10 signs that your pet might be unwell

Tips and advice from VetBox founder and Head Vet, Will Woodley


1. Their appetite has changed

If you have recently changed your pet’s food, this can be a simple explanation of a loss of appetite. However changes in appetite can be caused by various serious medical conditions ranging from dental disease (reduced) to diabetes (increased).

2. Their weight has changed

Weight increase can be caused by hormonal conditions such as hypothyroidism, however usually a result of too much food or too little exercise. A sudden drop in weight is usually a clear sign that something isn’t right. If your pet has lost weight but has been eating normally, contact your vet immediately.

3. They are drinking more

The technical term for this is polydypsia and it is usually accompanied by polyuria (lots of urinating). Vets refer to this as PU/PD. It can be a sign of various hormonal problems as well as kidney disease. In cats it can be a sign of chronic kidney disease, hyperthyroidism or diabetes.

4. They are sleeping a lot more

The most common thing I hear from owners when they think their pet is unwell is that “they’re not themselves”. Often what they mean is they are lethargic or sleeping lots. A common cause for this is infection and the fever that comes with it. Get your vet to check your pet’s temperature.

5. Their behaviour has changed

In my experience the most common cause of behavioural change is due to the pet being in pain. Chronic pain can affect cats and dogs in various ways and they can be very good at hiding it. Other causes of changes in behaviour are neurological disease and endocrinological (hormonal) issues.

6. They are itching and scratching a lot

An occasional scratch is quite normal, but when it becomes more frequent a cause must be identified. By far the most common cause of scratching in pets is parasites and the most common of these is the flea. You can’t always see them on your pet but your vet will be able to identify the flea dirt that they leave behind. For every flea that you see on your pet there will be another 99 living in your house, mostly in the carpets ready to hatch. The best way to protect against fleas is regular preventative treatment.

7. They are losing hair or have rashes

Again the most common cause is fleas, but if you treat your pet regularly it’s possible they may have a different parasite such as mites or an infection (pyoderma) that requires specific treatment. A very common cause of skin problems in pets can be Allergic Skin Disease. Interestingly the most common allergy in cats is flea saliva — another reason to treat against them.

8. Vomiting

Vomiting can be a symptom of numerous conditions. What your vet will want to know is how long it has been happening for, how soon the vomiting is happening after your pet has eaten, what does it look like (whole food/frothy saliva/bile) and is the pet actively retching (contracting abdominal muscles).

9. Diarrhoea

Diarrhoea is a very common symptom but not a disease itself and can be a primary intestinal problem or secondary to a large number of illnesses. Your vet will want to know — how long it’s been going on for, how frequent is it, has there been any vomiting, is your pet treated for worms, what does it look like and has your pet eaten something it shouldn’t have?

10. Limping

More accurately called lameness, limping includes any abnormality in the way that your pet moves. Lameness is most commonly due to pain; the causes of which may be a sprain, strain, muscle tear, fracture, trauma or arthritis. Most of these can be treated with rest and anti-inflammatories but always get them checked out by your vet.


VetBox is a new service for UK pet owners created by Will Woodley BVetMed MRCVS.

Subscribers receive a monthly delivery of essential worm, flea and other health treatments chosen by vets specifically for their pet.

For more info visit myvetbox.com

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