Your pets depend on you to keep them healthy and safe. Since they’re unable to tell you when they feel bad, it’s up to you to watch for signs of a problem. There are three basic areas to keep an eye on: food and water intake, elimination, and personality.
1. Food and Water Intake
Many illnesses, both serious and minor, affect an animal’s appetite. If your favorite feline or pup occasionally turns its nose up at mealtimes, there’s not necessarily a problem. If that behavior becomes a pattern–if the pet refuses two or more meals–it’s time to seek veterinary help. Common causes for lack of appetite include parasites, infections, cancer, and kidney failure.
All pets need water but illnesses like kidney disease, diabetes, and liver disease cause increased thirst. If your pet hovers around the water bowl, constantly slurping up liquid, get to a veterinarian immediately. This is especially important if you have a cat, since they’re prone to urinary blockages that lead to death if not treated right away.
Whether your pets go to the potty in a litter box or on the lawn, how often they go and what their eliminations look like are indications of health. Your pet shouldn’t strain during its bowel movements or while urinating. Listen for sounds of distress if it seems your dog, cat or other is taking an inordinate amount of time while trying to go.
A complete inability to eliminate is a code-red problem. Without immediate help, your pet is at serious risk. On the other end of the spectrum, frequent urination or bowel movements are also problematic. Kidney disease, diabetes, diarrhea, and infections are just a few common culprits.
Keep an eye on the consistency of your pet’s stool. Diarrhea typically indicates a parasite or infection. If it doesn’t clear up in a day, you’ll need your vet’s help. Stool that’s a strange color shouldn’t be ignored. Green or bright yellow stool means there’s bile in your pet’s intestinal tract. In other words, something is causing an infection. Stool with blood in it or that has a dark, tarry color requires a quick trip to the doctor. It’s a sign of serious illness.
Has your pet gone from a loving goof to testy and aloof? Any sudden change in personality or behavior means there’s trouble on the horizon. It could be something simple that will go away on its own, like a painful toenail or upset stomach. It could also mean your pet is in suffering from a more complex illness. Fatigue, irritability, and listlessness are all signs of disease and shouldn’t be ignored.
By the time you realize your pet is ill, it can be too late. Many diseases progress quickly and with deadly consequences. Early detection is often the difference between your pet making a swift recovery and losing its life.