Maryland Veterinary Medical Association

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Is My Pet Sick?

Check for common signs of pet illness

Pet disease is easier to cure the earlier it is caught. Here is a checklist that can help you make wise decisions about your pet's health, spare your pet unnecessary pain and spare yourself the expense and distress of untimely trips to the clinic.

All of the signs and symptoms in Section 1 can indicate that your pet has a problem that may need veterinary care. The answers to the questions in Section 2 will help your veterinarian more accurately address your needs. The answers to Section 3 will help you decide if it is truly time to phone your veterinarian.

Section 1

Has your pet exhibited a change in the following areas?


___ Are they swollen, red or runny?

___ Is there a discharge?


___ Is it runny? Is there a discharge or crust?


___ Do you notice debris, a discharge or an odor?

___ Is your pet scratching it's ears or shaking its head?

___ Are the ears swollen?

Gastric Problems

___ Is your pet vomiting, retching or gagging?


___ Is your pet's breathing irregular or difficult?

___ Is your pet sneezing, panting or coughing excessively?

Stool Change

___ Has your pet's stool changed in color, consistency, or volume?

___ Is there blood in the stool?

___ Is your pet going more frequently or straining during the process?


___ Have you noticed a significant increase or decrease in appetite?

Body Weight

___ Has your pet's body weight increased or decreased?

Urine Change

___ Has your pet's urine changed in color or frequency?

___ Have you noticed any dribbling, blood or straining?


___ Does your pet exhibit any odors? If so, from what areas?

Coat and Skin

___ Have you noticed any tumors, wounds, hair loss or color change?

___ Has your pet been biting, scratching or licking itself>

Activity and Behavior

___ Has your pet seemed depressed, anxious, lethargic or restless?

___ Does our pet seem weak, painful, wobbly, stiff or aggressive?

___ Have you noticed any trembling, convulsion or falling?

Section 2

If you have checked any of the lines above, ask yourself these questions and write down your answers for each problem.

  1. When did I first see this sign or symptom?

  2. How long as the sign been present?

  3. Has each sign been continuous or intermittent?

  4. Is the sign or symptom getting worse or better?

  5. Is the sign or symptom getting more or less frequent?

Section 3

Now ask yourself:

  1. If these signs were exhibited by a human baby in my care, would I call a physician?

  2. If I exhibited these signs, would I phone a physician?

If the answer for either of these questions is yes or probably, you need to phone your veterinarian. If you are not sure, call and ask the receptionist if the animal should be seen.

If you need to find a veterinarian near you, click here.

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2017 Maryland Veterinary Medical Association

Maryland Veterinary Medical Association l PO Box 5407 l Annapolis, MD 21403
phone: 410-268-1311 l fax: 410-268-1322