July 26

6 Ways to Spot Illness or Distress in Land and Aquatic Pets

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Regardless of whether they own tropical fish, turtles, cats, dogs, or rabbits, pet parents will always want their pets to be happy and in good health.

But in many cases, it can be difficult to spot signs of illness, injury, anxiety, or general unease in animals, especially since they cannot communicate as humans do. Physical and mental distress in pets can also manifest very differently from how it does in humans. That means that pet owners have to be aware of what these constitute for different species and, overall, be extra observant of how their pets are behaving.

What are some telltale signs that your land or aquatic pet may be unwell? Watch out for any of the signs below, and be ready to respond to their condition before it’s too late.   

General Discomfort with Their Surroundings

It should already be a red flag for pet owners if their pets seem “off” or ill at ease in their surroundings. Oftentimes, that can mean that they’re being affected by a change in their environment that’s initially invisible to the owner.

For example, if your fish seem less lively than they usually are, perhaps it’s a sign to check if the water in their tank is too cold. If your dogs don’t want to lie down on the floor, it may mean that they’re feeling chilly and that they could use more comfortable beddings like PrideBites wholesale dog beds.  

The key is to observe your pets regularly and to have a baseline for how they usually act when they’re comfortable. That way, you’ll be able to tell when something is off-kilter—and consequently, when to examine their surroundings to diagnose a deeper problem.

Change in Appearance

Another indicator of stress, sickness, or injury is a change in the pet’s appearance. Some changes are easily discernable, such as swelling around a turtle’s ears or damaged scales or fins on a fish. Other symptoms, however, are a little more subtle. Animals like cats and dogs can lose the luster in their fur if they’re feeling ill due to a problem in their diet. 

Do your research on your pet’s species and learn about the less obvious physical indicators of poor physical or mental health. If the change in their appearance suggests as much, consider taking them to the vet as soon as possible.

Odd Patterns in Movement

There may also be something wrong if your pet isn’t moving as quickly or with the same gait as they usually do, or if their bodily movement is lopsided or off-balance. Fish that seem to move their gills more often or more rapidly than usual could be suffering from problems like parasites or lack of oxygen. A quadruped animal like a cat, dog, hamster, or bunny who seems to favor moving on a particular side of their body may be nursing a hidden injury on their leg or paw. 

Look twice if your pet seems to be moving oddly, and examine them more closely to find the root of the problem. Depending on what you find, you may need to give them medicine through their food or water.

Lethargy or Listlessness

Pet owners who are in sync with their pets will also be able to spot differences in the latter’s energy levels. Unnatural lethargy or listlessness is usually a sign that there’s an underlying problem. 

Does it seem like your pet doesn’t want to move, or like they’ve lost their spark? If it does, then it may mean that they’re sick, hurt, or enduring stress. Find the source and address it with appropriate veterinary care.

Lack of Appetite and Other Digestive Problems

A good appetite usually indicates that your pet is healthy and feeling normal. The opposite is also true: if your pet doesn’t seem as interested in their food, or if they’ve stopped eating altogether, then a physical or mental condition may be afflicting them. 

Your pet’s food consumption isn’t the only thing you should be looking at. Another sign that they may be unwell is if there’s a problem with their urine or feces. Watch out for abnormalities in their waste, such as runny poop for cats, dogs, and rabbits or long and stringy poop for fish. Take these as a sign to get your pet checked for viruses, parasites, and other health problems. 

Out-of-the-Ordinary Behaviors

Lastly, pay attention to any other behaviors that seem out of the ordinary for your pet’s usual temperament. Distressed fish often exhibit strange behaviors while swimming, like darting back and forth in a frantic manner, rubbing themselves on rocks, or purposefully crashing at the bottom of their tanks. Cats or dogs who are ordinarily very gentle or serene can lash out and get physical if they’re undergoing mental distress.


    There are myriad causes for such changes in behavior, such as the introduction of new stimuli or other animals into the pets’ everyday environment. It may be difficult to diagnose what’s wrong at first, but you may achieve some clarity by backtracking and figuring out what changed in your pet’s daily routine. 

    Caring for animals comes with the inevitable stress of figuring out when they’re unwell. But thinking carefully about the root cause, as well as getting timely intervention, will help you restore their health and good spirits. 

    As a pet owner, make it a daily commitment to check up on your pets. Doing so can save their lives and ultimately guarantee you more time with them.


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