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14 Health Checks Your Should Perform on Your Dog

 by jaime on 04 Jul 2014 |
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While vaccination is the only way to prevent your dog from contracting fatal diseases like parvovirus or hepatitis and regular flea, tick and worming treatments should be given to prevent those nasties occurring - it's also important to give your dog regular health checks to make sure there are no tell-tale signs that your dog's health is compromised.

1. Ears
Your dogs ears should be clean and free from odor. If your dog has a build up of wax you can remove it gently using cotton wool. Like humans, a dog's ears are sensitive so never poke anything directly into the ear canal because you can push wax further down and even perforate the ear drum. Your dog's ears will need to be cleaned regularly to prevent infections - especially breeds with floppy ears like spaniels. If you spot any odor, swelling or a thick brown or green wax, bring it to the attention of your vet.

2.  Eyes
Check for ingrown eye lashes or other hairs that may be in your dog's eyes. The eyes should be bright and clear with the same size pupils. There should be no excessive discharge, redness, runniness or irritations. If you see anything like this, then you should visit your vet.

3.  Nose
A dog's nose can be pink or black, and often will change between the two throughout the year. Generally, the nose should be moist and cool and should be free from obstructions that can impair breathing. Look out for crusting, discharge, bleeding and excessive sneezing as these could be signs of illness.

4. Mouth
It may be a little tricky, but lift your dogs lips and check the gums. They should be pink. If you spot dark or redder areas or if they're bleeding and swollen there may be a problem. Check the mouth and tongue for growths, lumps, cuts and sores. Teeth should be clean and white - and none loose! They should also be free from yellow plaque and tartar. If your dog has bad breath there may be a digestive problem or bad teeth.

5. Feet
Check to see if your dog's nails need a trim. Excessively long nails can cause problems for your dog. Be sure to use special dog nail clippers or a file and take extra care as sometimes nail clipping can cause bleeding. A healthy nail should be smooth, short, white or black and free from splitting. If your dog's nails look rough and break easily you may need someone to have a look at them. Check your dog's feet for cuts, grazes, lumps, growths, splinters or seeds.

6. Tail
Look underneath your dog's tail for any signs of discharge or soreness. It's possible that the anal glands need to be emptied by your vet.

7. Coat & Skin
You should groom your dog regularly, particularly so if you have a long-haired breed. Regular brushing not only keeps them looking neat and tidy, and their coat shiny, but it helps to stimulate the oils in their skin. Your dog's skin should be free from flaking, dandruff or sores and should be pink or black, depending on the breed. Your dog's coat should be shiny with no broken hair. At this point you should also be checking the coat for evidence of fleas and ticks.

8. Body
You should do a full body check of your dog by running your hands over every part of their body. Your should be looking out for cuts, lumps, inflammation and any signs that your dog is in discomfort.

9. Weight
Like in the human population, obesity is a big problem for dogs. When doing a full body health check, you should also be checking your dog's weight. You should be able to just feel the ribs - not more. Your dog should have a 'waist' between the ribs and hips and the belly should not be hanging. Monitor for any weight gain or loss and if you are ever unsure, consult your vet.

10. Eating & Drinking
It's not unusual for dogs to go off their food, but if it goes on for more than 24 hours then you should be visiting the vet. Similarly, if your dog's thirst increases for no apparent reason, then you should be also getting in touch with the vet.

11. Digestion
Look out for changes in appetite - this can of course be hard if your pooch is a fussy eater, however there may be a digestion issue if there is sickness or choking while your dog is eating.

12. Going to the toilet
Since your dog is presumably on a constant diet, their urine and stools should be of a similar consistency - so checking their waste is a good key to knowing what condition their health is in. If your dog's urine is dark, cloudy or has blood in it then you should see your vet. Diarrhea and constipation or blood and mucus/clear jelly in their stools are other causes for concern.

13. Walking
When you take your dog out for a walk keep and eye on their movement to see if they are limping, are stiff or appear overly tired. If they are coughing or panting a lot, these are other symptoms that may need a closer check on.

14. Energy & Attitude
This is a good way to get an indication to how your dog is feeling. Is there tail and head down? Are they skulking in corners or digging holes to lie in? These could be good indications that there is something wrong with your dog.

Remember, it's important to keep on top of regular health checks at home to keep a close eye on your dog's health. Since they cannot tell you how they are feeling, it's your job to make sure nothing sinister is going on. You know your dog best, so don't forget to follow your gut instincts if you don't feel like everything is ok.

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