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Help! I think my pet is sick - how to detect the signs of 4 common illnesses


Jade Poole from I Write Words


What to look for, what to do and how to catch these conditions in time

When our precious pets get sick it can be a stressful time for us paw parents and them! If only our furry family members could tell us exactly how they are feeling, that way we would know exactly what to do.

Sadly (even with the incredible advances in technology) our pets are still unable to talk to us, or rather, we are still unable to understand what they are saying or feeling.

But there are some common signs to look out for and that’s why this list has been put together based on the 4 most common illnesses seen in pets in South Africa.

The trick is to look out for these signs and catch them in time in ensuring the best possible prognosis.

Of course, thinking about a trip to the vet might send your wallet running, but that’s where pet insurance comes in. And better yet, pet insurance that pays you before you see the vet!

1. Gastroenteritis (Gastro)

This is when your pet’s intestines and stomach become inflamed because of an infection from a virus, bacteria or parasite. It could also be a reaction to a new food or medication.

The first signs of gastro are vomiting and diarrhoea. Other symptoms include:

●     Dehydration

●     Blood in vomit or poop

●     Nausea

●     Depression

●     Loss of appetite

●     Fatigue and run down

Dehydration is the thing you need to look out for as your pet will be losing fluids through vomiting and diarrhoea - this means that your pet is not replacing the fluids they are losing.

Vomiting or having a runny tummy once or twice is not normally a cause for concern, but when the vomiting and diarrhoea persist for more than 24 hours, then you need to get to your vet.

When to be concerned

Dehydration can occur quickly. The trick is to catch it quickly. Your vet might put your pet on an IV drip to replace their fluids, but the sooner you catch the symptoms of gastro and dehydration, the less invasive the treatment will be.

2. Cancer

Cancer can come in a variety of shapes and forms, because of this it can be quite tricky to pinpoint the exact signs and symptoms.

Lumps and bumps under your pet’s skin, any lump or bump should be looked at by your vet, especially if it seems to be getting bigger or changing shape.

More general symptoms include:

●     Sores that don’t heal

●     Unexplained weight loss

●     Lethargy

●     Swollen glands

●     swollen/bloated abdomen

●     Pale or discoloured gums and eyes

●     Loss of appetite

●     Vomiting and diarrhoea (in some cases)

If you notice any of these persistent symptoms in your pet, then make sure you book an appointment at the vet.

3. Kidney Disease

The kidneys help in balancing certain substances in the blood and filtering out wastes in the body as urine.

Kidney disease is something that might develop over time or happen abruptly because of a medication or another disease. Sadly, chronic kidney disease (the one that develops over a pet’s lifetime) is not always preventable, some pets have a genetic predisposition to the condition.

Some stages of chronic kidney disease can be prevented, like dental disease. In the later stages of dental disease, the bacteria from the gums can enter the bloodstream and damage the kidneys. This is why oral health for your pet is so important.

Acute kidney disease can be prevented.

This kind of kidney disease is caused by a number of issues such as infection, poisoning, infection or medications. The kidneys are not working as well as they should and are therefore not filtering out waste correctly.

Symptoms are sudden and severe and include:

●     Vomiting

●     Fever

●     Increased urination

●     Increased water consumption

●     Dehydration:

○     Weight loss

○     Dull coat

○     Sunken-in eyes

●     Ammonia smelling breath (Due to toxins such as urea and ammonia not being filtered from the blood as efficiently)

You have to catch kidney disease early otherwise the condition can form a vicious cycle.

4. Intervertebral disk disease (IVDD) in dogs

Commonly seen in Dachshunds and Pekingeses, this disease results in a number of symptoms in dogs ranging from mild pain to partial and even complete paralysis.

The disease can lead to the permanent damage of the nerves.

Some of the symptoms include:

●     Abdominal tenderness or tenseness

●     Neck pain and stiffness (not wanting to move the neck and head)

●     Yelping unexpectedly when touched or moving

●     Lowered head stance

●     Back pain & stiffness

●     Arched back

●     Sensitivity to touch (might act aggressively)

●     Sensitivity to movement

●     Urinating issues

●     Lameness

●     Dragging one or more legs

●     Reluctance to rise

●     Weakness

●     Abnormal reflexes

●     Stiffness

●     Stilted gait

●     Tremors, trembling, shaking

●     Lack of coordination

●     Collapse

●     Paralysis in one or more limbs

You might notice some of these changes after your dog has done something strenuous like exercising or jumping off the couch. An acute ruptured disc often has the same symptoms, but it is a different condition.

The outlook of your dog may vary, but overweight dogs are more prone to this condition due to excess strain on the spine. Most cases will require spinal surgery, but the sooner you catch the symptoms and get your dog to the vet, the better the prognosis may be.


Keep an eye on your precious pets and if you notice any strange symptoms, take them to the vet. Prevention is ALWAYS better than cure.

Until next time,

The Pet Insurance Team

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