Common Illnesses in Pets & Symptoms to Look Out For

We all want to look out for our pets to the best of our abilities—exercise, diet, affection, playtime, and pet insurance are all essential aspects of a happy and healthy pet’s life. Pet owners must be extra vigilant of any changes to their pet’s behaviors or moods regarding illness and health issues. If your pet exhibits altered behavior, you may need to take them to the veterinarian’s office. But what common illnesses can our pets contract, and what are the symptoms to look out for?

Read on for signs of common illnesses among pets that you should keep an eye on.

4 Most Common Dog Illnesses & Symptoms

Because dogs of all ages can suffer from medical issues and illnesses, it’s important to keep an eye out for signs your pet is not doing well. If you notice anything out of the ordinary, take your companion to the vet to receive proper care. While the vet’s office may come with a hefty price tag, you can invest in pet insurance so you don’t have to worry about how you will foot the bill. Then you can focus on what matters most—getting your pet back to normal.

1. Dental Disease

Oral infections are among the most common dog diseases and are usually more prominent in dogs over three. Lesser dental issues include plaque and tartar buildup and gingivitis; more severe cases include abscesses and periodontal disease, which attacks the gums and tooth attachments. In extreme instances, the bacteria in your dog’s mouth can enter the bloodstream, causing more significant damage. So it’s ideal to catch any symptoms of dental disease early.

Symptoms of Dental Disease
  • Abnormally bad temper
  • Bad breath
  • Discharge of pus or blood from the mouth and gums
  • Discolored teeth
  • Drastic changes in appetite, particularly refusing to eat dry or crunchy food
  • Drooling
  • Foul-smelling breath and saliva 
  • Loose teeth
  • Lumps on gums or under the tongue

Keep your eye out for any of these signs of dental discomfort your dog may exhibit. Your veterinarian will carry out treatment for these dental issues, as one of the best ways to prevent these problems is through regular vet visits and teeth cleanings.

2. Ear Infections

Dogs can be very susceptible to ear infections, especially if your pet is a breed with long, drooping ears. Recurring ear infections can also be caused by food allergies—including corn, wheat, or soy. Keep an eye out for the early warning signs of ear troubles, such as your dog shaking their head, scratching and pawing at the ear, or rubbing the ear against flooring, carpet, or furniture.

Symptoms of Ear Infections
  • Balancing issues
  • Hair loss around the ear
  • Hearing loss
  • Pain around the ear
  • Redness of the ear canal
  • Scabs or crusts around the ear
  • Walking in circles or having difficulty walking in a straight line

Treatment for ear infections will include cleansing and drying the affected ear, and if your dog is in a lot of pain, this may require veterinary sedation. If you spot any of these serious symptoms, bring your dog to the clinic to determine the proper type of treatment. Veterinarians may prescribe topical antibiotics or antifungal products to help clear it up. On average, the infections will typically clear up within 7 to 10 days at home.

3. Skin Issues and Infections

Though all dogs scratch themselves, your dog may be experiencing skin troubles or dermal infections if this scratching is incessant. Like ear infections, canine skin infections can be caused by an undiscovered food allergy, likely to corn, wheat, or soy. Your vet may recommend switching to a low-allergen food such as lamb and rice or a more natural or whole food choice. But if a diet change does not help, bacterial or yeast infections could be the root of the issue, leading to painful sores.

Symptoms of Skin Issues and Infections
  • Constant scratching or chewing
  • Crusted skin or hair follicles
  • Discomfort when being petted or groomed
  • Hair loss 
  • Hair standing on end
  • Seeping of blood or pus from the hair follicles
  • Skin that appears red, inflamed, flaky, scaly, or abnormal

Your vet can recommend hypo-allergenic shampoos or antibiotic ointments for more severe skin issues. Getting the proper diagnosis is key to discovering the root cause of your dog’s skin problems, so make sure to bring your dog to the vet if you notice any of these symptoms. 

4. Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)

Urinary issues are quite common in dogs. Urinary infections are caused by cases of bacterial cystitis, ascending from the dog’s own intestinal tract and colonizing in the bladder. This bacterium causes intense inflammation of the bladder, causing pain and difficulty in urination. Additionally, some dogs can develop bladder stones in conjunction with a UTI, causing more issues. UTIs will likely be more recurrent and common if your dog is older or affected with diabetes mellitus.

Symptoms of Urinary Tract Infections
  • Break in-house training
  • Dripping urine
  • Frequent licking of the genitals
  • Frequent urination with little output
  • Increased thirst
  • Lethargy
  • Straining or being in pain when trying to relieve themselves
  • Strong or foul-smelling urine

If you notice any of these signs, take your dog to the veterinary clinic promptly. Your vet will be able to take a urinalysis to determine the extent of the infection and identify the specific bacteria strain to blame. Antibiotics and occasionally painkillers will be administered, and your pet should be back to normal quite soon.

4 Most Common Cat Illnesses & Symptoms

Keeping an eye out for the warning signals that your cat is developing a health problem or illness is an important aspect of being a pet owner. With some understanding of common signs that your cat might not feel well, you can promptly get them the appropriate veterinary care. 

1. Glaucoma 

Referring to a group of eye issues characterized by increased intraocular pressure, Glaucoma is a progressive condition. Caused by the aqueous humor fluids in the eyeball becoming unable to drain properly and backing up, pressure builds in the eye. This can lead to severe damage to the eye if not treated properly.

Symptoms of Glaucoma
  • Cloudiness in the cornea
  • Clumsiness due to vision loss
  • Dilated pupil
  • Eye pain
  • Lethargy or loss of appetite due to pain
  • Pawing at eye or face
  • Swollen or enlarged eyeball
  • Watery eye discharge

Because there is no way to reverse any serious ocular damage caused by Glaucoma, early detection of symptoms is key to preserving your cat’s vision and preventing pain. A typical treatment will involve eye drops to reduce intraocular pressure and steroid medications to help with inflammation. Subsequent vet visits to monitor eye changes and adjust medications are also necessary.

2. Pancreatitis

Pancreatitis, a condition affecting your pet’s pancreas, is a painful illness that can also be quite critical. But thankfully, with advances in veterinary medicine, it is both preventable and treatable. When digestive enzymes are activated prematurely, the pancreas becomes inflamed, causing digestive issues and other secondary issues such as gallbladder and liver problems.

Symptoms of Pancreatitis
  • Abdominal pain
  • Dehydration
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss

Because pancreatitis is a severe issue in cats, if your pet starts showing any of these symptoms, you should make an immediate appointment with the vet, who can identify the illness with the aid of blood panels and organ function tests. Pancreatitis, when caught early, is treatable and will not cause your cat discomfort for long.

3. Upper Respiratory Infections

Respiratory infections and breathing issues are common in cats, especially in kittens and cats adopted from a shelter or who used to be strays. Luckily, most of these infections respond well to treatments, though more severe cases are more critical and may turn into pneumonia. These types of conditions generally affect the nose, sinuses, and throat. The most common culprits for upper respiratory infections are:

  • Feline Herpesvirus 1, also called Rhinotracheitis Virus
  • Several strains of Feline Calicivirus
  • The bacteria Chlamydophila felis
  • The bacteria Mycoplasma spp
Symptoms of Upper Respiratory Infections

The symptoms of feline upper respiratory infections can vary in severity but generally include any of the following signs:

  • Cough
  • Drooling
  • Excessive sneezing
  • Fever
  • Gagging
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nasal discharge
  • Reddened and runny eyes
  • Sores in the mouth or nose
  • Squinting

If your cat is exhibiting these signs, it’s time to pack them up and take them to the vet for a check-up. Most cases of respiratory infections clear up within 7 to 10 days at home with the correct medical treatment.

4. Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD)

Many cats will suffer from urinary problems at some point in their lives, so it’s essential to keep an eye out for the signs that your cat is experiencing urinary distress. Urinary issues in cats tend to be classed under the broader Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease and share common symptoms.

  • Bladder Stones: Present in both male and female cats, several types of naturally occurring minerals can form stones in a cat’s urinary tract under specific conditions. The two most common stones are struvite and calcium oxalate. Though crystals can be a regular part of your cat’s urine output, they become problematic when these crystals combine to form varying sizes of stones or grit. These small stones can be found in the bladder, urethra, and kidneys. If you notice your cat in discomfort when relieving themselves, this could be the issue—it’s a good idea to give your vet a call if so. Typically, these stones can be flushed out of your cat’s body or dissolved, but a veterinarian in more severe cases must surgically remove them.

  • Idiopathic Cat Cystitis: It is thought that concentrated urine, abdominal stress, and inflammation, and damage to the bladder lining cause this urinary issue. This condition is most common in stressed, overweight male cats and can be managed by medications or lifestyle changes.

  • Urethral Obstruction: Most common in male cats with longer and narrower urethras, this obstruction occurs when a blockage appears in the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the outside of the body. These obstructions include urethral plugs, urinary stones, strictures, or even tumors. Urethral obstructions can cause secondary swellings and inflammation in the lower urinary tract. If your cat is having trouble urinating, you need to take them to the vet immediately. When left untreated, these blockages make it difficult or impossible for your cat to relieve themselves and can become fatal within 48 hours.

  • Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs): These infections arise when bacteria enter your cat’s bladder, growing and reproducing inside the ordinarily sterile urinary environment. While urinary tract infections are not as common for cats as other bladder and urinary issues, they are still an annoying and painful condition. Keep an eye out to see if your pet is feeling any discomfort while urinating or having bladder accidents that are not normal, and take your pet to the clinic to get some antibiotics that will clear up the infection.
Symptoms of Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease
  • Blood in the urine
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Discolored urine
  • Frequent grooming of the genitals
  • Missing the litter box
  • Noticeable change in urine output
  • Reddened skin around the genitals
  • Significant fluctuation in the frequency of urination, either lessened or increased
  • Strong or foul-smelling urine
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