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Pet Health 101: Should I Call the Vet?

Pet Health 101

It’s easy to feel a little overwhelmed when you’re a first-time pet owner. And at times, even a seasoned pet owner can be overwhelmed. You’ve never had an animal in your care before, and you wouldn’t want anything to happen to them. So every time your dog runs into a door, or your cat spits up their lunch or a hairball, you might be wondering if you should call the vet. Take a deep breath. Animals are resilient little critters and are probably okay. This is our guide to some common pet ailments and whether or not they warrant giving the vet a call. Here’s pet health 101!

Note: We are not veterinarians and are in no way attempting to advise you on the medical care of your pet. When in doubt, you should always check with your veterinarian.

Cat Barf and Hairballs

Cat puke is unfortunately a quintessential part of pet health and ownership. How can you differentiate vomit from a hairball? Check out the ball itself. Hairballs tend to be shaped like a tube and, well, they contain hair. And since they’re usually hacked up shortly after a meal, they also contain food.

Vomiting requires veterinary assistance if your cat shows other signs of illness, such as a fever or diarrhea. Give your vet a call if your kitty is gagging and nothing is coming up or if they’re vomiting after every meal, more than once per week or if their vomit doesn’t contain food. Also contact your vet if your cat throws up a foreign object.

There is also a thing that cats do called “snarf and barf.” They quickly eat too much food so they end up vomiting shortly afterward. This is usually not anything to worry about, but call your vet if it starts happening regularly.

Dog Barf

Dogs also throw up from time to time! Much like dog diarrhea, it’s pretty common, but not necessarily serious. If your dog only throws up once or twice, and shows no other signs of illness, they’re probably fine. If the vomiting continues, or contains blood, then it’s time to call your veterinarian.

Lumps and Bumps

As animals get older, it’s not uncommon to find lumps and bumps on their body. Try not to panic. Many of these masses are benign and no cause for concern. However, you can’t know for sure until you contact your veterinarian. While there’s every chance you have nothing to worry about, you can’t rule out the possibility of the bump being something serious until you speak to your vet.

Dog Diarrhea

For animals that seem to be happy eating just about anything, dogs sure do have fragile stomachs. If you have a pooch in your family, it’s pretty much inevitable that at one point or another your furry bestie will experience a bout of dog diarrhea. In fact, diarrhea is super common in newly adopted dogs due to a change in diet or stress from being in a new environment.

Diarrhea often isn’t anything to worry about. Signs that something is wrong and you need to call your vet include diarrhea with blood or diarrhea that’s yellow. You should also contact your veterinarian if the diarrhea persists for longer than 24 hours.

Treatments for diarrhea include not feeding your dog and limiting their intake to water and chicken or beef broth. Then slowly wean them back on food with a diet of white rice and white-meat chicken or turkey. This food is gentle on upset tummies. If the diarrhea doesn’t return, you can then gradually transition your pup back to their usual kibble and wet food.

Runny Noses

Runny noses aren’t entirely uncommon in cats and dogs either. However, anytime you notice your pet has a runny nose or other signs of illness (fever, dehydration, lack of appetite, fatigue), you should contact your vet. A runny nose could indicate a simple cold and not be a big deal, but it could also be a symptom of the flu. The only way to know for sure is to call your vet!


Pets don’t regulate their body temperature like humans do so it’s important to look out for signs of overheating. These symptoms include any panting in cats and excessive panting in dogs. Other signs include dark, dry or pale gums, a faster than normal heart rate, fever, labored breathing, disorientation, vomiting diarrhea, difficulty standing or walking, seizures, convulsions or sunken or glassy eyes. If your pet is experiencing any of these symptoms, cool down your animal with cool (not cold) water on their head, neck and armpits and contact your vet immediately!

Salt Burns

During the cold weather months, pets can get burns on their feet from walking on icy sidewalks that are covered in salt. Generally these burns are mild and nothing to worry about. To prevent these burns, consider outfitting your pets in protective booties whenever they venture outside in the cold.

Thanks for reading, and remember: Whenever you see a change in your pet’s health or behavior, just call your veterinarian. Reasons to call your vet include changes in appetite, drinking more or less, increased fatigue, limping, yelping (or any other sign of pain), bleeding, blood in the stool, eating a foreign object, excessive restlessness or panting. A simple phone call to your vet costs nothing and the peace of mind is priceless!