Signs & Symptoms of an Internal Condition in Pets

Internal conditions in pets are more common than you might think. Our Lakewood vets are here to tell you all about internal conditions and injuries in pets and when you should take them to the vet for treatment.

Internal Conditions In Pets

When animals are in medical distress, they can’t verbalize what’s happening, so their loving caretakers may struggle to figure out what’s going on. Veterinary internal medicine uses a combination of analysis and state-of-the-art technology to look inside your pet to see what’s going on internally. From there, they work out a treatment plan that addresses the animal’s injury or disease. The veterinary internal medicine team at Red Rocks Animal Center makes sure your pet receives the best medical care possible at any of our Indiana locations. 

Common Internal Conditions In Pets

Gastrointestinal Disorders

Gastrointestinal disorders affect the stomach and intestines, causing pain and other problems such as dehydration, acid-base and electrolyte imbalances and malnutrition. Though there are many types, there are a few overlapping causes such as eating human food, food allergies or intolerances, infections and lack of digestive enzymes.

Types of Gastrointestinal Disorders include:

  • Acute Gastroenteritis: also known as the stomach flu
  • Colitis: inflammation of the lining of the colon
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Pancreatitis: inflammation of the pancreas, often associated with overindulging in high-fat foods
  • Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency: the inability to digest food properly
  • Small Intestinal Malabsorption: a condition that prevents absorption of nutrients through the small intestine

As with the overlapping causes, there are overlapping clinical signs to look for including changes in appetite, stool quantity and quality, vomiting, abdominal pain, weight loss, lethargy and fever.

Hepatic Disease

Hepatic diseases affect the liver, which helps with digestion, blood clotting and the removal of toxins from the body. Diseases of the liver while serious, can be managed. Dogs and cats may develop a hepatic disease due to aging or genetics, but there are other causes that pet owners should know about such as infection or trauma to the area, medications, diabetes, too much fatty foods and untreated heartworms.

The clinical signs are easy to miss because they are similar to those of many other problems. These symptoms include loss of appetite and weight loss as well as vomiting and diarrhea, increased thirst and urination, confusion and instability when walking and yellowing of the eyes, tongue and gums (jaundice).

Renal Disease

Renal disease, also known as kidney disease, occurs when one or both of the kidneys fail. It is actually very common in pets with one in ten dogs and roughly 20-50% of elderly cats developing renal disease. The kidneys are responsible for filtering blood, processing protein wastes and excreting them into the urine, conserving and balancing body water, salts and acids and maintaining normal red blood cell levels.

Common causes include infection, kidney stones and blockages caused by kidney stones, genetics and cancer. Unfortunately, dialysis and transplants are not available to dogs and cats, so treatment is limited to symptom management.

Signs of renal disease can look like dehydration and lethargy along with a loss of appetite, vomiting, weight loss, bad breath with a chemical sent and increased urination. It is important to note that removing water sources to prevent accidents can actually make renal disease far worse.

Urogenital Disease

There are multiple types of urinary diseases, all of them differing in severity and seriousness.

Types of Urogenital Disease

  • Urinary Tract Infection
  • Kidney Infection
  • Kidney Stones / Bladder Stones
  • Diabetes
  • Cushing’s Disease: caused by a tumor of the pituitary gland
  • Prostate Gland Disease: non-cancerous enlargement of the prostate
  • Incontinence

Vascular Disease

Vascular diseases range from problems with the arteries, veins and vessels that carry lymph nodes to disorders that affect how blood flows. There are two main categories of vascular disease in pets – congenital and acquired. Congenital cases are so rare that I’ll mention only the most common type of acquired vascular disease that Internal Medicine treats. Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, which is caused by tick bites, is treatable through two to three weeks of antibiotics.

Signs of vascular disease can include fever, coughing, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, vomiting and diarrhea, muscle and joint pain, swelling of the face or legs and even depression.

Pulmonary Disease

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), also referred to as Chronic Bronchitis, affects dogs and cats in much the same way as it affects people. While COPD progresses slowly, it is irreversible. It is signified by incessant coughing.

Often times secondhand smoke, air pollution, allergen, dental disease, recurrent respiratory system infections and obesity can be seen as the causes of COPD in pets. Treatment is typically just about trying to make the patient more comfortable as the disease progresses. Therefore, we may prescribe bronchodilators, cough suppressants, antibiotics and/or corticosteroids to decrease the inflammation and ease the coughing.

Internal Injuries In Dogs & Cats

An open wound can sometimes be easier to deal with because it is visible and the solution might be relatively straightforward for your veterinarian to determine. But internal injuries can be  harder to deal with, and internal bleeding caused either by a car accident, a fall from a high vantage point, fighting, or disease can produce severe trauma to your dog’s body and they may go into shock.

If you know the cause of your dog’s distress it will be quicker to diagnose and treat, but no matter what the cause your dog needs veterinary assistance as soon as possible.

Internal injuries may come from your dog being hit by a car causing trauma, due to dog fights, or additionally, some diseases cause internal bleeding and injury. 

Symptoms of Internal Injuries in Dogs

Early signs can be a rapid heartbeat and shallow breathing 

  • Depression 
  • Black diarrhea
  • Gum change in colors – pale or blue is very serious
  • Your dog may go into a coma indicating shock 
  • Whimpering on being touched or moved
  • Glazed eyes
  • Inability to focus
  • Coughing or vomiting up blood 
  • Bruising or scrape wounds 
  • Weakness
  • Lethargy 
  • Heart attack 

Types Of Internal Injuries In Pets

Sudden trauma can cause internal injuries; contact with a moving vehicle, falls, dog fights and sadly, human abuse can all cause internal injury within your dog. Trauma can cause damage to the internal organs, broken bones including the neck and spine, and internal bleeding that can cause your pet to go into shock.

Apart from trauma, there are varying types of medical conditions such as a tumor, or damage to the spleen (common in older dogs) that can cause internal injury.

Poisons are also known to cause types of internal damage and internal bleeding.

When To Bring Your Pet To The Vet

It’s important for owners to learn how to recognize the signs that may point to a serious problem. Don't ever hesitate to bring your pet to your vet if you suspect they may be seriously ill. Your vet may refer your pet to a veterinary internist if they suspect that an animal’s symptoms point to a more serious illness like diabetes, heart disease, or even cancer.

If your pet is showing signs of an internal condition or injury, contact our Lakewood vets today for urgent care. For after-hours emergency care, contact your nearest emergency vet.