Just what is a symptom? Many people confuse symptom with the actual disease. A symptom is defined as a physical sign or physical sensation that is evidence a disease is present. Symptoms can guide your veterinarian toward a diagnosis or help your veterinarian decide which tests would be most helpful in your pet. Some common symptoms include: vomiting, diarrhea, stumbling, seizing, drooling, not eating, limping, etc. A disease can help explain why the symptoms occur. Once a disease is diagnosed, proper treatment can be administered. Prescribing medication just for the symptoms may not help the cause of the symptom.
Symptoms do not tell your veterinarian exactly what is wrong with your pet but can help. For example, if your pet is limping, your veterinarian may need to perform an x-ray and may not do blood work.
When is it a Problem
A common question is "I know the symptoms of my pet's illness but when is it a problem?" The answer is when the symptom continues or worsens, then it becomes a problem. If one symptom, such as vomiting, occurs and then resolves, a veterinary examination is not essential. If your pet continually vomits and then progresses to not eating or diarrhea, examination is strongly recommended. Some symptoms, such as seizing, collapse, difficulty breathing, should prompt a veterinary exam immediately. Those symptoms that seriously affect the animal, resulting in a change in mental alertness or behavior, are those symptoms that should immediately result in veterinary assistance. If there is any doubt about the seriousness of a symptom, contact your veterinarian or local veterinary emergency facility. Explain the symptom and ask for advice. It is better to err on the side of safety instead of waiting until your pet is in serious trouble.
What You Can do at Home
Home care will depend on the type of symptom. Most mild symptoms can resolve with time. Sometimes there are medications you can give to help reduce the symptoms. Since each symptom is treated on an individual basis, all the possible symptoms and possible home treatments are beyond the scope of this article. The most important part of home care is to monitor your pet for worsening of symptoms.