How To Tell If Your Pet Is Sick (And What To Do About It)

October 17, 2019

Of all the things we wish our pets could tell us perhaps “I’m not feeling well, and here’s what’s wrong” is at the top of the list. After all, we know when our pet is happy, feeling good, and thriving…don’t we? 

Most of the time, the answer is yes. But pets are also masters at hiding signs of discomfort and disease. This natural instinct served them well in the wild, to protect them from predators, but it makes it tough to know if your pet is sick.

Still, you play a key role in helping your pet combat illness and remain as healthy as possible. Awareness of the common signs of disease can be valuable information. 

Signs Your Pet Is Sick

  • Is her temperature abnormal? A pet’s normal body temperature is between 99.5 and 102.5 degrees. If your pet’s temperature falls outside these limits, contact your veterinarian. Keep in mind that your pet can be sick without running a fever. 
  • Is her gum color abnormal? A pet’s gums should be pink, and if you press on them with your thumb, they should return to pink within a couple of seconds. If your pet’s gums are pale, blue, or muddy, it indicates a medical condition that needs treatment right away.
  • Is she acting differently? When your pet isn’t well, she may act lethargic, sleep more than usual, or hide more. Any change in your pet’s usual behavior merits a call to your veterinarian. 
  • Is she eating, drinking, or peeing normally? If your pet is not eating, that’s a call to action. Your pet likely needs veterinary attention if she’s drinking and peeing more than usual, which can signal a number of conditions including kidney disease and diabetes. Frequent attempts to urinate with only small amounts produced or with pain or blood can indicate a urinary tract infection or bladder stones. Inability to urinate is a life threatening emergency. 
  • Is she vomiting? Occasional vomiting is not always a cause for concern, but  if your pet vomits foreign material, bones, blood, or continues vomiting for more than a couple of hours that is cause for concern. Prolonged vomiting can cause dehydration. And if your pet is straining to vomiting with nothing coming up, it’s also a cause for concern. 
  • Does she have diarrhea? Many illnesses cause diarrhea. It may be your pet ate something outside her normal diet, but if her diarrhea is watery, bloody, accompanied by other signs of illness, or frequent, call your veterinarian right away.  
  • Is she coughing? Coughing can be a sign of many different illnesses or accidental poisoning. If your pet is coughing frequently or violently, has bluish gums, or has difficulty breathing, bring her in to the emergency veterinarian right away. 

Screening For Prevention

It’s not always easy to tell if your pet is sick, even with the signs we mentioned. One of the best ways to screen for illness is to perform testing at your pet’s annual wellness exam. Preventive care screening can help detect small problems before they become full blown disease. And test results are an important part of the puzzle your veterinarian needs to make a proper diagnosis. 

Screening tests include:

  • Chemistry and electrolyte tests for internal organ function, dehydration, and to test for an electrolyte imbalance
  • Tests to identify if your pet has heartworm, tick borne disease, or other infectious diseases
  • A complete blood count to determine if your pet has blood related conditions
  • Urine tests to rule out infection and test kidney function
  • A thyroid test to determine if the thyroid is producing too little or too much hormone
  • Blood pressure testing to determine heart and vascular health

If your pet is ill, contact your primary care veterinarian right away. We are your partners in pet health here at Pets In Stitches and are happy to provide affordable general preventative care, diagnostics and an array of surgical care options for dogs, cats & rabbits

Come. Stay. Heal.

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