There are few things as nerve-wracking as thinking your pet might be sick. Your pet can’t explain to you what’s going on. Instead, you’re left to evaluate the sniffle, bump, or bruise yourself and determine whether or not to see the vet. So how can you tell the difference between pet symptoms you can treat at home and a more serious problem that requires a professional hand?
Pet Symptoms That Require Immediate Care
Pronounced limp. Mild limping is usually not an emergency issue, but you will need to take your pet to the vet if the limping is pronounced and continues after a day of rest. Dogs and cats are susceptible to tearing muscles, breaking and fracturing bones, and arthritis as they age, just like humans.
- Snapping sounds (bones breaking)
- Lameness that persists after 24 hours of inactivity
- Limbs or bones resting at an odd angle
- Severe swelling
- Inability to stand
- Dragging limb
Bloody diarrhea. Bloody diarrhea is never normal. Neither is vomiting blood. Take your pet to your veterinarian for a stool sample.
Your vet may want to test for these serious conditions and more:
- Stomach cancer
- Stomach/esophageal tumors
- Poisoning from snake bites, rat poison, certain plants, or heavy metals
- Liver disease
- Kidney disease
Shaking their head. No, your dog didn’t suddenly get an attitude. Ear infections can throw off your pet’s equilibrium, which may contribute to head swaying or a lack of balance.
Keep an eye out for:
- Pawing at the ears
- Brown/yellow discharge
- Scabs or crusty ears
Persistent scratching. Most dogs like to scratch and be scratched behind the ears, but if your pet is scratching so much that they’re losing fur, something’s amiss.
Reasons your dog or cat might be scratching:
- Dry skin
Not eating or going to the bathroom. Sometimes animals will not eat because they’re stressed by external circumstances, such as your prolonged absence, a big move, or the introduction of a new pet into the household. However, you should always take your pet to the vet if they refuse to eat. Mild cases can be treated by creating a sense of security for your pet in their environment. Serious issues will need to be fixed at the root of the problem.
The issue may be something serious, such as:
- Dental disease
- Drug reactions
Pet Symptoms You Can Possibly Treat at Home
Weird mood. Everyone gets in a funk at times — including your pets. If your animal temporarily doesn’t seem to want to play or picks up a strange habit, don’t be alarmed. Monitor their behavior, and if the strange behavior continues after a day or two, go to the vet.
Mild limp. If your pet can put weight on all of their legs but still shows signs of mild discomfort, try enforcing a mandatory rest day inside a kennel or while supervised at home without any jumping or running. After 24 hours, if your pet is still in discomfort or having trouble walking, come see the vet.
Mild diarrhea. Dogs and cats will eat, lick, and gnaw on just about anything, so it’s no wonder their stomachs get upset from time to time. An occasional episode of diarrhea is natural and nothing to worry about.
Repeat episodes or dehydration are serious business, though, and require a visit to the vet to rule out viruses and other complications.
What to Do if You’re Not Sure
If your pet has been acting strange and you’re unsure how to respond, play it safe and book the soonest appointment. You can always call with basic questions, too, but know that veterinarians cannot say for sure what is going on with your pet without a thorough examination. Give yourself some peace of mind by scheduling an appointment to get your pet on the mend ASAP.
Keep your animals safe by learning how to prepare and care for them in an emergency.