As a pet owner, it is important to recognize early warning signs of illness. While some symptoms (such as vomiting, poor appetite and lethargy) are easy to recognize as important, other symptoms may not be so obvious as to cause concern until a pet is much sicker. Dr. Samantha Murray, Board Certified Veterinary Internist at The Center for Animal Referral & Emergency Services (CARES), says the following subtle changes, which if persistent in your pet, should prompt you to consult your veterinarian and may indicate a more serious medical problem:
- Increased drinking and urination: You may note that your pet is drinking more from the bowl (or shower, sink, even toilet!), having accidents in the house or asking to go out more frequently. There are many causes of increased urination and drinking. Common causes include: diabetes mellitus, kidney failure, hyperthyroidism and Cushing’s disease (hyperadrenocorticism). Most of these underlying problems are treatable and pets benefit from early treatment to improve quality of life and avoid hospitalization.
- Increased appetite: While a hearty appetite is usually an indication of good health, a sudden insatiable appetite and constant begging for food can sometimes indicate an underlying problem. Cushing’s disease (hyperadrenocorticism, usually seen in dogs), hyperthyroidism (usually seen in cats) and diabetes can all cause increased appetite. Animals with hyperthyroidism or diabetes will typically lose weight despite an excellent appetite, while animals with Cushing’s disease tend to gain weight.
- Increased activity level, restlessness: Cats with hyperthyroidism are notoriously overactive, sometimes waking up their owners at night. Their behavior can change in other ways with increased vocalization, irritable behavior and sometimes aggression. Some dogs with Cushing’s disease will also appear restless and agitated.
- Weight gain: Dogs with Cushing’s disease or hypothyroidism will often gain weight, but feel well otherwise. Though gaining weight is typically of lesser concern than weight loss, unexplained weight gain can indicate one of these (or other) diseases as well as pose risks for orthopedic disease and diabetes. It is important to discuss your pet’s weight gain with a veterinarian and to rule out underlying disease as a cause. Once this has been done, a weight loss plan suitable for your animal can be designed and implemented.
Remember, you know your pet better than anyone! Since our animals can’t tell us what is wrong, we can only rely on our observations to tell us if they are not feeling well. Don’t hesitate to discuss any concerns with your veterinarian who will work together with you to keep your pet as healthy as possible. Some medical problems are complicated. Depending on your pet’s problem, your veterinarian may refer you to a board-certified veterinary internist. An internist has been trained to manage multiple medical problems in one pet, and is familiar with many unusual and rare diseases of dogs and cats. Veterinary internists are also able to perform many advanced testing and treatment options that may not be available through your primary veterinarian, so as to provide the best possible outcome for your pet. Internists also work closely with your primary veterinarian for ongoing care and management of the condition.
About The Center for Animal Referral & Emergency Services (CARES): CARES is a full service specialty referral, 24-hour emergency and critical care veterinary hospital, with one clear goal: to provide a gold standard of care for your pet. Our highly trained, hand selected and compassionate team of veterinarians pride themselves in collaboration between the CARES specialties as well as the referring veterinarian. By engaging multiple, dedicated professionals in the care of your pet, CARES provides the latest, most advanced and best treatments available. Specialty and referral services include: Anesthesiology, The Cancer Center at CARES, Cardiology, Clinical Pathology, Internal Medicine, Neurology, Ophthalmology, Radiology and Surgery. Specialty cases are seen by referral from the primary care veterinarian. CARES also offers 24-hour emergency care. For more information, visit www.vetcares.com. You can also find CARES on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/CARESvet.