JOPLIN, Mo. — Perhaps you’ve added a four-legged friend to the family, or maybe a pet or two have been around the home for a while; either way, would you be able to identify when your cat or dog needs veterinary attention?

It’s not as easy as it may sound, said Anna Crooks, a Registered Veterinary Technician with Academy Animal Hospital in Joplin.

Regular check-ups are important for your cat and/or dogs health.

These regular pet examinations keep your four-legged friend caught up on vaccinations and catch early signs of disease.

But, there are times when your pet may exhibit certain symptoms, and you aren’t sure whether they require a trip to the veterinarian or a “wait and see” attitude at home.

When it comes to taking your pet to the vet, Registered Veterinary Technician, Anna Crooks gives us five signs and symptoms that should never be ignored:

1. Vomiting/Diarrhea

“With our puppies, we’re always going to want to know if there’s any vomiting or diarrhea or a mixture of both, especially if they’re under the age of six months and they’re not fully vaccinated, then we’re always going to have concerns about Parvo. So, also puppies get into things, you know, if they eat something, so vomiting and diarrhea is always our biggest one with puppies. Street kittens; the thing that we’ve seen unfortunately is a virus called Distemper, which is basically what dogs have when they have Parvo. It’s the same virus, but it’s just the cat version of it. It’s the same kind of symptoms, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, and it’s often fatal because it usually affects the little bitty kittens whose immune systems are weak and they haven’t had vaccines. They usually don’t fare well at all,” said Crooks.

2. Abnormal Litterbox/Potty Habits

“With any cat or even dog, I mean it can happen with dogs too, the straining to urinate the bladder infection, but with our male cats in particular we worry about a ureteral obstruction. That would be where there’s an overgrowth of crystals that have accumulated in their bladder and as the cat is trying to pass them, it gets stuck in the urethra and they’re not able to urinate. So, if left untreated for a day or two, it can be fatal. So, anytime you see a male cat in the litter box, straining, which some people confuse that and think it’s constipated, he’s almost always never constipated,” said Crooks.

3. Ingesting Foreign Objects

“We do see a majority of our foreign bodies with our dogs, a lot of times it’s with puppies, but it doesn’t always have to be puppies, it can be grown dogs; rocks, toys, clothes, towels, you name it. We have pulled everything out, and I want to say a lot of them do well, but if a dog’s vomiting for several days and you don’t know why it’s vomiting and you don’t bring the dog in, by the time it’s been several days a lot of damage is likely done and we can’t always fix those,” said Crooks.

4. Discharge From Eyes/Nose

“If you notice your dog or cat is kind of holding one eye shut, or if you see any red or oozing or anything like that because eyes can go bad quick, so we always want eyes to come in today. So if you call your vet and your dogs eye’s are red and goopy or he got a stick in it or whatever, bring him to the vet today,” said Crooks.

5. Ingesting Toxins

“When it comes to ingesting toxins; pills, medications and plants, we see more dogs doing that, and if the owner sees it happening and knows that it happened and it has been less than thirty minutes, they can make the dog vomit with peroxide. You can try several times, but if the dog doesn’t vomit, bring him to the vet and we’ll make him vomit right now. Cats, it’s not as easy. So if your cat ate a pill and it’s something that’s toxic, call your vet first and say, ‘hey my cat ate this pill,’ we can look it up and see if it’s toxic. If it is, bring the cat to the vet, we’ve got a specific drug to give to cats to make them vomit,” said Crooks.

The general rule of thumb when it comes to the health and safety of your pets is, “better to be safe than sorry.”

Crooks said you should call your veterinarian if you feel that something isn’t as it should be with your dog or cat.