Sick cat

Has it ever seemed to you that something is not quite right with your pet, but you just can’t put your finger on anything specific that would indicate a problem? We veterinarians have a name for that condition: ADR, or “ain’t doin’ right.”  

I always pay attention to pet moms and dads who bring in ADR animals, because their underlying sense that something is wrong is often, well, right. Just like parents who can detect an aura around children who are going to have a seizure, I think pet parents have a “sick sense” when it comes to knowing something isn’t quite right with their dogs or cats. Just recently in our own home, my wife and I were watching TV and our 12-year-old canine cocktail, a male Porkhuahua (a blend of Pomeranian, Yorkie and Chihuahua) walked in front of the TV. Teresa said, “Something is wrong with Quixote!” to which I, the veteran veterinarian, responded, “He looks just fine to me.”

Five minutes later, Quixote had a seizure. I told Teresa that her observation was amazing. Luckily, like Teresa, many dog and cat owners notice problems in the earliest stages of an infection, metabolic problem, painful condition or other health concern because they are so tuned in to their animals.

Know What You’re Seeing

Nonetheless, these medical mysteries can present a challenge to pet owners and veterinarians alike. Should you take your pet to the vet? If you do, how is he or she going to figure out what’s going on? As a vet and a pet owner, I’ve learned that there are a few strategies that can help you make good observations so you and your veterinarian can catch and treat potential health problems early.

Start by paying attention to what’s normal for your pet. If you’re in tune with what’s typical, you’ll notice sooner if something changes. Signals that something is wrong include changes in eating, drinking or bathroom habits. If what’s normal for these behaviors increases or decreases, take your pet to the veterinarian for a checkup. Pets who are less playful or active, have unusual changes in vocalizations or are sleeping more or less may also be in the early stages of a health problem.

It takes a sharp eye to notice these things. In the wild, “sick is supper,” so our animals do their darnedest not to show any weakness or pain. A pet parent’s "sick sense” can detect the beginnings of a problem, but only your veterinarian has the training, experience, equipment and resources to dig deeper and ferret out what’s going on.

The bottom line is this: When in doubt, take your pet to the vet. For the cost of an office visit, you can catch problems before they become serious or, even better, have your fears relieved altogether.

It’s OK to Be Wrong

My final thought? When you think something is wrong and it turns out to be not as serious as you feared — or even nothing at all — celebrate! Just like us, pets can have random earaches, toothaches, gas pains, digestive upsets or creaky joints that get better on their own. But it never hurts to have it checked out and get the reassuring news that your pet’s health is normal.

I’d rather have a pet owner bring a pet in twice and be wrong both times about him being sick than be wrong once by waiting too long to bring him in, when a delayed diagnosis and treatment can cause unnecessary pain, expense or worse.

Think your pet ain’t doin’ right? Have an expert check him out. You won’t be sorry.

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