Why Is My Pet Always Sick?


Everybody gets sick. It’s a fact of life. When a pet gets sick, however, it can be a little harder to recognize. Dogs and cats can’t tell us “my tummy hurts,” or “I don’t feel like myself today,” so pet owners need to be aware of any changes in their animals. An illness may be indicated by things like unusual behavior, such as losing interest in playtime or walks, lack of interest in food, hiding for no reason, sleeping more than usual, weight loss or gain, and showing signs of general fatigue.

While observing occasional shifts in behavior is just a part of pet ownership, sudden dramatic changes or changes that persist for more than a few days are a sign that it’s time for a checkup with your family veterinarian, who may refer you to a veterinary internist in the greater Philadelphia area for further evaluation and treatment. A board-certified veterinary internist is a veterinarian that has special training dealing with diseases and illnesses associated with your pet’s internal organs. He or she has also passed a grueling specialized training and exam process.

Vomiting and diarrhea are two signs that your furry friend is really going through some troubles. Now, dogs and cats both vomit or have an occasional bout of diarrhea when they’ve eaten something they shouldn’t have, so neither should set off immediate warning bells… but frequent vomiting and/or diarrhea, combined with one or more of the unusual behaviors listed above, mean it’s time to take your dog or cat to the vet. While many consider it normal for cats and dogs to vomit up anything from hairballs to whatever your dog got into that day, it’s actually not good for them—and frequent illness can be an indicator of all sorts of other problems. So, if your pet vomits more than twice in a single day, and especially if the vomiting lasts for more than one day, bring him or her to a 24/7 emergency veterinary hospital or make an appointment with your family veterinarian. The cause may be something very common and easily treated, and yet, it’s always better to know for sure. There could be something of greater concern going on that a veterinary internist needs to diagnose and treat.

A frequent but remarkably under-diagnosed condition in pets is inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). While you may have never heard of inflammatory bowel disease in pets, it’s more common than you might think. There’s no one specific cause for IBD, but some breeds of dogs and cats can be more susceptible than others, and it can affect dogs and cats of any breed and any age. There are some signs to watch out for, however.

What to Know About Inflammatory Bowel Disease in Dogs

Dog breeds predisposed to IBD are French Bulldogs, Basenjis, Irish Setters, and Lundehunds. Many dogs from these breeds will never develop IBD, and many dogs, from shelter mutts to purebred Chihuahuas, will. Here’s a list of symptoms that may be indicators that your dog is suffering from IBD, but it’s always best to let your veterinarian diagnose your dog after you bring him or her in for a checkup:

  • Abdominal Pain
  • Bright Red Blood in Stool
  • Chronic Intermittent Vomiting
  • Depression
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Changes to Coat Hair
  • Fatigue
  • Gas (Flatulence)
  • Rumbling and Gurgling Abdominal Sounds
  • Weight Loss

If you suspect your dog may have IBD, or if your dog is simply experiencing any of the above symptoms, bring him or her in for a checkup with your family veterinarian, who may recommend that your pet see an internist. The internist’s goals will be to identify the cause of those symptoms, and eventually reduce your dog’s discomfort by increasing his or her appetite, managing diarrhea, and vomiting, and helping him or her gain weight back after minimizing intestinal inflammation. This may take the form of reducing food allergens such as meat proteins, milk, gluten, artificial colors, and additives, among other treatments.

What to Know About Inflammatory Bowel Disease in Cats

IBD in cats can look similar to IBD in dogs, but they’re different species with their own physiologies and mannerisms. Siamese cats are the breed most predisposed to IBD, and the symptoms are largely the same—diarrhea, weight loss, fatigue, intermittent vomiting, gas and abdominal pain, rumbling or gurgling abdominal sounds, and bright red blood in their stool. As in dogs, no single cause has been identified as the reason some cats develop IBD, but it’s suspected that food allergies can play a part, as can hypersensitivity to bacteria.

What You Can Do

Inflammatory Bowel Disease cannot be cured, but it can usually be successfully treated and controlled. A pet internist will design a therapy to increase your dog or cat’s comfort and reduce symptoms. It’s also extremely important to treat and reduce diarrhea, which can lead to dehydration, and stop most (if not all) of your pet’s vomiting. Usually, pets with IBD have lost weight or become anxious about eating, so it’s important to get their weight back up.

It’s possible your veterinary internist may be able to identify a cause of your pet’s IBD, although the variety of causes can make this a bit difficult. Sometimes the cause is dietary; other times, it can be because of parasites, bacteria, a reaction to a drug they might be taking, or something else entirely. If the internist can identify a cause of your pet’s IBD, it should be eliminated, especially if it is a dietary cause. In fact, dietary manipulation is one of the most effective ways of treating IBD, though sometimes medications are required

The reason we say IBD can be treated, but not cured, is that even once your veterinary internist gets your pet’s IBD under control, relapses can be common. VRC’s internist, Dr. Justin Guinan, a board-certified internal medicine specialist with years of experience, can help you minimize the chance of an IBD relapse in your pet. Before joining the VRC team, Dr. Guinan worked at clinics large and small, in both emergency and specialty medical care.

If your pet is experiencing gastric discomfort and advanced, specialty care has been recommended, take your dog or cat to a veterinary internist such as Dr. Guinan at VRC who can get to the bottom of your pet’s stomach troubles and recommend a course of action that will get him or her feeling a lot better, and quickly.

VRC is a specialty veterinary healthcare hospital located in the greater Philadelphia area. If you suspect your pet has IBD, or are worried about any other digestive issues, contact us immediately.