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When to Visit the Vet: Five Subtle Symptoms of Illness in Pets

visit-the-vetSometimes it’s obvious when your pet needs to see the veterinarian, but at other times, signs of illness can be more subtle. Treatment has the best chance of success (and the lowest cost!) when it is started early in the course of a disease. If your pet develops any of the following symptoms, don’t hesitate to call your veterinarian.

1. Unexpected Changes in Body Weight

Obesity is one of the most common health problems facing companion animals today. Many health conditions (e.g., osteoarthritis, heart disease, hormonal disorders, and cancer) are seen more frequently in overweight pets. In some cases a medical problem, such as hypothyroidism, may be responsible for an animal’s weight gain. It is also possible for owners to think that their pets are gaining weight when in fact they are suffering from a disease that causes swelling or abdominal enlargement.

Unexpected weight loss can be just as much of a warning sign as is weight gain. Diseases that can make pets lose weight quickly include:

  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Cancer
  • Dental disease
  • Disorders of the gastrointestinal tract
  • Internal Parasites
  • Infection
  • Heart Disease
  • Dysfunction of the kidneys, liver or other organs

2. Bad Smells

Animals don’t always smell perfectly fresh, but foul odors can be a sign of big problems. Dental disorders are a leading cause of bad breath, and the bacteria associated with tooth and gum disease can spread and wreak havoc throughout the body. Infections, especially of the skin and ears, can also alter a pet’s body odor, while flatulence is often associated gastrointestinal disorders.

3. Increased Thirst and Urination

Many diseases adversely affect kidney function and cause pets to produce more urine than normal, which makes them drink a lot to compensate. If you notice that the water bowl is emptying faster than it used to or if your pet is having urinary accidents, diabetes mellitus, kidney disease, pyometra, Cushing’s disease, hyperthyroidism, or Addison’s disease may be responsible.

4. New Lumps

Any new lump that is irritating or fails to resolve within a week or so should be checked out by a veterinarian. Cancer is always the biggest concern for the owners of older animals, but abscesses, granulomas (a mass of inflammatory cells), cysts, hematomas, and hernias can also be to blame regardless of an animal’s age.

5. Loss of Energy

If your pet seems a little off but is otherwise acting normally, there is no need to rush to the veterinary clinic. However, lethargy that continues for more than a few days or is associated with other symptoms should be checked out. An unwillingness or inability to be active can be a sign of many problems ranging from heart disease to infection to musculoskeletal pain.

In conclusion, even subtle symptoms are often signs of significant health problems in pets. Early diagnosis and treatment offers the best chance of a successful outcome.

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