It is not uncommon for clients to walk into a consult and start off with “So.. this has been going on for a week/ a few weeks/ a month or even.. a few months..”
In fact, I will boldly say that at least half (if not more) of the clients that I see through general practice will start a consult with this disclaimer. I believe that many other general practice veterinarians will agree with me.
Met an ex-colleague for lunch the other day and he shared a rather …curious story: The client brought a cat for a consult and reported that he had been saving up for 6 months as he was aware that his pet was quite sick and would likely require a thorough workup.
The mature cat had a slow growing large mass in its throat and was vomiting with specks of blood, struggling to swallow food and had difficulties with breathing (due to the mass impinging on it’s airway). The client had not sough any veterinary attention prior to this consult.
Client proceeded to ask the vet when he believed the problem incepted and if he had waited too long.
Answer: The sad fact is that he probably did. Fluffy should have been seen 6 months ago when the client first noted an abnormality.
So exactly how long is too long?
The truth is sooner is often better than later.
Treatment that is instituted earlier in the course of disease will likely give the animal a better prognosis and a more favorable outcome. Not forgetting a smaller veterinary bill.
However the long work hours in Singapore may not necessarily give one the flexibility in visiting the vet. Others may not have the reserved cash in their pockets.
I’ve categorized some of the common conditions that we vets commonly see into 4 decreasing list of urgency.
Immediate medical attention:
Any signs of respiratory irregularities (increased respiratory rate at rest, gasping, coughing, cyanosis), neurological abnormalities (central: mental dullness, head pressing, seizures; Peripheral: inability to feel sensation or use hind/front limbs,), profuse bleeding (from wound or orifice), pale gums, sudden collapse, inability to urinate/blocked, facial oedema, choking, toxin ingestion, known traumatic injury, bloated abdomen.
Delaying veterinary treatment may result in a poorer prognosis should your animal display the above clinical signs.
Prompt medical attention:
An incessantly vomiting animal that is unable to even keep water down- should require prompt medical treatment. This is especially so if you know your animal is an indiscriminate eater.
Other symptoms such as painful/ pungent urination, lethargy, sudden change in demeanor, back pain, neck pain, decreased in appetite, pawing at face/ mouth, sudden rapid growth in/of a mass.
Ok for observation for 12-24 hours if animal remains bright:
A single vomit or diarrhoea with an animal that is still bright, alert and responsive (BAR)- it’s probably ok to continue to observe for the rest of the day, provided the animal does not rapidly deteriorate.
Ok to monitor over a few days if animal remains bright:
An animal with a slight limp after a run at the park, that is still BAR– rest the animal for the next few days and observe for any improvement. Veterinary attention should be sought if the animal does not improve or condition several worsens.
Increase in water intake and urination despite being bright and active. I generally advise client to observe over a week due to different weather conditions and type/quantity of food provided. Clients are encouraged to measure water intake and to provide these values to the vet.
Acute ear and skin conditions may fall under this category. However I tend to find that client wait weeks if not MONTHS before seeking veterinary attention.
Small skin/ subcutaneous lump (s) (that does not appear to bother the animal) can be monitored for change/ growth over a short period of time before needing to see the vet.
The above list are non exhaustive and there may be other signs that your animal is exhibiting that is not described here. Please seek your local veterinarian for support should you have further concerns
Clients need to be aware that for certain diseases/ medical conditions, coming to a diagnosis may take some time. There will be moments (though infrequently) that the conclusion is formed from the exclusion of other differentials. Tests will need to be run and analyzed just as how your human GP may refer you to another department/ pathologists.
We are unfortunately not miracle healers and we are unable to “fix” your animal that has been sick the past 7 days with a snap of our fingers.
Ultimately you know your animal best. Most animals do not show signs of weakness/ illness unless they are severely impacted by it (the exception of course being those overly pampered pooch that yelps at the slightest things). If you have an animal that you KNOW is unwell, please do make the earliest available appointment to see your local veterinarian (or at least CALL them to discus your animal’s signs- most vets/ veterinary staff may be able to provide you with advice on whether your animal needs to be seen)