Simple Health Checkup List: Make Sure Your Dog Is Healthy
7 min read
Having a dog around can be just like having a child. Only this child can’t talk. While that sounds great at first, it won’t be able to tell you if it is just feeling blue today or if there is pain preventing your pet from getting up.
This quick 7-point checklist goes over general areas of concern to make sure your pooch is ready for the dog park or just a day lounging at home. A quick check-up is aimed to make sure your four-legged friend is happy and healthy all around. Please remember: if your dog is in a health crisis, immediately contact your local veterinary emergency line, and do not hesitate to seek out immediate support.
It's good to regularly check your dog's health to prevent many common diseases.
This is best done on a relaxed dog. That does not mean your dog has to be asleep, just calm and settled. Even panting from laying in the sun or running around playing chase will skew their breath count. The average dog breathes about 20-30 times per minute at rest, puppies and younger dogs, in general, breathe a little faster. Breathes should be even and you shouldn’t hear any struggling or other signs of labored breathing. Watch the rise and fall of their chest or haunch, counting each set of in and out breathe as one full respiration cycle. Yes, it’s that simple, you can even keep a log when they are sick or just in general. Your vet will thank you.
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Checking your dog's pulse is likely your best gauge of their heart rate. It’s not as accurate as an electronic monitor but can give you, the owner, a sense of calm knowing they’re relaxed and can give you an idea of their health. Explored through a simple two-finger touch, you’ll quickly become a master of finding your dog's heartbeat. Using the balls of your fingers place them over an artery and simply count the heartbeats over one minute.
There are two great spots to check your dog's pulse. Of course, it’s best when your dog is resting and calm. The first spot may be sensitive for some dogs, especially if new home from surgery, but it’s very straightforward. Just inside their thigh in the groin, there is their femoral artery, the main blood vessel fed strongly by the heart. The next area is better reached while the dog is standing, great for those dogs that just don’t seem to lie down but especially so on slim dogs. Located just over their heart behind the left elbow, it may be tougher to find on more muscular or fluffy breeds.
While a normal dog’s pulse will vary from breed to breed, on average small dogs' hearts beat faster than larger breeds. Averaging between 90-120 bpm, a small breed’s heart rate is nearly double given the 60-90 bpm average amongst larger breeds.
Dogs run a little warmer than their bipedal owners, but not by much, on average their temperature is around 38-39C (100-102F). Much like their owners, though, they don’t often enjoy their temperatures being taken. It’s not recommended to check your pet’s temperature unless you are a very experienced dog owner.
Sickness or even being overexcited can cause a false, higher reading. Also, keep in mind that puppies will have a slightly higher temperature than their adult dog counterparts.
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The color of the gum will show you if the oxygen circulation in the blood is okay or not.
Checking their gum color can be super easy! If your dog has pigmented gums or you just want to be doubly sure you can also check their eyes lining. Healthy dogs should have a salmon pink color to their gums and eye lining. This is a great and quick indicator of how your pet is doing.
Gently lift up the jowl and take a peek at their gums. Softly, with the ball of a single finger, press gently on their gum, it should turn white, but quickly revert to its normal color within 2-3 seconds. Discolored gums can mean different things depending on the color.
Paler pink gums can mean your dog could be anemic or is having circulatory issues. Gums can also go pale after serious shocks, like a severe injury. Immediately seek veterinary attention.
Gums with a bluish tinge mean that your dog is not getting enough oxygen throughout their blood circulation. This could be a blockage in their airway and even heart or chest problems. Keeping your pet calm and cool will help while you seek immediate veterinary help.
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Jaundice shows up as yellow gums in dogs. Stemming from a variety of reasons, but the main culprit is usually a liver issue. It could also be occurring from some serious diseases. If you’ve missed your annual vaccination for something like Leptospirosis, some serious blood tests may be in order, seek out your veterinarian’s advice.
Often, owners are told that a wet nose is a healthy nose, but the reality is that some sick dogs will have wet noses and some older dogs may have dry noses. The key thing with nasal health is to check for any kind of discharge from their nose. Discharge can show in a variety of colors so it’s very important to take note. Clear colored discharge can be a sign of a respiratory infection like kennel cough. Nothing majorly concerning, but you may need to seek out antibiotics for your pet. Clear discharge can also indicate allergies to pollen or house dust. When your dog has pus colored discharge from their nose, it might mean an infection and a need for antibiotics.
Nose bleeds or blood coming from the nose could be as simple as having a seed up the nose, often causing dogs to sneeze extremely to try to expel whatever may be lodged in their nose. Nosebleeds can also be caused by nasal tumors and things like fungal infections. Your vet should be contacted so that they can perform any necessary x-rays.
Some breeds experience a lot more eye issues throughout their entire life, like Shar Peis and St. Bernard’s who experience recurrent eye infections. In general, eyes should be clear and bright, free of discharge. The whites of the eyes (Sclera) should be completely white, with no sign of redness or yellow tinge. If there is clear discharge, your dog could be experiencing allergies to things like pollen or dust mites. Pus colored discharge could indicate conjunctivitis or simply ‘dry eye’ from a lack of tear secretion.
Signs of tear staining the fur at the corner of their eyes is common in certain breeds. Typically caused by blocked tear ducts, the overflow will cause the fur to stain a red-brown color. Should you receive any medications or ointments for your dog’s eye condition, carefully follow your vet’s instructions for administering each dose.
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You can do all the checkups yourself or take your dog to the vet.
With a check as simple as lifting the ear lobe, you can view right into their ear canal. In a healthy ear, there should be no hairs blocking the opening to the ear (Some poodles, and other breeds, have very hairy ear canals). You shouldn’t notice any particular smell/scent. Look out for any redness or inflammation. Moreover, there should be no pus, blood, excess wax build-up, or other discharge. And there should be absolutely no pain with this examination, so pay close attention to your pet`s behavior while checking. If your pet has ear mites or Malassezia (a type of yeast infection) you may notice thick, dried, brown wax.
Any pus discharge could be due to a bacterial infection and often will smell terrible. Excessive scratching can lead to blood in the ear but is also a sign of potential infection. If you do have to give your dog any medication for their ears, you’ll have better luck after a nice walk when your pet is calm and relaxed.
After you’ve received instructions from your vet on the precise dosage and location to dose, be sure to follow the directions exactly to ensure your dog is back to full health in no time.
There you have it, you now know what you can check over from the comfort of your own home. Checking their breathing, pulse, temperature, gums, nose, eyes, and ears can provide great indicators to your dog’s overall health.