Guidelines For When You Should Call Your Veterinarian

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Based on an article that first appeared at

Sometimes, it can be hard to tell when you should call your veterinarian or when you should wait and see. One of the key aspects of pet ownership is understanding when our beloved furry friends need professional medical attention. Not every sneeze or scratch necessitates a trip to the vet, but recognizing when something is amiss and seeking timely veterinary care is crucial. The following information is a general guideline, but if you are concerned about your pet, you should always call your veterinarian!

Illness for veterinarian visit:

Lethargy (tiredness)

If your pet has non-specific lethargy, is not showing any signs of pain, and seems to be acting fine otherwise (i.e., still eating, drinking, going to the bathroom normally), you can usually wait 24 hours. Make sure your pet has nice pink gums. If their gums are pale or white/grey in appearance, then do not wait and call your veterinarian right away.


If your pet vomits one time but is acting fine otherwise, this is usually not cause for concern. If your pet vomits and has diarrhea, lethargy, decreased appetite, or has gotten into something and/or is just not acting like themselves, you should call your veterinarian. If your pet vomits more than once in 24 hours, contact your veterinarian immediately. (Dog owners, be sure to educate yourself on bloat.) The exception to this is if you have a cat that is bringing up a hairball. They will often vomit up more than one hairball in 24 hours.

Overweight dog rests in the park.Diarrhea

If your pet has one episode of diarrhea in 24 hours and is acting fine otherwise, you can usually sit and wait. If your pet has more than one episode of diarrhea in 24 hours, you should call your veterinarian. If you see blood in diarrhea or the diarrhea is black, contact your veterinarian immediately. If your pet has diarrhea and is vomiting, lethargic, has a decreased appetite, has gotten into something, or is just not acting like himself, call your veterinarian.

Decreased Appetite or Anorexia

If your pet has decreased appetite for less than 24 hours and is acting fine otherwise, you can usually wait 24 hours. If your pet is not eating, do not wait and call your veterinarian immediately. If your pet is acting abnormally and has a decreased appetite, contact your veterinarian. Call your veterinarian if your pet has a reduced appetite or has not eaten for more than 24 hours. A decrease or lack of appetite is very serious in cats since they can decline quickly.

Increased Frequency of Urination

If you notice your pet in the litterbox more frequently, asking to go out to potty more often, or seeing them urinating more regularly, you should call your vet. If you notice blood in the urine, contact your veterinarian. It is also helpful to bring a freshly collected urine sample with you to your appointment. Make sure your pet is producing urine, especially in cats.

Decreased Urine Volume

Call your vet if you notice your pet trying to urinate more frequently and very little urine is coming out. If you notice no urine, call your vet immediately. This is especially true in cats. If you see a few drops of urine or no urine production, contact your veterinarian immediately because your pet could have a urinary obstruction, which is a life-threatening emergency.

Owner Cleaning Cat Litter Box at Home

Increased Appetite

If you notice your pet has an increased appetite, especially in cats, this can be a sign of an underlying problem. Call your veterinarian if your pet has an increased appetite for more than a few days and is not due to increased activity.

Changes in Weight

If you notice that your pet is losing or gaining weight without any changes in activity or diet, you should take your pet in for a physical exam. Many conditions cause weight loss that can become life-threatening if not diagnosed and managed correctly. Medical conditions also cause weight gain that may need to be addressed.

Our pets bring a lot of joy to our lives. They are also very good at hiding illness, pain, etc. If you are concerned about your pet's health, contact your veterinarian. One of the biggest mistakes in animal care that pet owners make is taking a sit-and-wait attitude when it should have been seen days or weeks before. Cats, in particular, are great pretenders. They often don’t show how ill they are until they are in dire straits.

If you are ever on the fence about whether or not you should call your veterinarian, trust your gut and call!

As always, we are here to help and guide you along the way! Give us a call at 734-453-0485 or email us at [email protected]