As a dog owner it is essential that you know how to give your dog a thorough home health check, so that if there is something wrong with your dog’s health, you can detect it right away. Dogs can’t really tell you they are sick, at least not in an overtly obvious manner, but if you know how to look for signs that your dog may be in less than perfect health, then you will be able to tell if and when your dog is silently suffering from a health problem.
The sooner you detect a problem, the sooner you can consult a veterinarian on the issue. Some health conditions can cause your dog to deteriorate very quickly, so when possible, you need to consult a veterinarian as soon as you can. Your regular home health checks are best done together with your dog’s regular grooming.
Skin and Coat:
Most dogs shed regularly; there are very few exceptions to this rule. Having been with your dog long, you should have a good idea of how much shedding is normal. Typically your dog will shed more in spring and summer. When your dog sheds in clumps, or worse, when the shedding is so bad it results in bald spots, there may be something wrong. A dog’s skin and coat are good indicators of a dog’s health in general, when there is something amiss with either or both, then there is probably a problem. Make sure that your dog bed does not contain any harmful dyes or itchy fabrics.
Some indications that your dog may have allergies or other more serious conditions are inflamed, reddened or raw skin; bald patches; dandruff; hives and scabs. Dogs do suffer from allergies just like humans, with dogs though; the main indicators that they are suffering are poor skin or coat condition.
Bathing time is the best time to check for abnormalities in your dog’s skin or coat. Fleas and ticks are common problems, but they can’t be taken lightly, a flea infested dog is a very unhappy and unhealthy one, especially if the dog is allergic to fleas. Check for insect bites as well, some insect bites can actually cause bacterial infections in dogs; these can be difficult and expensive to treat, making it all the more imperative that they be detected early.
The ears are another part of the dog that you should inspect regularly. They should be pink and clean on the outside, but you should use a small flashlight to look deeper into the dog’s ear canal. Scabs, redness or swelling are all possible indications that there may be something wrong. A common problem with dogs is ear mites, in addition to the common symptoms; ear mites produce a dark waxy substance; so look out for foreign objects or excessive wax. Ear mites are easily treatable with readily available medications.
Don’t use a Q-tip or a cotton swab to clean your dog’s ears. In fact you should never insert anything into your dog’s ears. Dog’s ears are sensitive and you could end up damaging your dog’s eardrums. To clean your dog’s ears, use some light olive oil, warm it slightly and pour a teaspoon into your dog’s ear and massage the ear. Just let your dog shake it off after. You should do this outdoors or in a garage or work area, as your dog will make a mess.
If your dog spends a lot of time outdoors, there is a chance that bits of debris from plants will enter the ears now and then. Don’t try to address this issue on your own, as you could end up damaging your dog’s ear; take your dog to a vet right away.
Eyes and noses
A dog’s eyes should be bright and clear at all times. If a dogs eyes have excessive discharge, crustiness, mucus, or even if they are just red or puffy, you should take your dog for a visit to the vet right away. Eye problems are rare but when they do occur, they can me serious.
A dog’s nose is typically moist and cool, but some dog’s have drier noses than others. You should try to discover what the norm is for your dog, and use that as your baseline. Watch out for discharge or crustiness.
Teeth and Gums:
Most dog owners grossly underestimate the importance of dental hygiene in dogs, and even go so far as to assume that “doggy breath” is normal. There is nothing normal about doggie breath, in fact the worse the smell; the more serious the underlying condition is likely to be. Doggy breath can be an indicator of serious dental issues or even digestive or kidney related issues.
To inspect your dog’s teeth and gums, pull back his lips gently. The normal color for gums is pink. Check the teeth for plaque and tartar. These are visible as a white, cement-like substance on surface of the teeth near the gums. You can also check for anemia by pressing slightly on the dog’s gum with your finger, if after you remove your finger, the area you pressed turns white and doesn’t return to normal right away, then your dog may have anemia.
Cavities are not too much of an issue with dogs, but gingivitis is. Excessive plaque and tartar accumulation can lead to more serious conditions. Bacterial infestations resulting from poorly cared for gums can cause kidney and liver failure.
To properly care for your dog’s gums and teeth, you’ll need to brush them regularly. Use enzymatic toothpaste for dogs, and a toothbrush with soft bristles. You will need to be patient; your dog will have to be eased into the process. Have your dog taste the toothpaste first, most dog toothpastes are designed to taste good for dogs, but dogs are individuals; and trial and error may be required to find the right toothpaste. Next, massage your dog’s gums gently with your finger a few seconds every day until your dog accepts the routine. Your dog is then ready for a toothbrush.
If your dog’s gums or teeth are already in bad shape, you should see a vet for a professional cleaning.
Feet and Limbs:
You should frequently check your dog’s paws and legs for swelling or wounds. This is especially true if your dog is active and spends a lot of time outdoors. After a long hike or a nice run at a beach or a park, you should do a thorough inspection of your dog’s limbs.
General Physical Condition:
Like people, dogs have an ideal weight, this of course varies from breed to breed. As a rule, a dog is overweight if you can’t feel his ribcage. Some dogs like whippets are naturally thin. The key indicator that something could be wrong though would be a sudden drop in your dog’s weight. This is always a good reason to take your dog to the vet right away.
You should occasionally pull the skin of the scruff of your dog’s neck. If doesn’t quickly return to position, then your dog could be dehydrated. This is a very fast killer and you should take you dog to the vet right away if you suspect dehydration.
A dog’s anal glands are another area that you will need to inspect regularly. Swelling or redness in the anal glands are indications of possible impacted anal glands. You should have some idea of how frequently your dog defecates, and urinates, if there is a sudden change in habit, this could be a sign of illness. If your dog’s irregular defecation and urination lasts more than 24 hours, you need to take you dog to the vet as soon as possible.
Sudden changes in behavior are also possible indicators that something isn’t quite right with your dog. A playful dog that is suddenly lethargic, or a gentle dog that has suddenly gotten ill tempered are possible indications of serious illness. In such cases, you need to take your dog to the vet right away for a thorough workup.