Your dog’s health is something that you as a dog owner want to be on top of. And quite reasonably so! Having a dog in your life is a responsibility that requires great attention to detail when it comes to dog health care. Hence it is our attempt to bring you as much information pertaining to dog health as possible along with useful dog health tips that will come in handy for both new dog owners as well as experienced dog owners.
Skin and coat
- The coat must be bright with no or very few dandruff flakes.
- There should be no roughness in the dog’s coat.
- Patches of alopecia are normal if the dog was born with them.
- Make sure there are no fleas or flea dirt.
- Any strange or pungent body odor needs to be paid attention to.
- There should be no palpable masses or lumps on or under the skin or any swelling. Make note of any lumps that are changing in size or shape.
- Check for dry skin and patchy marks or pigmentation. Look for broken skin, blisters, wounds and scabs.
- Look for any bald patches or any soreness.
- Pay attention to excessive scratching or nibbling.
- For long-haired dogs, it is important to check for matts while grooming. If neglected, matted furs can be extremely uncomfortable and present a risk of infections for your dogs.
- Special attention is required if you find your dog’s skin is prone to frequent fungal infections.
- Check your dog’s temperature using a thermometer. Normal body temperature for dogs is between 97°-101.9°F or 36° to 38°C. If you find your dog’s temperature is more or less than the given temperature, it may be time to visit a veterinarian.
- For large dog breeds, a resting heart rate of 60 to 100 beats per minute is normal if it is an adult dog. For smaller dogs breeds, a heart rate of 100 to 140 beats per minute is normal for adult dogs.
- Loose feces can be a sign that your dog is not well. Also check there are any worms present or any blood.
- It is okay if the nose is dry but it should not be scabby or cracked. Check for excessive discharge and also for any coughing or sneezing.
- Your dog’s breathing should be deep and slow when resting.
- Both eyes must be of the same size, no redness or discharge. Eyes must be clear, well-lubricated, and pointing in the same direction. This may not be in case of brachycephalic dog breeds and that is okay.
- Gently lift up the lip folds. Check the teeth as well as gums. Open the jaw to check inside the mouth. Check for any foul smell coming from the mouth.
- Healthy gums should be pink. Bleeding gums need to be looked at. When you press on the gums, they should return to pink within 1–2 seconds. Pale gums can be a sign of anemia.
- Check for tartar on the teeth. If there is excessive tartar, your dog may require a visit to the veterinarian to have it removed. If left neglected, tartar can cause gums to be sore and teeth to decay. Brush your dog’s teeth regularly.
- It is important to check your dog’s ears inside and out. Lift the ear flaps and look inside. The insides of the ears must be pink. Try to feel behind and below the whole ear gently. There should be no pain when you rub the ear canal. Also, look for ticks as they tend to be in this area. Look inside the ears and check for dirt, excessive wax, odor, swelling, or pain. If the insides of the ears feel hot, this could indicate a problem too.
- Seasonal shedding is ok but irregular or excessive shedding is bad. Also there should be no dander in it.
- For a healthy dog, you should be able to count the ribs and the vertebrae at the top of the backbone, but not see them through the skin
- There should be no evidence of lameness. Check for swollen joints.
- Lift up the feet and gently check the pads. The pads should be black and scaly. If the pads feel too dry or if you find patches or cracks on the pads, there could be a problem. The space in between the paws should be clean without any smell or dryness.
- It is important to keep an eye on the length of nails, if your dog mainly walks on grass/soft ground, they may need to be cut regularly. Be careful not to cut the ‘quick’ in the nails. This is a blood vessel and can be painful if cut.
- Your dog’s abdomen should be palpable without any hardness. If your dog’s abdomen feels as hard as a rubber ball, that is not normal at all.
- Your dog’s anus must be clean and free from masses or ulcers. Long-haired dogs may need their back end washed and groomed regularly to prevent it from attracting flies.
- Both testicles must be the same size and in the scrotum, unless the dog has been castrated.
- Any swelling or discharge may indicate a problem.
- Must retreat easily, Any masses or excessive discharge may indicate a problem.
- Any swelling or discharge may indicate a problem.
- It is important for dog owners to assess if there are any pain points in the dog’s body. Identifying and treating the pain before it becomes severe is important for the health of the dog.
Obviously, a dog will not always tell us that he is unwell. There are subtle signs that can help you identify issues if you only pay attention to the dog.
- If your dog is less active or shows lower energy level, there might be an underlying problem.
Loss of appetite
- Is your dog suddenly not eating well? There could be an underlying issue.
- Check if your dog is happy around everyone.
Discharge – bloody or otherwise
Blood in urine
Compulsive head-shaking or tilting
Lack of balance
Unusual back-and-forth eye movements
Redness in ears
Redness in eyes
Changes in appearance
Unexplained weight loss
Any of the above symptoms should be enough to alert you of possible issues.
Get to know what constitutes ‘normal’ for your dog.
Groom your dog’s body regularly.
As much as possible, groom your dog atleast 4 to 5 days a week. Do not forget the tail.
Keep track of what foods the dog is eating on a daily basis so you can check back to find if there are any nutritional deficiencies.
Use a Journal / Tracker
Keep a journal to track their activity and nutrition and health status. Those will give you the most info. You can also use an activity tracker. It gives you all the info you need while it is easy to use and intuitive.
Observe your dog
Observe your dog’s behavior and body language to know the mental state of your dog.
Visit a veterinarian whenever needed
After you realize something is wrong, it is usually best to visit a veterinarian.
Do regular blood tests
Regular blood tests help you to determine any deficiencies and problems.
A thorough physical examination using the above pointers, if done once or twice a month will be good for your dog. After you have given your dog a health check, it might be a good idea to shower him with compliments and treats. However, if at any point, you realize that your dog is not comfortable with being checked over, then just stop. Of course, you can try at another time. Also, you must make note of the body part that your dog did not like being checked as it could be because you touched on a pain point.