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Monitoring Your Pet's Health

Updated on April 28, 2014

Our animals are important to us and we want them to stay healthy for life. When they get sick they cannot tell you that they are in pain or feeling ill and often it is up to us to pick up on the symptoms.

It is important that we have an awareness of what to look for because some illnesses can strike fast and suddenly. Missing the warning signs can mean the difference between your pet living or dying.

It is far better to pick up on something wrong by noticing the early warning signs than to miss them and find out it is too late to save your pet.

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Be aware of changes in your pet's habits, sleeping and toilet patterns. Some animals withdraw, sleep more or simply act differently to normal. If you are not aware of these changes, you can fail to notice an illness which is developing.

A seemingly healthy animal can be at death's door within a day or two, and you noticing their behaviour changes could save their life.

Using the Toilet

This may not sound very exciting, but it is a good idea to check occasionally that your pet is going to the toilet ok, rather than just letting them outside and leaving them to it.

When a cat sits on the litter tray for extended periods of time, you might find it funny, however it may also be pointing to serious internal issues like a blocked bladder. If the bladder blocks, toxins can build up in the kidneys which can cause long term problems and even be fatal.

I wish I had known more about this when it happened to our cat. He was healthy and never needed trips to the vet, then suddenly one day began to withdraw, struggled to go to the toilet. We got him to the vet as soon as we could, however even then it was too late to save him. I often wish I had picked up on the symptoms sooner.

Day to day the solidity and consistency of their stool can change due to diet, however runny tummy's and other similar conditions can point to bigger problems.

How often they urinate, or if they are having trouble doing so are signs of other problems which may need attention.

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Eating Habits

It's important to understand your pet's eating habits.

Some dogs, like Huskies, have a low metabolism and therefore often eat less. Also changes in season may result in your dog eating more or less. They may want to put on weight as winter sets in, or lose it as warmer weather approaches.

However, despite these normal diet changes, it is also very important to be aware of other factors which can be causing your beloved pet to eat differently. Illnesses may result in them not eating (similar to how in humans we don't want to eat when we feel sick).

Withdrawing from food may be alerting you to something which needs the attention of a vet.

Are they Drinking Water?

Dehydration can occur when your pet stops drinking water.

If they are unwell, they may not only avoid food, but also water. It is important to ensure that they are getting a proper water intake.

With conditions like a blocked bladder, the water can add to the amount of blocked urine building up; however water is vital for life. With a possible blocked bladder, do not delay in getting your pet to the vet! Even a few hours delay can mean life or death.

Other illnesses and conditions result in your pet getting more thirsty than normal, so drinking a larger amount of water than they usually do.

Changes in drinking habits should alert you to potential problems.

Some Common Cat Illnesses and Conditions

Condition
Some Symptoms
Blocked Bladder
Withdrawn, Prolonged time trying to go to toilet, bloated
Urinary tract disease
difficulty urinating, blood in urine, licking urinary area, crying when urinating, vomiting, loss of appetite
Eye Problems
watery or cloudy eyes, pawing eyes, discharges from eyes
Arthritis
walking stiffly, limping, trouble jumping, missing the litter box
Diabetes
thirsty, weight loss, not eating, vomiting, increased urination
Stomach or digestive problems
vomiting, Diarrhoea, weakness,passing wind
Heart disease
coughing, difficulty breathing, weight loss, swollen abdomen,
Kidney disease
increased thirst, loss of appetite, changes in urination (increase or decrease), vomiting, poor coat (fur)

Watching Your Animal's Weight

Some animals love to eat, and eat, and eat. This may seem amusing at first, however an obese dog or cat will not live as long as they should. It can cause other illnesses too.

Being over weight will result in energy loss and lethargy which means more sitting and lying around so they don't get proper exercise. Also, too much weight will put a strain on their joints and muscles when they are standing, walking or running; potentially causing other problems.

Putting your pet on a diet to lose the weight is harder than monitoring their weight in the first place.

Sudden weight increase or decrease can also be a symptom of an illness, or depression; so be aware.

Throwing Up

Sometimes throwing up or being sick can simply be caused by your dog eating some grass which has become stuck in their throat. However it can also be the result of an illness. It may simply be an upset stomach which lasts a day and soon settles, or possible something far more serious.

Knowing the balance between panicking over throwing up after eating grass which may not need attention of a vet, and a serious issue causing them to be sick is important.

This is not an exhaustive list of cat illnesses and symptoms, just a sample to give you an idea of potential threats to your cat's health.

Consult a vet for a proper diagnosis, this list is only a guide for your information

Coughing

An occasional cough may be fur balls stuck in the throat, however it can also point to conditions like cancer.

Is it a one off cough, or is it happening consistently?

Monitor when they cough. For example is it when they are lying down, possibly sleeping?

When lying down, fluid can build up on the lungs, connected to a condition or illness, which triggers a cough. Your vet will ask you details like when the cough occurs, how often, how serious and how long it has been going on.

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Sleeping Patterns

Is your cat or dog sleeping a lot more than normal? This could be pointing to a problem.

By itself this symptom can be difficult to pick up on, as some pets love to sleep. Also the weather can be a factor in sleeping. Rainy days may mean lazy days, or very hot weather could mean they don't want to jump around too much, especially if they are a think coated dog.

However, once again, changes in sleeping patterns could also be pointing to health problems you need to look into.

Another one worth watching out for is withdrawing to be alone more than usual or sleeping hidden away. Many pets have favourite sleeping areas and some of these are hidden, so again this symptom can be harder to notice.

Some Common Dog Illnesses and Conditions

Condition
Possible Symptoms
Parvo
Loss of Appetite, lethargic, vomiting, Diarrhoea (bloody), Strong odour to feces, depression, anorexia, darkened gums, elevated heart rate
Allergies
redness on skin, scratching
Arthritis
doesn't like being touched in certain areas, lagging behind in walks, hesitant climbing stairs, stiffness
Cancer
Changes in appetite, chronic bleeding (mouth, nose, anus, ears), difficulty swallowing and eating, abnormal swelling or growth, sores, weight loss
Diabetes
weakness, thirsty, frequent urination, rapid weight loss, abdominal pain
Digestive Disorders
Flatulence, vomiting, weakness, Diarrhoea
Kidney Disease
thirsty, loss of appetite and weight, energy loss, bad breath, vomiting, Diarrhoea
Urinary Bladder Stones
Difficulty urinating, blood in urine, inability to control urination,

This is not an exhaustive list of dog illnesses, just a sample to give you an idea of potential threats to your dog's health.

Consult a vet for a proper diagnosis, this list is only a guide for your information.

Joints and Muscles

Is your dog walking around like he is stiff, maybe arching his back while walking? Is he reluctant to walk upstairs, or jump onto a couch he is usually allowed on?

Conditions like arthritis are not limited to humans and animals can have to deal with them too.

As a dog gets older, if these conditions set in, they can be more likely to injure themselves when walking, running or playing.

Some breeds of dog get hip dysplasia which results in a lot of pain.

If your dog has arthritis or hip dysplasia, you need to be aware of their limitations and not take them on walks which are too strenuous or lengthy. Exercise is still important but get the balance right.

Coat or Fur

Loss of or thinning of fur are important to note, and can point to other problems, including internal ones.

Also the deterioration of the condition of their coat is a sign to notice.

Skin

Internal issues may be harder to spot, unless you can pick up on the symptoms, however you can notice things like lumps on the skin which may develop. While patting your pet, you might come across a lump, or skin which does not feel right.

Lumps can be cysts, or fatty deposits, however they can also be cancerous. It is important to get lumps checked out by your vet. This is especially true if the lump grows or develops, so monitor it over time.

Other skin conditions to be aware of include rashes, or sores. Some dogs and cats have allergies. These may be to plants or even certain types of grass. Coming into contact with these can cause a rash or red patch.

If they are coming in to contact with these in your garden, you may need to get rid of a particular plant. If it's on a walk, then changing your route may solve the issue.

Again, consult your vet. Some illnesses and other conditions can cause sores and rashes too.

Dog Depression

It may seem strange, but animals have emotions and can get depressed too. This may result in them withdrawing, not eating or simply losing their happiness. You may try to pat them or give them love and they simply walk away and even hide.

The depression may be caused by things within your control, like the introduction of a new animal, or even a baby. A new child in the home can cause a dog to get less love and attention than it is used to, resulting in emotional reactions.

Dogs which are left alone for long periods of time, especially consistently, can develop depression.

It is important to notice and deal with this when it arises. Your animal draws the love it needs from you. Humans have work, friends, games, the internet, movies and other distractions to feed our emotions. Our animals only have us.

Make sure you spend time with them, play together! Take them for walks and feed them the love they crave and need.

If your pet does get depressed, you can take steps to help pull them through, by providing an increase in love and attention so they feel wanted by you.

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The Importance of Good Pet Insurance

Vet bills can be very expensive and often we do not plan or prepare for sudden emergencies with our animals.

Hoping, 'it will never happen to my pet' is not an option. You can go for long periods of time without an emergency trip to the vet, then get hit by multiple trips within a month!

You may not feel you can afford pet insurance, but if that is the case, you won't be able to afford a large sudden vet bill either. Pet insurance is better.

A sudden injury while out walking or playing, illness or even eating something that causes internal blockage can all bring costly vet bills.

Loving your pet includes making sure they can get the treatment and care they need when necessary.

Conclusion

If you notice particular symptoms developing in your pet, consult your vet. Even a phone call to the vet can let you know whether you need to get them in ASAP.

Our pets are valuable to us, but they are also dependant upon us. When they feel ill, they need you to notice it and take action. If in doubt, check with your vet.

Monitoring their heath on an ongoing basis could save their lives. It is easy to forget about it and get caught up with other things which take your attention. If this happens, you could miss early warning signs and symptoms of major problems starting to develop.


© 2014 HuskyChaos

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    • profile image

      Nora Santos 3 years ago

      My friend is leaving on vacation for six months and asked me to watch her dog. I like animals, but I have never had a pet before. Her dog seems to sleep a lot, and I am not sure if it is sick or if that is normal. This has been an interesting learning experience for me and I am glad I know more tips about pet health and what to watch out for over the next few months. http://www.centennialpets.com

    • HuskyChaos profile image
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      HuskyChaos 3 years ago from England

      Thank you Kathleen Odenthal. Glad you enjoyed it

    • Kathleen Odenthal profile image

      Kathleen Odenthal Romano 3 years ago from Bayonne, New Jersey

      Very informative hub! Thanks for the valuable information. Voted and shared.

    • HuskyChaos profile image
      Author

      HuskyChaos 3 years ago from England

      Thank you for your comment sangre. Very true, we have a responsibility toward our pets. They are dependant upon us for love and support. Knowing the things in this hub are crucial for taking care of them and ensuring they live quality lives.

    • sangre profile image

      Sp Greaney 3 years ago from Ireland

      This is very useful information and important for any pet owner to know as it's our responsibility to look after our pet.