It is sometimes difficult to determine if your pet is ill, especially since many pets have subtle signs of illness that they easily hide from owners. Here are 7 basic areas you should observe on a daily basis to help determine if your pet needs an exam by one of our doctors.

If you have any doubt that your pet is ill you should not hesitate to seek veterinary care since animals like our domestic pets, and especially birds, are masters at hiding serious illness.

The Long Beach Animal Hospital staffed with emergency vets is available until the evenings 7 days per week to help if you have a pet that seems seriously ill. Please do not wait or attempt to take care of this problem on your own. If you have an emergency always call us first(562-434-9966) before coming in so that our veterinarians can advise you on what to do at home and so that we can prepare. To learn more please read our Emergency Services page.

This parakeet (budgie) is in a warm cage on 100% oxygen because it has a serious breathing problem. It is hypothermic and has a respiratory rate of over 100, and is seriously ill. The noise you hear in the background is the oxygen generator. This is what can happen if you wait too long to bring in a sick pet, especially when it is an exotic species or a bird.


Watch your pets daily eating habits for :

  • difficulty chewing
  • odor
  • swelling
  • pawing at its muzzle

Since dental disease is so prevalent please follow the link to learn how this can affect your pet’s eating. This video shows a cat that cannot eat well due to dental disease.


When your pet is at rest count the number of times it breathes per minute (watch it for 15 seconds and multiply that number by 4). A typical dog or cat breathes 30-40 times per minute, although this can be variable based on breed and external temperature.

The important thing to watch for is an increase in its respiratory rate over a period of time. Trend this on a piece of paper weekly so you can see this trend as it gets going. This can be a subtle but very important parameter to measure since an increase here can be for many serious reasons.

Cat Having a Difficult Time Breathing Place in an Oxygen Cage

This cat is having a severe time breathing as noted by the extended neck and open mouth. It is in our oxygen cage. Its respiratory rate would have increase beyond 40 breaths per minute long before it go to this advanced stage 


Look for any changes in the following:

  • Urinating more often or in greater amounts than normal
  • Urinating small amounts frequently
  • Straining to urinate
  • Inability to urinate
  • Licking at genitals
  • Blood in urine

In female dogs it can be difficult to assess some of these parameters, so try to pay close attention when she squats to urinate.

Many Small Bladder Stones That Were Surgically Removed

This dog had a bladder filled with all of these stones before the owners noticed blood in its urine. You can see how we treat bladder stones and watch the surgery. 


Any significant change here is important:

  • Continual diarrhea of any type
  • Straining to defecate
  • Licking at anus
  • Scooting
  • Any blood on feces


Obvious lameness is readily noticed. Also look for a pet that is leaning more towards one leg or the other, tires easily after walking or playing, is slow at getting up after resting, or is reluctant to go up or down any type of elevation like stairs or jumping into a vehicle.

Arthritis Of Lower Spine Circled In Red

The owners of this dog thought it was lazy because it did not want to walk far. Luckily they brought it to us for an exam, and with the tremendous detail of digital radiography we found out why it did not walk far. It has arthritis or the lumbo-sacral vertebrae, circled in red. This is painful!

Please follow our arthritis link to learn much more about this common cause for walking problems.

Mental Status

  • Lethargic for more than a few hours
  • Depressed
  • Aggression
  • Crying, moaning, or vocalizing
  • Disorientation (ataxia)
  • Walking in circles
  • Pressing head against the wall
  • Gazing up at the sky
  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • XS salivation


  • Sore skin
  • Bleeding from an unknown source
  • Bleeding from the nose, mouth, ears, penis, vagina, or anus
  • Vomiting
  • Distended abdomen
  • Swelling anywhere
  • Redness patch on skin that comes and goes

Now that you have observed your pets daily habits lets look at how you can perform a basic exam at home by going to our In Home Exam page.

Examining A Cat

Our staff will give a hands-on demo of how to do a basic in-home exam, and give you the confidence to perform it.

Return to Diseases Page.