Most people want to provide the best possible care for their four-legged friends, including veterinary care when necessary. Sometimes, however, it's difficult to determine whether or not your pet has an illness that requires veterinary attention. The following are some factors to consider as you decide whether your dog has an illness or condition which may require the care of a veterinarian.
- Your dog is exhibiting a persistent hacking cough. Dogs, like people, sometimes cough. A onetime cough probably isn't anything to worry about, but if the coughing persists, it's time to call the vet. If your dog has recently been kenneled, the hacking cough can be attributed to a condition called kennel cough, an illness which can be treated with antibiotics. There are other illnesses that can cause this type of cough, as well, so your best bet is to bring your dog in for a check-up.
- You notice a thick, greenish discharge coming from your dog's nose. If you notice that your dog is sneezing or has a nasal discharge, it's time to call the veterinarian, especially if the discharge is greenish in color. This can be a sign of an upper respiratory infection or another illness. Your veterinarian can examine your pet and prescribe a course of treatment.
- Your dog is incessantly licking, scratching and biting his skin. Incessant scratching can be caused by a number of things including fleas and allergic reactions. If you notice this behavior, check your dog carefully for fleas or for a black residue in his coat. This residue is often referred to as flea dirt, and is a sign that your dog has a flea infestation. You may be able to treat fleas with an over-the-counter product, or your veterinarian or groomer can help you get rid of the problem. If your dog doesn't show signs of fleas, it's time for a trip to the vet to rule out allergies or other problems. Depending on a number of factors, allergies can be treated with changes in diet, antihistamines, or possibly steroids. Your veterinarian can decide on the best course of treatment for your pet.
- Your dog has a marked decrease or loss of appetite. If your dog skips one meal, he may have only had a minor stomach upset. But if your dog continues to turn away from his food bowl, talk to your veterinarian. There are any number of illnesses that can cause decreased appetite.
- Vomiting. Again, if this is a onetime occurrence, it's probably nothing to worry about. If your dog or puppy vomits regularly, check with your vet. One of the most common causes of vomiting, especially in puppies, is parasites. There are also many other illnesses that can cause a dog to vomit, including liver and kidney disease, cancer, food allergies, and gastric ulcers. Your veterinarian can diagnose the illness and prescribe the best treatment.
- Diarrhea. As with vomiting, diarrhea is most commonly caused by parasites. If your dog has loose stools once or twice, keep an eye on him. If the problem persists, bring a stool sample to your vet. Other causes of persistent diarrhea include bacterial infections, inflammatory bowels, and ulcers.
- You notice your dog is lethargic. It's perfectly normal for dogs to slow down a bit as they get older. If, however, your dog's energy level changes abruptly, talk to your vet. This symptom occurs in many illnesses, including cancer and poisoning.
- You have a feeling that something is wrong. You know your pet better than anyone. If you have a feeling that something is not quite right with him, talk to your veterinarian. It may be nothing, but you may also be picking up on early signs of illness without even realizing it. Your veterinarian can help you narrow down your concerns.
- When in doubt, call the veterinarian. If your dog is exhibiting symptoms that you are concerned about, but you aren't positive they mean anything, call your veterinarian. When dealing with your pet's health, you definitely want to be safe rather than sorry. Your veterinarian may give your dog a clean bill of health, but it is worth it to put your mind at ease, and to ensure the health of your pet.
It's important that pet owners are knowledgeable about the symptoms of some of the more common illnesses that may afflict their pets. Knowing what to look for can ensure that their pets get timely medical attention.