How to Keep Your Pet Comfortable When They Are Sick

sick catPets provide unconditional love and support to their owners every day. These compassionate animals know when people need comfort to brighten bad days.

Unfortunately, many owners don't realize when their pets need special attention. Some don't recognize that their fur babies are ill, because they disguise their illness. Other owners don't know how to provide tender loving care for their sick pets.

Here are some signs and symptoms to look out for when your pet isn't feeling well and some ways to help sick animal pals recover.

Nine Signs Your Pet is Sick

Your pet's instinct will be to hide their illness. That's because, in the wild, animals abandon their sick relatives and are also vulnerable to attacks from predators.

Pets owners should pay attention to fur babies that display common symptoms. The following signs can mean your companion is ill. Be sure to take your pet to the vet immediately if your pet requires prompt medical attention.

1. Vomiting and diarrhea: Pets who experience chronic digestive problems—like diarrhea or vomiting—are usually sick. Owners should check stool and vomit for blood. This is a sign of parvovirus, a deadly canine illness. Stool color will vary depending on its origin. Hematochezia is upper intestinal tract bleeding. It appears as bright-red droplets in feces. Melena, or lower intestinal tract bleeding, is harder to detect. The stools are tarry and black. Dark, coffee-like grounds in vomit is a sign of stomach or esophageal bleeding.

Gastrointestinal problems can dehydrate or kill your pet.  If your pet displays any of the above signs, bring them to South Boston Animal Hospital immediately for a checkup. Our veterinarians will screen them for any underlying illnesses.

2. Appetite changes: Most pets crave a satisfying meal or delicious snack. Animals' appetites change when they're sick. Pets who eat more may have parasitic infections. Veterinarians define anorexia as a decreased appetite in cats and dogs. Several disorders, including kidney failure and cancer, cause anorexia. It's also a sign of fatty liver disease in overweight cats. Bring your pet to South Boston Animal Hospital right away if your pet stops eating.

Illness-related causes of appetite changes are:

  • Viral, bacterial, and parasitic infections
  • Cancer
  • Pain
  • Endocrine disorders
  • Autoimmune illness
  • Respiratory diseases
  • Exposure to poisons
  • Dental issues
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Gastrointestinal blockage
  • Fatty liver

3. Bad breath: Some pet owners joke about their furry friends' smelly breath. It's common for healthy pets to have bad breath due to gum disease and halitosis. Foul-smelling breath is a sign that animals may have:

  • Parasites
  • Gastrointestinal bugs
  • Esophageal illnesses

Kidney disease can also cause odorous breath when toxic uremia builds up in the body.

4. Excessive thirst and urination: Polydipsia is the veterinary term for increased thirst. Polyuria refers to a high urine output. Most sick animals don't display any symptoms other than polydipsia or polyuria.

Diseases that can cause polydipsia and polyuria include:

  • Kidney diseases
  • Diabetes
  • Changes in steroid production by adrenal glands
  • Tumors
  • Electrolyte and hormonal disorders

Other causes of polydipsia and polyuria are low-protein diets.

5. Lethargy: Energy level changes can signal that animals are sick. Lethargy is the primary symptom. Veterinarians define lethargy as a decreased energy level in pets. Active pets may slow down, lay down, or sleep more.

Decrease energy levels are symptoms of the following illnesses:

  • Infectious diseases - parvovirus, panleukopenia, tick-borne disease, FeLV, and FIV
  • Congenital heart diseases
  • Pneumonia
  • Anemia
  • Malnutrition
  • Excess weight
  • Cancer
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Pain (orthopedic and dental)
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Tick-borne diseases
  • Obesity

6. Stiff muscles and joints: Serious illnesses can inflame joints and muscle tissue in animals. Pets suffering from viral or parasitic infections will walk with noticeable pain.

Stiffness is a symptom of the following five diseases.

  • Encephalitis
  • Meningitis
  • Acquired Myasthenia Gravis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Parasitic infection (Toxoplasmosis, etc;)

7. Fever, sneezing, coughing, and runny nose: Cold-like symptoms are signs of the following illnesses.

  • Infection - Mucus or pus are symptoms of a bacterial, viral, or fungal infection.
  • Polyps and tumors - These include overgrown, mucus-producing glands.
  • Distemper - This causes a sticky, yellow, nasal discharge in dogs.

8. Excessive panting and labored breathing: Panting is a way for dogs to cool off. They take ten to 30 breaths per minute depending on their size and breed. Pets that breathe with difficulty may suffer from

  • Chronic illnesses
  • Heart disease
  • Respiratory disorders
  • Cushing's syndrome

9. Skin problems: An animal that scratches or bites themselves may have a skin condition. Pet owners may believe their furry friend only needs a good bath, but it could be a sign of a serious illness. This symptom may show your pet has these diseases:

  • Allergic dermatitis
  • Yeast infection
  • Folliculitis
  • Alopecia - Shedding and hair loss
  • Mange - Parasitic mites
  • Fleas
  • Metabolic or hormonal changes
  • Acral lick granuloma
  • Skin tumors

10. When to seek immediate veterinary care: Bring your pet to South Boston Animal Hospital if they have the following symptoms:

  • Excessive bleeding
  • Ingested a poison
  • Broken bones
  • Unconsciousness
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Seizures that don't stop
  • Unable to urinate
  • Recurring medical conditions
  • Swelling around eyes, throat, face

Caring for Your Sick Pet

Have a qualified veterinarian look at your pets before caring for them at home. Once you do, your fur baby will need special care when it's under the weather.

1. Groom your pets and keep them clean: Sick pets won't have the energy to groom their bodies. Help them stay clean by using damp cloths to clean their eyes, ears, and mouth. Cats love a cotton-ball bath because it feels like another cat is caring for them. 

2. Pay attention to your pet's bathroom needs: Pet parents should track their furry pal's bathroom habits while they recover. Your pet may too weak to get up and use the restroom. Change their bedding daily. Clean their bodies using a washcloth to wipe away urine and feces. You can also protect their private areas with Vaseline or Sudocream.

Additionally, you can provide an indoor toilet for your sick pet to use. Puppy pads can give animals a safe place to urinate indoors. Don't punish your furry pal for having an accident in your home. They can become stressed, and this can delay their recovery.

3. Move your pet if it's immobile: Move your sick pets every few hours to prevent bed sores. Your furry friend can develop bed sores and other infections. This will also prevent problems like pneumonia.

4. Always follow the vet's instructions: Owners must follow their vet's advice to help their pets recover. For example, your pet must receive its prescribed medications at the required time.

5. Keep water near: Parasitic or bacterial illnesses can dehydrate your pet. Place your pet's water dishes close to them while they recover. The bowl should be within reach of their muzzles.

"One of the most important things your #pet needs to help recover from an illness? Water. Plain and simple." TWEET THIS

6. Feed your pet: Some animals may have problems eating food during their illness. Your pet should eat smaller portions to help them get the nutrition they need. Feeding your pet by hand can encourage them to eat. You can also offer warm, scented foods.

Don't offer foods to dogs or cats that they haven't eaten before and may not eat again. Your pet could associate these foods with their illnesses.

7. Respect your pet's need for quiet: A sick animal needs plenty of rest and sleep. Give them a quiet place free from loud noises and disturbances to help them recover. You should consider keeping your pet in a private room in your house to ensure they can recover in peace.

Your furry friend should get as much rest as possible to help them heal. Some people believe that taking their pet on walks will help them use the bathroom. Allowing them to stay inside and sleep will help them recover better.

Additionally, keep your sick pet away from other animals.

7. Keep toys and other items nearby: Cheer up your pet's spirits up by providing them with toys. Keep their favorite dolls nearby to help cheer them up. If your dog has a chronic illness, consider purchasing a cart to pull them around the park.

Stop by South Boston Animal Hospital if you suspect your pet is sick. Our veterinarians will screen your pet for viruses, bacterial infections, and other illnesses. Contact us to schedule an appointment today.