Being a dog owner is an amazing and rewarding experience — but like many wonderful things, it comes with great responsibility.
You probably already know that a young pup should have an annual vet visit and dogs older than 8 to 10 years should have two visits each year. But an occasional extra visit might be worthwhile in certain cases.
If you identify the following symptoms in dog’s behavior, don’t panic — although a vet visit is a wise precaution, many of these ailments are entirely, and often easily, treatable.
Weight Loss or Gain
Both weight loss and weight gain could signify a problem. However, pet owners tend to not be the most astute observers of fluctuations in their pet’s weight. Hohenhaus encourages walking by the vet’s office and asking to use the scale every so often, a request she says they will happily oblige.
“Weight loss is more commonly a sign of disease in dogs than weight gain,” Hohenhaus says. “Weight gain is a little more unusual.” It can stem from retaining fluid, an under-active thyroid, a distended abdomen, or an adrenal gland disease.
Drop in Activity
A decrease in your dog’s activity could mean the dog is anemic, has joint pain, heart problems, arthritis, or just feels weak and low-energy. “Almost any disease has decreased activity associated with it — it’s a general finding, but an important one,” Hohenhaus says.
Scratching, Licking, or Chewing
Any of these three symptoms means your pet is itchy for some reason — and it’s by no means uncommon. According to Hohenhaus, allergies are the number one reason for vet visits, as reported by pet insurance companies. There is allergy medicine for dogs, and they also are sometimes prescribed allergy medicines made for humans. There are even allergy shots available.
Any unusual odor your otherwise clean dog is emitting is something to examine further. If you notice a smell, Hohenhaus recommends immediately taking a look at the dog’s ears, skin, anal glands, mouth, and teeth. Still, it’s worth having a professional take a look to pinpoint where it is coming from and if it might be an infection.