A veterinarian for over 20 years, Dr. Richter presently works with animals at a clinic in Oakland. His career spans emergency, general practice, and now integrative care, which is a blend of Western and holistic medicines.
You can check out the full video here, but in the meantime, here is a recap.
This is not a substitute for professional veterinary help.
Medical ailments show up across a scale: some are more obvious like vomiting, diarrhea, and bloody wounds, while signs like changes in activity or breathing are more subtle. Dr. Richter warned that dogs and cats will do everything they can to hide these issues from you, as it’s innate to them to not look weak.
Especially if you’re only spending a short amount of time with a pet, perhaps as a sitter on Rover, it can be even tougher to recognize these subtle shifts in behavior. Here are a few scenarios that Dr. Richter laid out for us:
Vomiting & diarrhea: if a dog experiences either of these but is otherwise acting completely normal, just keep an eye on them and give the pet’s owner a heads up. If the dog is hunched over, like their belly might be hurting them, this could be a sign of a higher severity issue. Get in touch with the owner or Rover Support, which is available 24/7.
Respiratory issues: Dogs pant when they’re hot or excited, which is a normal occurrence. If the dog you’re working with is panting seemingly inappropriately or excessively, that can be an indication that there is something wrong. Panting can be a sign of pain or a larger respiratory issue. Is the dog in respiratory distress? This can be determined by their inability to breathe effectively. If so, you should escalate the matter to the dog’s owner immediately.
Refusing to eat: this can be caused by a myriad of issues. They may have mild tummy upset or be stressed out. A dog skipping a meal is not a medical emergency, as dogs are metabolically equipped to deal with not eating. While it’s not severe, it can be a sign that something else is going on. If a dog you’re sitting skips a meal, this is worthy of relaying to the owner.
Itching, chewing, or biting at an area: this can be a function of allergies, fleas or something stuck on their fur. If the dog is doing this, take a look at the area. Is there redness? Bleeding? A hole in the skin? All of these are things that can require some medical intervention. This might not mean something immediate, but you should get in touch with the owner. If the dog is going after a particular spot, you don’t want to leave them alone with it. They can do a lot of damage licking and chewing on a particular area.
House & outdoor plants: There are many common plants, both indoor and outdoor, to watch out for. For more information, check out our database of Poisonous Plants to Dogs and Cats.
Human foods: There is a relatively short list of absolute no-nos. Grapes, raisins, and chocolate are perhaps the most worrisome. People often worry about foods in the allium family like onions, but the dog would need to eat a lot of this to be really in danger. This also all depends on the dog’s body weight.
If you see active bleeding, apply pressure. If you see a cut, a hurt paw pad, or an ear infection, this is rarely an emergency, but it’s a good idea to give the owner a heads up.
If you give a dog something to chew on, you can’t guarantee that they won’t swallow some of it. If they eat enough of something that’s not meant to be digested, it could cause more severe gastrointestinal issues. For example, a rope toy can be a fun distraction for a dog, but if they’re shredding it and potentially ingesting it, it can be concerning. If this happens, don’t let them continue to chew on it and alert the owner to determine potential next steps.
Learn more from Dr. Richter by watching the full video here.