Rocky was what most would call a spunky cat – always getting into mischief around the house, romping about with the family dog and begging his owners for attention. Then one day his behavior began to change. Instead of his usual routine of near constant motion, he was reluctant to leave his bed on the windowsill. Rather than seek the company of his human companions, he became withdrawn and aloof. His owners, noticing the alteration in his activity level, and concerned about his pet health, took Rocky to the veterinarian. Arthritis was the diagnosis.
Our dogs and cats can’t tell us in words when their joints ache or their tummies hurt. It’s up to us, as responsible pet parents, to note any changes in our furry friend’s behavior that may warrant a trip to the vet – especially when any of these often-serious signs are present. Familiarize yourself with this list of dog symptoms and cat symptoms:
Vomiting and Diarrhea
Vomiting is not unusual in dogs and cats and is not always a sign of illness – especially if your pet only vomits once in a while. However, if he vomits several times in one day, is lethargic and lacks appetite, you should call your vet.
Whenever your pet vomits, check for blood. Whether fresh (red) or digested (dark, granular) blood is present, it may indicate she has a gastric ulcer or has swallowed a foreign object that is irritating her stomach. Vomiting and diarrhea can also indicate parasitic infections such as hookworms, roundworms, whipworms and giardia.
Lack of Appetite
If your cat is normally enthusiastic about mealtimes and suddenly seems disinterested, it’s important to monitor his condition. If he goes 24 hours without eating, it’s time to see the vet. Cats that go without eating for several days can develop “fatty liver,” which may lead to liver failure if left untreated. Other reasons your pet may stop eating include fever, pain and stress. If your dog or cat’s lack of appetite persists, seek medical attention.
A pet that suddenly becomes lethargic could have heart disease. While it’s normal for cats to sleep a lot, and for a dog to be tired after an extra-long play session, keep an eye out for lethargy accompanied by other symptoms including weakness or loss of consciousness.
Changes in Urination
Increased urination in a dog or cat may indicate diabetes, liver disease, kidney disease or adrenal gland disease. Straining to urinate, or not urinating at all, could signal bladder stones or a problem with your pet’s urinary tract. Cats in particular need to see the vet promptly if you suspect urinary tract issues. Inflammation that prevents urination can become life threatening within 24 hours.
Persistent coughing may indicate heart disease, lung disease or ringworm in dogs and cats. Kennel cough is not uncommon in dogs, and often resolves on its own within weeks, but is dangerous for puppies and breeds with pushed-in faces. Signs that the infection is progressing to pneumonia include fever, runny nose, lethargy and loss of appetite.
Stiffness and Difficulty Rising
Pets that appear stiff or experience difficulty rising from a prone position may be suffering from arthritis, ruptured ligaments, disc disease, hip dysplasia or Lyme disease. While arthritis if often a part of aging, your veterinarian can treat the symptoms to ensure your pet maintains quality of life.
Did your pet ever "tell" you that it was sick? What symptoms showed up? What was the diagnosis? Tell us the story in the comment section!