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Having a sick pet can be an emotional and stressful time for any pet owner. And when your pet has an illness, it’s made even more complicated by the fact that they can’t communicate with you. But the good news is the most common illnesses tend to come with symptoms you can identify so you can treat them quickly.

1) OBESITY

Obesity is the most harmful health problem your pet can have because it can lead very easily to more health problems like heart disease, diabetes, arthritis and even death. But it’s also the easiest to spot! It’s unlikely that your pet’s obesity is caused by a slow metabolism, and most often it’s caused by overfeeding and not enough exercise. A good diet and lots of exercise can help improve your pet’s weight, and your veterinarian can help with setting out guidelines for your specific pet.

2) HEARTWORM

Heartworm causes several warning signs in dogs and cats: a dry cough, weight loss, difficulty breathing, and allergic reactions are all symptoms of heartworm. It’s most common in dogs but is also found in cats. The disease is spread by mosquitoes and can be treated if caught early enough in dogs. Unfortunately, there is no cure for feline heartworm, so it’s best to keep your pets healthy with monthly prescriptions from your veterinarian.

3) DENTAL DISEASES

Many serious health issues start in your pet’s mouth, like heart and kidney conditions. If you notice your pet has developed bad breath, make sure they’re having regular dental checkups and cleanings with their veterinarian. Dental cleanings, like with humans, can prevent tartar buildup, gum disease and cavities, so establishing a regular dental hygiene routine is important.

4) PARVOVIRUS

Parvovirus is common where there are low vaccination rates, and is commonly referred to as “parvo”. One of the most dangerous symptoms of parvo is diarrhea, which can lead to life-threatening dehydration. Mortality rates depend on a number of factors, including how soon the symptoms are caught, how soon the pet is taken to the veterinarian and how strong the animal’s immune system is.

5) DISTEMPER

Distemper is another virus that can be prevented with vaccines, which is why puppies who are too young for vaccinations or dogs who have never been vaccinated are most at risk. Distemper presents itself with neurological symptoms, nasal discharge and high fevers and has a high mortality rate. Dogs who survive distemper often continue to live with long-term health effects like seizures and hardened paw pads.

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