Just like humans, our dogs can experience a range of health issues during the course of their lives. And while we have a special connection and bond with them, because they can’t speak they can’t directly tell us if anything hurts. Top this off with the fact that dogs naturally hide their pain (this is thought to be a survival instinct) and it can be tricky to know when things are wrong. Annual vet checkups are always advisable, but there are checks you can do at home too just to make sure everything is as it should be. Here are some of the ways you can health check your dog at home.
Check Their Ears
Many breeds of dogs are prone to ear infections, particularly those with floppy ears. This is because moisture isn’t able to escape well, providing a warm and moist place for bacteria and yeast to thrive. You’ll notice more serious ear infections as your dog shakes their head or scratches at their ears. But regular checks will help to catch anything early. Check both of your dog’s ears for any redness, swelling, or unusual warmth. Any ear discharge that’s black or brown in color, bloody or smelly is a sign of an ear infection. Speak to your vet who will be able to prescribe the correct medication, and show you how to properly clean the ear canal. If your dog is prone to ear infections, there are over-the-counter pet medications that can be useful for preventing them. These come in the form of ear cleaners and cleansers and can be used on both healthy and infected ears.
Check Their Weight
To you, your dog might look perfectly plump. However, obesity in pets is a serious matter. It can lead to all manner of health conditions such as diabetes, liver disease, and high blood pressure. Annual weigh-ins make sure your dog isn’t carrying too much weight and they're eating properly. But there are checks you can do at home too without scales, to check that they’re not going off course. If you run your hands over your dog’s torso, you should be able to feel their ribs and spine but they shouldn’t be protruding or sticking out. If you stand above your dog, their waist should naturally taper in. A very squishy feeling or round-looking pet is likely to be overweight, your vet will be able to give you advice for correcting this.
Check Their Paws
Dogs are hard on their paws. When they’re walking on pavement and running through things like bushes when they’re being walked, their paws are prone to damage. Check each pad carefully looking for any cracks or splits. Check-in between each toe, as things like grass seeds can become lodged here and be painful for them. Finally, the toenails should be intact with no splitting or bleeding. Dogs that walk regularly on hard surfaces will naturally wear down their toenails. However, if yours can’t walk far due to health conditions or you mainly walk them on grassy areas their nails can grow too long and become painful. You can buy special dog toenail clippers to cut them yourself, but be careful not to cut them too short. If you cut them down to the quick this will be extremely painful and cause bleeding. Leave it to a dog groomer or vet if you’re unsure.
Check For Any Lumps and Bumps
Carefully check over your dog for any unusual lumps and bumps. This could be a tick, a benign (non-cancerous) lump such as a cyst or fatty lump- or in some cases could be cancer. Spotting it early is key, so regularly giving your furry friend a check-over is worthwhile. You’ll often spot anything out of the ordinary when you’re bathing or stroking them. But check places such as under their collar and under their arms too. Anything that seems out of the ordinary should be looked at by a vet immediately.