As a pet owner, it’s your responsibility to look out for the health and safety of your pet, and a part of that is being vigilant for any signs that something’s wrong. Can you tell if your cat or dog is ill or injured? Knowing some basic red flags that require immediate attention could save your animal’s life.
Basic things like unexplained vomiting or coughing could be a sign of something much more serious. While occasionally your cat may just have a hairball or your dog may have eaten too fast or had too much water too quickly, these can sometimes be symptoms of something much worse. In some cases, coughing can be the sign of a seriously obstructed airway, or worsening respiratory problems.
Vomiting should always be taken seriously, as conditions can worsen very quickly in as little as a few hours if the cause is serious. Sometimes these are the result of a gastrointestinal obstruction, or could be a secondary effect of anything from cancer to toxin exposure. Vomiting can also cause severe dehydration, which can further worsen your animal’s condition.
Confusion and anxiety
Sometimes the signs aren’t as obvious, though. Disorientation or a sense of restlessness is a sign of confusion, pain or discomfort. In dogs, disorientation is always worth a check-up. This can manifest as incessant walking in circles, a lack of balance or a wobbliness in the limbs. Dogs may be suffering from vestibular disease or an issue of the inner ear. In old dogs this can have no known cause, but recovery and management is possible. Paralysis ticks can also cause a weakness in the hind limbs that spreads to the forelimbs, so it’s important to have your dog examined and to make sure your tick paralysis medication is up to date.
Cat disorientation is just as serious. While this condition can also be caused by vestibular disease, it can also be a result of feline cognitive dysfunction – also called dementia – which can affect as many as 55 percent of cats between the ages of 11 and 15.
Safe for man, not his best friend
In many cases, a lot of these problems can be traced back to the animal ingesting something that it shouldn’t have. Plants and chemicals that are perfectly safe for human use or human exposure can be extremely toxic to cats and dogs. It’s crucial that you keep things such as alcohol, pain relievers and caffeinated beverages away from your animals.
If laying rat poison or snail bait, make the area inaccessible to your pet. Dogs especially have gobbled up snail bait thinking they’re food pellets. Poisoning in cats can manifest as diarrhoea, breathing problems, tremors, seizures, coughing or excessive salivation. If cooking with onions, garlic, grapes/raisins or citrus, ensure that the floor is swept after the meal is prepared as the skin of all of these – and the flesh of the former three – is toxic to your dog.
Keep your eyes peeled for any sudden change in behaviour in your pet, and keep the Animal Emergency Service number close at hand. If you have any concerns your animal is in trouble, get in touch.


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