Dog Care 101 Tip #189: At Home Dog Exam

Chances are, you know your dog pretty well. You know when he’s not feeling well, when he needs to go out or even when he needs a cuddle. However, your dog’s body won’t always be on the same schedule as your yearly checkup. That’s why is outlining easy ways to perform a physical exam on your dog from home. These simple steps will keep your dog’s wellbeing in check as well as make you aware of any problems that arise.

Starting at the nose and working to the tip of the tail, follow these simple ways to make sure your pup is in good shape.

Nose: Is your dog’s nose wet or dry? A normal nose will be moist and clean. Your dog’s nose can vary in wetness throughout the day depending on their activity level. An abnormal nose will be dry, cracked, bleeding or have a nasal discharge.

Eyes: Bright, clear and clean eyes are healthy eyes. When looking at the whites of the eye, make sure no red or yellow tint is present. Bloodshot eyes, unresponsive pupils or abnormal discharge should all be checked into further.

Ears: Clean, dry and pain and odor free ears are healthy. Watch for buildup in your dog’s ears as well as sores, bumps, smell or swelling. Some ear problems manifest themselves through irregular ear carriage, such as droopy ears when they should be erect. Cleaning out ears is as simple as a using a cotton ball with a little hydrogen peroxide and sweeping out the inside of the ear.

Mouth: A healthy mouth is one that has pink gums, tartar-free teeth, free of debris and smell. Periodontal diseases is common in dogs, but can be avoided by chewing on bully sticks and regular teeth brushings. Debris can get stuck in the roof of your dog’s mouth or around teeth, so make sure you check often.

Chest (Breathing): It’s important to note how your pet is breathing. If the chest wall is moving freely and breathing doesn’t sound labored, your pet probably has a healthy respiratory system. However, you can also determine your pets respiratory rate. While your pet is sitting or lying down, count the number of times your pet breathes in 15 seconds. Multiplying this number will give you your pet’s respiratory rate. The norm is 10 to 30 breaths per minute.

Fur, Skin & Paws: Moving your hands over your pet’s skin will help you find any debris or pests. Rubbing the fur in the opposite direction will help you get a better look at your dog’s skin and help you see redness or irritation. A dog’s skin and coat should be shiny, smooth and soft with minimal odor. Checking your pets’ paws and between toes will help you see any debris or fur that needs to be clipped.

Your dog’s skin can also tell you if your dog is well hydrated. This is done by pulling the skin on the back up into a tent and releasing it. If the skin snaps back into place, your dog is hydrated. If the skin moves down slowly or stays tented, your dog is dehydrated.

Heart Rate: Knowing where to find your dog’s pulse and how to determine their heart rate is important to know in case of a crisis. The pulse can be felt by placing your hand under your dog’s top back leg. By placing your fingers along this crease, you’ll feel a main artery. Count the pulse beats for a full minute. You can also take a reading for 20 seconds and multiply by 3. A normal pulse rate is 60 to 160 bpm (beats per minute). The variance is dependent on how active your dog is and his size.

Stomach: Gently feel your dog’s stomach looking for lumps or discomfort. If your dog has just eaten there will be a slight enlargement on the left of the abdomen under the ribs.

Weight: Your dog’s overall weight should only fluctuate a few pounds from month to month if they are at their healthy weight. If your dog’s feeding schedule is routine, yet they gain or loose weight quickly in a short amount of time, call your vet.

If your dog shows any signs of pain or discomfort or you notice something abnormal, contact your vet for further examination. Understanding your dog and their body is important to head off any problems and keep your four-legged family member happy and healthy. We hope you become more in tune with your dog because of these simple at-home exam tips!

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