When should I take my pet to the vet?

Author picture Jessica  - updated: 11/06/2019

If you own a pet or are a busy pet sitter, this question will eventually rear it's head....'am I being over-reactive, or is the pet in my care actually sick or injuried?'

We aren't advocating that you needlessly fret, stress or worry - instead, reframe your approach so that you always have a plan if you are concerned about the cat, dog, guinea pig, horse etc in your care.

Bear in mind that most animals won't display illness in the same way we humans do. In fact, most will try to hide their sickness by acting relatively normally, however there are some symptoms you will notice that just can't be hidden. 

The Golden Rule

If you have a little feeling something is up, don't fret and sit on your worry for days.

Instead, here is your simple plan of attack: just call the vet! It's quick, it's easy, there's no harm done if you're wrong and the vet will absolutely appreciate that you're concerned. They can then advise what your next step should be. As always, pet sitters should get the number of their pet guest's usual vet (and have a 24 hour number handy just in case). 

What to look for

The biggest clue that might give away that a pet is sick is....a sudden, unexplainable change in their normal habits and patterns. Again, this is yet another reason why a thorough meet and greet and good chat between sitters and owners is essential in knowing what is normal to one pet and different in another. 

Here are the biggest clues that a pet might be feeling ill:

  • Changes in toilet habits - diarrhoea, soiling new areas, not going to the toilet at all, not urinating or going to urinate and nothing happening, straining....whatever it is - if it's unusual, it's worth noting.
  • Weepy, squinty or sore looking eyes
  • Changes in consumption habits - not eating, vomiting, super thirsty, not drinking at all etc
  • Lethargy or weakness
  • Changes in the mouth area - sudden excessive drooling, bleeding or discharge
  • Sudden wheezing, coughing, gasping, sneezing, congestion or snorting
  • Limping, crying, sensitivity to touch in a certain area on the body

Call your emergency vet right away if you notice any of the following signs

  • Changes in gum or tongue colour - very pale or blue 
  • Struggling to breath
  • Fits or seizures
  • Extreme lethargy - inability to get up, eat, walk and other normal functions
  • Acute pain - crying out, whining, limping or guarding a part of the body.
  • Sudden extreme bloating of the belly area
  • Collapse, loss of consciousness or lack of responsiveness
  • High temperature or low temperature
  • Bleeding

This might all sound rather scary, but don't worry - chances are you may never encounter anything this extreme!

Like any first aid, having an objective plan of action is really reassuring....note the possibilities in your mental checklist, pop the vet's number in your phone and on the fridge and know that you're prepared and know what to do just in case.