Have you ever noticed how animals are VERY good at hiding pain or showing they are unwell. This is a highly evolved 'protective mechanism' of course - no single animal wants to be the sick one in the pack/herd/flock etc...
But how can we as pet lovers tell? Are they hot, cold, off their food? Are their gums red, yellow, white or pink? How are they standing? Is there a cough? How do you know if they have a heart problem? What is their fur like?
Leading industry body 'Pets Australia' CEO Dr Jo Sillince explains some specific symptoms to look for in cats. For instance do you know what 'kidney coat' is?
As always please see your vet for ANY signs of poor health in your pets.
PREFER TO READ? - Full transcript here
Would you know when your pet’s not well? Do you know the signs to look for?
Well, here to help us out is Dr Jo Sillince CEO of Pets Australia.
Jo... our pets are pretty good at hiding things, so would you agree that most pets don't really show the signs that they're unwell, do they?
Oh, Yes, they do! And plenty of different ways. But let's just talk about major problems as compared to minor skin conditions and a few fleas. When we talk about major problems in older animals, we're thinking about things like diabetes, kidney disease, cancers, heart disease, auto-immune disease, and some of those beaut hormonal things that tend to beset animals as they get older.
And a lot of these are chronic in as much as it comes on slowly. So you're seeing them every single day and you don't notice. So what is actually a reasonable indicator that something chronic is happening is when somebody that hasn't seen the animal for a while, a visitor or a guest, or dare I say a relative wanders in and says, OOh!... he looks different!
And you haven't noticed it because it's been creeping up on you. But they noticed it because the last time they saw the animal, the animal is quite different.
So the first sign of longer term major issues really is demeanor.
Now, I know you guys actually saw that. The animal was acting a bit wacky, and was starting to forget a few things.
It turned out that part of that was reduced blood flow to the brain. So if you've got an older pet that looks like it's got Alzheimer's, it may well have. Although it's not Alzheimer's, it's changing blood flow and ageing brain cells. And as our pets get into older age, of course, you start to see strokes and some of those bueat vascular things that humans get too.
So don't rule out demeanor okay?... If they're a bit flat. I used to hear that a lot...
"Look, I wasn't going to bring him in, but he just looks flat"! - And I don't mean that literally ok (LAUGHS!).
There's a couple of things that are not good indicators. Okay?
The first NOT good indicator is food. I've seen animals with absolutely deadly cancers riddled up to the eye teeth stuffing their faces with food right up to just before they died.
And I've seen cats with very minor illness go completely off their food. So food is not a good indicator. The other one that's not a good indicator in dogs is hot nose or dry nose.
Oh, cold wet nose... it MUST must be healthy right!!
.. or OMG... the dog's dying, he's got a dry nose!! Okay. Thank you very much.
No, dry nose is just a matter of the animal not secreting enough around its nose & dry noses can happen at any time of the day or night. Hot noses. If they stay hot for a very long period, then feel the skin. It's the skin that's hot...noses can go quite well by themselves. But when the skin is hot too, it's often an indicator of fever.
Do you feel the pads of the feet or something or anywhere on the skin?
Again, an animal with fever will be hot all over. And will also be quite flat and I mean that demeanor wise and the trick is to make sure that there isn't any chance of hyperthermia okay?... because that will make them hot too.
So unless they've been lying in the sun, it's probably a fever. Look, the second thing to look at with older animals where you're worried about chronic disease really is exercise tolerance, and that's a dead giveaway, right?
They won't want to get up. They won't want to go for a walk. They won't go slow on the walk... in cats you'll find them not moving about, you know, how cats often sleep from place to place? I call it mobile sleep, and they'll often just stay vegetative in the same place. And that's a bit unusual for a lot of cats.
Yeah, they'll be a bit slow getting up for dinner. He just not into the exercise. Have look at the gums. Gums are a really good indicator. Real white gums is an issue. Brick red gums is an issue unless they're terribly hot and cooling down after a big run.
Yellow gums is a good indicator of liver disease. So gums are quite useful.
Dry gums are often a good indicator of dehydration,
They should be pink? not yellow, not red, not white?
Yes but the amount of pinkness depends on your own animal.
It's very subtle isn't it?
Yes… just say hello to their gums occasionally so you know what normal looks like.
Well they keep saying we should be brushing teeth and I did buy doggy toothbrushes but I have to admit it, they're not that fussed on it.
The other one to have a look at is stance. How are they standing? And if your animal is a bit tucked up and the demeanor is off, it can be an indicator all sorts of things, but definitely worth checking out. It can be kidneys or it can be guts or it can be liver or it can be spine. And if it's tucked up and bites when it normally wouldn't be biting, that's when it's hurting.
So tucked up, do you mean the trying to pull their chest up?
If you look along the line of the spine of most animals when they're standing it's reasonably straight, so it comes down from the neck and a little bump across the shoulders, and then it dips down ever so slowly. When they hunch, you'll often notice a little hill between the shoulders and the hips, so that's 'hunched up' and they'll often be quite tense. The stomach muscles will be tense and stuff.
So stance is useful in animals with congestive heart failure, you'll often see them standing like a Bulldog with their elbows turned out and a little more forward than usual. So they actually look like they're about to go and get all boofy and attack something.
Well this is what prompted this whole story. We had no idea. We used to laugh!
We'd go... "Oh look Cosmo's standing like a Bull dog!”
And we actually thought it was because of our ignorance with diet from day one where I think mostly, & I'm not blaming KB, but I'm saying where Kaye mostly fed him chicken wings and bones and whatever he really loved them - of course we thought this was good we're doing the right thing.
Yeah, when they're standing like that routinely and they're older, and their exercise tolerance is a bit down, and they're a bit forgetful, it's often a good indicator to go and get that heart checked out.
Well some good advice from Dr. Jo Sillince from Pets Australia.
Great advice, and you know hindsight's a wonderful thing. I still feel guilty about some of the things I probably missed with some of our now past doggies. But I don't think they would hold it against me.
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