by Dr. James Young, Executive Director of The Chester Foundation and Laurel Meleski, RedRover Relief case manager

Some signs of illness in our pets are easy to spot, but many of the early warning signs can be quite subtle. Eating or drinking more or less than normal, or a change in their bathroom habits can signal that something is wrong. Sometimes, the signs can be as subtle as your pet seeming depressed or lazy. Keeping an eye on your pet’s routine can help you spot when something may not be quite right.

The challenge in monitoring for early signs of possible illness is the need to establish a baseline in order to determine what is to be considered “normal.” You can try weighing your pet on monthly basis, and instead of free-feeding, you can make set meal times and give each animal a measured amount of food. For cats, set a routine for cleaning the litter box and also watch for signs that they are trying to urinate outside of it. When walking your dog, pay attention to how they’re moving and if they are as keen to explore as they usually are. For all pets, grooming can be helpful in finding subtle changes such a small bumps, weight loss or a change in hair texture.

Some changes will occur simply as a part of the aging process and are not necessarily an indication of an underlying medical condition. As a pet ages, it is important to consider increasing the number of examinations by a veterinarian to twice a year, and perhaps even more often if chronic medical conditions exist.

Early warning signs can help you to treat a simple illness before it gets too serious, manage long term conditions and help you spot changes that can be signs of an emergency that might require immediate medical attention. Ultimately, early detection can make all the difference in keeping your pets as healthy as possible, and extending and assuring a good quality of life!

Early warning signs of illness
Change in appetite
Change in behavior
Change in drinking
Change in elimination
Change in activity
Change in breathing
Change in body (shape, lumps, skin…)

About the Chester Foundation
The Chester Foundation works in collaboration with 24-hour-care emergency veterinary hospitals serving the greater Sacramento region. RedRover often partners with The Chester Foundation to bring animals from crisis to care through the RedRover Relief program.