We never like to see our loved one’s struggle, and that goes double for our fuzzy friends. Animals can’t communicate their distress with words, so they will often develop strange behaviours like the ones below as a way to express themselves.

Difficulty Standing, Walking, or Getting Up

A sick pet may present with an inability to bear weight on one or more limbs or have trouble getting up from a lying or seated position. A pet that cannot move or experiences pain when moving may begin urinating on themselves because they can’t make it to the litter box or outside.

Arthritis, ruptured ligaments, hip dysplasia, and disc diseases are all common concerns with movement difficulties, especially in older animals or breeds known to have joint or ligament problems.


Obvious coughing noises, especially a cough that doesn’t seem to get better, is a cause for concern. A pet may also seem to have difficulty breathing, makes choking noises, or breathes very rapidly without exercising.

For dogs, the main concern with a persistent cough is an infectious form of bronchitis known as a kennel cough. Most instances of a kennel cough are mild that will clear up within two weeks. It can become serious for puppies or certain breeds such as boxers or pugs, so it’s important to have the dog looked at if it doesn’t get better.

Other ailments linked to coughing include lung disease, heart disease, and heartworms. Animals that present with a cough, as well as other symptoms like fever, lethargy, or nasal discharge, may be at risk for pneumonia.

Itching or Hair Loss

The most common cause of itching and hair loss are infestations of mites, fleas or ticks. Both dogs and cats can become infested and scratch or lick their skin, so often they actually create bald spots. Signs of ear mites, in particular, are constant itching at the ears accompanied by a brown, crusty discharge.

When infestation isn’t suspected, scratching and hair loss may be a sign of something more serious. Staph infections, yeast infections, and endocrine problems are all potential causes. In these cases, it’s important to let a vet collect samples and run tests to ascertain the cause.

Urination Problems

A pet may begin to urinate so frequently they wet indoors when otherwise housebroken, or they may need to be let out more often at odd times. Increased urination accompanied by excessive thirst is a symptom of diabetes, but it can also be a sign of disease in the kidneys, liver, or adrenal glands.

If your pet is urinating less often, they may be experiencing bladder stones or a urinary tract problem. This is an emergency situation, especially for cats. If your cat is unable to urinate or strains to do so they may have an accumulation of crystals in the bladder that can lead to internal bleeding.

In all cases, it’s important to let your veterinarian know when your pet presents with these symptoms. They can perform tests for the exact cause of the animal’s illness and decide on the best course of treatment.