Regular Check-Ups Are A Great Idea For Your Dog!
While it’s still important to take your pet for a professional exam at your vet’s office at least once a year, you can keep watch on your pet’s health in between visits by getting to know what’s normal, and what’s not, for your individual pet.
Check Your Pet At Home Regularly
Regular at-home physical exams can help you learn what is normal for your pet’s body, and therefore, allow you to detect when something is not normal.Perform the exam in a relaxed environment when your pet is not stressed or excited, or after an exercise session or nap (when they’re likely to be sleepy and ready to relax). Put them on your lap, start with the tip of their nose, and work your way to the tip of their tail.
Perform the exam in a relaxed environment when your pet is not stressed or excited, or after an exercise session or nap (when they’re likely to be sleepy and ready to relax). Put them on your lap, start with the tip of their nose, and work your way to the tip of their tail.
- First check the nose for debris and take note of whether it is wet or dry. Your pet’s nose will not always be wet, it will typically vary from moist to dry throughout the day, depending on your pet’s body temperature, activity level and hydration.
- Then, take a look to see whether there is abnormal eye discharge. Again, you will likely know what is normal for your pet. For instance if your cat or dog never gets eye discharge and suddenly has it, it’s a sign that there could be a problem.
- Next check whether your pet’s pupils are symmetrical and look at the whites of their eyes. Red sclera (the part of the eye that is normally white) could mean inflammation of the eyes.
- If your pet is not accustomed to having its mouth examined, slowly acclimate your pet to facial massages so that you can eventually check their mouth, gums and teeth. When you can, check inside their mouth for lesions, swelling, and bad breath. Their gums should be pink, their teeth free of tartar and plaque, their tongue clear and the roof of their mouth clean and free from debris.
- Next, check the jaw line to see if it feels normal. Check the ears for debris, odor and cleanliness. Brush back the hair and look at the skin and coat. Check for excessive flakiness, lumps and bumps on the sides of the spinal cord, and evaluate muscle tone and weight. If you feel your pet is carrying extra weight I recommend addressing it by increasing activity and feeding a species-appropriate diet (a meat-based, carb-free living food diet).
- Look at their claws and the pads of their feet, there should be no debris between their toes. Check for heat and swelling over your pet’s body, and test the range of motion of the joints; do the joints move freely, without resistance or difficulty?
- Gently Palpate their belly to look for lumps and notice if your pet seems to experience discomfort. This is a good time to also gently check both mammary chains (do this for male dogs, too). Even if you don’t know the names of all the parts you are touching, if you examine your pet regularly you will begin to know what is normal for your companion. When there are changes you will notice them quite quickly because you are familiar with the terrain of his or her body. Also examine your pet’s bottom for cleanliness.
Start a Body Chart for Your Pet
If you notice an unusual lump, bump, wart or so on during your home exam and you don’t think it warrants immediate attention, it’s a good idea to start a body chart for your pet.
Simply draw a simple diagram of your pet’s body and note whatever you’ve found in the appropriate place on the picture. Be sure to include exactly where it was found, when you found it, how big it is and whether you’ve noticed it getting worse.
If you notice a lump that has gotten worse a day or two later, that warrants a trip to your vet.
Remember, in order for you to know what’s abnormal about your pet you first need to know what’s normal. Performing regular at-home exams is a simple and very effective way for you to keep a close eye on your pet’s health.
Choosing A Veterinarian
Your Dog Should See The Vet Periodically
I’ve often heard the alarming phrase: “My dog doesn’t need a check-up, he’s always been healthy”. Didn’t you know that an annual veterinary exam is the key to a long-lived, healthy pet?
The annual exam is much more than just a cursory check-up. It is most often during these exams that a veterinarian can pick up the early warning signs of a serious problem (like diabetes or arthritis) that will affect the dog in the future. Serious problems can often be corrected or at least slowed in progress when they are detected early.
The Nose to Tail Exam
Just like it sounds, the vet will start at the nose, and work all the way down to the tail.
The first stop is, of course, the nose. Checking your dog’s nose for nasal discharge, your vet is looking for more than just a cold. Rhinitis is a symptom of many possible diseases, Canine Distemper or a respiratory infection are just two of many possible causes.
Checking your dog’s eyes are a vital part of the exam. A dog with dull, lifeless eyes is giving off warning signals of internal parasites, stress, or something even more serious. Dull eyes can indicate that a pet has a serious illness. Whoever said that eyes are windows to the soul was absolutely correct. If your pet’s soul is dull, your pet needs help.
The eyes should also be clear of debris and discharge. Eye infections often start as just a little bit of ooze coming from the corners of the eyes. Eye infections are contagious to other pets as well as humans. It is important to catch these and clear them up early.
The dog’s mouth is inspected for lumps, cuts, scrapes and the condition of his teeth. A mouthful of healthy teeth should look clean, and white, and your vet can indicate if your dog is in need of a scaling. A scaling is when the dog has his teeth scraped free of cavity-causing tartar. Lumps on the outside of your dog’s jaws can indicate swelling from an abscessed tooth, oral tumours, or an allergic reaction to a bug bite. Lack of healthy in the gums would alert your vet to anemia.
Ears are notorious for harbouring bacterias that cause foul odours, and ear infections. A clean ear is a good ear, and it is a very good idea to keep alert for ear mites, a pesky inhabitant of ears that are highly contagious to other pets in the household.
Moving onward from the head, the next stop on the Nose to Tail exam is the chest.
Using a stethoscope, a vet will check your dog’s lungs for any sounds of congestion, cough, or abnormal breathing patterns. This is extremely important, as a congested chest can lead to many health hazards. Bordatella, Distemper, or even Heartworm are just a few of the problems that can cause congestion.
Listening to your dog’s heart is an important step in the exam. A dog’s normal heart rate is 100 to 130 beats per minute. Any abnormality is cause for concern. Early detection of heart disease can help your dog live a longer, more comfortable life.
The Skin and Coat
The largest organ of the body, the skin can tell you many things about your pet’s health. Your vet will check for fleas, ticks, and other external parasites, as well as swelling, cuts, scrapes, lumps, and condition of the coat. A dull coat on the outside means an ill pet on the inside.
The source of many woes, the abdomen is next. By palpating your dog’s stomach and groin area, a vet will feel for any lumps, abnormal distending, and possible infections. She is also watching for signs of pain from your dog, indicating further problems.
Back and Tail
A trip down your dog’s spine and tail tells the vet if there are any spinal problems that may need correcting.
The last stop is the paws, as your vet looks for cuts or swelling, and muscle damage along your dog’s legs.
There’s quite a bit more to an annual exam than most people think. Without regular check-ups, some dogs will not display any symptoms, and owners will ofttimes find themselves with an extremely sick dog on their hands, and sometimes it is too late to save them. Please make sure YOUR pet gets in to see a vet at least once a year, even if she always been healthy, after all, prevention is so much better than cure.
Get Your Dog Checked Regularly
Veterinarians recommend regular wellness exams for the same reason your physician and dentist recommend them – if you can detect a problem in its early stages, it’s more likely to be treated and resolved with less expense, less difficulty, and better success.
As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Vaccinations, heartworm prevention and routine deworming are important components of wellness care and can prevent diseases that are not only life-threatening but very expensive to treat.
Your veterinarian can recommend a wellness program based on your pet’s breed (some breeds are predisposed to certain health problems), age, lifestyle and overall health.