Symptoms To Look Out For In Pets

Written by Dr. Michael Dym VMD, 4/7/2021

When our pets are in discomfort and express various symptoms, these can certainly be challenging times for the animal guardian. As to deciphering which symptoms are more serious and warrant a veterinary exam and evaluation versus those symptoms that are either not as significant or are transient and will resolve on their own. I like to divide symptoms up into two categories: those that are acute versus those that are chronic. When symptoms are chronic, such as chronic increased thirst/urination, changes in appetite or weight, or increases in vomiting/diarrhea frequency, these are often clues that an animal companion needs a direct physical examination. Chronic symptoms are those that are usually present more than several days to weeks duration. However, it is best to wait if these symptoms are in fluctuation or only brief over a few days duration.

In the wild, for example, it is normal for canines and felines to not always catch prey on a given day. Many animals will often graze on grass and/or vomit when they have been exposed to a toxin from the environment, or their life force is simply doing some house cleaning. In other words, the life force of an animal will on occasion express a physical, mental or emotional symptom as part of that house cleaning process, which may take the form of GI discharges (transient diarrhea or vomiting), skin eruptions or discharges (commonly seen as hot spots), as well as nonspecific eye discharges. However if the symptom is acutely intense and/or the patient is losing a large amount of fluid through vomiting or diarrhea (potentially leading to dehydration), than a veterinary exam may be indicated. Clients can quickly assess a patient’s overall well-being by seeing if the gums are dry/tacky in feeling or more normally moist. They also can see if the gums are a nice pink color versus a paler color that may indicate a more serious health issue.

An acronym I teach my clients is the ABC’s of emergency medicine; meaning that if a patient is having acutely trouble breathing, or there are potentially compromised airways (seen as often shallow, rapid breathing or more bluish tongue or gum color), than a veterinary exam is always recommended. The “C” part refers to circulation issues, and would occur when excessive fluids are lost through the digestive, urinary or cardiorespiratory tracts. Urinary tract infections may also present as acutely intense symptoms with frequent desires to urinate or urgency, and which would best be addressed by a veterinary evaluation. Hot spots or acute ear flareups may be transient or may represent more chronic tendencies that will need veterinary assessment and a treatment plan. Toxin exposure will vary depending on the nature of the toxin, but common ones in South Florida, such as Bufo toad contact, palm seed or other foreign body ingestion, it is usually best to err on the cautious side and have the animal evaluated by the local veterinarian.