Petplan presents: 7 rules for the over 7 set – rule 5

Posted by Dr. Ernie Ward on May 10 2013

Pets don’t get old – at least they don’t know it. Yesterday, we talked about the importance of diet and exercise. Today we tackle intuition.

Rule 5: Subtle Can Be Significant
If you share your home with an older pet, never ignore that tiny voice telling you, “something’s not right.”

Age can bring with it changes to sleep, behavior, bathroom, grooming and eating habits; it is just part of the natural process. If you have a pet approaching middle age, you have probably started to notice some of these signs, and that is normal. However, when your pet seems “off,” when a change just doesn’t sit right and you suspect something – anything – might be wrong with a pet over age seven, have it checked out as soon as possible.

Recently, I saw a 12-year old dog that “hadn’t been feeling well for the past couple of weeks.” Sadly, by the time the owner finally listened to that inner voice saying something was wrong, it was too late. Their dog was now bleeding internally from a ruptured splenic cancer, and unfortunately, emergency blood transfusions and surgery failed to save this dog’s life.

While I don’t fault the owner – there was nothing obviously wrong with their pet and they loved him dearly – I can’t help but be nagged by, “what if?”

What if I’d been able to diagnose the tumor before it ruptured? What if I’d performed surgery before the dog had lost more than half of his blood volume? I’ll never know, but I can be more diligent in telling my clients (and readers!) not to ignore even the most seemingly insignificant signs when they sense something isn’t right.

What are some subtle signs you should never ignore? If you observe any of the following symptoms or behaviors in your pet, make an appointment to get him checked.

  • Loss or thinning of coat
  • Lumps or bumps on or under the skin
  • Falling on the last step in a flight of stairs
  • Frequent head shaking
  • Refusal to eat or drink, or difficulty eating or swallowing
  • Uncharacteristic barking, whining, aggression or anxiety
  • Unusual hunger or excessive drinking
  • Bleeding gums, or changes in the color of the gums or tongue
  • Weight gain or loss without a change in diet
  • Diarrhea or vomiting for more than 24-hours
  • Aimless wandering, getting stuck in corners or confusion/disorientation

Diagnosing and treating a disease or illness early gives our pets the best chance of survival and recovery. Sure, there may be times when you rush to the vet over what turns out to be insignificant, but the best news you can ever hear is, “It’s nothing to worry about.”