As pet owners we all tend to closely observe our pets. We know their habits, behaviors and routines. So when something doesn’t seem quite right….what should we do? As a veterinarian I always consider the pet family’s observation the most valuable clue we have in evaluating health. Of course sometimes we all push the panic button prematurely but in general if your pet doesn’t seem right, in all likelihood he or she isn’t. At the very least it is time to call your local vet.
On a personal level this rang true this past couple of weeks. As an Irish Setter owner for most of my life I found myself in the position of being my own client. I had noticed that Red (yes that is really his name) a 6 1/2 year old male Irish Setter seemed a bit lackadaisical and less active than usual. He still seemed to enjoy his runs, his meals and his other playtime but in general he had “matured”. Or so I rationalized, not wanting to face the fact that there might be something wrong. Then the doctor side of me emerged and I noticed that his hair coat had thinned a bit….and he gained a couple of pounds. Had a client reported these findings in this part of the world, the logical path would have been some routine laboratory work to look for parasites, liver, kidney, thyroid or cardiac problems as well as a tick panel to eliminate the possibility of Lyme disease or Anaplasmosis. When the results were in all was well except for the thyroid panel that was in the borderline low region. Slight lethargy, weight gain, thinning hair coat all increased the suspicion of thyroid disease and after just a week on supplementation Red has the bounce back in his step.
The lesson here is valuable for all of us; pet owners and pet health providers alike. If something doesn’t seem quite right with your pet it probably isn’t. Don’t wait to consult with your vet until things are dire. Sure it may be nothing but often times it is significant. The answer can be elusive and take time to figure out. In spite of all the technology such as ultrasound, radiology, laboratory analysis, endoscopy, etc. etc. the single most important piece of information comes from you (or me) the pet owner. Don’t minimize the importance of your own observations. They are the most potent diagnostic tool we as veterinarians have. Even for our own pets.