Signs of Disease to Look for in Our Pets

All too often, as veterinarians, we see patients coming into our clinic in advanced stages of disease. Although some disease may progress quickly, other illnesses will show subtle clinical signs along the way. For example, with kidney disease in cats, animals exhibit classic clinical signs as kidney function deteriorates. These include: weight loss, increased water consumption with increased urination, varying degrees of anorexia, and vomiting. Owners need to be aware of the importance of recognizing early and subtle changes in their pets so that treatment may be instituted early with the hopes of curing or slowing disease progression.

Some common clinical signs that owners should be on the lookout for are:

1. Weight loss or excessive gain

2. Anorexia or difficulty eating

3. Vomiting and/or diarrhea

4. Increased water consumption

5. Increased urine production

6. Swollen lymph nodes

7. Lumps on the body that are growing rapidly or changing in character

8. Coughing or breathing difficulty

9. Straining to urinate or defecate

10. Bleeding, especially from the nose or rectum.

As doctors, we depend on the information that owners provide for us, as this is vitally important to diagnosis. Owners can especially note the onset, duration, and severity of the clinical signs. Because animals cannot tell us what is wrong, we take the history from the owner and use it in conjunction with a thorough physical exam and often, some form of diagnostic testing (i.e. blood work, radiographs, urinalysis). We also use information provided by owners to help interpret the laboratory results.

Animals tend not to complain about things and often by the time things are obviously wrong, a disease has been smoldering for a while. Any change in an animal’s general attitude, appetite, or normal habits can be an early signal and owners should feel comfortable with their veterinarian to either call to discuss or set up a patient appointment – it could make a big difference to your pet!

Presented as a public service by Marymount Animal Hospital, 301-384-1223.

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