Is your pet just feeling down in the dumps or is he or she really sick or feeling pain? We give you some tips to spot a sick furry companion.

Because you’re the one that spends the most time with your pet, it’s ultimately up to you to note the changes in your pet’s behaviour that may signal pain, discomfort or illness.

There are the most obvious and alarming signs such as a distinct loss of appetite, bleeding, persistent diarrhoea or persistent vomiting. Pets may occasionally throw up, especially cats, but if this is excessive or happens more than occasionally, you should seek help.

You should also be aware of any visible weight loss, difficulty in breathing or an increase in lethargy. Visible weight gain for no apparent reason (i.e. if you’re feeding your pet the same as always) is another potential symptom.

Other things to look out for include the state of your pet’s coat, such as raised fur or fur falling out, and dullness in the eyes or blood stools. A good preventative measure is to ensure that your animals are free of ticks and fleas as these can lead to various illnesses.

It may seem obvious but remember to regularly check your pet’s body by touching, gently massaging and holding it, including the limbs, and look out for any sign of discomfort when you do so. You should also note any unusual bumps or lumps.

Swelling, crusting or discharges from the eyes, nose or ears should always be looked at and dogs and cats’ gums should be pinkish and look healthy (make sure you know what your pet’s gums look like when they are healthy for future reference).

Cats especially are susceptible to ear mites which can result in shaking of the head, dark brown wax and loss of hearing. Should your pet start consistently smelling badly for no apparent reason, a visit to the vet is in order.

Most importantly you will need to look out for more subtle changes in your pet’s behaviour such as changes in attitude, activity levels or interest in regular activities like climbing stairs or taking walks.

  • Does your pet strain to get up, especially when waking?
  • Have you seen your dog limping during or after walks?
  • Has your cat stopped jumping up to her usual spot on the windowsill?
  • Has your dog suddenly stopped greeting you at the door when you arrive?
  • Is your pet becoming aggressive or irritated with no obvious explanation?
  • Has the sparkle going out of his or her eye?
  • Has your pet lost the desire to play or interact with you?

These more subtle changes in behaviour can indicate potentially serious conditions in their early stages. One again, if these subtle changes happen once in a blue moon and for a very brief time, there’s less reason to be concerned, but do take action if changes in behaviour are dramatic and become consistent.

If your pet has a day when he or she seems out of sorts it’s one thing, but more than a couple of days of not showing much interest in getting off his or her basket is a sure sign something is up.

The key is to be aware, take note, take action and report what you see to your vet in order to nip any possible problems in the bud and improve the health and life of your furry friend. Remember that you are the one that speaks for your pet – and you will need to be their voice when consulting with your vet.

This article in intended to be a simple and basic guide to potential signs of illness. The best advice on the matter, however, can be supplied by your vet.

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