New pet owners are a lot like new parents – the slightest cough or sniffle of their new "baby" sends them running for the doctor's (or vet's) office. Most times, these maladies are minor and not something that required an office visit, resulting in wasted time and hundreds of dollars in vet bills.
So, when do you know it's time to call the vet's office?
Here are a few tips to help you the next time you are concerned about your pet:
Your radar should go up at the mere sight any new strange behavior. Is your cat peeing in strange places? Is your dog pooping behind the couch even though he has been housebroken for years? Is Rover suddenly sleeping a lot or not eating like he used to? It's time to call the vet's office for advice.
Throwing Up or Diarrhea
Cats and dogs are known for eating some of the strangest stuff – pet toys, grass, tree branches, rotten road kill…the list goes on and on! Of course, many times, their digestive tract doesn't appreciate it and they throw up.
Because of this, occasional throwing up or diarrhea is not a big deal. Just withhold food for 12 hours maximum and wait to see if the issues resolve themselves. Then reintroduce the food a little at a time.
The problem comes when the vomiting continues for more than 24 hours or if you see blood. Also, if you dog can't keep down water, has abdominal pain, or seems extra tired, that could be signs of trouble. Call the vet!
Changes in Appetite
Just like in humans, when pets aren't feeling well, they sometimes reduce or stop eating food. This is a sign to keep a close eye on them. If you dog or cat shows other symptoms, like weakness, excessive tiredness, weakness or not able to stand, call the veterinarian's office right away.
Difficulty Eating Their Food
If your dog or cat seems to be having issues actually chewing their food, do not just switch food – call the vet! This is especially a concern if the difficulty chewing is accompanied by a bleeding mouth or gums as it could mean serious dental issues.
Does your dog suddenly have a huge belly for no reason? Is it accompanied by vomiting or dry heaving, drooling, or pacing? It's time to head for the vet's office. Rover could have a serious digestive illness or ate something that is now blocking his intestines.
Dogs and cats should not have a runny nose, discharge from ears or eyes, or excessive coughing or sneezing. These symptoms are extremely worrisome if your dog is a breed that is more susceptible to respiratory illnesses, like a pug, bull dog, or boxer. Call your vet and see if they should be seen.
Hair Loss or Itchy Skin
Scratching is an every day occurrence for pets. It could be something as innocent as fleas or it could be a fungus or staph infection – illnesses that could seriously sicken your animal and be passed on to you. It's important to see your vet to rule out these serious health risks to you pet and your family.
Lumps or Bumps
Call your vet immediately if you find a lump or bump under your pet's skin. Just like in humans, unexplained bumps or lumps are a reason for concern. It could be a something as simple as a cyst or an infected bug bite, or something even more serious.
Problem Standing or Walking
Older dogs will have problems standing, walking, or jumping – as joint age, they become more difficult to move – that's just a part of aging. Just like in humans, these sorts of difficulties will come on over time and are quite manageable with massage or medication. Have the vet check your pet at his or her next checkup.
But if your pet is young or his walking difficulties came on quickly, it's time to head to the vet's office. This could he a sign of injury, hip dysplasia, or Lyme disease.
Really, Really Bad Breath
Most dogs have bad breath - if you ate grass and dog food all day and couldn't brush your teeth you wouldn't have the greatest breath either. Owners should become concerned when the bad breath comes on suddenly or is strong enough to make your eyes water or peel paint off the walls. This could be a sign of dental or digestive issues – a serious risk to your pet's wellness.
You should become concerned if your dog or cat is suddenly losing or gaining weight with no change to his diet or exercise routine. Suddenly weight changes could signify a serious health issue like parasites, anemia or other issues that should be checked out by a veterinarian.
Pale Tongue or Gums
A change of color in an animal's gums or teeth is a sure sign of shock and means something is seriously wrong with your pet. Take your cat or dog to the vet or emergency clinic immediately.
Dogs will sometimes snag a tail during a romp with their friends or while out on their morning walk. Though these seem to bleed a lot, most times these will resolve themselves. If you can, use light compression on the injury until it stops bleeding. Afterwards, keep an eye on your dog to ensure he doesn't chew the injury open again. If the spot becomes puffy or develops puss, it's infected – head for the vet's office.
If your pet's eyes become cloudy, red, a discharge, or they seem to be rubbing at their eyes a lot, please call your vet for an appointment. This could be a sign of an eye infection or another serious eye condition that should be evaluated and treated by a trained veterinarian.
Any eye injury is time to worry. Do not pass go, do not collect $200 – head directly to the vet or the local animal hospital to have the injury evaluated.
Of course, if you have any questions or concerns at any time about your pet's health, call your veterinarian's office. They are there to help you in your quest to keep you cat or dog happy and health for a very long time.