Pet talk: signs your pet is sick
September 7, 2018
As a veterinarian here in the Vail Valley, I often times am asked, "Isn't your job so much more difficult than a human doctor because pets can't tell you what's wrong?" This is a very true statement in the literal sense, because we all know our pets cannot talk to us, but what I do tell inquisitive minds: our pets still communicate with us, just not by talking.
Then the question arises, "How do I know if my pet is sick?"
Our pets actually communicate to us through their actions, which if understood by a watchful owner, can catch health issues before they become life threatening.
Signs to watch for in our pets that may signify an underlying health concern include:
Not eating or overeating. If a pet is not eating, they are telling us they do not feel well. Pets do not necessarily get picky about their food and need a buffet every morning to encourage appetite. A pet that is not eating does not feel well and this should raise concern. If your pet has begun asking for more and more foods, this can also signify underlying health concerns.
Not drinking water or excessively drinking water. Is your pet refusing to drink water? This can be a sign of many internal health issues, just as not eating is. This can quickly lead to dehydration and eventual organ failure should it progress, so be cognoscente of your pet's normal drinking habits so as to be alerted if it suddenly becomes reduced. If your pet is hovering over the water bowl or following you into the bathroom to sneak a lick of water out of the faucet, and you notice that usually very full water bowl is emptying far faster, this is reason for concern. Diseases such as diabetes, kidney failure, adrenal gland diseases cause excessive thirst.
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Excessive shedding or not grooming. A cat that begins to have very greasy, matted and unkempt coat should alert an owner to an underlying health issue for example. In both cats and dogs, excessive dryness, hair loss, bald batches, excessive itching and poor hair texture can all indicate disease in your pet and warrant a veterinary visit.
Hiding. Is your dog avoiding their usual walk? Is your dog going to places they don't normally go? Is your cat hiding in places they have never been before? When animals are sick, it is not uncommon for them to wander off to be alone, or to hide in places so as to avoid contact with other pets.
Inappropriate urination. Is your cat urinating around the house? Is your dog squatting to urinate in front of you in the kitchen this morning? Pets urinate inappropriately many times because of an underlying infection in their urinary tract. Don't ever assume this is behavioral before you have ruled out infection with a proper urinalysis with your veterinarian.
The list of how our pet's communicate how they feel to us goes on and on, but I'm hopeful this short list can make us all aware of the bigger signs to watch for that may tell us our furry friend is feeling under the weather.
Sheila Fitzpatrick, DVM, is the owner of Mountain Animal Hospital Center and Mobile Veterinarian.