7 Signs it Might Be Time to Take Your Pet to the Vet

It can be hard to know when you should take your pet to see their vet, or if you should wait and see how they are in the morning. This article will explore some conditions or symptoms that, if present in your pet, may require a trip to the vet. We've also listed some conditions or symptoms that require immediate veterinary attention should your pet be affected by them.

1. Change in Eating or Drinking Habits

While any short-term change in eating habits could just be your pet being a fussy eater, if they refuse to eat for 2 days or longer, or suddenly wish to consume anything that could be considered a food, it is time for a trip to the vet. Pets that have underlying health conditions such as diabetes should see their vet as soon as any changes in their appetite are noticed as they may require a change to their insulin dosage to manage the change in food intake.

Excessive thirst can be a sign of a serious illness such as diabetes or kidney disease and should be investigated by a veterinarian.

You can read our article in diabetes in pets here.

2. Eye or Ear Issues

Eyes that are red, cloudy, are producing discharge, are causing your pet to squint or paw at them can be a sign of anything from allergies to an eye infection. Eye diseases and progress quite quickly and any of the above symptoms should be assessed promptly by a veterinarian.

Ear issues that cause your pet to shake their head, scratch their ears, cause redness, produce a foul odour or discharge can be caused by a variety of issues and should also be investigated by a veterinarian at the earliest possible opportunity.

Avoid pesky ear infections by learning how to clean your dogs ears properly. Dr Mark shows you how easy it can be in this video.

3. Vomiting, Diarrhoea or a Change in Bowel Habits

Prolonged or severe vomiting can quickly lead to dehydration in pets. Vomiting combined with other symptoms such as lethargy, poor appetite and diarrhoea is also a sign that a trip to the vet is in order. The presence of blood in vomit is also cause for concern and warrants investigating.

Diarrhoea that persists beyond 24 hours should also be investigated, along with stools that are accompanied by the presence of blood, worms or mucus. Dark and tarry stools may be a sign that there is blood present higher up in your pet's digestive tract and needs assessing by a veterinarian.

A brown, black and white dog is outside on grass

4. Lethargy

If your animal appears lethargic and their exhaustion cannot be explained by any recent activity or the presence of sore muscles, this requires examination by a veterinarian.

A calico cat in a blue cage is scratched by an extended hand

5. Sudden Weight Loss

The sudden loss of around 10% of an animal's body weight is definitely cause for concern and can be attributed to any number of illnesses that require urgent assessment by a vet.

A brown and white dog with fluffy ears is looking off to the side

6. Lumps or Bumps

Many lumps or bumps are nothing more than signs of old age, but some can be much more sinister. Any lumps, bumps or swelling on your pet should be examined by a veterinarian to rule out more serious causes.

A senior brown and white tabby cat with an eartip sits on a table

7. Coughing

Coughing in animals such as cats and dogs is not as common a symptom as it is among humans. It can be caused by a wide variety of issues including kennel cough, an upper respiratory infection (URI), heart disease, the presence of heartworms, asthma (Feline Bronchial Disease), lung disease or the presence of a foreign body in the animals trachea. Coughing may also be a sign of a collapsing trachea or long soft palate that is a common issue in brachycephalic breeds like pugs, bulldogs and Persian cats.

A ginger and white Persian cat with long whiskers looks off to the side

Symptoms That Require Immediate Veterinary Attention

Immediate vet attention is required for any animal that has suffered the following injuries or is showing any of these symptoms:

  • Suffered a fall or been hit by a vehicle (even if there are no obvious external injuries)
  • Broken bones (suspected or confirmed)
  • Open wounds
  • Not breathing, difficulty breathing, laboured breathing
  • Unconsciousness, sudden collapse or sudden disorientation, unable to stand (dragging limbs, wobbling)
  • Seizure or seizure-like symptoms (tremors, rigid body, etc) [Read our article on Epilepsy here]
  • Bleeding from the nose, mouth or eyes
  • Poisoning or ingestion of toxins (suspected or confirmed - common poisons include chocolate, certain plants, certain foods, xylitol, rat poison, baits)
  • Trying to vomit but no producing anything (symptom of bloat)
  • Signs of extreme pain (whining, shaking)
  • Hard and swollen abdomen
  • Inability to pass urine (repeatedly squatting or lifting their leg but not producing anything or not much urine)
  • Pregnant animals with more than 2 hours between delivering puppies/kittens
  • Pale gums
A brown dog is being held up in front of a tree

It is important to know your pet's habits, behaviours and routine. Any sudden change to any of these should be monitored and, if it persists, investigated by a veterinarian. 

If you are unsure if your pet requires veterinary attention, trust your gut instinct. You know your pet the best and it is better to be safe than sorry.

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