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Article Tools Search this Article Rating: Thread Rating: 1 votes, 3.00 average.
Thread Rating: 1 votes, 3.00 average.
How to tell when your pet is unwell
by TeenHelp September 11th 2021, 03:44 PM

How to tell when your pet is unwell
By Charlie (Horsefeathers.)

Whether your pet has fur, feathers, or scales, you probably only want the best for them. Thatís why itís important to know not only how to take care of them but how to gauge whether theyíre in good health. Most health and behavioural problems can be dealt with more easily and effectively if theyíre noticed sooner, so being aware of whatís normal for your pet and whatís abnormal can be vital in ensuring they live a long and happy life. Below are a few ways you can tell whether your pet may be feeling unwell, but a good rule of thumb is that any unexplained changes (for example in behaviour or appearance) should be investigated. If in doubt, you can always call your local veterinarian for advice!

Appetite and thirst
One of the most noticeable signs of illness in many animals is a change in their eating and/or drinking habits. Every pet is different, so itís important to know whatís normal for yours. For example if your dog usually wolfs down every meal but suddenly wonít go near their dinner bowl, thatís reason for concern Ė but if your cat, who has a habit of skipping meals if they donít like whatís on offer, doesnít eat their dinner, it might not be as much of an issue. Particularly in older pets, increased thirst can signal an internal change that might warrant a vet visit, as it might be a sign of infection or a developing illness such as diabetes.

Bodily functions
Some signs can be very obvious, such as diarrhoea or vomiting, while others can be more difficult to pick up on. Again, it comes down to knowing whatís normal for your pet. Signs of internal upset can include changes in urination or defecation (e.g. more or less frequently, going inside the house or outside the litter box, straining or having trouble, etc), any kind of discharge (such as weepy eyes or higher levels of drool), or changes in their ability to perform standard behaviours (such as having trouble swallowing or vocalising).

Energy levels
Your petís baseline energy level will vary depending on their age, species, and temperament, but any changes (particularly if theyíre sudden) are worth noting down. If your usually playful pet suddenly seems lethargic or uninterested in attention, they may not be feeling very well. However, an increase in energy may also be something to take note of Ė if your pet is pacing, restless, or seems unable to settle, they may be in pain or discomfort. Itís also important to take note if your pet is moving in a way thatís unusual for them Ė such as limping, seeming stiff, or being reluctant to move certain limbs.

When something internal changes in your pet, their external appearance may also change. Keep an eye out for any changes in the way your pet looks Ė for example your hamster might be missing patches of fur, or your snake may not have shed correctly. If your pet is able to be handled, itís a good idea to do so regularly; this way you can easily notice any lumps, bumps, injuries, or other signs that might signal something is wrong. Your petís grooming habits may also change; a stressed cat might overgroom, while a depressed bird might stop preening. You may also notice changes in your petís weight. While many animals go through cycles (for example putting on more weight in the winter and then gradually shedding it for summer), any unexplained weight loss or gain should be brought up with your vet.

Just like you would if you werenít feeing well, your pet may feel like being alone Ė or they may seek out more attention if theyíre in need of comfort. This can include things such as not wanting to be touched or held, hiding under furniture or in their enclosure, or engaging in behaviours that they donít usually do (e.g. repetitively licking an area of their body). Even if your pet is behaving normally around you, itís worth noting how they behave around other pets Ė for example your rabbit might be avoiding the other rabbits it lives with, or your normally patient cat might take a swipe at your dog. That can mean thereís something going on thatís causing your pet not to feel their best.

While this may not be applicable for pets that are normally quiet or even silent, many types of animal will express themselves through vocalising. Itís good to know what your pet usually sounds like so you can notice when they make noises that are unusual or unexpected. These can include sounds such as excessive barking, hissing, grunting, groaning, or anything else thatís out of the ordinary for your pet, in terms of volume, frequency, or type of vocalisation.

If your pet is having trouble breathing, this is a medical emergency and you should get them to the vet immediately. However, sometimes a change in breathing rate can be a more subtle sign that something may be wrong. It can be useful to get into the habit of checking your petís breathing rate every now and then (for pets who are easily monitored, such as mammals and birds) so that you know whatís normal for them and can therefore tell when things are abnormal. A distressed dog may pant a lot, and a cat with a fever may have rapid breathing. Knowing your petís normal breathing rate can give you a sense of their overall health. Any coughing or wheezing is also a signal that your pet may need to see their vet.

While the points above are a good starting point, they are by no means exhaustive. Signs may vary depending on your petís species, age, and temperament, as well as what kind of injury, illness, or health issue theyíre facing. Many pets will naturally try to hide the fact that theyíre not feeling well, so itís up to the owners to be alert for any potential signs. Itís also very important to keep up to date with any routine veterinary care for your pet, including but not limited to flea/tick/worm treatments, vaccinations, and annual vet checks, so that you can give your pet the best life possible.
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