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When to take your pet to the vet

Common conditions can be managed at home, but others require a trip to the vet

Dogs and cats are susceptible to paw pad injuries. (iStockphoto)

By Dr Nameeta Nadkarni

LAST PUBLISHED 04.05.2023  |  01:00 PM IST

As a veterinarian, I frequently come across pet owners who are unaware of how to recognise common medical conditions in their animals and what they can do to help. While some ailments necessitate professional care, many common ailments can be treated at home with the right information and care.

Here are some typical conditions pet owners may experience with their four-legged companions.

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There is no reason to be alarmed when an adult pet experiences one or two episodes of diarrhoea. There could be several reasons for this, including eating spoilt food or too much grass, or even licking something off the ground. It might be a minor stomach upset if your pet still has a decent appetite, appears alert and active, and the colour of its faeces hasn’t changed. Reducing their food intake for 24-48 hours helps the digestive system to recover. Adding probiotics like yogurt or those available at a veterinary clinic to their food will also help.

But, diarrhoea in a puppy or kitten warrants a visit to the veterinarian as smaller animals can get dehydrated and it can turn fatal if not treated in time.

The same applies to throwing up. If your pet has been fasting for over 12 hours through the night, hyperacidity may result in vomiting in the early morning. If your pet appears to be completely normal otherwise, one vomit is typically not concerning—unless it involves blood.

Instead of hurrying to give your pet water after they vomit, it’s best to keep them fasting without food or water for two-three hours. Feeding them immediately after they throw up can cause more vomiting, which might require a trip to the vet.

It’s common for cats, especially those with long fur, to occasionally cough up hairballs. To prevent your cat from swallowing all that fur, make sure they stay well groomed. Feeding such cats high-fibre foods or diets designed specifically for them will help reduce the issue.

I often get frantic calls from pet parents when they find their pet obsessively rubbing their bottom or scooting. Dogs and cats have anal glands that can fill up with fluid and cause discomfort if their diet is low in fibre. They could also be scooting if deworming hasn’t happened regularly.

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Make sure your pet is getting enough fibre, like pumpkin, in their food, to solve the anal gland issue and deworm them regularly. Issues like constipation and straining to pass stools can also be resolved by increasing fibre content in their food as well as their water intake.

Ticks and fleas are practically an year-round issue. They can make pets itch and fall sick. Itching, scratching, and tiny black or brown specks (flea dirt) on your pet’s skin are all indications that they have fleas. Ticks can be difficult to see, so make sure to look for any tiny bumps or dark spots on your pet’s skin. Using a topical or oral medicine suggested by a vet will help prevent fleas and ticks. In addition, you can use a flea comb. Be sure to thoroughly check your dog when he’s back from a walk for ticks to prevent an infestation in your home.

Another typical complaint is mouth odour and yellow teeth. If the pet’s teeth are not brushed every day, plaque build-up can discolour their teeth and give off a bad smell. Cats and small dogs are especially prone to such dental diseases. Make toothbrushing a regular habit for your pet.

Dogs and cats, particularly those with long nails or those who walk on uneven surfaces, are also susceptible to paw pad injuries. Licking or biting the paw are indications of paw pad damage, along with limping and bleeding. Your vet may advise a topical antibiotic cream, washing the area with a mild antiseptic, and putting a paw pad protector or boot to avoid additional harm. Most such minor cuts and scratches can be treated effectively with an antibiotic cream.

Knowing about these common ailments can help you assess when a veterinary visit is absolutely essential. If any of these problems do not resolve in 24 hours, you should seek veterinary advice.

Nameeta Nadkarni is a practising veterinary soft tissue surgeon and pet blogger from Mumbai.