Our pets cannot tell us if something is not right with their health. Many common ailments can be treated easily and affordably if noticed early. Part of being a responsible pet owner includes knowing what is normal for your pet. It is a good idea to set a certain time each week to check your pet. Five or ten minutes are all you need to make sure your pet does not need medical attention. In addition, this is a good time to work on behaviors such as sitting quietly while feet or ears are examined. Use treats to build a positive bond with your pet while checking for the earliest signs of trouble.
Start at the front of your pet and work your way slowly to the tail. Begin by simply petting your companion from nose to tail tip, feeling for any lumps, bumps, or scabs. Use a systematic approach and work along the top, sides and underneath your pet. Look at the skin on the nose. Is it the same color? Lift a lip and look at the teeth. The best way to examine the teeth is from the side with the teeth together. Check the area where the teeth meet the gums. Watch for signs of redness or swelling that may indicate an infection. Make sure the gum color is nice and pink and the gums are moist to the touch.
Ear infections are very common. Timely treatment can prevent damage to the ear canal and eardrum. First examine the outside of the ear. Look for any hair loss or scabs at the edge of the ear. Then feel where the ear meets the skull. Check for knots of hair or scabs that indicate a pet may be scratching at the ear. Flip the ear flap over and check the inside for any scratches or growths. Many breeds of dogs need the hair that grows in the ear thinned out regularly. Check for wax or discharge from the ear canal.
Pets that wear collars need to be checked for fit. Make sure to run your fingers under the collar all the way around to check for any sores or growths under the collar.
Gently press along the spine and move the limbs to make sure no muscle soreness or joint pain is present. Pick up each foot and look at the top and bottom surface. Check the nails to make sure none are split or have sharp edges to catch in rugs.
Lastly, lift your pet’s tail and look underneath. Make sure no redness or debris is present. Many long haired pets need a “sanitary clip” to prevent waste from collecting in the hair and creating an environment for infection.
Measure your pet’s food and feed meals instead of leaving food out all the time. This way you can be certain that your pet’s appetite is normal. Occasionally use a measuring cup to measure how much water is being consumed. At least every couple of days observe your pet “doing his business” so you can be sure that bowel movements are formed and normal and no straining or pain is associated with urination.
Our lives are very busy and it is easy to miss the early stages of illness in our pets. However, the sooner treatment is began the better chance of a quick, successful recovery. Making these simple checks a habit can improve your pet’s health and wellbeing for many years.