Dogs are excitable and curious creatures. Always exploring new places, new tastes and sometimes their enthusiasm leads them into trouble. They end up injured or sick. People often ask me, “Should I take my dog to the vet each time, after all it is very expensive?”
And my answer is always the same.
Whereas you can treat minor ailments effectively at home, the symptoms your dog has may disguise a more serious illness. So don’t rush to find that first aid box without knowing the red alert symptoms and then check in with your vet–she’s the right person to help you find out what is wrong.
Your dog is drinking excessively
You expect your dog to drink more water on hot days or after vigorous exercise, but excessive drinking can also be a sign of dehydration or illness. Kidney and liver disease, diabetes, Cushing’s disease and cancer can increase his thirst significantly.
Excessive or prolonged vomiting
Dogs are always eating things they shouldn’t and it is not unusual for them to vomit. Dogs know a thing or too from their ancestors and you will often see them eat grass. Sometimes they just like the taste, but it is an emetic and if your dog has an upset stomach or excessive gas build-up they will instinctively use this to induce vomiting. After clearing out their system this way, they spring get back to life as normal.
Occasionally, the vomiting is continuous and this is a cause for concern as it may be a sign of intestinal parasites, blockages in the gastrointestinal tract, poisoning, infection or organ failure.
His coat becomes dull, rough, or patchy
One of the first signs that your pet is unwell will be a change in the luster of his coat. This could simply be due to fleas and mites, an allergic reaction, poor nutrition, or anxiety. But it may also be caused by Addison’s or Cushing’s Disease, hypothyroidism, or a tick borne illness such as Lyme’s Disease.
If your dog suffers a trauma such as being hit by a car, whether there is any obvious sign of injury you should take him to be checked over by the veterinarian. Not only is there a possibility of broken bones, but injury to the internal organs or brain could also occur and your dog may need surgery to correct any damage.
Sudden weight loss
You will often see sudden weight loss alongside other symptoms such as lethargy, vomiting or loss of appetite and this could direct you to one of a number of ailments you will need to seek help to cure. Gastrointestinal disorders, kidney disease, diabetes, liver disease, and the inability to digest foods properly (Megaesophagus) may be the cause.
I’ve spoken before about the importance of training your dog the LEAVE IT command. The threat of poisoning is very real for your dog. In addition to those poisons laid deliberately for your dog to find and ingest, there are many common substances that will harm your dog: Insecticides, pesticides and rodenticides; NSAIDs meant for human consumption; household cleaners; antifreeze; chocolate; grapes; antidepressants; fertilizers containing blood and bone; and some cough medicines. These can cause a range of problems from organ failure, internal bleeding, bloating, vomiting and death. If you suspect poison, don’t think twice–you should take your dog to the vet immediately.
Blood in the stool is always a cause for concern. It could indicate an infection, parvovirus, hemorrhagic gastroenteritis, or possibly cancer. It may also have been caused by a shard of bone that has reached the large intestine.
As dogs get older it is quite common for them to suffer breathing difficulties caused by stress on the lungs and heart. IN younger dogs, abnormal breathing may be a sign of allergies or respiratory disease such as asthma or pneumonia, kennel cough or lung cancer. It may even be a sign of trauma to the chest wall, especially after a severe injury. Take your dog to the vet for an examination.
Bleeding from Mouth, Nose or Eyes
If your dog is bleeding from his mouth, this may indicate that he has gum disease. Cleaning your dogs teeth regularly is a good way to prevent this. Nosebleed could be more serious and may be the result of poisoning, a tick borne disease, organ failure, hemophilia, cancer or a foreign object stuck inside. Whatever the reason your dog is likely to be distressed and you will need expert help to examine him without getting bitten. Wound or trauma, from an injury or foreign body, may cause bleeding from the eyes, and you may be able to deal with this yourself. But it may also be caused by a tumour, diabetes, or retinal haemorrhage, and infection. Untreated this could lead to blindness.
Coughing or sneezing
Your dog will cough and sneeze occasionally, but if it persists it could be due to a variety of ailments. From hay fever to a lung infection such as pneumonia, kennel cough, heart disease and lung cancer, distemper and dog flu.
Your veterinarian can offer you vaccinations for your dog to protect against kennel cough and distemper.
Seizure or violent shaking
The most common cause of seizures in your dog is inherited epilepsy. If this is the case, your veterinarian will advise you on the best procedure to help your dog through it. Less common causes can be organ failure, brain trauma or poisons.
So, should I take my dog to the vet?
Whether you have brought your dog home from a rescue centre or from a breeder, it will take a little time to discover his weaknesses and idiosyncrasies, and to be able to second guess what is wrong with him each time he seems poorly. So, when he is ill or injured, don’t think ‘Should I Take My Dog to the Vet?’ Pick up the phone and check in with your veterinarian for advise and peace of mind.
Sure it won’t be cheap, but the cost of doing nothing and letting the problem worsen just doesn’t bare thinking about.