There are some sacrifices we all make to work in the veterinary field. Working in close quarters, as well as being exposed to clients, makes the hospital something of a human Petri dish. We do a fair bit of gentle teasing at the hospital when someone’s sick. “Patient Zero,” “Typhoid Mary,” “Plaguebringer,” — names kicked about all in good fun. While we agree that working while sick is a bad idea, the fact remains that when we take a sick day, we affect the ability to see patients that need care.
I’m nearly paranoid about washing my hands, using only my own office phone, getting enough sleep, etc. It usually works. This year? My number was up. I caught a nasty case of bronchitis. In the 8 years I’ve worked at Pet Authority, I think I’ve taken less than 4 sick days. Friday I took a half-day and hauled myself to the doctor’s office.
Whenever I visit a human medical office of any sort, I can’t help but compare my experience to what pets and clients experience at our hospital. I was pleasantly surprised that the doctor was able to run a test for influenza right there at the office. We have a few tests that return results in ten minutes or so as well. I don’t have the flu, thankfully! (Having that swab crammed way up in my nose wasn’t cool, though. Not at all.) Otherwise, everyone was very nice. I was given some medications and sent home to rest. I think I’ll be in good shape to return to work on Monday.
How we determine when we’re sick enough to go to the doctor is easy to figure out. We each have a certain tolerance for various symptoms. Our pets, however, can’t really distinguish between mild, moderate, and severe signs of disease. Most pets will act as normally as they can manage no matter how bad they feel. This has the effect of hiding the illness from owners. That can lead to a delay in treatment, in turn affecting how successful we are in making a pet well again.
Admitting that I’m a bad example, I’d like to make some amends by sharing some signs that your pet should see the doctor “today.” Putting off a visit could worsen problems and lead to poor outcomes. Remember, pets don’t think about what their symptoms could be caused by. We have to do that for them. Each sign will also have some of the possible causes listed.
Coughing: heart failure, bronchitis, pneumonia
Squinting eye(s): corneal ulcer, inflammation in the eye, glaucoma, pain
Vomiting: intestinal obstruction, pancreatitis, liver disease, kidney failure, toxin ingestion, bloat
Rapid breathing: heart failure, pain, anemia
Swollen belly: bleeding, cancer, heart failure, bloat
Pale gums: bleeding, severe anemia, shock
Seizures: epilepsy, brain tumor, toxin, inflammation of the brain
Bruising: blood clotting disorder, trauma
There are certainly more signs that we should watch for, but those are some of the most serious. Our pets count on us to be watchful for evidence of a problem, and to grant them a ‘sick day’ to go see the vet. Don’t hesitate to seek care — it’s always easier to treat small problems than catastrophes!