Easy dog health check

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Our dogs and puppies are our fur-babies, and we want to ensure they are in good health at all times.

Being able to notice any changes in their health and well being can often signal something may not be right.

But the only way to know when something is off, is to know what their 'normal' is.

The best way to do this is by doing regular mini health checks, once a week with your dog or puppy.

Why bother doing a health check on your dog?

  • Firstly the experience forms a close bond between you and your dog. Spending quiet, relaxed time, focusing on them and nothing else, is such an important activity for both you and them. The hormone oxytocin, 'the love drug' is released in our brains and our dog's creating feeling of contentment and great joy.
  • And secondly, we can notice slight changes in their health quickly alerting us to underlying issues or illnesses that may be starting with your dog.

1. Getting ready

  • Pick a time when you and your doggy are calm and relaxed, maybe after a walk . You are building the foundations for a new important routine, and you want your dog to enjoy the experience.

  • Arm yourself with some small tasty treats or a Lickimat smothered in something delicious.
  • Get yourselves comfortable, snuggle on the sofa or lay down next to them on the floor.
  • Start by gentle stroking your dogs ears, lifting them, letting them go, then move onto the other ear.
  • Now move to gently touch their eyes, hold their face, touch their mouth, open their mouth, lift their coat, lift their limbs, hold their paws and separate their toes. This is the foundation for getting your new puppy or older dog getting used to being handled and touched, so that they begin to see it as a positive experience.

2. Ears

  • You're wanting to make sure they are clean of dirt or wax. (See our Easy Dog Ear Cleaning Guide for help to clean your dogs ears)
  • Notice how they smell, do they have a yeasty pong or funny smell?
  • Are there any red spots, do they look inflamed?
  • If you notice any of these things contact your vet, there could be a little infection working on them.

3. Eyes

  • Are your dog/ puppy's eyes clear and bright?
  • Is there any redness around the whites of their eyes?
  • Are they gunky or crusty? 
  • Do they look cloudy?
  • If your dog has cloudy patches or a film across their eyes, or they look red or irritated then contact your vet.

4. Nose

This one is about getting to know what is normal for your own dog. It should be the same size on both side and moist to slightly dry.

A very dry or cracked nose surface can be a sign of dehydration. This is why it is so important to get to know what is normal for your dog/ puppy.

  • It is runny?
  • Is there any green/ yellowy discharge?
  • Have there been any changes to the pigmentation on their nose?
  • Is the air moving normally through the nostrils?
  • Is there any wheezing or lots of sneezing?
  • If you notice changes in your dogs nose surface or sounds contact your vet.

5. Mouth

  • Notice how your dog's breath smells. Changes in this can indicate teeth or digestive problems.
  • In young pups their breath changes from smelling of milk as they begin to loose their 1st teeth.
  • What colour are their gums? They should be a light pinky colour and moist.
  • Are their gums red or inflamed?
  • What is the CRT - capillary refill time? You can practice this by lifting your dogs lip gently and press on the gums. The area should turn whiteish for 1-2 seconds and change back to pinky again. Slower time for the colour to go back can indicate health issue like low blood pressure, so this is another important one!
  • How do your dog's teeth look?
  • For help cleaning your dog's teeth see our How to brush your dog's teeth guide

6. Skin and coat

Just like our skin and hair, the condition of a dogs skin and coat are a reflection of their overall health.

  • Are there dry patches, flaky spots or areas of irritation?
  • Your dog's coat should be clean, shiny and smooth

7. Paws and nails

Your dog/ puppy's pads should be smooth, without cracks. If they are very dry invest in a paw balm to help moisturise them. Winter can take its toll on our dogs pads so make sure to rinse them off after walking on gritted pavements, and dab dry. See our DIY PAD Balm recipe.

  • Nails should be smooth and kept cut to the appropriate length for your dog.
  • Check the dew claws. These are on the inside leg just above the paw. Make sure they are not too long and curled around and digging into your dog's skin. Not all dogs have dew claws so check that out first!
  • Check in-between your dogs toes on the top of their paws and the underside. Make sure there are no red patched, grass seeds or any other debris in them. If you notice your dog licking or chewing their paws have a close look - they could have been stung, have something stuck or it can also be a sign that they are in pain.

Now that you know what to be looking out for make giving your dog a health check a weekly thing. Keep a wee note of any changes and if you are at all concerned by anything you see call your vet straight away.

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