As much as we try to prevent it, most pets experience illness, disease, or injury at some point in their lives. Having a solid knowledge base of what is normal and what is not normal can help ease anxiety stemming from not knowing what to do if and when your pet needs help.

Preparing for eventual health problems starts with observing your pet. Pay attention to little details:

  • How does your pet posture to urinate and defecate?  How much and how often does he or she eliminate waste?
  • What is his or her normal activity level?  And what are his or her typical physical abilities (e.g. jumping, running, gait, etc.)?
  • How much does he or she typically eat and drink and at what times of day?
  • What are his or her favorite activities?  How long does he or she participate in these activities before becoming fatigued or losing interest?
  • How does he or she like to rest?  Sitting? Laying flat on the side of the body?
  • Are there any places he or she does not like to be touched, pet, or brushed?
  • In what situations does he or she vocalize, purr, bark, or growl?
  • Are there any objects, noises, people, or smells that he or she fears or dislikes? Does the pet hide or leave the room when you vacuum, use a particular perfume, or move a certain way?

Spending time getting to know your pet’s habits, idiosyncrasies, likes, and dislikes provides a valuable starting point to which you can compare any changes.

Dogs and cats are animals of survival. Letting others know they are sick is of no benefit – it only opens the door to become another’s prey or competition or lose one’s status in their social group. This means that most pets do their best to hide any sign of being unwell, which makes your job as caretaker a little bit harder.  Often, the first sign of disease or injury is in the form of a subtle change to the pet’s routine and typical behaviors – being slightly less excited about dinner, sleeping in a different place, playing for shorter periods of time, or moving in a different way.

When you do notice these types of changes, write it down and give your vet a call. Our memories are imperfect and having details of when these changes started to take place and in what order can be extremely helpful to determining the cause or source of the problem.  Your veterinary team can help you decide what your pet needs. Perhaps it will be an expected change due to changes in your pet’s environment; but if it’s not, you’ve gotten a head start on addressing the issue at hand. When it comes to illness and injury, treatment is always cheaper and easier the sooner it has begun.