Routine home examination of your dog can reveal problems early, when they are easiest to treat. Regular, weekly sessions will also train your dog to submit to, and even enjoy, the process; it is far easier for a vet to make a diagnosis on a dog that willingly allows itself to be examined. Do not attempt to take on too much in each session: examine just one area, then reward your dog with praise, petting, and treats.
Appearance and mobility
Your dog’s general appearance is a good indicator of its health. The coat should retain its natural, rich appearance: increased dullness and lack of sheen can indicate a skin problem, such as parasites or infection, or may signal disease elsewhere in the body. Any of the following symptoms warrants seeing your vet the same day:
- Difficulty getting up, down, or getting comfortable;
- Staggering, falling over, walking in circles, or difficulty walking in a straight line;
- Overreacting to light, sound, or touch;
- Head tilted to one side;
- Unexpected restlessness;
- Bloated belly;
- Unusual chest movements;
- Muscle spasms;
- Any acute body swelling;
- Crying, yelping, or moaning
Taking your dog’s temperature
A dog’s normal body temperature ranges between 100.5ï¿½F (38.1ï¿½C) and 102.5ï¿½F (39.2ï¿½C), though it may rise with exercise or excitement. When taking a dog’s temperature using a glass thermometer, first shake it down and lubricate with water-soluble jelly. Insert the thermometer about 2.5 cm (one inch) into your dog’s rectum and hold in position for 90 seconds. Remove, wipe clean, and read. Digital rectal or ear thermometers are simpler to use. Never try to take a dog’s temperature by mouth, or if the dog resents it.
Your dog’s weight
Weight changes are always significant. If you notice that your dog has suddenly gained or lost weight, consult your vet immediately. Changes are easy to spot if you record your dog’s weight on a regular basis. To weigh a small or medium-sized breed, pick up your dog and weigh yourself on bathroom scales; subtract your own weight to calculate your dog’s. If you own a larger individual, visit your veterinary clinic every few months to weigh your dog on their scales
Examining the head
Changes in a dog’s eyes and nose can signal more complex diseases elsewhere in the body. Routine checks can identify problems early.
- Check your dog’s eyes for redness, discharge, cloudiness, or obvious injuries. Dilated pupils in bright light mean fear, pain, excitement, or shock.
- Look in the ears for inflammation, discharge, excess wax, or physical damage.
- Check the skin on the ear flaps for abnormalities. The nose should be cool and wet with no sign of discharge from either nostril.
- Examine the lips, especially the lip folds. There should be no inflammation or unpleasant odour.
- Open your dog’s mouth. The gums should be a healthy pink.
- Check the roof of the mouth: sticks may become lodged between the teeth.
Examining the body, skin, and coat
- Run your hands over the head, cheeks, jaws, and throat. Gently turn your dog’s head left, right, up, and down. Resistance can mean pain.
- Feel down your dog’s neck, over its back, sides, and chest. Any stickiness might indicate a site of skin infection or a penetrating injury. Frequently part the hair to examine the skin which should
look “quiet”, without inflammation or too much flaking.
- Run your hands over the hips, around the groin, and down each limb, feeling the joints for swelling or excess heat. Examine the feet, checking the pads for damage, and the length of the nails. Gently lift the tail and inspect the anus, which should be perfectly clean and odour free. Examine the genitals for any discharge or inflammation.