Signs That Your Pet May Be Ill


Since our pets can’t tell us what is wrong, it’s up to you and your veterinarian to keep them healthy and monitor for any abnormalities.

General signs of a sick pet include: disorientation, weight loss, weakness, lethargy, lack of appetite, diarrhea, vomiting, unproductive retching, seizure, bloody urine, straining to urinate, difficulty breathing, persistent cough, pale gums, and difficulty or inability to stand. Since you are the one who knows your pet the best, often you can notice subtle early warning signs that others can’t. When noticing any of these symptoms, it’s best to take your pet to the veterinarian and have them examined just to be safe.

After you get to the vet office, your pet’s doctor will ask you many questions about the health of your pet. It will help to be ready to answer these types of questions:

  • How long have you had your pet?
  • Where did you get your pet (pet store, adoption center, breeder, previous stray)?
  • Do you have any other types of pets?
  • How old is your pet?
  • Has your pet had any previous illnesses?
  • Is your pet receiving treatment for any illness or disease?
  • What, if any, preventative medication is your pet currently on?
  • Has your cat been tested for Feline Leukemia or Feline AIDS?
  • Do you give your pet regular flea treatment?
  • Are any other of your pets ill?
  • Has he/she been vaccinated? If so, when? Which ones?
  • Have you brought any other pets into your home?
  • Have they done any activities recently, such as grooming, a trip to the park, or walking?
  • Does your pet spend more time indoors or outdoors?
  • Has your pet had his diet recently changed or a change in eating habits?
  • What brand of food do you feed your pet, how much and how often?
  • What kind of table scraps are given, how much and how often?
  • What kind of treats are given, how much and how often?
  • About how much water does your pet normally drink in a day?
  • Have there been any changes in water intake?
  • Have you seen your pet sneezing or coughing?
  • Have you seen or felt any bumps or lumps on your pet?
  • What brand of cat litter do you use and how often is the box cleaned?
  • Is your pet urinating normally?
  • Is your pet having regular bowel movements?
  • When is the last time they had a bowel movement and was it normal?
  • Have you seen any changes in weight, as in gain or loss?

After being asked general questions, your veterinarian will move on to more specific questions depending on the problem. Be prepared to answer all the following questions when either calling your vet or brining your pet in.


  • Have you noticed any decrease or increase in the production of tears?
  • Do the pet’s eyes seem cloudy, red, or bloodshot?
  • Has there been excessive discharge coming from the eyes?
  • Are the pupils of both eyes the same size?
  • Have you seen your pet pawing at their eyes or rubbing their face on the floor?
  • Has your pet been squinting?
  • Do your pet’s eyes seem to be protruding or sunken in?


  • Have you noticed any ear swelling or discharge?
  • Are your pet’s ears droopy when they are normally erect?
  • Are the ears inflamed and red?
  • Do you notice any odor to the ears?
  • Is your pet rubbing or pawing at the ears?
  • Have you seen your pet shaking their head a lot?
  • Has your pet shown signs of pain or crying when you scratch or rub your pet’s ears?


  • Have you noticed any coughing, sneezing, or congestion?
  • Has your pet had a bloody nose?
  • Have you observed any nasal discharge?


  • Has your pet had any swelling of the lips and tongue?
  • Do they have any bleeding coming from the mouth?
  • What color are the pet’s gums?
  • Can you see any foreign objects like bones or sticks stuck anywhere in the mouth?
  • Can your pet open and close the mouth normally?
  • Does your pet seem to be in any pain eating or opening and closing the mouth?
  • Have you seen any extreme foaming or drooling at the mouth?
  • Can your pet swallow their food normally?


  • Is your pet having a hard time breathing?
  • Have you seen your pet pant excessively?
  • Does your pet show any pain when you pet or touch the chest area?
  • Have they been coughing recently?
  • · Is your pet’s heartbeat steady?

· What is the heart rate? Put your hand or your ear on the left side of your pet’s chest. Just behind the elbow, you should be able to feel or hear the heartbeat. Count how many beats the heart pumps in one minute, or in six seconds and add a zero at the end.


  • Has your pet been vomiting or having any diarrhea?
  • Can your pet drink and eat normally?
  • Does the pet’s belly area appear bloated or distended?
  • Does your pet show any pain when touching or rubbing the stomach area?
  • Is your pet one who eats and chews on inedible items, like towels, rocks, or clothing?


  • Is there any difference in your pet’s urination?
  • Is your pet crying out when urinating or straining to urinate?
  • Does your pet try to urinate often without any or with very little progress?
  • What does the urine look like and is there blood in it??
  • How often does your pet urinate?
  • Does your pet have accidents in the house?
  • Have you spayed your female pet?
  • Has your female ever had a litter? If so, at what age?
  • If your female isn’t spayed, when was your her last heat cycle?
  • Is there any discharge coming from the vaginal area?
  • Have you neutered your male pet? If so, at what age?
  • Has there been any discharge from the penis?
  • If your male isn’t neutered, have you noticed any swelling the testicles?
  • Has your pet been excessively grooming or licking the genital area?


  • Has your pet been limping at all?
  • Have you noticed any swollen legs or joints?
  • Has your pet been obsessively licking at one area of their legs?
  • Does your pet show signs of pain when walking?
  • Does your pet walk normally?
  • Has your pet been walking on their knuckles?
  • Does your pet drag their legs when walking?
  • Does your pet show any pain when you simply pet them?

If you answer these questions to the best of your knowledge, your vet will be in a much better position to be able to help the pet. Of course, additional tests might be needed to make a diagnosis, but answering questions can make a world of difference.

Signs That Your Pet May Be Ill