When your pet devours a bag of chocolates or comes inside holding up their painful paw, you know you need to contact your veterinarian immediately. However, some signs that your pet needs veterinary care are more subtle, and difficult for pet owners to determine whether they should be worried. Any change in your pet’s behavior is cause for concern, but some signs more likely indicate disease or illness. Our Town & Country Animal Hospital team shares four signs in pets that warrant a veterinary exam.

#1: Your pet experiences unexplained weight change

While slight weight fluctuations are normal for pets, sudden, unexplained weight loss or gain may indicate health issues. 

Potential causes of sudden weight gain in pets include:

  • Hyperthyroidism — This condition occurs when the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormone, which is essential for metabolism, and weight gain, lethargy, and hair loss can result.
  • Cushing’s disease — Cushing’s disease (i.e., hyperadrenocorticism) is a hormonal disorder where the body produces too much cortisol. Common symptoms include increased appetite, excessive thirst and urination, and weight gain, especially around the abdomen.
  • Bloat — Bloat occurs when the stomach rapidly expands with air, often when the pet gulps while eating, and then rotates and blocks the digestive system’s normal movement. Without immediate treatment, bloat can be fatal. 
  • Parasites — Internal parasites that lodge in the abdominal walls and intestines cause fluid buildup around the infested area, which leads to a pot-bellied appearance. This often occurs in young animals whose immune systems are not strong enough to resist the effects of parasitic infestation. Severity depends on the weight of the parasite load.

Potential causes of sudden weight loss in pets include:

  • Dental disease — Dental problems are one of the most common causes of rapid weight loss in pets. If your pet’s teeth or gums hurt, their eating is affected. Dental disease signs include bad breath,  brown or yellow tartar buildup on the teeth, red or swollen gums, broken or loose teeth, and excessive drooling.  If your pet has any of these signs, schedule a dental evaluation with our veterinary team, so we can assess their dental health. 
  • Gastrointestinal (GI) upset or blockage  An upset stomach can feel so painful that your pet will stop eating and drinking. If they eat something that lodges in their GI tract (e.g., a bone, string, toy), they also will not want to eat or drink. A veterinary visit is warranted, because the foreign object may require surgical removal.
  • Cancer — Weight loss is a common cancer sign, and weight loss accompanied by chronic vomiting or diarrhea may indicate a stomach tumor. If your pet is having difficulty chewing and swallowing, they may have an oral tumor, or a tumor in their esophagus, lungs, or stomach, and will likely eat less.   

#2: Your pet is drinking and urinating more often 

If your pet is having accidents in the house or lapping their water bowl dry, you should be concerned. Changes in drinking and bathroom habits can indicate the following:

  • Organ dysfunction — Bladder, kidney, and liver problems can cause excessive thirst and urination. 
  • Hormonal imbalance —Increased thyroid or kidney hormone levels can increase urination frequency. 
  • Urinary incontinence  — Incontinence occurs when the urethral muscles loosen over time. This condition most commonly affects senior female dogs, but can affect pets of any age. 
  • Diabetes mellitus — More common in females that are overweight. Control of this disease is dependent on diet change and possibly insulin injections.

#3: Your pet is having difficulty breathing

Breathing difficulty—whether your pet’s breathing is quicker or requires more effort—should not be ignored. Respiratory changes, such as wheezing, coughing, or an increased respiratory rate can signal serious conditions, such as heart and respiratory disease, and a veterinary visit is definitely warranted. Excessive panting is also a cause for concern, especially in flat-faced (i.e., brachycephalic) pets who are prone to overheating. Plus, ineffective panting can lead to life-threatening heatstroke. 

#4: Your pet is vomiting excessively 

Occasional vomiting can occur in pets who eat their food too quickly or eat too much grass, and is probably not an emergency situation. However, a pet who vomits repeatedly during a 24-hour period, cannot keep down food or water, has blood in their vomit, or shows other illness signs, has a serious problem and requires veterinary care. Potential causes of a sudden vomiting episode include:

  • Toxin ingestion 
  • Pancreatitis
  • Kidney failure
  • Liver failure
  • Intestinal parasites
  • Infection
  • Medication reaction

These are only the common reactions, and illnesses affect each pet differently. But, changes in your pet’s behavior and appearance should always be monitored, and erring on the side of caution and consulting with your veterinarian about your concerns is always the best strategy.

Contact our Town & Country Animal Hospital with any questions about your pet’s health, or to schedule their next wellness exam.