Sometimes, there’s a disconnect in communication between pets and owners. Pets, definitely know how to beg for food or treats, but they don’t know how to talk about their health. Taking care of sick pets can be difficult because their symptoms and concerns are not as evident. Many pets, especially cats try to conceal their illness, making it more difficult for you as a pet parent to detect any changes. If your pet’s behavior is unusual or shows signs of discomfort, it’s best to seek proper pet health care advice and treatment.

By learning about common ailments, from diarrhea to urinary diseases and more, you’ll be able to spot early warning signs and get your little furbaby prompt treatment for any condition she may face. Here are the most common medical problems in dogs and cats and how you detect the warning signs for your sick pets at home.

Caring for sick petssource: @missmuffinski

10 Common Health Concerns to Watch for in Pets

  1. Obesity

Obesity is a common pet health problem. Being overweight can have negative health effects on your pet such as a higher risk of joint pain, diabetes, and liver disease.

For overweight pets, it’s recommended to increase calorie output and decrease calorie intake. You can also reduce snacks or treats, feed him small meals throughout the day, and make it a point to take him to the park to play and run around.

To check if your pet is as his best weight, you should be able to feel his backbone and ribs without pressing. When looking at your pet from above, you should see a noticeable “waist” between the lower ribs and the hips; from the side, you should be able to see the abdomen go up from the bottom of the rib cage to the thighs. If your pet doesn’t meet these standards, ask your vet to help you create a diet and exercise plan.

Overweight cat symptoms

  1. Dental Disease

Symptoms of dental disease in pets often involve difficulty eating, bad breath, and a change in chewing habits. Bad breath could indicate digestive problems or gingivitis (gum disease). Other signs of dental problems are discolored, red, or swollen gums, ulcers on the gums or tongue, loose teeth, excessive drooling, or constant pawing at the mouth area.

If you suspect that your pet has dental problems, take her to a veterinarian dentist. For good oral hygiene, brush your pet’s teeth with a toothbrush and toothpaste specially-made for pets, and give her a chew toy to exercise her gums and remove tartar before it hardens.

  1. Skin Problems

Most skin problems in pets are due to parasites and allergies. Common parasites that involve the skin include fleas, ticks, ear mites, and sarcoptic mange mites, which cause scabies. There are many topical agents you can apply monthly for tick & flea prevention. For severe cases or infestation, vets may recommend using special medicated shampoos to kill parasites, antibiotics or antifungal medications, and corticosteroids and antihistamines to control itching.

Allergens such as pollen, mold, and dust mites can trigger itching and rashes. Pets can also develop allergies to common pet food ingredients such as soy, corn, wheat, beef, or chicken. Try switching to grain-free pet food, or your vet may also prescribe a diet to reduce food allergies or injections to control allergic reactions.


 Puppy eyes meaning

  1. Arthritis

Arthritis is one of the most common ailments seen in middle-aged to older pets, and yet, it can be difficult to spot as the abnormal changes are in their joints.  Symptoms include limping, difficulty moving, tiredness, muscle atrophy, and irritability.

Arthritis isn’t curable. Luckily, there are many treatments available to prevent joint problems in pets, including pet food concerns or medication to help ease the pain. It's important to be proactive in your care to prevent these problems with an appropriate diet and low-impact exercise. A senior-appropriate food will be fortified with glucosamine chondroitin, a supplement thought to protect the joints. There are also anti-inflammatories a vet can recommend to help you manage your pet’s pain.

  1. Urinary Tract Disease (UTD)

Urinary tract disease encompasses a number of different conditions that can affect a pet’s bladder and urethra. Symptoms include having to urinate more often, producing small amounts of urine, blood in the urine, incontinence, straining or crying in pain when trying to urinate, vomiting, fever, and weight loss. If you see these symptoms, see your veterinarian immediately. It could be a sign of a urethral blockage, which can be fatal. 

The first step in treating UTD is identifying the cause of the symptoms; culprits include bladder stones, infection, urinary tract blockage, and even cancer. Treatment options include antibiotics, dietary changes, and surgery if needed to remove bladder stones or a tumor. Your vet may also suggest dietary changes or increased water intake to prevent future problems.

  1. Vomiting & Diarrhea

There are many possible causes of vomiting and diarrhea in pets, but the most common are infection, eating inappropriate or poisonous foods, and swallowing inedible objects. Watch for symptoms such as drooling, abdominal heaving, blood in vomit or diarrhea, dark or black diarrhea, lethargy, weight loss, fever, or a change in appetite. To prevent dehydration, give your pet plenty of water.

An isolated bout of vomiting and diarrhea is usually not a cause for concern, but if your pet vomits repeatedly or for more than a day, take him to your veterinarian.

  1. Heartworms

Heartworms are a serious and potentially deadly disease in which parasites infect your pet’s heart and arteries. Pets are exposed to larvae through a mosquito bite and, if unchecked, the larvae can develop into large worms. A heartworm infestation can progress to heart failure and death.

Symptoms range from coughing to lethargy, collapsing, and depression (moping or not greeting you at the door). For dogs, heartworms are easily prevented. Options include daily oral medications, topicals, injections, and a simple, once-a-month pill.

Unfortunately, there is no effective and safe treatment for heartworm in cats — and it can be fatal. Some cats might not show any symptoms, while others may have signs such as coughing, respiratory problems, and vomiting. The good news, however, is that many cats are able fight it off on their own. In severe cases, a veterinarian may recommend medication to reduce the inflammatory response or surgery to remove the heartworms, which is a very risky procedure. The key is to regularly give preventive heartworm medication and schedule routine vet check-ups. 

  1. Kidney Disease

Kidney problems in pets reduce their ability to excrete waste into their urine, leading to a dangerous build-up of toxins in the bloodstream. Symptoms can include decreased appetite, weight loss, vomiting or diarrhea, and lethargy. Treatment often starts with pinpointing the cause of the kidney disease and then treating that condition. In severe cases, dialysis or a kidney transplant may be required.

To prevent kidney disease in pets, feed moisture-dense, species-appropriate, high-quality (human grade) protein in its natural, unadulterated form. Another crucial step in preventing or managing kidney disease is diligent monitoring of your pet’s organ systems through regular veterinary wellness exams.

  1. Cancer

Symptoms of cancer include lumps, swelling, sores, rapid weight loss, lameness, sudden decreased appetite, difficulty breathing, urinating, or defecating, lack of energy, and black stools.

Treatments include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and immunotherapy. As with people, a combination of approaches may be used, and the stage of the cancer, the type of disease, and the aggressiveness of the treatment can affect the outcome

  1. Infectious Diseases

The most common infections in cats are respiratory in nature. Symptoms of upper respiratory infections in cats include runny nose, teary eyes, sneezing, cough, fever, or sores in the mouth. Another common infectious disease in cats is feline panleukopenia, a highly contagious viral illness caused by the feline parvovirus. Symptoms can include fever, bloody diarrhea, loss of appetite, lethargy, and dehydration.

For dogs, canine parvovirus is extremely contagious and potentially deadly, contracted through contact with the feces of an infected dog. Symptoms can include bloody diarrhea, vomiting, lethargy, and loss of appetite. Canine distemper is a virus transmitted through direct contact with an infected dog’s urine, saliva, or blood. It affects a dog’s respiratory system as well as her gastrointestinal and central nervous system. Symptoms include sneezing, coughing and difficulty breathing, fever, sudden loss of appetite, vomiting or diarrhea, discharge of thick mucous from the eyes and nose, and possibly seizures.

Early prevention can protect your pet. Common infectious diseases in pets can be prevented by proper vaccination, especially while they are still puppies or kittens. Treatment for infectious diseases include IV fluids to prevent dehydration and antibiotics. If your pet shows any aforementioned symptoms, take him to the vet immediately.

 Pet check-up

Caring for sick pets isn’t easy. By knowing these common medical problems in cats and dogs, we pet parents can prepare by being proactive in caring for the needs of our furbabies and equipping ourselves with the right knowledge to support our sick pets. This will require time and patience to make sure our furbabies feel our love, care and support, especially when they need it the most.