It’s always tough when pets are sick.
Disclaimer: I am not a vet. And I haven’t even played on on TV (not yet). None of the advice or opinions shared in this article should be taken as veterinary advice. These are just my opinions and should not constitute veterinary advice. It is up to every pet owner to decide when & if their pet needs medical attention & their responsibility to get it for their pet if the owner deems it necessary.
It’s always tough when our pets get sick. Regardless of what happened or how serious it is, it’s always sad & frightening. And it always feels amazing when your pet makes a full recovery & is happy & healthy again.
Sparky, my 8-year-old Boston Terrier/Shih-Tzu/Chihuahua mix is getting over what I believe is a respiratory infection. He got sick 3 days ago & is already back on his feet & almost entirely back to normal.
But a few nights ago, that wasn’t the story.
On break, my parents texted me & said Sparky had thrown up a little. While that’s rare for him (he typically only throws up probably twice a year on average), it wasn’t in itself strange. Dogs eat crumbs off the floor. Dogs get small samples of safe people foods. Dogs lick the floor. Dogs lick their butts. So when one throws up, it’s not exactly unexpected. I was still kind of worried, because of course I’m going to worry when one of my pets doesn’t feel good.
I told my parents I hope he felt better, & while I thought about it the rest of the evening, I figured he’d be feeling better when I came home.
He wasn’t. When I walked in, he hobbled over to me, snorting & looking very sick. His eyes looked moist & dull. I sat on the floor & started petting him. Normally, when I come home he’s a ball of energy. He typically runs over to me, bolts around the house, goes off into my room to lick his feet, or brings me whatever his favorite toy is that day so we can play.
Instead, as I petted him, he just stood there lethargically. His bed was nearby. He went to lie in it & as I petted him, looked exhausted. His breathing was still kind of snorty, & his lungs sounded congested, like they had mucus in them & his nose was stuffy. He didn’t really seem to be having trouble breathing any more than how you’d expect it to be if your nose was stuffy & your lungs mucusy. He wasn’t coughing though, so it may have mostly been in his nose & not his lungs. Apparently, he’d been like this all evening. My parents had been observing him closely & trying to figure out whether he needed a vet or not.
Alarm bells went off. I was really worried about him now. With his congested-sounding breathing & worst of all, how lethargic & exhausted he seemed, I was scared.
Now, there’s a very fine line sometimes between whether to take a pet to the vet or not. Obviously if your dog loses a toe or something, it needs to go. But what do you do when you can’t tell how bad your pet actually feels?
I was debating about what to do with him. It was midnight on a Saturday night. I didn’t THINK he needed to go to an emergency vet that night, but I wasn’t sure. I have some money in an emergency fund for things like that, but the trouble sometimes is telling whether it’s actually an emergency or whether your pet is just sick.
So I did what I believe is the best option when you’re not sure whether your pet needs to go to the vet or not: wait, observe closely, & see what happens.
This is the exact same standard I would judge (& have judged) whether or not me or a family member needs to go to the hospital or to a doctor. Like I said, some things are obvious emergencies. But even as humans who can describe their symptoms, sometimes it can be really hard to tell whether you just feel bad or whether you feel bad enough to go to the hospital. Especially if you don’t have insurance & you’re on a budget.
So this is the same standard of judging whether medical care is needed that I’d use for myself, except I’d take my pet to the vet sooner than I’d go to the doctor for a similar problem. And for some problems with my pets, I’d take them to the doctor immediately. It depends on the pet, their age, & the problem. For example, if one of my small mammals or reptiles developed respiratory infection symptoms, because they are smaller, easier dehydrated, & less capable of fighting off an infection than a healthy dog, they’d go ASAP. But in this case, I decided it was a time to wait, observe closely, & see what happens.
If he gets any worse, he’s going to the vet tomorrow. Maybe tonight, if he gets a lot worse.
What if he dies though?
Vet or no vet, any time any of my pets act weird or aren’t healthy, I’m always worried about them dying. Even when they’re acting normal, I still worry about that. Because I love them & sometimes my brain likes coming up with all the random worst-case-scenarios.
So nervously, I waited. I spent the next fifteen minutes or so googling his symptoms & doing research. Dog flu? Respiratory infection? Something else?
Then I went to eat dinner. This was probably only about half an hour after I got home.
I went into the kitchen & served up my food.
To my surprise, a minute later, Sparky wandered in. He still looked sickly, but he was wagging his tail & his eyes definitely looked clearer. He walked over & skimmed the floor under the table for crumbs. NORMAL! My face lit up. This was a good sign! He then came over to me & looked up at me, hoping I’d give him a sample. NORMAL! I didn’t, so he walked over to his food bowl & finished his dog food! NORMAL! He was eating!!!
It’s my personal belief that as long as an animal is eating & drinking water, it’s probably going to make it. Obviously this is a general rule or thumb I use with everything from fish to dogs, but from my experience it’s usually been true. If an animal isn’t eating or drinking, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to die, but it does mean it needs medical attention. But once they show an interest in food & hydration, it typically means they’re on the mend.
I was suddenly incredibly grateful for these little, normal, everyday behaviors. Things that I normally didn’t think much of suddenly meant a great deal of joy & relief to me. Sparky was feeling better! He was going to be okay!
I proceeded to feed the rest of my pets before I showered. I went to check on him in the middle of this. Sparky was lying on the blanket on my bedroom floor. When I walked in, he lifted his head & looked at me.
Another good sign!
I finished feeding my pets. When I went to get my clothes out of my room, Sparky had managed to jump up onto my bed & was nesting in his blanket on top the bed. He lifted his head & wagged his tail as I walked up. He still seemed petty exhausted, but he Looked world’s better than when I’d got home just a little more than an hour before. I swear, each time I saw him his eyes were a little clearer.
I hugged him & told him how much I loved him. I believe love is very motivating to sick pets & helping their bodies do their jobs to heal them. When I walked away, he adjusted himself on his side & looked comfortable.
After my shower, I went to take him outside. While I was walking around trying to find his leash, Sparky was actually trotting after me, appearing reasonably energetic & normal! YES! Then he went & drank half of one of his little bowls of water. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU. I was so overjoyed by watching him do normal things.
I took him out, & we went to bed. He brought one of his “children” (his favorite soft toys) into my room, which is another normal behavior. I told him if he needed anything to make sure he let me know, & made sure he knew how much I loved him.
I personally believe that seeing me when I came home stimulated his body to fight off whatever was hurting him & that my love for him & his love for me kicked his body into action & made him want to get better as fast as possible.
I checked on him several times throughout the night. His breathing still sounded a little congested & snorty, & he snored a pretty lot, but he was doing fine. The next morning, as soon as I woke up I checked on him again. His breathing was still kind of congested, but his eyes looked almost back to normal.
Throughout the rest of the day (which I had off so he got to spend most of the day with me or at least knowing I was home), he seemed pretty much back to normal. When I would pick him up, I’d notice his breathing was a little mucousy sounding, but he only seemed slightly more tired than normal. My mom & I only took him on a small walk because we didn’t want to tire him too much, but he really was pulling to go further. Of course I didn’t let him, but he put his best, most stubborn effort into trying to take a longer walk.
I also did a short color therapy session on him. Color therapy is healing using the power & energetic vibrations of color, & can include shining certain colors of lights onto people or animals with the intention of healing them or easing their symptoms. I would NEVER use color therapy, Reiki, crystals, or any other energetic healing technique alone to try to cure or treat something that actually requires medical attention. I do however use these things for mild health issues in myself & my animals that do not require the help of a doctor, or in conjunction with a treatment plan prescribed by a medical professional.
In a case like this, because Sparky was feeling almost back to normal, I did not see a reason to take him to the vet at this time, & decided that the color therapy would not hurt & it could potentially help.
I must note that I did a lot of research on the symptoms of pneumonia in dogs & watched him closely for these symptoms. I was fully prepared (& still am) to take him to the vet if he develops these symptoms because pneumonia is NOT something to mess around with.
Sparky lies still while I used a flashlight with a purple towel over it to shine light at his head, neck, & chest area for a total of about 8 minutes while gently petting him & trying to send healing energy into his body.
When I was done, he woke up & proceeded to energetically run away under my parent’s bed & go to my sister’s room, because I think he thought this was some sort of grooming tool & he HATES anything related to grooming.
As of yesterday, he is almost completely back to normal! He was only snoring a little when he was waking up & sounded very slightly mucusy now, but when I pick him up his lungs sound clear. He is eating great, bothering everyone for food again, & playing with his toys.
And as of today, I’m pleased to say that Sparky has made a complete recovery, & I’m so grateful that he got feeling better so quickly.
This whole incident reminded me that I need to increase my pet emergency fund so that whatever medical help one of my pets might ever need, I will be able to afford it. Like I said, it’s decent, but not enough to easily cover anything more serious. I’m going to start contributing even a few dollars a week to this fund to grow it (with the hopes of never having to use it, of course).
It also was a reminder to be grateful for the little things our pets do on a daily basis, the things they do that mean they’re healthy, & a reminder of how important my beautiful animals are to me.