What is “normal” for your dog or cat? Often pet owners do not notice gradual changes in their pets until a change reaches the extreme, landing them in an emergency situation.
Take some time to observe your pet at home and find his “normals.” Once you get a feel for what is normal for your pet, you’ll be more tuned in to small changes that may occur. These may be normal changes due to aging or environment, or may be something more serious. Being observant and knowing what is normal for your pet can help your veterinarian provide the best care possible.
If you notice extreme changes you should notify your veterinarian immediately because the signs of illness you describe could require prompt medical attention.
Some of the “normals” you can observe at home include:
- Gum and tongue color—These should be pink in color (with certain breed exceptions). Gums that are usually pink but have turned pale, white, or blue should be checked by a veterinarian immediately.
- Respiratory rate—When your pet is resting or sleeping, watch the rise and fall of his chest. Each rise and fall composes one breath. Generally, most dogs and cats should have a resting respiratory rate under 40 breaths per minute. The rate will be higher with activity, which is why it is important to monitor this “normal” when your pet is resting or sleeping.
- Energy and activity level—Observe how often and for how long your pet plays on an average day. Also observe her behavior after play. Does she tire quickly and become short of breath after 5 minutes of play when she used to be able to play for 20 minutes without tiring? Is your pet typically social and playful, but now suddenly aloof and disinterested in play?
- Appetite and thirst—Does your pet usually eat all of the food you offer him right away, or does he graze on his food throughout the day? How often do you need to fill up the water bowl each day? Is there a sudden increase in the amount of water your pet is drinking?
Remember to contact your veterinarian when you notice anything out of the ordinary with your pet. Doing so may save his life!
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