Home wellness care for dog begins with a checkup you can do yourself. Start by looking at his ears, then move to the eyes, nose, mouth, body, limbs, paws, and coat. Next, check the heart, lungs, circulation, and temperature. It should only take a few minutes and your dog will love the attention. I will show you how to perform a Dog Wellness Exam at home.
Dog Wellness Exam Checklist
- Ears. Healthy ears should be clean, smooth, glossy, and odorless, with a slight sheen of oil. The skin should be pale pink with a little hair. Signs of ear problems include your dog frequently scratching, tilting, or shaking his head. Also, your dog may seem dizzy and having trouble holding his head up. A reddish-brown crusty discharge is a sign of mites.
- Eyes. Healthy eyes should be clear and bright, with a shiny, clear center. The pupils should be the same size. The tissue under the lids should be pink. Suspect eye problems when they are red or filled with yellow or green pus or heavy tearing. Dogs’ eyes change as they get older. It is normal when the eyes of senior dogs get a bluish cast. However, when the blue is accompanied by silver flecks or a cloudy cast, it could be cataracts, which is a hardening of the lens. A bluish eye, that is also bloodshot, may be glaucoma.
- Nose. A healthy nose should be moist, not dry or cracked. There shouldn’t be any discharge.
- Mouth. A healthy mouth should contain 42 white and healthy teeth, bright pink gums, and inoffensive breath. Signs of dental disease are red gums and bad breath.
- Body. A healthy body should be pain free and without excess fat. Check for pain by gently applying pressure along the spine, chest, and abdomen. Look for swellings, lumps, or sores. Pay attention to your dog’s posture for any ridgity or hunching.
- Limbs. Check for pain by gently applying pressure along your dog’s legs. To make sure there isn’t any stiffness, carefully lift them up one by one.
- Paws. Limping is a sign of paw problems. Check between the toes for hair mats, burrs, sores, or ticks. See if the pads have any sign of cracking or cuts. Nails should be kept trimmed.
- Coat and Skin. A healthy coat should be clean and unmated. The hair should be even without patchy hair loss or thinning. Depending on the breed, healthy skin can be pink, brown, black, or spotted. It should be dry and odor-free. There shouldn’t be any dandruff, scales, bumps, excessive oiliness, or sores. Bugs and insects buried in the coat or skin is never normal.
- Heart. A healthy heart rate is 60-150 beats per minute. Check this by placing your fingers on the femoral artery, located along the thigh bone on the inside of the hind leg. Using gentle pressure, count the number of beats in 15 seconds. Then multiply by 4 to get beats per minute. Your dog’s pulse should feel strong. If it feels rapid, weak or erratic, see your vet.
- Lungs. Breathing should be very quiet, fairly slow and steady, and about 10 to 30 breaths per minute. Suspect problems if your dog breathes heavily while resting, coughs up fluid, suddenly gasps for air, becomes exhausted after normal exercise, or pants excessively.
- Circulation. Normal circulation can be confirmed by lifting up your dog’s lip from the side of his mouth and pressing firmly on the gum above the sharp canine tooth. When you release your finger, there should be a pale spot that becomes pink again within two seconds.
- Temperature. Body temperature should be 99.5 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. A slight fever is common when a dog has a virus or some other infection. However, it shouldn’t last for more than a day or two. Use a pet-thermometer, which takes readings from the ear canal.
The best home wellness care for dog is daily care. A loving home, a good diet, plenty of exercise, and regular grooming will go a long way toward keeping your four-legged friend happy and healthy.