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Pet Connection Q&A: Learn to tell if your pet's asking for help

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 4D
Last Modified: Monday, Aug. 20, 2012 - 9:56 am

I think I would know a veterinary emergency, but what I'm worried about is missing a problem that needs to be caught early. Can you suggest some signs?

You must be aware not only of your pet's physical condition (and changes in that condition), but also of his behavior. Many times, behavioral changes are later confirmed as illnesses through the use of such diagnostic tools as blood or urine tests. Always be aware of the subtle changes in your pet's behavior, especially regarding the following areas:

• Changes in eating habits, especially loss of appetite. Be aware of how much and how eagerly your pet eats, and make a mental note of any changes. The ability to keep an eye on feeding behavior is one of the best arguments against keeping food available at all times.

• Changes in activity level: If a pet who's always ready to run is suddenly not interested in playing, the lethargy may be cause for concern.

• Changes in drinking habits: Pets drink more in the summer than in the winter, but even taking that into consideration, you look for variations in your pet's drinking habits. Get an idea of what's a normal amount of water consumed, and be aware of changes. You don't need to measure by the ounce: Just keep an eye on how often you're refilling that water bowl.

• Changes in voice: Does your dog's bark or cat's meow sound different? Is his pattern of vocalizing changing?

If you think you have an "ain't doing right" pet, a visit to your veterinarian is in order if the issue doesn't resolve itself in a few days – even if there's no overt physical sign of illness that you can see.

– Dr. Marty Becker

The buzz

Pets, kids often share toys

• Those who think the line between pets and children has become a little fuzzy in recent years may not be cheered by a new line of pet toys made to meet safety standards for children. SafeMade Pet Products meet guidelines to protect from choking, sharp edges and other potential hazards, and tests products for lead and phthalates. All of its bowls pass federal guidelines for food-safe dishware. You only have to think about how often pet toys and dishes end up in the hands (and mouths) of small children to see that it's not a bad idea at all for both pets and people.

• Want more talking pets? Andrew Grantham, creator of the "Ultimate Dog Tease" video (quotable line: "The maple kind. Yeah."), has collaborated with the American Pet Products Association's Pets Add Life campaign for a new series of comedy videos. They're at youtube.com/petsaddlife.

– Dr. Marty Becker and Gina Spadafori

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