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Symptoms vs. Signs
Veterinary Partner Team; Pegi Webster
Published: October 31, 2023
cartoon of human dr and patient
cartoon of vet and dog

What is the Difference?

The list of reasons of why you made your doctor’s appointment is called symptoms. We know this; the first question we ask ourselves is, “What are my symptoms?”

As humans, we verbally communicate to our physicians what we are feeling, where it hurts, how long it’s been hurting, and what might have happened to make it hurt.

Communication with your doctor is vital to your health and well-being.

Our pets can’t tell us or their veterinarian what hurts. We must do it for them. The way we do this is to pay attention to what is going on with our pets and what we think might be causing pain, distress, or illness.

In veterinary medicine, we use signs instead of symptoms

As owners and veterinary professionals, we can only observe our pets and how they might communicate with us, gather information (from exams and testing), and try to figure out what is going on.

If your pet is limping, they can’t tell you exactly why. Do they have a broken toenail or a sticker in a pad? Is it their hip or shoulder that hurts, making it seem painful to put their foot down? Your pet is giving you signs of a potential problem.

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