Health Checking Your Dog

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Health Checking Your Dog

Post by Admin on Mon Jan 06, 2014 4:28 pm

Health checking is an important part of dog ownership; it helps you to become familiar with your dog’s body and behaviour, and better enables you to detect any problems which may arise. Many people automatically do quick health checks during every grooming session, but a thorough health check should preferably be carried out at least once per month. You can ask a vet to do this for you, but it’s much easier and far less stressful for your dog if it’s done at home by his owner.

Health checking is relatively easy to do and becomes even easier as you get used to it and learn what you need to look for. Some people find that keeping a chart or table helps them to carry out health checks. The use of a chart can be extremely beneficial if you want to track your dog’s health progress over a long period of time.

The best method for health checking is to start from the nose and work your way down to the tail, as this minimises the chances of you missing something. A thorough health check can take anywhere from twenty minutes to an hour, depending on the size of your dog and just how thorough you want to be. For longer health checks, you may prefer to split it into two sessions so that your dog doesn’t become bored and agitated. If the check is done correctly, your dog shouldn't become distressed. If you do find that your dog has trouble sitting still for too long, it may be better for you to cover a small area of the body in each session to prevent your dog from developing a negative association. Some people prefer to keep a small handful of treats nearby as a reward for the dog sitting still and cooperating.

An example of a basic health checking check-list:

Nose: Is there any discharge/crusting/mucus? Should be moist.

Teeth: Should be white/off-white and clean. No cracks or broken/missing teeth.

Gums: Should be salmon pink (in most breeds of dog) with no signs of bleeding or irritation.

Tongue: Should also be salmon pink with no signs of bleeding or irritation. Tongue should be moist.

Eyes: Is there any discharge/crusting/mucus/debris? They should be clear and bright. Whites of the eyes should not be bloodshot.

Ears: Is there any discharge/crusting/debris/foul smell/dried skin? Should be clean and free from sore patches or irritation. Should be no hairs inside the ear canal itself.

Neck: Should be checked for sore patches caused by the rubbing of a collar.

Limbs: Should be flexible and sturdy, with no swelling or breaking of the skin.

Paws: Should be checked for abrasions and debris in between the toes.

Claws: No cracks or breaks in the claws. Claws should not touch the ground when the dog is standing or walking normally. The quick of each claw should not be exposed. Attention should be paid to the dewclaws (further up from the paws) to ensure that they are not curling into the pad.

Joints: Should be supple and move freely. No swelling, discomfort or stiffness.

Gait: Should be easy and fluid, with no limping or hopping.

Trunk: Should be checked along the spine, ribs, pelvis and shoulders to ensure that no sudden or unexplained weight loss/gain has occurred.

Genitals: Should be clean and free from discharge and crusts. Should be no sign of irritation. 'Entire' (un-neutered) adult males should have both testicles fully developed. These should be checked for any lumps.

Tail: Should be clean and flexible, with no stiffness. The underside should be checked for faecal matter, parasites and matted fur.

Anus: Should be clean. No discharge, crusting or irritation. The anal glands, located to the sides of the anus, should be clear, with no unusually foul smells.

Mucous Membranes: The membranes lining the mouth, nostrils, surrounding the eyes, etc., should be clean, moist and salmon pink (unless your dog has naturally dark pigment). Unusually pale or dark mucous membranes could indicate illness.

Fur: Should be clean and free from mats and dead hair. No tangles or debris caught in the fur. Coat should not be dull.

Skin: Should be unbroken with no irritation or parasites such as fleas, ticks and mange. No lumps or flaky, dried skin. Can be checked by parting the fur with fingers.

Faeces: Is the faecal matter easily passed? Does it contain non-food substances? Is there any blood in the stool? Bright red blood indicates damage to the lower digestive tract, which could be caused by constipation - not usually a serious problem unless it is prolonged or causes discomfort/pain. Dark blood/tarry stools could indicate more serious problems in the upper digestive tract.

Urination: Should be clear and free from debris. Should be no pain or discomfort evident while passing the urine.

Weight: Should be no drastic fluctuations or unexplained weight loss/gain.

Temperature: Always use a clean thermometer and lubrication such as petroleum jelly. Should be between 38 and 39.2 degrees Celsius (100.5 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit).

Vocalisation: Has there been any excessive vocalisation such as barking, whining, howling or yelping?

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