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Be Careful Not To Ignore Subtle Signs Pets Exhibit That May Indicate They Are Sick

Terrier Drinking Water

I have beat this drum time and again, but I still rarely fail to get reminded on a daily basis of the fact that pets hide signs of illness far more effectively than we do.  It is part of their natural instinct as animals to resist showing weakness.   That is why as pet owners, subtle changes in our pets’ demeanor or out of the ordinary behavior should be taken as possible signs that our pets may be ill – perhaps to a degree that we could not imagine.


In a recent case I managed of a small terrier, the owner had noticed that the dog was drinking more water more than typical for about 3 weeks duration.  One morning, the little dog collapsed into a grand mal seizure, one which he did not come out of until he was brought to my hospital and I medically stopped the seizure with medication.

Once I ran bloodwork, the results were astounding.  This little dog had been suffering from chronic pancreatitis (a debilitating inflammatory disease of the pancreas common in small dogs) that damaged his pancreas to the extent that he became severely diabetic.  The unregulated diabetes put him into kidney failure, and on top of all of that, the dog developed sepsis, a multi-systemic infection spread within the circulatory system.  All of this was going on, while the dog was merely drinking more water than typical, until the day came that he as a breath away from death.

It is no small medical miracle that the dog survived, but after 4 days of intensive care hospitalization, thankfully we were able to stop the pancreatitis, reverse the kidney failure, clear the infection, and regulate his blood glucose.  The dog will be fed a pancreas friendly prescription diet and receive insulin injections twice a day for the rest of his life, but he will survive.  He was lucky, as many dogs would not have survived this level of disease in multiple systems.

Drinking increased amounts of water is a common sign of disease, but there are many others that may escape the attention of the pet owner.  Unexplained weight loss, fatigue, thin or dull hair coat, poor appetite, and lethargy are all subtle signs that a pet may be sick.  Sometimes all the owner notices is that the pet simply is “not himself,” a presentation we call ADR (Ain’t Doing Right).  I cannot tell you how often ADR presentations turn out to be significantly sick.

 If something seems out of sorts with your pet, since you cannot ask them how they are feeling, have them seen by the veterinarian.  It may ultimately turn out to be nothing at all, but then again, as in the case highlighted in this article; it could be a sign of serious pending disease…best to err on the side of caution and not bet your pet’s life on it.

Dr. Roger Welton is the President of Maybeck Animal Hospital in West Melbourne, FL, Chief Editor of the Veterinary Advice and Information Website, Web-DVM, and founder/CEO of Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care.

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