What to do if your pet refuses food, won’t jump up, shivers, is lethargic, limping, sluggish, retching, vomiting, exhibits pain.
HOW TO DIAGNOSE PROBLEMS
E. Katie Gammill, Showring Editor May 2011
The veterinarian diagnoses your dog with a serious problem or sickness. Having no idea your pet was ill, you are crushed.
Dogs tend to hide their pain, or themselves, when they feel ill. Some are stoic, other pets become sluggish or quiet. Having experienced this, I will tell you about Lady, our Sheltie.
Two dogs collide in our yard during play. They seem okay so we think all is well. Then Lady develops an abscess on her loin. The vet looks at secretions under the microscope and all appears normal. Months later, Lady’s abscess appears again. Again she is treated and blood tests are taken. No problem is apparent, yet the abscess appears a third time. Lady does not show any signs of stress. She plays and eats normally.
I ask the vet to do an exploratory operation although Lady appears not to be in pain. The vet calls with bad news. The “whack” by the larger dog ruptured her pancreas. Peritonitis has set in. The reason we could not identify the problem with slides is the fact Anaerobic Strep disappears once it hits the air. There is little choice but to let Lady go. This unidentifiable problem went on for months and Lady went about her day normally. Having an untreatable injury, we wonder how long would Lady have suffered without our intervention?
What are the signs of an ailing pet? We easily identify overweight. Overfeeding can be addressed by cutting back on dog food and supplementing with green beans or carrots. (Yes, dogs do like fruit and vegetables) This cuts calories in half. Pick up that food bowl and never “free feed” again. Both people and dogs have little self control when it comes to eating between meals.
Don’t worry if your pet misses a meal. We all have “off days”. However, if your pet turns away from food the second day, have an x-ray taken. Your pet may have indulged itself with a sock, button, ballpoint pen, toy, or some other indigestible thing that can block the intestines. Look for any sign of plastic having been eaten as it may not show up on x-ray.
A sick dog MAY act depressed, nauseated, and cranky. Belly aches and obstructions are difficult to identify. Some dogs whine or yelp if touched. Others appear limp or stiff. They may favor a particular part of their body. Some dogs no longer jump into their favorite chair. Breathing difficulties and increased heart rate may identify pain. Frustratingly, once your pet is on the examination table the symptoms may disappear as the pet is uncomfortable. Your vet knows.
Drinking excessive water is also an indication of problems. Cats may appear oblivious to injuries, but they do not hurt less. They must have nine lives, as they withstand a lot of adversity. Dogs that live in close proximity are normally easier to read. In cold weather, ours demand to go outside and play, but they howl when their feet are cold and they want back in to take a nap.
Dirty teeth can cause problems. If there is no access to large butcher bones, teeth should be cleaned occasionally. Filthy teeth not only cause bad breath, but can cause kidney failure. If your dog is put under for cleaning, do a complete health check and cut those toenails while under anesthesia! If your dog makes chewing motions, check the roof of its mouth. It may have a guitar pick (yep!) stuck between the upper molars, or cardboard stuck to the roof of their mouth. (yep!) Dogs that swim may ingest floating corn cobs or debris and fluid sacks can develop in large animals without proper bedding.
Dogs eat road kill. Their system handles it well as their intestines are much shorter than ours. Feed a dog and put it outside and it will immediately relieve itself. Their digestive system is on fast forward. A dog’s stomach ph balance also accommodates much higher protein intake than ours.
Name me one thing that wakes you at night up any quicker than a pet "retching”. This “gagging” may be a simple hairball OR a serious rejection of a misplaced sock. Pick up all toys and chew bones before retiring. A night light will prevent you from stepping on your pet. Ever notice how much larger your pet is once it relaxes and stretches out? Then when you push them over, they appear indignant? Makes one wonder just who is in charge.
Hopefully all your pet’s illnesses will be minor and can be easily addressed. If a pet is hit by a car, be careful, pain may cause it to bite. Carefully wrap your pet in a blanket and go straight to the vet. The best way to prevent road casualties is a fenced yard. Dogs often have their own agenda and like cats, sometimes make up their own rules.
Therefore it is up to a responsible pet owner to develop the ability to “read” their pet and act accordingly. Your dog’s health and freedom from disease is a priority and prevention really is worth a pound of cure.