While your pet can’t communicate their feelings in words, they often demonstrate that they have acute or chronic underlying medical problems through various signs. Missing these signs can lead to serious consequences.

You are your pet’s constant companion and in the best position to detect subtle changes, so you need to know which health signs you should never ignore. Here are some key indicators of your furry pal’s health status, and their potential causes.

Changes in your pet’s eating habits

Some pets can become picky about their food if they’re given excessive treats or table scraps, but most pets seldom change their eating habits. However, you may notice the following:

  • Appetite loss
  • Excessive hunger
  • Difficulty chewing
  • Eating non-food items (i.e., pica)

These changes can be attributed to a wide range of medical, behavioral, and dietary causes, including:

  • Dental disease — Periodontal problems are among the most common conditions that affect pets and can lead to significant pain, loose teeth, oral infections, jawbone loss, or organ disease, which cause your pet’s appetite to plummet.
  • Gastrointestinal (GI) upset — A pet with an upset stomach will refuse to eat, and may also have nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or constipation with GI problems.
  • Metabolic disorders — Diabetes, thyroid imbalances, and adrenal gland disorders are some common metabolic conditions that impact your pet’s appetite. Maldigestion and malabsorption issues, such as exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, can also affect your pet’s eating habits.
  • Organ dysfunction — Pets with kidney and liver disease commonly lose their appetite. 
  • Stress or anxiety — Anxious and stressed pets typically eat much less than usual, if at all.
  • Diet reformulation or change — Whether you abruptly switch out, or the manufacturer reformulates your pet’s food, your pet may turn up their nose at their new food and the diet change.

Unexplained weight changes in your pet

While suddenly shedding excess weight without much effort may seem wonderful, if your four-legged friend loses weight without any explanation, something is amiss.

Since most pets are fed roughly the same amount every day, abrupt changes in weight and body condition with no changes in diet or exercise are concerning. The following causes may be to blame:

  • Thyroid imbalances
  • Diabetes
  • Endocrine disorders
  • Intestinal parasites
  • Cancer
  • Certain prescription medications

Weight changes may be paired with other abnormalities, such as vomiting or diarrhea. 

Body condition changes in addition to weight changes can also indicate an underlying health issue. For example, if your pet is losing muscle mass in their rear legs, they may be suffering from arthritis.

Persistent vomiting or diarrhea in your pet

A one-off case of vomiting or diarrhea isn’t unusual for pets, but severe vomiting or diarrhea, or persistent episodes, are cause for concern. Numerous reasons could be behind vomiting and diarrhea, including:

  • Infections or illnesses
  • Intestinal parasites
  • Dietary indiscretion
  • Sudden diet change
  • Stress
  • Toxin exposure
  • Organ dysfunction
  • Medication reaction

Determining the cause of your pet’s vomiting or diarrhea requires a veterinarian’s comprehensive evaluation of their clinical signs, a physical exam, and diagnostic testing. If your pet cannot hold down food or water, or has diarrhea that persists for more than 48 hours, schedule an appointment with our team. 

Breathing abnormalities in your pet

Changes in your pet’s respiratory rate, effort, or sounds can develop suddenly or slowly. You can most easily detect an abrupt change, but if your dog is panting more frequently than usual, especially while at rest, or a slight cough has worsened, it’s time to see our veterinarian.  

Labored breathing, coughing, or wheezing can be attributed to respiratory infections, heart conditions, pulmonary problems, heartworm disease, or airway disorders. Breathing difficulties can rapidly worsen, so seek veterinary treatment when you first spot an abnormality.

Behavior changes in your pet

We all have bad days where we’d prefer to hide under a blanket, but your typically fun-loving furry pal has a reason to suddenly become grumpy. Common behavior changes in pets that warrant veterinary attention include:

  • Sudden aggression
  • Lethargy
  • Increased anxiety
  • Excessive hiding
  • Confusion or disorientation

Pet behavior changes can potentially include pain, stress, illness, environmental or schedule changes, or cognitive dysfunction. While a behavior change can also be attributed to something as simple as delivery of a new couch, the change could be much more serious, especially if it is an ongoing issue.

Never ignore distress signs, as early detection and intervention can make a significant difference in the outcome of your pet’s health. If you are unsure whether the signs you see in your pet warrant a veterinary exam, call our Village Animal Hospital team for advice. We’ll let you know if an appointment is needed.