How can I Tell if My Pet is Sick?

Sometimes it is obvious when you pet is not feeling well, but other times it may just be a feeling you have based on your pets behavior.  Trust you instincts.  As a pet owner, you know your pet better than anyone else.  If you think your dog or cat is “just not right”, chances are something’s amiss.


Here are some signs to watch for:


  • Changes in behavior – suddenly hiding or acting aggressive for example
  • Not eating well, picking instead of eating with gusto, especially if normally food is eaten well
  • Thirds eyelids showing (the third eyelid is the membrane that covers a dog or cats eye when asleep. It often rises up when awake if a pet is ill.)
  • Vomiting for no apparent reason
  • Diarrhea without reason or with no diet change, especially if bloody or dark and tar-looking
  • Constipation, or straining to urinate or defecate
  • Poor hair coat, hair that is suddenly shedding excessively between shedding seasons, baldness
  • Weight loss even though he/she eats well
  • Excessive drinking – which may lead to accidents in the house, or wanting to go out frequently
  • Excessive urination, bloody urine, inappropriate elimination in strange places, or having accidents in the house – for example, with diabetes a pet can urinate often, in copious amounts, and the urine leave sticky residue on the floor
  • Pale mucous membranes of the eyes or mouth
  • Foul odors from the ears, mouth, or anal area
  • Any open wounds, obvious swellings, limping or unusual stiffness/lameness


These warning signs may not indicate a serious illness, but the possibility of a serious disease exists if your pet should exhibit several if these symptoms.  For peace of mind, visit your veterinarian and discuss the changes you have noted in your pet, even if all you can say is “He’s just not right”.

Most veterinarians will accept the fact that you know your pet best, and if something seems wrong, it usually is.

When describing the problem to your vet, note anything unusual or anything that changed lately.

Did you change floor cleaners?  Does your dog chew on things outside or often pick things up in his mouth? Did you change the brand of cat litter?  Change the kind of food? Are you missing toys (or pieces of them)? Have you noticed a change in behavior or routine patterns?  Any of these things might be a clue to illness.

While it is helpful to have a pet first aid kit and a book on pet illness and injury care (first aid), this is no substitute for professional medical care.

Catching any issue early can be the difference between a quick fix or prolonged treatment. Remember, you know your pet best, and even if you aren’t sure if something is really wrong, it’s always better to get your veterinarian’s opinion, just for peace of mind.