As owner you are usually the first to notice changes in your pet’s behaviour and also the first symptoms of disease. However, it might be useful to remind you of some of the most frequent ones for your guidance.
For example, what might be the matter when your pet shakes its head? This is usually an unmistakeable sign of earache. It can be caused by the build up of wax, by an infection or by a foreign body, such as pointed grass seeds, lodged in the ear canal.
The ear must be visually inspected to confirm your suspicions, but a veterinary surgeon should be consulted for the exact diagnosis and correct treatment. It is not a good idea to take treatment into your own hands in the form of drugs, cotton buds or other implements.
Another symptom to keep in mind is the presence of eye discharge. This is due to a larger production of tears, to specific diseases or to various eye problems. The owner should act by cleaning the area on a daily basis and should take his pet to the veterinary clinic if the discharge is more abundant than usual or if there are any other eye symptoms.
If there is a nose discharge, the owner should act as above: not every discharge is the same or means the same thing. If it is watery it is usually unimportant and may indicate an irritation or minor infection. If it is dense or cloudy it could indicate a serious respiratory infection. An animal should not be medicated without professional control. Many of these processes are the tip of the iceberg of more serious diseases, the evolution of which often depends on consulting a veterinary surgeon at once.
Nasal discharge may be accompanied or not by sneezing. Pets may sneeze because foreign matter in the nostrils has caused an irritation, although sneezing can also be a symptom of infection of the nasal cavity or of other respiratory diseases.
In the case of bad breath, which might sometimes make you wonder about living with your pet, it can be a sign of tooth infection or of various digestive diseases, such as a hiatal hernia or bad digestion. It is also necessary to consult your veterinary surgeon for a diagnosis and treatment.
The next subject to be explored is vomiting. It is sometimes due to gluttony, but it can also be a sign of different diseases. If your pet is vomiting but his general health is good, food should be withheld for 24 hours and drinking water allowed often but in small amounts. After 24 hours he may start eating small amounts of his normal food. If the problem continues, the veterinary surgeon should be consulted. He should also be consulted if vomiting is accompanied by a fever or diarrhoea or if your pet is not alert.
Another frequent digestive problem is diarrhoea. If it only happens once, and the animal appears normal, food should be withheld temporarily and drinking water allowed often but in small amounts, while the owner controls the amount of water he drinks. If the diarrhoea continues or there are any other symptoms, the veterinary surgeon should be consulted immediately.
If the problem is a cough, it may be due to a mild irritation or inflammation with or without respiratory infection. If the cough appears and disappears it is not cause for concern. But if it appears, continues and does not disappear your pet should be examined by a professional.
Another problem to be kept in mind is scratching. Every live animal scratches itself, and there is no need to consider such a common activity a problem. But if your pet scratches itself continuously and desperately, if he scratches until he bleeds, something is evidently wrong. Don’t wait until he injures himself, take him to a specialist.
Finally, we’ll consider fever. Most owners suspect that their pets have a fever because they feel warm or because their nose is dry and warmer than usual. To confirm this, anal temperature should be taken. It is the only safe and reliable method. Keep in mind that a dog’s normal temperature is quite higher than a human’s: between 38.5 and 39ºC (101.3 and 102.2ºF). You should not be alarmed if it is over 37ºC (98.6ºF). If, after having checked it, your pet’s temperature is higher than normal, you should take him to the clinic.
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Colegio Oficial de Veterinarios de Alicante
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