, sudden collapse and weakness

These could indicate heatstroke. Any hot environment can cause heatstroke, but the most common cause is careless actions such as leaving a dog in a car on a hot day or forgetting to provide shade to an animal kept outdoors. If your dog shows any of these symptoms, cool him down by letting cool water run gently over his body then get him into your car as soon as possible, put the air conditioning on and get him to your vet. Heatstroke is deadly.

Feather pulling in birds

Feather pulling may start because of irritation from a medical condition and progress to obsessive-compulsive behaviour. Common causes include bacterial infection, food allergy, stress, boredom, sexual frustration and hypothyroidism.

If your pets display any of the symptoms above, it is best to see your vet for a diagnosis. The sooner the ailment is identified, the more successful the treatment.