Our dogs are special to us. None of us wants there to be any problem. They need to stay well and enjoy a great long life with us. If you learn to examine your own dog at home and you’ll be able to uncover concerns early so they can be checked out by your veterinarian. You’ll also find what’s working just fine. You can feel good about that.
It’s easy and we’ll make it fun. Chewy treats like jerky are great reinforcers for good behavior.
Start at the front end and work your way back. Use a light to check your dog’s eyes. Watch her pupils constrict with the light. Check for redness, discharge, or uneven pupils.
When examining your dog’s mouth you want pink for the color of her gums. Pale suggests poor blood flow or anemia. A deep red color usually means that the gums are inflamed, most often from tartar build-up on the teeth.
Ear infections are common. Have a look into your dog’s ears, rub gentle to check for discomfort, and take a sniff.
Check the lymph nodes under your dog’s lower jaw. They should be difficult or impossible to feel.
Pull up on the skin where it’s loose over your dog’s shoulders. This is a great way of checking hydration status.
Gently pull it up and drop it to see how fast it returns. 1-2 seconds is normal.
Skin and hair are important. Look carefully for flaking, hair loss, or redness. Feel every bit of your dog’s body. Lumps and bumps are important. Your veterinarian can tell you which ones need to be investigated.
You can use any stethoscope to listen for lung sounds and a healthy heart rhythm. Hold the stethoscope against lower part of the chest inside where the elbow touches the chest. The normal heart rate is 60 to 100 beats per minute in big dogs, 100 to 140 for little ones. Listen for the crisp and distinct heart sounds lub dub, lub dub.
The best location for listening to respiratory sounds is on the upper chest on each side. Crackles or dry sounds need medical attention. Normal breathing is difficult to hear. Normal respiratory rate 10 to 35 per minute.
To evaluate your dog’s abdomen use the flats of your fingers. Feel slowly for swellings or discomfort. Tenderness anywhere may be an important red flag that your veterinarian needs to investigate.
Feel each of your dog’s limbs, checking for swelling or pain especially around the joints. Bend and straighten each joint.
Check the genitals and anus. Look for moisture, discharge, redness, or swelling
Symptoms matter too. Keep a log of anything you notice like changes in appetite. Activity is a good indicator of a dog’s well-being. Dogs who don’t feel well have less get-up-and-go. Is he sleeping more? Acting restless? Stools normal and regular? Vomiting, coughing, or sneezing?
Never be concerned that your veterinarian may be too busy for your worries. It’s our job to make sure that we recognize problems early, before they reach a crisis point. Remember that your dog’s well-being depends on your powers of observation.
I hope this video has been helpful. You are welcome to share it with your cat loving family and friends.
I’m Jeff Nichol, DVM