Last week I wrote about how to pick a vet. This week I want to focus on when to visit a vet. But before I discuss that, let me reiterate an important point – the act of figuring out who your vet is, where she is located, what her timings are and what her contact information is has to be done well before your first emergency strikes. When it’s time to head to the vet, you just execute on a good plan that you have stuck to your refrigerator. Given Bangalore traffic and the stress of a possibly sick dog in your car, you are not going to be in the best position to be figuring out a plan B if your vet is closed. So, have your plan A, B and C all sorted out. Having said that, when is it time to head to a vet?
Dogs are stoic. They are not going to tell you much about what is wrong. So you need to be an expert at reading your dog’s health and knowing when things are “off”. To know that, you need a frame of reference. You have two frames of reference you can use. One is to get good at observing your own dog and noticing changes in your dog. The second is to observe other dogs, closest to your own dogs age and breed and comparing. Make it a habit to observe and document as much as possible. Take pictures and videos as part of the documenting process. It’s difficult to notice small changes over a period of time. Diaries, pictures and videos will come in handy.
Your diary need not capture every last detail about your dog. But if you find your dog having a deviant behavior on a particular day, that should make it into your diary. Watch your dog’s activity levels, appetite, water consumption, number of times she pees, poops, consistency of poop, the hours of sleep, the amount she sheds when you brush her etc. Also make notes if you notice dull coat, red eyes, foul odours emitting from her coat, mouth, ears, mouth or anus.
Vomiting, sudden tick/flea infestation / fainting episodes, coughs etc should all make it to your diary for sure.
Sudden decline in energy levels, labored breathing, loss of appetite & weight, purple/blue gums & fainting episodes can be indicative of heart diseases. Some breeds are genetically predisposed to certain diseases. Educate yourself on what your dog is likely to be effected by.
Red and swollen gums with discharge and/or bleeding, loose teeth, bad breath, preference for softer foods and strange behavior around foods can indicate dental diseases.
Vomiting, diarrhea, increased thirst, increased / decreased appetite, sudden weight gain or weight loss, lethargy, muscle twitching, muscle tremors, poor coat, heat seeking behaviours, aggression, depression and other sudden behavioural changes may be indicative of Endocrine diseases.
Vomiting, diarrhea and change in appetite and consistency of poop can be indicative of Gastrointestinal diseases. One of the common Gastrointestinal problem is Volvulus (twisting of stomach). This is a medical emergency. The dog needs to be rushed to the vet.
If your dog is limping, skipping, hopping or having an irregular gait, then it could be indicative of Orthopedic diseases.
There are a several other diseases that are beyond the scope of this article. But this list should be a good indication of the things to watch out for. As a pet parent, you just need to be able to document facts well and know when to go to the vet. The rest will be taken care of for you.