Many Americans are now spending more time at home with their pets because of the COVID-19 pandemic.  This is great news for our pets!  Not only do they get more time with their humans, there is also more time for you to notice subtle signs of disease that you may not have picked up on before.

Changes in Appetite

A persistent change in appetite can often be a very early sign of disease. Now all pets, particularly cats, can have days where they just don’t feel like eating. That’s perfectly normal and nothing to be concerned about. However, if you notice that your dog or cat is consistently leaving more food in the bowl than they used to, that could be an early sign that they aren’t feeling well. Likewise, if you notice that your cat is eating ravenously and not putting on any weight, this could be an early symptom of hyperthyroidism. Make sure that you are measuring the amount of food that you give your pets each day so that you know if there is a change.


Changes in Thirst or Urination Habits

Do you ever really pay attention to how much your pet drinks, or how many times you fill up the water bowl? Do you ever watch to see how many times your cat goes to the litter box? Changes in drinking and urination habits can be symptoms of minor illnesses like anxiety or urinary tract infections. They can also be symptoms of severe diseases such as Cushing’s Disease or kidney failure. If you notice any of these changes in your pet, be sure to bring them up with your veterinarian. Simple blood and urine tests can often determine the cause of your pet’s symptoms.

If you have a cat, particularly a male cat, that stops urinating or seems painful in the litterbox, call your veterinarian IMMEDIATELY, as this can be a life-threatening condition.


Exercise Intolerance

One of the handful of things you’re still allowed to do is walk your dog! Have you noticed your dog being reluctant to walk? Do they limp or cough after going on a long walk? Exercise intolerance can be a symptom of heart disease, heartworm infection, arthritis, or several other diseases. Cats can have exercise intolerance too, though it’s a bit harder to tell. Watch them when they play to see if they get tired more quickly. You can also watch them when they jump. Cats that are developing arthritis tend to hesitate before they jump, or they will choose to make multiple small jumps rather than one big jump.


If you notice any of these symptoms, or anything else strange about your pet, be sure to let your veterinarian know. Remember, we can only see what they choose to show us while they’re here, you’re the one who gets to see the full picture. And consider annual bloodwork for your pets to catch diseases before they make your pet sick!  For more information on COVID-19 and your pet, visit the AVMA’s FAQ section here.