By Gary Borgman, DVM
Home observation of abnormal pet behavior and bodily functions will usually stimulate a phone call to the veterinarian and this is how it should be. Experienced veterinary staff members are trained to listen to, record and pass on these observations and questions so that the doctor can begin the diagnostic work-up. Owner observations are vital for this process so I will list some commonly observed symptoms and behaviors and what these observations could mean.
- Change in appetite: a decreased or non existent appetite may be caused by a fever, infection, intestinal parasites, and a variety of serious internal illnesses. An increased appetite can be associated with an early onset of diabetes, hyperthyroidism, Cushings disease, or certain medications such as corticosteroids.
- Vomiting: repeated spells of vomiting is always cause for concern. Occasional vomiting, once or twice a week, is usually not serious but a pet with increasing frequency of vomiting may have intestinal parasites, a food intolerance, pancreatitis, liver disorder, gastro-intestinal infection, or stomach hairballs.
- Lethargy: a usually active pet that becomes lethargic is usually sick and needs to be checked out. A fever is one of the most common causes of lethargy.
- Diarrhea: can be caused by gastrointestinal infections, parasites, ingestion of garbage or spoiled food, ingestion of rich human food, a sudden change of food, ingestion of milk, and sometimes oral antibiotics. We will always request a fresh specimen of the feces for laboratory analysis to help determine the cause of diarrhea.
- Increased thirst: can be caused by diabetes, kidney disease, corticosteroid medications or dehydration associated with severe diarrhea.
- Inappropriate urination: can be caused by urinary tract infections and irritation of the urinary bladder by crystals or bladder stones, often with blood tinged urine.
- Itchy or painful ears: can be due to ear mites, bacterial/yeast infections, and allergies. Most chronic and recurring ear infections have an allergic basis as the primary causative factor.
- Intense itching with secondary skin infection (pyoderma): usually has an allergic cause but can be due to mange mites, especially with young dogs.
- Lameness: non-weight bearing lameness is usually caused by some type of trauma and will usually require radiographs to determine the cause and extent of injury. Weight-bearing lameness is usually not a fracture but can be a soft tissue sprain. Osteoarthritis is a common cause of increasing lameness, especially in older patients.
- Coughing, wheezing, labored breathing: can be due to heart disease or respiratory infections, allergies, or serious lung disorders including cancer.
- Seizures: can be caused by epilepsy, hypoglycemia, severe kidney disease, ingestion of toxins, and many internal diseases.
- Skin growths (masses) and subcutaneous masses: will usually need a fine needle aspirate with microscopic exam. Sometimes a biopsy will be indicated
For more information please call Kissimmee Animal Hospital (Tel 407-846-3912) and Poinciana Pet Clinic (407-518-0880) are available to address your concerns and questions.