Do you know when you need to take your pet to the vet? Whilst it might be easy if there is an obvious issue such as an open wound, active bleeding or they have been involved in an accident, but what about the hidden illnesses?  If you detect any of these symptoms in your pet, you need to get them to a veterinarian straight away as it may just save their life.

1. Bloated Stomach

There can be many causes of a bloated abdomen and whilst some of them may not necessarily be classed as an emergency only your veterinarian can diagnose the cause.  It could be anything from over-engorgement of food, gas build-up, fluid or the deadly GDV – Gastric Dilation Volvulus.  GDV is caused when gas and food is unable to exit the stomach and the increased pressure causes the stomach to twist and fold in on itself.  This condition is ALWAYS fatal without treatment and whilst it may not be your pet’s diagnosis, it’s always best to rule it out straight away.

2. Straining to Urinate/ Defecate

You may not think there is anything serious about your pet being constipated however there are numerous illnesses that can present with this symptom.  Owners often mistake straining to urinate as constipation in male cats, this simple mistake can prove fatal.  Feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD) is a serious condition that is common in neutered, male cats that involves a blockage in their urethra.  This causes a build up of toxins in their system which if left untreated can cause heart arrhythmias and failures. 

However, it’s not only in cats that signs of constipation should cause concern.  Both cats and dogs are prone to ingesting foreign objects which are unable to be passed through the gastrointestinal tract with constipation being one of the first signs noticed by owners.  If you suspect your pet is having trouble toileting it is important to seek advice as soon as possible.

3. Excessive Drooling and Panting

A common symptom for both dogs and cats is hypersalivation and increased panting.  This symptom could be a sign of many disease processes or illness.  Perhaps one of the most common amongst dogs in Queensland is toad toxicity.  The Queensland cane toad has a toxic substance that is secreted from its body after being disturbed by an animal.  Often the dog will mouth the toad which then allows the secretion to absorb through the mucus membranes on the gums.  One of the first signs of toad toxicity is excessive salivation and frothing, eventually, the dog will develop neurological signs such as wandering eyes, and become uncoordinated – often described as ‘drunk’.  It is important that you contact your vet immediately at the first sign of increased salivation to receive the correct treatment advice.

Other causes for hypersalivation include toxins, foreign bodies lodged in oral cavities and severe nausea due to underlying illnesses.  It is often hard to differentiate these causes at home and you will need to have a consultation with your veterinarian to investigate the source.

4. Weakness in the Hind Limbs

Have you noticed that your pet tripped a couple of times walking up the stairs?  Perhaps they usually hop onto the couch with you but tonight they are unable to.  Subtle changes such as this could be signs of a more severe, progressive disease and should be seen to by a veterinarian immediately.  There are many diseases and illnesses that could cause this symptom with the biggest one being tick paralysis caused by Ixodes Holocyclus (paralysis tick).  A toxin in the ticks saliva is introduced into your pets blood as it feeds – this toxin acts on the nerve endings and blocks the nerve from acting on muscle therefore causing paralysis.  It often starts in the hind limbs and progresses rapidly to the entire body including the respiratory system.  Removing the tick alone will not resolve the paralysis and your pet will require the tick anti-toxin from a veterinarian or there is a high risk of fatality. 

5. Change in Bark/ Meow

Most pet owners in Queensland are aware of the main symptoms of tick paralysis but did you know that this debilitating and progressive disease can be recognised with a change in your pet’s usual vocalisation.  Often this change is a reduction in the noise produced and can be one of the first recognisable signs of tick paralysis.  If you detect any change in your pet’s voice have them checked by a veterinarian who will perform a thorough examination and can look for other subtle signs that may be present if your pet is suffering from tick paralysis.

Although this list does not cover EVERY hidden killer, this is a short catalogue of some of the main signs that we see walking through the doors at Animal Emergency Service.  If you have any concern about your pet’s behaviour do not hesitate to contact your local veterinarian or an after hours vet for advice.