Cat and Dog Heath


This article was written for Pet Guardian Angels of America by Emma Williams


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5 Common Health Issues that Cat and Dog Owners Need to Look Out For

Dogs and cats are more than just pets. They’re another member of the family. And just like we watch for signs of coughs and colds in ourselves and our fellow family members, we should also know the signs to look for when it comes to the most common health issues our furry friends may face. This is especially true for our cats and dogs because others than the signs and symptoms, there’s no real way for them to tell us that they are feeling unwell.


As we come into the warmer months, a common issue that animal owners need to be aware of is heatstroke. In fact, there’s a big rise in vet visits due to this condition as summer hits. Of course, the change in weather, which can often be extreme, is a key factor here. But it’s also worth knowing that a big reason so many animals face heatstroke is that humans simply don’t know what to look for and therefore, are only seeking treatment at the very last moment.

Heatstroke, also known as heat stress, occurs when the animal’s core body temperature rises above the normal range, and the generation of heat is higher than the body’s ability to lose heat. It’s most commonly caused by a warm or hot and humid environment with little ventilation, inadequate shade when outdoors, dehydration and excessive exercise.

Signs to look for include:

  • Panting that increases as heatstroke progresses
  • Drooling or salivating
  • Agitation or restlessness
  • Very red or pale gums
  • Bright red tongue
  • Increased heart rate and breathing distress
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Mental confusion, dizziness and staggering
  • Weakness or lethargy
  • Collapsing and lying down
  • Little to no urine production

What to do if you think your dog or cat is suffering from eatstroke:

  • Remove your pet from the environment
  • Apply cool water onto the animal’s fur or skin (not cold) and then fan to maximize heat loss.
  • Never use ice-cold water as this can worsen the problem.
  • Take your animal to the vet if symptoms persist.

Of course, prevention is the best defense.

  • Make sure your animal has a cool, well-ventilated space to play and hang out.
  • Provide lots of access to fresh clean drinking water
  • Never leave your animal in a car and avoid exercising in hot weather

Ear infections

Ear infections in dogs and cats are very common, however, they generally develop as a result of another problem such as allergies, environmental triggers or even anatomical abnormalities. According to, a key thing to remember when it comes to cats is that despite popular opinion, ear mites are rarely to blame, except in kittens.

Making sure your pet’s ears are thoroughly cleaned is an essential part of prevention, and indeed, treatment. If you don’t feel confident to do this, always ask a vet to show you how. Importantly, do not dig into the dog or cat’s ear canal as this can push whatever is in there further back and possibly cause a ruptured eardrum.

Signs of an ear infection include:

  • Head shaking
  • Scratching at the ears (external parasites such as fleas, lice, ticks or ear mites and even internal parasites like ringworm can also cause scratching and itching, so make sure you treat your pet with topical treatments and dewormers to eliminate this as the cause)
  • Discharge or a foul odor from the ears

Remember, unless the underlying problem is dealt with, ear infections can become recurrent and if the ear infection cannot be treated, it’s imperative that you start investigating the underlying cause.


Arthritis commonly occurs in older dogs and cats as their bones and joints stiffen with their age. It describes a disorder of the joint, where the joint cartilage and adjacent bones are damaged, caused by stress to the joint. Arthritis is commonly caused by wear and tear which is why many people associate it with old age, however, sometimes it can be caused by a trauma to the joints such as a sprain or fracture.

Most pets who suffer from arthritis will struggle to get up and down off furniture or stairs and may struggle to even get up, especially on colder days. An affected animal will also resist exercise and is less likely to play. It’s key to know these signs as early treatment can help a lot.

While many older pets will suffer from arthritis, don’t assume that it’s necessarily a normal aging process that can’t be helped. If treated properly, even older pets with arthritis can still lead a normal, bubbly, bounding life.

Dental disease

Initiated by bacteria that attaches to a pet’s teeth, periodontal disease affects almost every animal out there. Just like in humans, the plaque that builds up on our animals’ teeth can cause gum disease and can, without treatment, turn into ulcers and abscesses in your pet’s mouth.

If not dealt with early in life, periodontal disease can develop into serious problems in up to 85% of dogs and cats by the time they turn three years old. If bacteria are given the opportunity to move under the gum, the ligaments underneath can deteriorate, which can cause your pet serious pain and damage. At the extreme end, the bacteria can access the body’s circulation and can result in heart, liver, brain, joint or kidney disease.

What to do:

  • Brush your animal’s teeth with specific animal toothpaste and a soft toothbrush
  • Feed your pet formulated food that is good for their oral health
  • Raw meat and bones eaten with supervision can help, as can dental chews

Eye infection

There are many causes of eye infections in dogs or cats, including viruses, bacteria, irritants such as smoke or shampoo, foreign matter such as dirt, grass or hair entering the eye, trauma, parasites or a scratch on the cornea.

The most common eye infections are conjunctivitis, inflammation of the cornea, uveitis or abnormalities in the eyelids and tear glands.

Symptoms of eye infections in animals include:

  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Watery, thick and smelly discharge
  • Squinting
  • Blinking
  • Holding the eye closed
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Pawing at the eyes

While you can’t always prevent animals from getting eye infections, there are some things you can do to help. Avoid trauma to the eye if possible including foreign bodies like dust or dirt getting into their eyes. A couple of ways to do this is to ensure windows are closed while driving and to trim the hair around the eyes so it won’t irritate the eyeballs. Also, always try to keep your pet’s face as clean as possible.

Checkups are vital

Of course, we can’t protect our animals from absolutely everything, even though we wish we could. But we can help to prevent some of these health issues by understanding the symptoms, knowing what to do and where to go if they get sick. It’s also important to get regular check-ups for your pet and encourage healthy eating and exercise patterns for your animals.

Emma Williams is a professional writer who enjoys spending her spare time blogging about pet behaviour, pet health and pet lifestyle topics. She has two furry friends of her own.