When Should I Call the Vet?

When Should I Call the Vet?

It can be difficult to know when a pet needs to see a veterinarian – the occasional bout of diarrhea or change in appetite may seem trivial, or it may be a sign of a larger issue. Pets are our family, so we notice changes as they age or when the seasons change, but what changes are normal and which ones should trigger a trip to the doctor?

It’s a good idea to trust your instincts and keep a few key warning signs on your radar, and a regular conversation with your veterinarian will help you to know when your pet is expressing particular needs. Never hesitate to call your veterinary practice if you are in doubt or think your pet is suffering. The following signs are often indicators that you should call your vet:

Change in Eating Habits

Skipping a meal is not that unusual for dogs or cats, especially on hot summer days or when your pet is stressed or in a new environment. Long term changes in the way your pet eats are a warning sign – if your pet refuses to eat or does not eat well for two days, you should call your veterinarian immediately. Markedly increased appetite is worth noting as well. Increases in hunger are rarely emergencies, but they can be signs of underlying issues and it is wise to make an appointment to investigate. It’s important to keep up a regular relationship with your veterinarian to make sure that what you are seeing isn’t normal, since each pet has different habits and needs.

Excessive Thirst

If your pet is drinking more water than usual, it could be due to weather changes or from recent activity. Excessive drinking without exercise or exposure to hot, dry weather can be a sign of more serious issues, however, such as kidney disease or diabetes. If your pet is consistently drinking more water than usual for two days, you’ll want to check in with your vet and make sure your pet is healthy. It’s a good idea to notice how much they urinate, as well, since increased urination can also be a symptom of a problem.

Eye Appearance

Red or cloudy eyes or unusual eye discharge could indicate an infection or injury. If your oet is squinting or rubbing at his eye(s), you will want to take notice as ignored diseases of the eyes can progress quickly. If one eye is affected, it is often an infection or injury, but if both eyes are affected, you may be seeing symptoms of allergies or other health issues.


Most pets will vomit on occasion. Dogs and cats like to experiment with their mouths, and often they may encounter things that are not easy on their tummies. However you should call the vet immediately if your pet begins to vomit frequently or vomits blood.

It is not necessarily a great concern for a dog to vomit two or three times in ten minutes and then be fine. A dog that vomits three times over eight hours or experiences severe or prolonged vomiting could also suffer from dehydration, and treatment should be sought early. If vomiting is combined with lethargy, poor appetite, and diarrhea, it may be an emergency and you should contact your veterinarian right away.

Change in Stool

Healthy stool is firm and moist, meaning that if your pet has dry, hard stools or difficulty defecating, he may be experiencing dietary problems, dehydration or other illness. You may also notice worms, blood, or mucus present in the stool, diarrhea for more than 24 hours or straining during a bowel movement. If you see any of these symptoms or notice dark tarry stools, you should notify your veterinarian right away. Changes in your pet’s stool should always be discussed with your veterinarian.


Most of us know our pets well enough to know when they just don’t have their usual pep. If your pet is more tired and sluggish than usual, it may simply be sore muscles or fatigue due to warm temperatures, but you should call your veterinarian if it persists beyond two days.

Sudden Weight Loss
Sudden weight loss in any pet is cause for concern and you will want to take your pet to the veterinarian. Even in overweight pets, quick and unexpected weight loss can indicate a serious health condition. Monitor your pet’s weight regularly and alert your vet if you notice a ten percent weight loss.


Scooting on the floor is not a silly dog trick – it could be a symptom of worms, an anal gland problem, bowel movement issues or even a urinary tract infection. If your pet suddenly starts scooting or increases scooting, you should contact your veterinarian.

Emergency Symptoms

Seek immediate medical attention from your veterinarian or an emergency vet clinic if your dog shows any of the following symptoms:

Open wounds, possible broken bones or injury due to trauma or incident such as a fall or being hit by a vehicle, even if he appears to be acting OK
Stopped breathing or unconsciousness
Sudden collapse or difficulty breathing
Bleeding from mouth, nose, or eyes
Possible poisoning from consuming something toxic
Repeated vomiting over 1 hour or vomiting blood
Retching and trying to vomit with no food coming up (a symptom of bloat)
Extreme pain, displayed by whining or shaking
Hard and swollen abdomen
Inability to pass urine
Labored breathing
Inability to deliver puppies (over two hours between puppies)
Ingestion of toxins such as chocolate, poisonous plants, sugar-free products with xylitol, grapes or raisins, rat poison
Unable to stand, wobbliness or dragging of limbs
Sudden disorientation
Pale color to gums (very important for owners to check gums regularly for abnormalities)

It’s a good idea to discuss this list with your veterinarian and discuss what kind of symptoms you need to watch for your specific pet. Never be afraid to call the clinic and ask questions or discuss symptoms. Remember, you know your pet’s habits, behaviors, and routine better than anyone. Trust your instincts and call your us at 434-971-3500 if something seems “off”. We’ll help you take the best care possible of your family.

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