Every cat and dog have an individual range of normal behaviors, but all share certain health benchmarks that veterinarians—and you—can easily monitor. Like people, pets sometimes feel a bit under the weather for only a short time. Home care may be all that’s needed. However, it’s important to be able to answer the question: When should you see the Vet? Read on to learn some tell signs.
It’s important to recognize when to see the veterinarian. Timing may vary depending on the age of the cat or dog, and the specific symptoms. Here’s a quick list to help you decide.
When Should You See The Vet?
CATS are intermittent feeders, and normally eat mouse-size amounts throughout the day. It won’t hurt if your adult healthy cat misses a meal once in a while. It can be dangerous to “starve” a cat into eating a food she dislikes, though. Senior citizen cats and overweight felines should see the vet if they refuse to eat for longer than a day, and kittens shouldn’t fast longer than about 12 hours.
DOGS evolved as gorgers. Some canine breeds continue the practice, and eat anything that doesn’t move faster than they do. They may overeat one day, and then eat very little for a day or two, without any problem. Puppies and Toy dog breeds, though, shouldn’t go longer than 12 hours without a meal. Refusing to eat longer than two days, especially if accompanied by other symptoms like vomiting or listlessness, means you should see the veterinarian.
Like people, pets may have a slight difference in “normal” body temperature. As a general rule of paw, normal cat and dog body temperature ranges from 99-102 degrees F. Anything lower than this range may indicate shock from injury, or exposure to cold temperatures. Temperatures above this range may be a sign of infection, disease, or exposure to excess heat causing heat stroke. Any time your pet’s body temperature is out of this normal range, a veterinary visit is in order.
RUNNY EYES OR NOSE
CATS often are exposed and develop chronic upper respiratory infections that come and go when they feel stress. That can cause runny eyes and nose and sneeze attacks that look similar to human colds. In many cases, simply keeping Kitty’s eyes and nose wiped clean makes her feel better until she recovers on her own. But if the cat also develops mouth or eye sores, or the snotty nose makes her stop eating, you’ll need to see the veterinarian.
DOGS that develop runny eyes or noses may have more serious illnesses, especially if the discharge is thick and cloudy. That could be one sign of distemper, which needs veterinary care if the dog is to survive. Don’t wait to see the doctor if your dog develops these symptoms.
COUGHING & WHEEZING
CATS may cough when they suffer from intermittent hairballs. Kitties also can develop asthma, and a wheezing, coughing fit that goes on and on isn’t normal and could result in a fainting spell. Cat coughing may be a sign of feline heart-worm disease, too. A chronic cough that doesn’t go away within a day or so, or that leaves Kitty gasping to breathe, needs immediate veterinary attention.
DOGS also may develop a cough that ranges from merely aggravating to potentially life threatening. Kennel cough and the more serious canine influenza both require veterinary attention. Old dogs may cough as a result of fluid accumulation around the lungs from congestive heart failure. Any time a dog coughs frequently, he should be checked by the veterinarian for appropriate diagnosis and treatment.
ITCHING & HAIR LOSS
Parasites can cause all kinds of itchy aggravations including hair loss. Very effective and safe flea and tick preventive measures are available from pet products stores, and may be enough to soothe the itch. Seasonal shedding, especially with thickly furred longhaired cats and dogs, also usually is normal.
But when scratching never stops, and leads to patchy hair loss or even skin sores, you’ll need to get help from your veterinarian. Adrenal gland imbalances may prompt canine hair loss. Dogs can suffer from mange caused by tiny burrowing skin parasites that require medical help to eliminate. Both cats and dogs may suffer from allergic reactions to pollen and other inhaled allergens that aren’t easily dealt with at home.
VOMITING & POTTY ACCIDENTS
Cats and dogs can suffer upset tummies from eating the wrong thing (dogs love dumpster diving!), or from eating too fast. While a single incidence of diarrhea or vomiting probably isn’t serious and may resolve by itself, anything that happens more than two or three times in a given 24-hour period requires a veterinary exam.
A break in-house training by a pet that’s always before been faithful can point to several health issues. Diabetes, kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, and certain kinds of poisoning increase urination. So any sudden change in potty habits should be a wake-up call to seek help.
SWELLINGS & SORES
DOGS may be accident prone, especially youngsters who roughhouse with each other or otherwise pay no-holds-barred games. A scrape probably will heal nicely once thoroughly cleaned, but if it’s deep (or your pooch won’t let you help him), it’s best to have the vet take a look. Any bite wound, even in play, needs attention because teeth plant bacteria deep under the skin that can fester. Even shallow sores like hot spots can spread across the skin very quickly, are exquisitely painful, and often require antibiotics.
CATS, especially intact felines, tend to squabble and a kitty bite quickly turns into an abscess. These painful swellings beneath the skin filled with pus and may require minor surgery to clean out and treat. Dogs also can develop an abscess. Leave treating these types of wounds to your veterinarian.
Be sure you know what YOUR pet’s “normal” looks like. Any deviation from the routine should be watched to determine if more expert help is needed. Your cats and dogs are counting on you.
What did you think of our post-Pet Symptom Solver: When Should You See The Vet? Let us know in the comment section below.