Pet Matters: Diagnosing common health and behavioral problems

Pet Matters: Diagnosing common health and behavioral problems
(Stock photo)

By Isabel Alvarez

Our pets often behave in ways we find annoying, disgusting or burdensome, but we can’t seem to correct it despite a great deal of effort. For some reason, telling them to “stop it” just doesn’t seem to work.

I have known cats that vomit on beds — their families forced to live with puddles of utter yuck on their covers. I have seen dogs chew their paws raw out of what their owners attributed to insatiable energy. I live with a beautiful hound dog that peed all over the house for months back when she was a puppy, despite the general consensus that she understood she was to do her business outdoors.

To the untrained eye and the inexperienced pet parent, such unexplained behavioral issues can be infuriating. But these could also be symptoms of an underlying health issue.

It is oftentimes the fear of astronomical veterinary expenses and invasive or exploratory exams that keeps us from getting to the bottom of the problems behind the vomiting, chewing and peeing.

Luckily, observation is key in solving these mysteries. It also is free.

Before you come up with desperate ways to simply deal with these unwanted behaviors, start considering feeding schedules as well as the amounts, type and quality of food you give your pet. Also, consider the amount of physical and mental stimulation you provide your pet on a daily basis.

An animal that is overeating or eating too quickly will be more likely to vomit than a pet who is taking in an appropriate amount of food with each meal. An animal that is grazing all day will have a harder time potty training because of the lack of a set schedule. And, a pet on the wrong — or low-quality — food is likely to develop a reaction to it.

Some animals, like my pretty hound dog, have food intolerances or allergies, and keeping them on the wrong food can lead to hotspots, licking, chewing or, as was the case with my girl, the inability to control their bladder.

Additionally, stress and boredom can manifest themselves in negative ways for pets and humans. Think of all those people suffering from health issues caused by a sedentary lifestyle. Our pets are no different.

Before putting aluminum foil on your bed every morning to keep your vomiting cat off your decorative pillows or subjecting your pup to the cone of shame to keep him from harming himself, do a little research, jot your findings down and talk to your vet.

If your pet is on a structured feeding schedule, enjoying the right amount of a high-quality food at a healthy pace and getting proper exercise, you’ll know something else is wrong. It could be an allergy or an illness. Whatever it is, it’s worth exploring.

It took three vets and way too many urinalyses to figure out that my dog was intolerant to most foods and required a prescription diet. At the time, I had no idea that the kind of food I was feeding her could make her so ill and uncomfortable that it caused symptoms similar to a urinary tract infection. The resulting accidents weren’t so much accidental as they were telling.

I remember thinking, “Poor thing, if only she could tell me what is wrong.” All the while, she had been telling me — multiple times a day, usually on the rug in the office.