Sooner or later, almost inevitably, your pet is going to become ill or injured. Are you going to catch the signs quickly enough to get your pet to a veterinarian for prompt treatment before the health problem worsens? If not, you could be looking at higher veterinary bills or a pet health problem that can no longer be fixed. A few simple at-home strategies can let you know when something is amiss with the health of your pet.
Feeding your pet
Your manner of feeding your pet can make the difference between timely veterinary treatment and, “I’m so sorry. If you’d just gotten him to me sooner …” Leaving food out for your pet at all times may be convenient for you, but it won’t do you any favors if your pet is ill. One of the first symptoms of many pet illnesses and injuries is lack of appetite. If you don’t know how much your pet has eaten, you can’t use this critical clue to alert you to a health problem. Remove the all-day pet buffet and feed portioned meals, instead. In this way, you will know immediately if your pet has a diminished appetite so that you can evaluate him for further indications of a health problem. If your pet doesn’t eat for longer than is normal for his species, call your vet.
Weighing your pet
A worsening health problem is often indicated by weight loss in your pet. The easiest and most reliable way to recognize this symptom is by weighing your pet at regular intervals. Purchase a digital baby scale and weigh your pet at least twice a month. Keep a written or computerized record of your pet’s weight over time. If you notice rapid changes to your pet’s weight that are not related to dietary modifications, it’s time to contact your vet.
Observing your pet
There’s no substitute for good old observation of your pet. Both physical and behavioral irregularities may point to pet health problems. Physical symptoms like straining to urinate or defecate, bleeding, drooling, coughing, convulsing, etc. are hard to miss. Put your hands on your pet at least once daily to feel for tender spots, swellings, hot spots, or other physical abnormalities that you may not easily see.
More attentive observation is required to notice subtle behavioral changes that may herald a pet health problem. Something as seemingly minor as your cat suddenly being more or less affectionate or your dog drinking more water could potentially indicate serious illness. Take note of any and all physical and behavioral changes in your pet, no matter how slight or seemingly insignificant. Write them down so that you don’t forget what happened when. If those changes persist or worsen, call your vet.
These strategies will help keep you a step ahead of most serious pet health problems and safeguard the welfare of your animal companion.