But I've also been in the situation where suspecting something was wrong and taking my pet in for a check-up turned out to be a life-saving decision. This happened a few years ago, but it's an excellent example of how being familiar with your pet's normal behaviors and being proactive can save your pet's life.
Bentley was panting a lot. Summer was coming and it was getting warmer, but not so warm that he should be panting all the time. He was panting for no reason - while just lying around the house, or he'd wake up and start panting. This didn't seem right, so I took him to the vet. The vet could feel something in Bentley's abdomen, and an x-ray showed an abnormal mass. The vet was concerned, so we got the soonest appointment with the radiologist for an ultrasound. Bentley had a large mass on or near his spleen. The vet was very concerned that this large mass could rupture and Bentley could bleed to death! Two days later Bentley was scheduled for surgery.
The mass turned out to be a non-cancerous overgrowth of his spleen. Bentley's spleen was twice as large as normal and was taking up so much space that it was interfering with his breathing. After surgery, Bentley recovered very quickly and without any complications. Within a few weeks the only evidence that something had been wrong was a shaved belly.
Our situation shows how important it was that I knew Bentley's normal behaviors and I trusted my instincts that something was wrong. I didn't hestitate to get my vet's advice as soon as possible, even though Bentley didn't seem to be "sick". By being observant and proactive, we probably saved Bentley's life.
Here are my thoughts for being a great advocate for your pet's health:
- Know what's normal for your pet.
- Trust your instincts when you think something is wrong.
- Be proactive.
- Have a skilled vet who you trust, literally, with your pet's life (thanks Dr. C).
- Have a good relationship with your vet.
- Don't be afraid to ask your vet for advice, even if you think you'll look foolish (this is why you want a good relationship with your vet).