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How to Tell If Your Pet Is Sick

Updated on December 28, 2011

Get Your Pet to the Vet

Your pet probably doesn't like going to the vet any more than you like going to the dentist. Take him anyway. Regular vet care, a yearly exam at the least, is an important way to keep your pet healthy.

During the annual exam, your veterinarian can detect diseases in their early stages before they get too serious. He or she will also see to it that your pet is up-to-date on all of his vaccinations.

However, pets with allergies or immune problems should probably not be receiving these vaccinations. Let your veterinarian know if your pet has a history of allergies.

Vet Alert Symptoms

Some symptoms, whether found in your dog or your cat, indicate health problems.

One of the most common is a change in weight, especially if your pet is eating normally. Weight loss may signal a gastrointestinal or metabolic disorder such as hyperthyroidism, a condition common in older cats. A loss of 1 pound in a cat or small dog or 2 to 3 pounds in a larger dog is reason to consult your vet. Sudden weight gain can also spell trouble. Also take heed if your pet seems especially lethargic.

Other signs of pet disease that warrant visits to the doctor include visible discomfort or pain, repeated vomiting or diarrhea lasting for more than a day, constipation, blood in the stool, coughing, excessive sneezing, and excessive urination.

How to Tell If Your Pet Is Sick

Even without a medical degree, you can often tell when people are in poor health: they slouch, they drag, they cough, they're always tired. But what about dogs and cats?

Early detection of health problems can lengthen your pet's life- if you know what to look for.

There are a host of symptoms that signal poor health in both dogs and cats.

Despite those cat food commercials that star finicky cats, such behavior is quite abnormal. A normal, healthy cat is not a finicky cat. One of the most common signs of feline health problems is the cat that at first looks happy and excited when you put his dish down, but then turns up his nose and whiskers at first sniff of his food. Such a cat may be on his way to developing liver or thyroid problems or other internal disorders and should have a medical checkup.

While healthy cats like to eat, they don't generally drink. Cats get just about all the water they need from the food they eat- healthy cats rarely drink, maybe once a week. If your cat is drinking every day, it's an alert that something may be wrong. Ask your vet.

Dogs show ill health in different ways than cats. Typical warning signs of a sickly pup are constant scratching, dandruff, and a "scaly look". Similarly, a bad smell, a "musty" or "corn-chip kind of smell," are signs of an unhealthy dog.

Excessive licking, especially of the front paws, is also a cue. Licking or gnawing on his paws is a dog's way of telling the world, "I don't feel so hot."

Hip problems are a common health problem, particularly in breeds such as German shepherds. How do you recognize hip problems? Observe them running, tThey'll keep their rear feet together kind of like a bunny might hop. If it isn't a hip problem, it might be a spine problem. In either case, see your vet.

Another thing to check is the ears. If the ears smell bad, if they tend to produce a lot of a dark brown or black waxy matter, if they are red or itchy or cause your dog to shake his head, it's a sign of trouble. Get to the vet.

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