Most responsible pet owners care about pet health and can recognize the obvious signs of distress in their pet. And most (I hope) would seek the proper veterinary care for anything such as bleeding or an animal who is incapacitated. However, it is equally important to be up on and attentive to the more subtle signs your pet needs help. Every species is different in the way it communicates distress. A good general rule is to watch for any behavioral shifts that could be cause for alarm.
1. Reluctant to Climb or Jump. If you’re dog usually jumps into your vehicle or onto the couch with no problem but has suddenly begun to hesitate, he or she may be experiencing arthritis, hip dysplasia, even early signs of neurologic disease. This is a perfect example of a behavioral shift — a great pet health indicator — that warrants an early look, to offer peace-of-mind and prevent avoidable progression of disease.
2. Becoming Reclusive or Suddenly Quiet. If your pet who is normally social suddenly begins seeking more alone time or sleeping significantly more, this could indicate some sort of pain or infection. This is a big red flag you’ll want to pay attention to, and see if you can observe any other changes so that you can report these to the vet as well. In one instance, a cat who’d swallowed a long piece of string that was constricting his intestines was simply noted to be sitting quietly and not bouncing around as he usually did. This change had only begun that morning, but his eyes seemed to say something is wrong (pay attention to those subtle communication signs!!). Fortunately, the cat’s very astute owner rushed him to the vet where an x-ray revealed the ingested foreign body and emergency surgery saved his life.
3. Foul Breath ≠ Pet Health. If your pet has bad breath, this could mean your pet has oral abscesses, complications with the gums, broken teeth, or other oral health conditions. And just like with us humans, these conditions could be causing pain and opening the door to other diseases of major organs including the heart. Go HERE for more on dental pet health!
4. Coughing. In the animal world, communication can be cryptic to us humans. Many cat owners can and do confuse the early signs of asthma with their cat just trying to cough up a hairball. It’s an honest mistake. Just be aware that coughing, wheezing, or sneezing can be signs of viral infections, heart diseases, and worms (to name a few). And unfortunately, in this area of pet health, it’s pretty much impossible for pet owners to make the determinations of which is which on their own.
5. Unproductive or Unusual Vomiting. Pets will vomit on occasion (i.e. cat hairballs, yellow bile from your dog in the morning), but sometimes vomit can be a sign of a serious emergency such as an ingested foreign object or poisoning. In dogs, unproductive vomiting can indicate a severe condition in which their stomach is twisted. Check out this informative article for more on pet vomiting and what to watch for.
6. Changes in Posture. A great pet health indicator that is easy to observe is their posture or body presentation. In dogs and cats, pay close attention to if they are suddenly limping, hesitating to sit down, or sleeping in an unusual position. A bird who sits with his feathers ruffled out for a long period of time could be suffering from a respiratory illness. And a bunny with a hunched or hunkered down posture could be experiencing stasis, which is common in bunnies and requires immediate veterinary intervention.
7. Poop & Pee Indicators. Another excellent pet health indicator are your pet’s bathroom habits. Therefore, it is super important for pet owners to observe their pet’s elimination behaviors. Frequent urination can indicate serious health issues ranging from diabetes to urinary tract infection to kidney failure. In fact, our male cat, Murphy, suffered sudden blockage of the urinary tract and was unable to pee despite desperate attempts. Although he didn’t mean to, when he could finally get it out, it would usually be on the bed. 😦 Again, the best thing you can do is observe your pets’ elimination behaviors as much as you can. Changes in bowel movements can indicate anything from simple parasitic infection to intestinal disease to gastrointestinal hemorrhaging. Black poop, poop with bright red blood, or diarrhea that persists are all bad for pet health and all reasons to go see the vet.
Thanks for reading this in the name of maintaining great pet health!
And if you or someone you know is in need of the BEST pet-sitters and house-sitters in Albuquerque, give Duck & Turtle a call at 505.410.7954 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org !!! ☺
To you and your pets’ happiness and wellness,