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Veterinary Q & A - Should I Call The Vet? Part II

My pet isn't acting "normal", but s/he doesn't seem sick either...


Learning to observe what is normal and to consequently distinguish illness and normal behavior in beings that can't talk takes time and patience. The purpose of this article is to serve as a basic guideline to know when to consult your vet to see if an examination is in order.

One of the first things to recognize is that each animal is an individual. While there are norms for each species, age, breed, and so on, each animal will have their own "rhythm", if you will. For example, a dog who gets very stressed riding in the car may experience loose stools the day after a long car ride. Knowing this bit of information, you can adapt and plan for this event. A dog that loves car rides who suddenly develops loose stool for no reason will warrant attention sooner. Below are some general questions that come up often in a vet's life. Please note that each situation is different, and you should always consult your veterinarian should you have any questions about your pet's health.

This is part II of this series. Please see Part I and Part III for more "should I call the vet?" scenarios.

My cat is "not herself" lately. Should I watch her, or call the vet?
My short answer is yes. Even if it is just a phone call to your vet to touch base. You know your pet best, and while a description of "not herself" can encompass a variety of situations, it is best to get your vet's opinion, as animals can be very good at hiding illness until the problem is advanced. Your vet can assess vital signs, body temperature, heart rate/rhythm, and will ask you questions about your pet's habits or recent behaviors that will hopefully aid in finding out why your pet is not acting as s/he normally does. It may be something simple, it may be an early indicator of something serious. Early detection and prevention is always the best - both for your pet's health and ultimately for the cost of treatment.

My dog's nose is dry. Is he sick?
There isn't a clear cut answer for this question. A dog's (or cat's) nose may be very wet and cool one moment then be warmer and not-so-moist the next. All in the course of a day.

However, prolonged dry, cracked nose, particularly with loss of pigmentation, scabs or open sores should definitely be examined by your veterinarian. An ill animal will often have a warm, dry nose, and there are a host of dermatological (skin) problems that can be seen in this area, such as Pemphigus Foliaceus. (For more links to Pemphigus and other skin conditions, please click here.)

One other note of caution: dogs, cats, horses, and other species are prone to sunburn (also known as "solar dermatitis") and subsequent skin cancer on noses, ear tips, and around eyes. Light coated, pink-nosed animals are at greatest risk. Check with your veterinarian about providing sun protection for your pet if they are in this category of risk.

From the Forum: "Why might a dog have a dry nose? He is drinking and eating ok. Up to date on all shots except his distemper and Parvo are due this month. He is 2 1/2 year old shepherd and healthy. No other cold symptoms..." ZUCK454

My dog is scooting on the carpet. Why is he doing this, and should I call the vet?
Scooting is most commonly caused by anal sac inflammation or infection. Anal sacs are located on either side of the anus. They contain a very smelly, oily substance that is normally expressed (squeezed out) when the animal defecates. Sometimes the secretions can thicken or the animal gains weight and they don't get expressed properly. This can lead to impaction and ultimately infection. The condition can be irritating, itchy and extremely painful at various stages. A trip to the vet is warranted for examination and expression of these sacs.

Other reasons for scooting include: skin irritation from diarrhea, razor burn (if the area was recently clipped), a "hot spot", anal tumors that have become infected, or sometimes parasites.

In any case, a trip to the vet is warranted. Infections in this area can quite quickly become painful and cause your pet to avoid defecation, leading to secondary constipation.

From the Forum: "I took my Shih Tsu to the groomer yesterday and he is having a very bad time now around his anal area. She expressed his anal gland but now he is acting really weird. He won't walk far and runs to sit down on carpet. He is also paying a lot of attention to the area." TRISHAMILLAR

Where can I go for more information?
Being informed is your best bet for keeping your pet as health as can be. Here are some resources for further information about pet care and diseases.
Dog Diseases and Conditions - A to Z
Cat Diseases and Conditions - A to Z
Veterinary Q & A - Archive - Many topics to choose from!

Text: Copyright © Janet Tobiassen Crosby. All rights reserved.

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