Your dog can’t tell you if something’s wrong so it’s up to you to find out. As a responsible dog owner, it’s a good idea to have a health check list of things to look out for on a regular basis. This way you’ll learn what is normal for your dog and be quickly alerted to any change. If you spot anything of concern you can make an appointment with your vet promptly, meaning there is more chance that any health problems can be caught early. If you have a new puppy, get him or her used to being examined straight away. Do everything gently and reward your dog appropriately.
So let’s get going – start at the tip of the nose and work backwards.
1. Look and feel your dog’s nose.
Your dog’s nose may not be cold and wet! If your dog’s nose is warm or a bit dry, but everything else seems fine and he is eating and drinking normally, you don’t need to worry. Check your dog’s nose for any soreness or discharge. Excessive dryness and scaliness can be an inherited disease in certain breeds.
2. Look at your dog’s eyes
The eyes should be bright. A certain amount of discharge due to a normal amount of tears will result in a blackish residue building up in the corner of the eye. This is normal for most dogs. If you notice any of the following, you should take your dog to the vet;
- Green or yellow discharge
- Excessive watering
- Squinting or closing of one or both eyes which may mean it’s painful
- Whites of the eye appear more pink/ red than usual
- If your dog is rubbing their eye.
3. Look and smell inside both ears
Learn what is normal for your dog. Floppy ears or hairy ears can hide problems. Hair in itself is not necessarily a problem and sometimes plucking it out can lead to inflammation so get advice from your vet. A small amount of wax can be normal and protective but excess quantities can lead to scratching and infection. Get veterinary advice if you find:
- Sticky or purulent discharge
- Black crumbly discharge
- Your dog is scratching their ear/s
- There is a nasty smell
- Pain in or around the ear
- Swelling, causing the entrance into the ear to close up.
If you do find a problem and take your dog to the vet, they will often prescribe drops for your dog. In some cases they will want you to clean your dog’s ears as a routine to prevent problems from recurring. It is very important to only do this with veterinary instruction, see our blog on how to clean your dog’s ears here >
4. Teeth and gums
Do try to examine your dog’s teeth and gums regularly but be careful when doing so – some dogs just will not allow it! In most cases you only need to raise/ lower the lips to check the teeth. This is what you should be looking for:
- Brown tartar building up, this usually starts or is worse on the back teeth
- Redness along the gum/ tooth margin
- Nasty smells
- Gum problems where the teeth roots are exposed, this can be very painful
- Any lumps on the gums or under the tongue – if you can see.
Your vets and nurses will be only too happy to give you advice on how to look after your dog’s teeth at home, and what diets may help with those that won’t tolerate the toothbrush!
5. Your dog’s skin
You can use your eyes and your hands to examine the skin all over the body. Firstly note whether your dog is biting/ chewing or scratching their skin, and whether there are any obvious changes in the coat. Look in all the hidden places like under the front legs and between the pads. Don’t forget to look for evidence of fleas, even if you treat regularly for them. Flea droppings look like bits of black soot. Rashes are not uncommon and may appear like red rings or spots. Whilst examining the skin you may also come across lumps and bumps. Find out more about lumps and bumps here >
Don’t forget to look at your dog’s nails. In long-haired dogs especially it is important to check the dew claws as they can grow right round and become embedded in the pad. The length of nails often worries owners who are reluctant to clip them themselves for fear of making them bleed. As a member of the Healthy Pet Club, unlimited nail clipping is one of the great benefits included. Contact your practice to book your pet in today >
7. Your dog’s bottom
Finish your check up by having a quick look under your dog’s tail. Anal glands are scent glands which are just inside the bottom. They can get impacted or infected and can cause pain and irritation if they do. Normally you won’t see anything, but if there is swelling or redness to either side of the anus, you should get your vet to check it out. If your dog drags his back end across the floor, this is usually because of full anal glands and not because he has worms.