For most of the cases you don’t need to see a vet, you can find more information about which products you can use to ease your pet’s life on this website in the Supplements section. They don’t need veterinary prescription, their efficiency has been tested and are the same that vets recommend and use.
1. GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS are probably one of the most frequent reasons to visit your vet. Signs that could alarm you are vomiting, diarrhoea, loss of appetite and constipation. Not all of these symptoms are caused by diseases, some are just transitory effects of a poor diet, lack of anti parasitic treatment, eating/drinking too fast, sudden changes in feeding or eating things they shouldn’t.
DON’T: - sole episode of vomiting or diarrhoea which clear up in the next couple to 24 hours (upset tummy); feeding a bland diet (chicken and rice/pasta and chicken) and probiotics supplements come in handy;
- sole episode of difficulty in passing feces (constipation);
- loss of appetite for 24-48h.
DO: - loss of appetite for more than 3 days in cats;
- loss of appetite for more than 5 days in dogs;
- repeated episodes of vomiting and/or diarrhoea, with or without blood in it;
- continuous effort in passing feces;
- weight loss despite eating normal or more/ weight gain despite eating less or not at all;
- absence of passing regular motions for more than 24h;
- lack of appetite caused by a sore mouth (dental or gum disease);
- swollen abdomen;
Dogs only: if your dog is dragging his bottom on the floor, is licking it excessively and seems like there is something bothering him around that area, chances are he will need his anal glands to be emptied. Your vet can always assist you with that.
2. LUMPS - if you’ve just discovered a lump or nodule on your pet’s body, don’t rush straight to your vet for a check up, most of the times he’ll recommend just to keep an eye on it and see if it’s getting bigger or bothering your friend in any way. You’ll end up paying for a consultation just for that. There are several types of lumps that can grow on your animal’s body, which can be benign (most of the time), but some, unfortunately, malignant. If your four legged friend is feeling well in himself, then stay calm and check the lump periodically to see if it’s changing in size or shape. The best thing you can do is measure it and keep a record of your measurements. If you think it has grown considerably, then you can arrange with your vet for a removal surgery. If you’re worried that it could be something nasty and also your pet stops being his normal self, the best thing to do is a lump biopsy (cutting a small piece of the lump and send it to the lab), which will show exactly what type of cells are composing the mass. Another option for a diagnosis that the vet would recommend is a FNA (fine needle aspirate). This consists in inserting a needle in the lump and take some cells out. Unfortunately, many times you don’t get the right cells in for a proper diagnosis, so it could be a waste of money. If money is not a problem or your pet is insured, then definitely go for the biopsy or straight for the surgery, if he is healthy.
The most common growths are:
Lipomas (fatty lumps) - are movable and soft, could be superficial, just under the skin or deeper. Frequently seen in older and/or overweight animals, normally removed when they become larger and bother the animal or looking unaesthetic. Not harmful in general, but some types of cancer could look like a lipoma. Neoplasia is more likely at an older age.
Nodules - are round and thick. The most common are the ones that appear after an injection, at the injection site and usually are not harmful, but nodules can develop on any area of the body. There are some nodules that are potentially malignant: mammary masses (nodules that appear next to the tits or along the mammary chain); surgical removal is indicated and mass sent to laboratory to establish risk of cancer.
Warts or Papillomas - cauliflower like skin growths caused by a virus (papilloma virus), they are more common in young or immune suppressed animals. Most common sites are between the toes and on the face, around the eyes or mouth, but can appear anywhere on the skin. Sometimes they look like a skin tag. In most of the cases they are benign and do not need any intervention, as most likely to disappear on their own after a couple of months. Boosting your pet’s immune system would be really helpful. If warts don’t heal after 3-5 months, start bothering your pet or start bleeding, surgical removal is a must.
Sebaceous Cysts - appear when a hair follicle or skin pore gets infected or blocked with dirt or debris (equivalent of pimples in humans). Usually not harmful and heal by themselves, but sometimes difficult to difference them from other harmful growths. Best prevention is taking proper care of your pet’s skin and hair.
Hystyocytomas - are the most common skin growths in young animals (less than 3 years old). They are harmless and disappear by themselves after a while. They tend to grow really fast and appear suddenly, looking like red hairless circular lumps and not having more than 2 - 2.5 cm in size. Most affected areas are the limbs, the head, the ears and the neck.
Mast cell tumours - are the most common skin tumours that affect dogs. Highest incidence is found in older dogs (more than 8 years old) and especially Boxers. Mast cells are part of the immune system and every time they fight an infection, their structure may be altered. Most common sites are the sides of the body and the limbs. Mast cell tumours have been classified in 3 grades according to their degree of malignancy. The higher the grade, the more aggressive the tumour. Most tumours are solitary, have a red colour and grow slowly in size.
Abscesses - a frequent reaction to a foreign body which looks like a swelling. On palpation it feels movable, warm and painful. Most of the times is possible to find an opening (like a fang or pierce wound) with puss coming out. The best treatment is cleaning it and antibiotic treatment.
DON’T: - a mass/masses, which is not growing fast or considerably in size, doesn’t make your pet uncomfortable, doesn’t bleed or eliminate any discharge. You can monitor for a couple of months and if you have further worries you can make an appointment with your vet.
DO: - a mass/masses that appears at an older age and/or grows rapidly or spreads, affects your pet demeanour, bleeds or burst, interfere with animal’s mobility.
3. COUGHING +/- SNEEZING - quite a common reason for a visit, but not all the times are signs of a disease. Coughing can have two different origins: first is the respiratory system and the second is the cardiovascular system. Sneezing is related only to respiratory system. Heart related cough is more at night and morning and is associated with loss of breath and fatigue. If your pet is having regular vet check-ups your vet would be able to listen to your pet’s heart and let you know if there are any abnormalities so you can expect a heart condition in the future. Coughing is the first sign of treatment need. As regarding coughing and sneezing related to the respiratory system, it could be caused by a respiratory infection, an inflammation, a foreign body in the upper respiratory airways, asthma or allergies.
DON’T: - isolate episodes of coughing and/or sneezing, caused by mild irritation;
- coughing caused by excitement or lead pulling which clears up after a while.
DO: - frequent episodes of coughing and/or sneezing which don’t resolve after a couple of days;
- nasal and eye discharge;
- repeated coughing associated with fatigue and loss of breath.
4. URINARY PROBLEMS - most of the urinary problems need vet assistance. Common symptoms to recognize them are: struggle to pass urine, squatting, changes in urine aspect (colour, presence of blood or stones) and frequency of urination (more or less often), or lack of urination with enlargement of bladder (swollen lower abdomen). Kidney disease is often affecting older animals and the main symptoms are weight loss, increased or decreased frequency of urination and hypertension. Urinary problems include infections, inflammations, degeneration and obstructions. To prevent urinary problems or prevent any recurrence after treatment once, you need to choose a proper diet, keep your pet away from poisonous food and give the right supplements.
5. SKIN PROBLEMS - represent one of the main problems that owners bring their pets with at the vets. The main concern with skin conditions is that they cause itchiness, which leads to self mutilation, hair loss, secondary bacterial and fungal infection and a poor quality of life. It could be an allergy which needs specialized treatment, or it could be just dry skin. Anti parasitic treatment is extremely important, as most of the skin problems are caused by fleas and other external parasites. So make sure your pet is properly protected by an efficient product. If your pet shows mild signs of skin issues, rather than rushing to your vet you could try with some skin supplements, shampoos and essential fatty acids supplementation in the food. They won’t do any harm! If it’s a more serious condition, your vet might be the only option you have, as it may be an allergic condition or bacterial infection which need proper treatment that only your vet can supply.
6. NEUROLOGICAL PROBLEMS - seizures, head tilt, wobbly movements or paralysis are serious conditions and you will need your vet’s assistance for proper diagnostic and treatment. To avoid further degeneration of brain in older pets you could use the help of some supplements. Regarding seizures, if your pet is having short fits and after that he’s back to normal and they happen only from time to time, the vet won’t start any treatment, unless it becomes more frequent.
7. LIMPING - represents an often motive to make a visit to the vets and it could be determined by an injured leg, a strain, muscle pain, joint damage, foreign body embedded in pad or a fracture, in the worst case. In older pets it’s most likely associated with osteoarthritis. For mild cases of arthritis, joint supplements are enough to ease the damaged joints, but for more serious cases, pain relief dispensed by the vet is mandatory.
DON’T: - limping that resolves in the next 24 - 72h and is not associated with pain or changed behaviour.
DO: - limping that doesn’t solve in the next 24 - 72h, ending in your pet not using the leg anymore;
- swollen and painful limb;
- abnormally movable limb;
- bleeding limb.
8. HEALTH ISSUES, DISORDERS AND DISEASES - organ failure, endocrine disorders, infectious diseases, poisoning, poor diet, low immune system
DO SEE YOUR VET!
Most health issues appear at an older age, but can affect young animals as well, especially infectious diseases. These could be avoided if vaccination is up to date and not travelling abroad to countries with a high incidence.
Common signs of underlying disease:
- Sudden increased thirst and appetite, associated or not with increased urination frequency (diabetes, kidney or liver problems, endocrine disorders);
- Extreme weight loss or weight gain without reason (not eating less/more or getting more/less exercise);
- Vomiting and/or diarrhoea (multiple episodes accompanied by modified behaviour);
- Abdominal pain;
- Coughing and or sneezing, decreased effort resistance (respiratory problems, heart condition).
9. EMERGENCIES - can’t be treated at home so the best thing to do is take your pet immediately to your vet
DO SEE YOUR VET!
- breathing difficulties, particularly open mouth breathing or bluish colour of the gums;
- weakness and collapse, paleness of the gums;
- continuous seizuring;
- large areas of burns;
- wounds with pulsating/squirting bleeding;
- unable to urinate especially if longer than 8-12 hours;
- sudden abdominal swelling;
- difficulty giving birth;
- abnormal vulvar discharge (pyometra - serious uterine infection);
- suspect poisoning or toxin exposure (food - chocolate, grapes/raisins, xylitol, onion, garlic; human drugs - ibuprofen, paracetamol for cats; poisonous plants - lilies, sago palms, tobacco, jimson weed; household cleaners; rodenticides and insecticides; ethylene glycol (antifreeze); fertilizers);
- acute trauma such as road traffic accidents;
- acute damage to the eyes;
10. BEHAVIOURAL ISSUES: if you think your pet has any behavioural problems, like unexplained aggression, stress anxiety, excessive vocalizing or destructive behaviour, chances are your local vet can’t do much about it, except giving some temporarily treatment to calm him down for a while, but there is no guarantee it will work in all cases. General practice vets are not specialists in behavioural problems, unless if they have a particular interest in that and they are willing to study more about it. Most of the time your vet can’t give much help, except recommending to try some supplements or even prescribe some strong tranquilizing medicine, but that would solve the problem only for the moment and not cure it. The best thing you can do if you really want to solve the issue, especially if it’s a serious one, is to see an animal behaviour specialist. It would cost you more, but you can be sure it’s good invested money.