Health checks for dogs
How do we know that our dogs are in good health and what can we do to ensure that they stay that way? We can tell when our furry family are feeling poorly but regular home based health checks for dogs can help us to keep them well and in tip-top condition. Read on for tips of what to look for, from puppyhood to old age.
With all of these areas, seek veterinary advice if you notice any unexplained, persistent changes to your dog’s health.
Attitude and behaviour:
A dog in good health will be alert, responsive to its surroundings, energetic, and inquisitive. Unexplained changes to their normal behaviour can be a sign of pain or a health problem. Unusual behaviour can display itself in many ways, for example appearing confused, withdrawn, aggressive, excessive rubbing, shaking or licking etc.
- Think about any recent events or changes that may prompt this?
- Carry out the general health check tips below on your dogs body.
- Consult your vets if the change persists or worsens.
Weight and appetite:
A healthy dog will be a healthy weight, meaning that their body shows the ‘waist’. This differs depending on the breed and the dog’s lifestyle so regularly monitor your dog’s weight. A healthy dog will display its own usual appetite and drinking habits. Changes in lifestyle (exercise, weather etc.) will alter the amount of food needed so regularly assess the amount that you are feeding.
Maintain a good weight through a healthy diet and exercise. You can monitor your dog’s exercise levels using a device such as Pitpat which tracks your dog’s activity, rest, calorie use and distance. It is lightweight and waterproof so suitable for swimmers too!
- Monitor your dog’s weight regularly
- Is your dog hungrier or thirstier than usual or scavenging?
- Are they eating less than usual or showing an uncharacteristic lack of interest in their food?
- Has the level of exercise changed?
- Has the dog suddenly gained or lost weight?
A healthy dog should produce well-formed stools without needing to strain. Runny or watery poo could be a sign of an upset stomach. The colour of these stools will differ depending on the dog’s diet- you will know your dog’s usual toileting habits so be mindful of any changes to this. Poo checks can be a fascinating part of health checks for dogs- honestly!
- Are the stools looser than usual?
- have the stools changed consistency without changing diet?
- Is the dog straining?
- Are they rubbing its hind against furniture or excessively licking/ nibbling?
- Can you see the dog pacing and needing to go frequently?
Coat and skin:
Your dog’s coat should be shiny and soft (depending on breed). They should not have bald patches, malt excessively or have smelly skin. Their skin should be soft and springy- moving back into place after a gentle pinch. If the skin doesn’t do this, it could be due to dehydration. Get your dog used to having their paws touched and claws clipped from puppyhood.
Seek veterinary advice for any open wounds, unexplained sores, new lumps or bumps, or if the dogs skin is unusually hot or inflamed.
- Brush the coat to remove any tangles, debris or foreign objects.
- Check for any parasites (fleas/mites/ ticks).
- Check that the fur is not matted and consider the general condition of the coat.
- Feel that the skin is smooth.
- Check for new bites, lumps or bumps.
- With a gentle pinch, check that the skin bounces back to place.
Nose, eyes and ears:
A healthy dog may have a cool, wet nose. or a warm, dry nose but should not have unusual discharge. Eyes should be clear and bright. Pupils should be reactive to light and of equal size. There should be no swelling or redness around the eyes. Dog’s ears should be clean, without a strong odour or a build-up of excessive ear wax.
A dog noticeably uncomfortable (shaking, scratching etc), the presence of a strong odour, redness, unusually heat or unusual discharge should be referred to vets.
- Check that eyes are bright and clear and that pupils are of equal size and reactive to light.
- Clean around the eyes, ears and nose gently with a moist cloth and check that they are clear from discharge. removing any small amounts of general debris.
- Smell the ear to check for unusual odour and gently, with a torch, look in the ear for wax.
- Feel the temperature of the ear.
Teeth and gums:
Heathy teeth should be white, without a build up of plaque. The gums should also be shiny and their usual colour- the colour of the gums is dependent on the dog’s skin colouration. Breath should not be fowl smelling. Regular brushing, chewing and use of other dental products can help prevent the build up of plaque on your dogs teeth. Start brushing your puppy’s teeth from a young age so that they get used to the process.
If the dog has fowl breath or a large build-up of plaque veterinary attention may be required.
- Check that teeth are shiny and free from plaque and gums are their usual colour (dependent on the dog’s skin tone).
- Smell the dog’s breath.
- Regular brushing of teeth and access to chewing objects will aid healthy teeth.
Temperature and Pulse:
A healthy dog will have a temperature between 37.9-39.9 and a resting pulse rate ranging from 70-120 bpm.
Weekly health checks for dogs:
Checking your dog weekly from puppyhood will get them used to being stroked and touched therefore prepare them for any vet visits in the future. It can help you, as an owner, to notice any changes to your dog’s usual physical and mental health so that you can keep them in tip-top condition. Do you carry out weekly health checks on your dog? Let us know in the comments below.