The Key to Early Disease Detection

April 19, 2008 at 10:36 pm Leave a comment

Finding diseases, injuries and parasites early is the best way to keep your dog healthy and happy.  When you discover these problems early, you can avoid an expensive visit to the vet or reduce your dog’s pain and suffering by getting him necessary veterinary treatment as quickly as possible.

Going over your dog’s body on a regular basis also gets him used to being handled and will make visits to the vet and the groomer easier and less stressful for him and for you.  Knowing what your dog’s normal condition is also makes it much easier to recognize something that isn’t normal. 

Start at your dog’s head.  Make sure his eyes are bright, clear and don’t have any unusual discharge.  Every dog’s eyes are different.  Get to know what’s normal for your dog.  Look at his nose.  It’s a myth that a dog’s nose is always supposed to be cold and wet – get familiar with what your dog’s nose looks like on a day to day basis and you’ll notice any unusual discharge or coloring much sooner.  

Feel around the ears and neck.  Get deep into the fur and search for ticks, foxtails or other parasites or foreign materials.  Check your dog’s ears for excess gunk, parasites or foreign materials.  Sniff them too.  One of the first signs of an ear infection is often a bad odor in the ear.  Remember, your dog’s ear is L-shaped instead of straight like ours.  An infection can begin deep in the ear where it’s out of sight – but not out of scent.

Check the mouth carefully, especially if your dog is not used to be handled here.  It may take you a few weeks to get him used to this, so take it one step at a time.  Get to know what color your dog’s gums are when they’re healthy, look for signs of periodontal disease or chipped teeth.

Feel all over your dog’s body.  It is usually easiest to start at his shoulders and work outward.  If he is uncomfortable with being touched, don’t push it and turn the exam into a wrestling match or a stressful event.  If he starts to act nervous or aggressive, move back and touch the dog in a place that he is comfortable with and end the exam there on a positive note.

As you examine the body, feel for ticks, lumps, bumps, foxtails, thorns, mats, cuts, scrapes and tender spots.  Pay close attention to areas where his fur is longer or thinner as these are favorite places for parasites to attach.  If you find a cut, scrape or bump pull the hair aside and examine it closely.  If it’s not serious, make a mental note to check it regularly until it heals.  If you think it might be serious, call your vet.

Examine the dog’s paws carefully.  Most dogs spend their entire lives going barefoot on all kinds of terrain.  Look at the pads first and see if there area any cuts, thorns, cracked skin or other problems.  Check the areas between pads carefully.  These sensitive spots are a common problem area.  Look at his toenails and see if they are split, cracked, chipped or need to be cut.

Check the tail, belly, anal and genital areas too.  Look for any unusual redness, swelling, discharge, lumps, bumps, mats or other problems.

Check your dog’s pulse and respiration.  Heart rate and respiration rate vary widely in healthy dogs.  If you become familiar with your dog’s normal pulse and respiration you’ll be much more likely to notice when they are not normal.

Keep track of your dog’s appetite and his elimination habits.  One of the best things about picking up your dog’s poop in a timely manner is that it keeps you aware of loose stools, constipation, foreign matter and other potential problems.  Keep track of your dog’s weight and consider his current weight and level of activity when you feed him each day.

If your dog has a chronic health issue like epilepsy or diabetes, consider keeping a health diary.  Use the diary to keep track of symptoms, diet, supplements, vet visits, information on the medications he takes, and other information that may help you and your vet treat your dog more effectively.

If you’d like to get detailed instructions on how to complete a “Snout to Tail Assessment” consider ordering this great little book from our friends at PetTech.  The booklet also includes tips on emergency preparedness, poisoning, pet insurance and detailed information on assessing your pet’s vital signs.


Entry filed under: dog, dogs, first aid, health, pet, pets, safety, ticks.

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