Whether your dog or cat loves or loathes its annual trip to the vet, regular check-ups are essential for keeping them healthy. But once a year isn’t the only time you should be paying attention to your pet’s health — we need to keep watch all year round!
Your dog or cat can’t tell you if something’s wrong so it’s up to you to find out. Cats often hide signs of illness or pain.
As a responsible pet owner, it’s a good idea to have a health checklist of things to look out for on a regular basis. That way you’ll learn what is normal for your pet and be quickly alerted to any change.
If you spot anything of concern you should make an appointment with your vet so there is more chance that any health problems can be caught early.
Keep an eye out for changes in their behaviour or routine
There are many ways you can monitor your pet’s health before you need to see a vet. Like humans, dogs and cats are creatures of habit and love their routines. If you notice changes in any of their routines it may indicate a health issue.
You know your pet better than anyone, so if they aren’t acting themselves, there’s a good chance something isn’t right. Sometimes, major life changes — like moving house — can cause behavioural changes, although it could signify something more serious. Look for excessive panting, cowering, or aggression, as these could be signs of stress and anxiety.
Keep an eye on their weight
Obesity can cause diabetes, heart problems, arthritis, and many other health issues, so keeping your pet’s weight in check is key.
You can check your pet’s weight simply by looking at the shape of its belly. A well-defined waist is a good sign, but if you notice a round or oval-shaped belly, it’s time to shed a few kilos.
On the other hand, if your dog or cat suddenly loses a tonne of weight, this is a sign of an underlying health issue — time to call the vet!
Check for parasites
Intestinal worms, ticks and fleas are common parasites that affect your pet’s health, so make sure you’re regularly checking for any signs of infestation.
To check for ticks, run your hands over your pet’s body, or use a small comb to check for new lumps and bumps carefully. Be sure to check all parts of your pet, including in and around tricky spots like the ears, between the toes and around the mouth.
Fleas are smaller and harder to spot, so keep an eye out for excessive itching and scratching, red or irritated skin, and localised hair loss.
While you can see some gastrointestinal worm species in your pet’s poo, this isn’t always the case! Keep an eye out for any of the tell-tale symptoms of diarrhoea, vomiting, pot-bellied appearance, low energy, changes in appetite or scooting (dragging their bottom across the floor). Treating your pet regularly with a wormer will prevent these issues.
Check their teeth
Bad breath is hard to miss in your pet and clearly shows that their oral health isn’t up to scratch.
Regularly check your pet’s teeth and gums for any signs of redness, lumps, or decay. Feeding your pet a good diet and brushing their teeth with pet-friendly toothpaste are great ways to keep their mouth healthy.
Are they toileting normally?
Has your pet shown a loss of appetite? Are they drinking excessively or show an aversion to water?
When you pick up their poo check that it is the same colour and consistency. If it is too runny it may be due to something they have eaten.
If they are having difficulty pooing it could be a blockage. Are they squatting or lifting a leg to pee and nothing comes out? Do they seem grumpier or listless? Are they sleeping more and having trouble getting up? Do they fail to respond to normal commands or react to loud noises? Excessive scratching or head shaking can mean an infection, irritation or inflammation.
Any one of these things could indicate a health issue or it may simply be a sign of ageing. If in doubt, its always a good idea to seek advice from a vet.
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