Due to shelter in place a lot of us are working from home, teaching our kids from home and well… are home. This has given us plenty of time to observe our pets on a daily basis. Some clients jokingly remark, “Wow! I never knew my cat just slept all day.” While it’s true that the domestic cat does sleep a lot (the average is 18-20 hours daily) indoor-only cats also learn to modify their behavior based on our schedules, their feeding schedule, etc. Just because we are home all day long, does not mean our pets are going to stop their routines. However, we might be asking ourselves “is that normal?”
I would like to take this time to make owners aware of some behaviors that would necessitate a trip in to the clinic (even in this restricted climate).
- Change in appetite: this is a big red flag for me. Most animals eat a certain amount of food daily and consistently. When your pet is suddenly “being picky,” I am concerned. If this is only for one day, likely you could wait to come in, unless you have seen this behavior before as a result of illness. If it is accompanied with vomiting, diarrhea, or simply a lack of appetite altogether, you should think about making an appointment.
- Change in sleep habits. Dogs and cats sleep in certain, predicable areas of the home. They also sleep on average, the same amount every day. So, now that you are home and can more closely note those patterns, the question is, has it changed? If your pet is sleeping in a strange area of the home, restless during the day or night, they might be trying to tell you something is not right.
- Signs of pain: this can sometimes be challenging for owners to see. Dogs and cats can be very good at hiding their discomfort. Some common signs could include:
- Obsessive licking of one area of their body. This can be a sign of discomfort of that area of their skin (such as an allergic reaction or wound under the fur) or of the tissue underneath the skin (e.g. repeatedly licking their abdomen due to intestinal or urinary pain).
- Not wanting to put all their weight on one leg. This could be stiffness from arthritis, to a sprain or strain of soft tissue. It may also represent a more serious problem, such as torn tissue or a fracture.
- Low energy can also be a sign of pain. You expect your cat to play with their toys and interact with you a certain way and for a certain amount of time. If they are suddenly disinterested, could it be just a bad day, or is it becoming a pattern? The same could be said for a dog. You’re on a walk or run and they want to sit down. Or perhaps they are trying to go back home or lag way behind. All of these behaviors are potentially abnormal and signs of pain that would prompt you to call for an appointment.
One additional option to be aware of is telemedicine. This is an opportunity for you to schedule an appointment with one of the SVA doctors without having to leave your home. Now, while this is appealing to many, be aware that it does have limitations. We can provide this phone consultation service to clients that have brought their animal in for a previous issue we want to follow up on (such as a healing wound, skin infection, or lameness). We also can help with medication dosing questions, behavioral consultations (for anxious pets) and nutritional counseling to name a few. If you think that you would like to explore this option, please don’t hesitate to call and one of our front end team members can help to set this up on a case by case basis.
So, while we are at home we can not only focus on all those neglected home projects, and get to that TV program we have been eyeing, but we can also make sure we are checking in on our furry friends and to ensure they are getting the love and attention they deserve. Please contact one of our SVA clinics if you have any questions or concerns as we are open for appointments (with new policies in place to keep you and our staff healthy and safe).
By Julia Neal, DVM
Ravenna Animal Hospital