- Since pets can't talk, sometimes it can be difficult to detect when they don't feel well or they aren't in perfect health.
- But there are a lot of signs you may want to bring your pet to the veterinarian including a change in your animal's behavior, water consumption, bathroom habits, and diet.
- If your pet's skin has some abnormal bumps or lumps or their eyes look different or discolored, you may also want to take them to the vet.
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It's natural to want to keep your pets as healthy and happy as possible. Unfortunately, it can sometimes be tough to figure out exactly how your pet is feeling and when they may need medical care.
INSIDER spoke with veterinarians to identify a few signs that your pet may need to see a vet.
Keep in mind that although knowing these symptoms can be useful, if you are concerned about your pet's health at any time, you may want to visit a veterinarian for a professional evaluation.
Their bathroom habits are abnormal
If you notice that your pet's bathroom habits have changed significantly or that their feces looks different than normal, it might be time to make an appointment with your vet.
"Change in the color, consistency, odor, or regularity of bowel movements can all be indicative of anything from inappropriate food, allergies, viruses, bacteria, intestinal parasites, or organ problems," Jessica Trimble, chief veterinary officer for Fuzzy Pet Health, told INSIDER.
Diarrhea, blood in the stool, and constipation are all reasons to contact your veterinarian. If you're not able to bring in a stool sample to be tested, be sure to snap a photo of your pet's feces to show your vet if needed.
Your pet is drinking way more water than usual
Believe it or not, humans and animals can develop many of the same diseases. Veterinarian Sara Ochoa told INSIDER that excessive water drinking may be a sign that your furry pal has diabetes or kidney disease.
Both of these conditions can be potentially life-threatening, so it's important to contact your vet for screening if you notice your pet seems unusually thirsty. If caught in time, both animal diabetes and kidney disease can be managed or possibly corrected with medical treatment.
Read More: 8 ways to get your pets to drink more water
They vomit more than once in 12 hours
If your pet vomits, it could be that they just have an upset stomach or ate food that didn't agree with them — but it can also be a sign of something more serious.
"A single episode of either vomiting or diarrhea may not be significant but pay attention when vomiting occurs with other symptoms like lethargy and lack of appetite," said Trimble. "In some cases, continuous vomiting may signal a virus, pancreatitis, organ failure, intestinal obstructions, and endocrine diseases."
Animals experiencing continuous vomiting and diarrhea can also be at risk of dehydration. Pets with these symptoms often need supportive care, like fluids and anti-nausea medications, and in severe cases, surgery.
They're eating less than usual
Not all pets have huge appetites, but most animals should be eating regular meals and have an interest in food.
A loss of appetite or avoidance of food might be a sign of illness or mouth injury, Travis Arndt, veterinarian and director of the Animal Medical Center of Mid-America, told INSIDER. Keep an eye on your pet's eating habits and make a vet appointment if its been more than a day or two since your animal has eaten.
Your cat seems to be panting
Although some cats will pant very briefly after a chase or intense playtime, continuous panting in a cat could be a sign of breathing troubles.
"If your cat is ever open-mouth breathing, especially at rest, you should consider taking it to the veterinarian as soon as possible. Prolonged open-mouth breathing in cats is almost always a sign of respiratory distress from a condition like asthma or heart disease," Dr. Oscar E. Chavez, veterinarian and chief medical director at Just Food For Dogs, told INSIDER.
Read More: 14 myths about cats that you need to stop believing
Your dog is licking the air
"When a dog looks like it's licking the air, it may be feeling nauseated. There may also be something stuck in the roof of their mouth or a very loose tooth that is bothering them," explained Ochoa.
Give your pet's mouth a quick peek to make sure there isn't anything lodged in there and call your vet if they begin to vomit or the air-licking behavior doesn't stop.
You notice changes in their breathing
You're probably pretty familiar with how your pet sounds when they breathe. If you notice any changes, such as labored breathing, fast panting, or particularly shallow breaths, you may want to visit the vet.
"Dogs and cats should have a normal resting or sleeping respiratory rate of less than 30 breaths per minute," said Trimble. "Faster resting respiratory rates can be a sign of fluid buildup in the lungs or decreased lung capacity, which can be caused by heart disease, pneumonia, cancer, or other respiratory diseases."
X-rays and bloodwork are often needed to diagnose lung conditions. Breathing changes in combination with lethargy, weight loss, and coughing is especially concerning and often require an immediate visit to the vet.
Their eyes look unusual
Any noticeable changes in your pet's eyes typically warrant medical attention, especially if you can't isolate the cause.
"Dilated pupils, constricted pupils, or one pupil that is dilated and the other is constricted can all be a sign of illness," said Arndt. "Other indications you need to see a veterinarian include eye discharge, droopy eyes, or the third eyelid covering part of the eye."
Because these changes can happen normally throughout the day, it's important to consult your veterinarian if you notice a change continuing or repeating over a long period of time.
Your pet seems hyperactive
Extra energy might not seem like a symptom of illness to us, but hyperactivity can often signal a medical problem or injury in an animal.
"When your dog is running around nervously and just can't seem to get still, they may be telling you that they are not feeling right. It could be anything from a stomachache to a fever, but hyperactivity can indicate they can't get comfortable," explained Ochoa.
Pain or discomfort can be an unusual sensation for pets and it may make them squirm or run around anxiously. It's also possible that they simply have something in their fur or feathers that is making them itch, so be sure to give your pet's coat a once-over before calling the vet.
Read More: From sniffing butts to getting the 'zoomies,' here's the explanation behind 12 weird things your dog does every day
You notice bald patches or tufts of loose fur
Hair loss is another sign that your pet might not be well. Fleas and ticks can cause hair loss in dogs and cats, but if your pet's fur is free of invaders, the problem could lie deeper.
"Thyroid disease is one of the most common reasons for hair loss in dog and like most other diseases, can make your pet feel very badly," Ochoa told INSIDER.
Hair loss warrants a visit to the vet where testing can be done to confirm a diagnosis. Thyroid disease generally cannot be cured, but it can be managed with medicine prescribed by your veterinarian.
Read More: 8 things you didn't know were poisonous to cats
You find a new bump on your pet
It's normal for a few lumps and bumps to develop as a pet ages. These can oftentimes be benign but sometimes they may be malignant masses or even severe bug bites that require an immediate diagnosis.
"It's important to have every lump and bump checked, as they can range from simple bug bites to abscesses to cancerous growths," said Trimble. "Some masses are fine to leave alone and others need to be surgically removed and biopsied to determine the course of treatment."
They seem extra tired or listless
It can be hard to tell if your pet is more tired or listless than usual, especially if they're normally a couch potato. However, if your pet is used to running multiple laps per day but can now barely make it around the block or they are avoiding stairs or unable to jump as high as usual, they may not be feeling well.
Lethargy and tiredness can be signs of a lot of different things such as infections, pain, and a variety of diseases. When combined with other symptoms like a change in appetite, pale gums, vomiting, diarrhea, and weight loss, you may want to bring your pet for a checkup, said Trimble.
Your pet is showing visible signs of pain
Trimble told INSIDER that dogs and cats hide pain well and tend to be very stoic, so any type of pain shown by pets should be taken seriously.
"Limping, flinching, yelping, whining, reluctance to move as normal, hiding, and panting can all be signs of pain and discomfort in our pets," she said.
Pain can be related to simple things like a broken toenail or much more complicated conditions like spinal, dental, or abdominal problems. Diagnostic tools like blood work, X-rays, ultrasounds, and MRIs may be necessary to pinpoint the source of the discomfort.
They have a cough that lasts for more than a day
Animal throats can get dry or irritated, just like ours, and they may cough once or twice in a day. However, if you notice a persistent cough that lasts more than a day or two, you might want to have your pet checked out.
"There are a long list of causes for coughing that can include everything from an object being stuck in the throat to infections to neurological or conformational defects in the larynx," Chavez told INSIDER.
It's important to note that coughing in animals is considered to be abnormal, even if it has been going on for years or since the animal was very young.
Their behavior noticeably changes
You know what's normal for your pet. If they start to act in a way that seems odd or atypical, it may be an indication that something isn't right.
"Pets experiencing behavior changes need to see the veterinarian. For example, if your pet has started snapping, biting, pacing around the house, excessive grooming, or house soiling, there could be a medical reason," explained Arndt.