At least once per year, your dog should be going to the vet for a physical check-up. Depending on his individual health needs, though, vet visits may need to be more frequent.
Regardless of how often your pooch visits his not-quite-favorite place, it’s a good idea to perform home health checks in between vet visits. After all, prevention is crucial when it comes to your dog’s health care and wellness.
Benefits of Home Health Checks
Regular health checks can help you become more familiar with your pup’s body and behavior. The better you know him, the more easily you can identify any potential problems.
Since all you need is your dog and a quiet, calm environment, you have the option to perform home health checks as often as you want. Plus, it’s free!
In addition to helping you detect health issues early on, home health checks can be a good bonding experience for you and your dog; over time, you will establish a sense of trust.
Of course, home health checks should not replace your regular vet visits. As your dog gradually becomes more comfortable with being touched, poked, and prodded at home, he may begin to feel more comfortable with the types of interactions he will have at the vet.
When to Perform a Home Health Check
Like at-home grooming, you’ll want to perform a dog health check when your pet is feeling relaxed—such as right before or after an afternoon snooze. Make sure you’re in a calm, quiet spot in the house free from any distractions.
As you check your dog’s health, incorporate a predictable routine. Stick to a specific order so your dog knows what’s coming next… including a treat at the end as a reward!
It’s a good idea to do a dog health check on a consistent basis—monthly, weekly, or even daily depending on your dog’s health. As your dog gets older, health checks should increase in frequency.
As you gaze into those puppy dog eyes, check for any abnormalities. The eyes should be moist, but not filled with “eye boogers,” or discharge. The cornea should be clear rather than cloudy, and the pupils should be of equal size.
The whites of the eyes should be... well, white. Bloodshot eyes could be a sign of eye injury or allergies.
Additionally, check for any signs of squinting, swelling, or pain.
Contrary to popular belief, your dog’s nose isn’t the key to understanding your dog’s overall health. While it’s not as simple as “a wet nose is good and a dry nose is bad,” Fido’s nose can still provide some insight into his health.
Check for any signs of a runny nose or a dry, cracked nose. Crusting, scabbing, sores, and color changes are also signs that you should contact your vet.
Dogs’ ears vary from short and pointy to long and floppy, with some breeds being more susceptible to ear infections than others.
However, many ear infections have similar symptoms. If your dog is frequently shaking or tilting his head or scratching at the ear, he may be feeling some discomfort. Visible signs of ear issues include discharge, redness and swelling, crustiness, and scabbing.
Additionally, if you can smell something funky coming from your dog’s ear, there’s a good chance he needs to go to the vet for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.
Your pup’s breath, gums, and teeth can provide a lot of insight into the state of his health—and not just the dental aspect. Bad breath could be an indicator of liver, health, or blood sugar abnormalities; changes in gum color could be a sign of something serious.
Your dog’s breath isn’t expected to be great, but it certainly shouldn’t be horrible. If it’s enough to make you gag, you may need to consult your vet for further investigation.
Fido’s gums should be light pink with no signs of swelling, stickiness, or dryness. The teeth should be generally plaque-free; check for any loose or missing teeth as well.
Additionally, check for any changes in eating patterns. If your dog is refusing or hesitant to eat, or favoring one side as he chews, he may be struggling with oral health issues.
Gently caress your dog, making your way around the jaw, neck, chest, back, belly, and legs. Feel for any swelling, lumps and bumps, or other skin abnormalities. Check for any foreign objects or fleas and ticks as well.
As you’re gently running your hands along your dog’s body, check for any signs of pain—if he’s pulling away, whimpering, or acting a bit aggressive, he may be hurting.
Check your pup’s paws for any signs of swelling or redness/discoloration. If you see any dryness, cracking, or peeling on the paw pads, it may be time for a puppy pedicure.
If your pooch has longer fur, check for any foreign objects that may be stuck on the hair between the toes. If you find debris, it may be time to trim that hair.
If you can hear your dog’s nails clicking and clacking as he walks, it’s also time to trim his nails.
Because the ideal weight can vary so much from dog to dog, it’s best to assess whether your dog is overweight or not by performing a visual check.
Look at your dog from above: if he’s round and oval-shaped like a blimp, he may be overweight. If you see a sagging stomach looking from the side, he may be packing some extra pounds.
You can also perform a standard rib test by checking to see if you can easily feel your dog’s ribs when placing your hands at his side. If you can’t feel the ribs, there may be too much fat in the way.
You know your dog best. As he moves and interacts with you throughout the day, monitor your dog for any concerning symptoms. Significant changes in behavior, eating/sleeping/bathroom patterns, mobility, and energy are all good reasons to contact your vet.
Along with preventative health checks, a good diet and plenty of exercise are key when it comes to your dog’s health and wellness. Give your dog’s health a boost with Pet Honesty’s 10-for-1 Multivitamin and/or Digestive Probiotics Chews.