Signs of Illness in Dogs
Did you know that the leading cause of dogs vet visits were ear infections? After which, the leading causes of vet visits for dogs were skin allergies, infections, vomiting and diarrhoea. These are all easily diagnosable and treatable – but your dog’s illness may be more serious. So, it’s a good idea to inform yourself about what signs of illness are, so you can get to the root cause as soon as possible. Whether it’s just a little ear infection or something more serious, you’ll want to get your best friend back to normal as soon as possible!
- Not eating for more than 24 hours. If your dog isn’t eating food or drinking water for more than 24 hours, it’s time to contact the vet. Most dogs will usually eat anything and everything they can – if they start being picky, or going off their food entirely, it’s a sure sign something is wrong. There are a lot of reasons your dog’s eating patterns may become irregular – get it checked out.
- Vomiting, gagging, sneezing or coughing. All the obvious signs of sickness in humans are also present in dogs – repeated vomiting indicates food poisoning, and choking when eating can also be a sign of something wrong with the gastrointestinal tract. Infections can also lead to vomiting. Kennel cough is a serious contagious illness, so excessive coughing and wheezing shouldn’t be left unattended.
- Weight loss. If your dog is not eating and losing weight, or eating a lot and still losing weight, it’s a sure sign something serious is wrong. If your dog is losing weight progressively over a period of time, try to find out why. It can even indicate cancer – so don’t let it go unnoticed and keep an eye on your pup’s weight!
- Excessive thirst or urination. If your dog is drinking a lot more water than usual, and urinating more than usual, it can be a sign of something wrong with your dog’s kidneys or thyroid.
- Difficulty urinating – yelping, a hunched back or blood in the urine is all a sign of something going wrong.
- Clues in the Poop! Diarrhoea, constipation, blood and mucus are all warning signs of illness. Your dog’s poop can tell you a lot about the kind of illness, too – diarrhoea indicates food poisoning or doggy flu, and constipation might be a sign of dehydration, or food intolerances. Blood in the stools can indicate a serious problem with your dog’s intestinal tract. Keep in mind there are two types of blood: hematochezia is bright red blood, and melena is dark, sticky, tarry stool of digested blood (indicating a problem in the upper digestive tract). Don’t panic – if there’s a single streak of red blood in your dog’s stool, it might just be a fluke. Consistent bleeding indicates a real problem. Contact your vet immediately! Health problems related to the intestinal tract can be viral, bacterial, parvovirus, hemorrhagic gastroenteritis, and cancer.
- Lumps, bumps, or other body irregularities. My first dog started off with a tiny lump underneath her armpit; over the years, it grew into an enormous tumour. Luckily, it was benign (not cancerous)! If it had been, she would probably have died from it. So, it’s super important to always be attentive to any lumps or strange growths on your dog’s body – it can be the beginning of cancer, or other health problems. Check out for inflammation, cuts, and any other irregularities on your dog’s body. You can do this whilst grooming your dog, or just once or twice a week. Given that we, as dog owners, spend a lot of time playing with our dogs and stroking and cuddling them, chances are if they have any new lump you’ll realise before the body check up – but best to be on the safe side!
- Difficulty walking. Again, chances are you’ll have noticed this already – if your dog has a limp, or seems stiff or uncomfortable when out walking and running, it indicates something is wrong. Coughing or excessive panting is also an indicator of respiratory problems. If your dog seems stiff and unable to climb stairs or furniture, it can be the beginnings of arthritis or other joint problems.
- Weight gain. It’s not just humans that are suffering from an obesity crisis in the modern era – dogs are being affected, too. As your dog’s owner, it’s your responsibility to make intelligent choices about their diet and how much they exercise. Doing a bad job at this means that your pet will become obese. This can cause a whole range of health problems – high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease and joint and muscle problems. Seek advice from your vet if your dog is piling on the pounds.
- Mouth problems. Check your dog’s mouth regularly to see if anything is wrong. A healthy mouth is pink, so darker red patches indicate something’s not right! Growths, lumps and cuts and sores on the tongue are all not good, and teeth can be checked to see if they are clean and not loose. Bad breath can indicate something is wrong with your pet’s digestion! Red or swollen gums paired with bad breath indicate gum disease – when left untreated, this can lead to your dog losing teeth. Weight loss can also be caused by mouth problems!
- Problems with their eyes. They say eyes are the windows to the soul – well for dogs, they can also be a sure sign of illness. These can include discharge and redness – you can check for obvious irritants like eyelashes or hair growing into the eyes, but if not, your dog’s eyes can indicate if they are sick. Check their eyes are clear, too, as film over the eyes can be a sign of eye problems (like cataracts) that need treated.
- Dry noses! Noses should be wet, cool, and free of discharge. Dry noses show your dog has a cold or something more serious – likewise, discharge and frequent sneezing show your dog is sick or has an allergy. Runny eyes and noses, sneezing, panting and other flu-like symptoms all show respiratory problems.
- Irritated ears. You probably won’t be able to see your dog’s ears are swelling, but if they are constantly scratching their ears, you should look to see if there is a build up of wax there and any swelling. A bad odour is also a sign of an ear infection. You can remove wax gently with cotton wool but any swelling or odours should be checked out by your vet.
- Irritated skin. Itchy or flaking skin demonstrates a health problem – your dog’s skin should be smooth and pink or black. Continual itching, sores, lumps and other dermatitis signs can show an allergy to flea bites or other parasites. Skin problems can also be due to allergies.
- Lethargy and tiredness. If your dog isn’t their usual, energetic self, you will surely notice – you just have to find out why. Like humans, dogs can appear unwell – if they are sleeping more than usual, not as active as usual, and appear constantly tired and less interested in activities they once enjoyed, take a trip to the vet. It’s better to be safe than sorry!
Signs of Illness in Cats
As for cats, the top reason for visit the vet was lower urinary tract problems. The rest were vomiting, chronic renal failure, hyperthyroidism and diabetes mellitus.
Cats exhibit a lot of the same signs of illness as dogs – any changes with their weight (loss or gain), vomiting, diarrhoea, excessive or difficult urination, difficulty walking and climbing, irritated skin, irritated ears, eyes, mouth and nose, or general lethargy all indicate something is wrong.
However, there are some behaviour that are specific just to cats. And, cats should be paid special attention to by their owners as they may not be as likely to show that they are sick – cats are often viewed as more independent, and may not spend as much time with their owners as dogs. So, you have to be extra attentive to make sure your feline friend is well!
- Hiding. Cats often know when they are sick or dying and hide themselves away – this comes from an innate survival instinct, as they feel more vulnerable when they are unhealthy and hide from predators. Yes, even you, their owners!
- Poor grooming. Cats, unlike dogs, are usually very good at keeping themselves clean. Failing to do so shows that your kitty is forgoing her beauty ritual for a reason – if her coat starts looking greasy or matted, something’s up.
- Excessive grooming. This can be a sign of anxiety and stress in cats – they may even over-groom so much that their fur begins to fall out in places.
- Freezing. No, not your kitty literally freezing from the cold (although that’s a sure sign you should act, too!) – freezing refers to when a cat suddenly assumes a totally immobile posture. It’s usually in response to stress, so watch out for it – your cat will crouch and stare at the environmental or social reason for having frozen, with a fixed gaze and dilated pupils. Their tail will be tucked around their paws, and they may have their ears and whiskers flattened back. Whatever is stressing out your cat should be investigated, as repeated stress can have poor effects on your kitty’s health!
- Pacing and increased activity. Cats usually sleep a lot – as all cat owners know! So if your furball is spending more time pacing than snoozing, they could be stressed, anxious and ill. They’ll be pacing because they feel uneasy and nervous – often for no reason at all. Anxiety can exist in animals, too, so if your kitty has difficulty sitting still, they might have feline anxiety!
- Meowing. Did you know that cats meow mainly to communicate with humans, not each other? If they want to get your attention, they’ll likely begin meowing – and if it’s more than usual, it will be because they need to tell you something. It will sound sad and distressed, so you’ll probably realise something is wrong.
- Trembling. If your cat is fearful to the point that they regularly tremble, they may be stressed out. But be sure to keep an eye on them – they might just be cold! If they are shaking for consecutive days, or when it’s hot, you can consider your cat might have a stress related problem and look into it more.
- Panting. Panting can be normal and abnormal – if they are overheating, stressed, anxious or have just exercised, your kitty may begin panting to cool down and rest. Abnormal panting can indicate respiratory diseases like bronchitis and heart problems.
- Expressing anal glands. A cat’s anal glands express a fishy, scent-marking liquid when they defecate – this is to mark their territory. If they are excessively expressing their anal glands, it can show they are stressed or feel in danger and under-pressure. They might also become infected and need to be expressed by you, or your vet!
-Eyal Azerad (firstname.lastname@example.org)