Watch out! Behavioral Changes in Pets can Indicate Health Issues.

Imagine you come into your veterinarian’s office with a sick kitten or puppy. One of the first things the vet will ask you is: “How was your pet acting, what was its behavior like before you walked in?” When an animal is sick, it often has behavior changes that are different than the attitude of your healthy pet you love. For this reason, this is why it is crucial to look out for behavioral changes when you may not be able to look for the more medical indicators veterinarians can find.

Some preliminary signs a dog is sick is in its altered behavior. One example of this is becoming withdrawn or irritable. Just like humans, animals do not want to be bothered when they are feeling under the weather. Instead of wanting affection, a dog may be seen wanting to be alone. Another behavior change is urinating and defecating inside the house, or outside of the usual areas. And one of the most obvious that something is seriously wrong, is when an animal becomes lethargic. Lethargy is the equivalent of being fatigued, lacking energy, and being less aware. Sometimes, if the other signs are ignored, having a lethargic animal that does not respond normally scares owners, and this pushes them to contact a veterinarian.

A lot of these signs in canines are also present in cats. Cats can experience lethargy, changes in mood, and changed litter box habits. If cats urinate outside of the litter box, this is a behavior change that could show that the cat is not feeling well. One of the most important indicators, is a cat hiding for prolonged periods of time. When cats are feeling sick or scared, they will hide so they can be left alone. If a cat is hiding and shows this secluded behavioral change, this is a sign that something could be medically wrong with the cat; it is not a natural behavior for them to want to hide for long periods of time.

With our busy lives, sometimes owners don’t look at their pets as closely as they should to make sure they are in good health. More goes into maintaining a healthy lifestyle for your pet than just taking it to its annual vet check-up. Ways to combat these behavior changes at home include stimulating your dog or cat. By playing with them each day, offering toys and scratching posts, it helps to enrich their lives and provide crucial stimulation. It is also important to keep the litter boxes and the backyard clean of their waste, so looking for a place to relieve themselves is not a stressful situation. Even feeding pets on a routine schedule will help decrease stress, which could lead to health problems, or these behavioral changes. If your pets are in an environment they find stressful or unhappy, this could cause a behavioral shift.

These signs do not always mean your pet is sick, but they are important to look out for. These basic changes can help provide a puzzle piece to complete the picture for your vet. If you come in and do not have a lot of information on how your pet was acting before you brought them in, this could possibly inhibit the diagnosis of the animal! The behavior can give indicators of what is wrong, and these should not be overlooked! If you see these changes and are in doubt as to whether your dog or cat is sick, take them to your veterinarian. Behavior changes happen for a reason, and a veterinarian can help you get to the bottom of it, to make sure your pet is happy and healthy. The behavior can be seen as a warning sign and if it acted upon quickly enough, it will aid the animal in getting the care it needs.

Maddie Sullivan

Work Cited

Darroch, Laurie. “5 Behavior Changes in a Sick or Injured Dog.” CANIDAE®, CANIDAE, 27

Sept. 2017, injured-dog/

Jarrett, Deb. “Dog at Vet Flickr.” Dharamsala Animal Rescue, 20 Feb. 2019, upcoming-move/dog-at-vet-flickr/

Miller, L. Kelly. “Signs your Dog is Sick.” The Spruce, 2018,

Stregowski, Jenna. “18 Signs That Your Cat Is Sick.” The Spruce Pets, The Spruce Pets, 27 June 2019,

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