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You don’t need to be a qualified vet to look after a dog but any responsible owner should know the basics of dog health or at least what to look out for. Make sure you’re giving your dog a good feel over and examine on a regular basis. Run your fingers through long coats, feel their muscles and joints, give them a gentle ear rub and check their nose and teeth. Done on a regular basis, your dog will look forward to their mini health checks; they get some one on one time with their favorite human and a gentle massage.
Here’s a few things to be looking or feeling out for:
Know Your Dog’s Ears
You can often gauge your dog’s mood by looking at their ears. Pressed down flat means they’re angry or tense, and very upright ears show that they’re super-alert. A relaxed or happy dog might lower their ears halfway: that often happens when they’re pleased to see you!
You know what’s coming next. It’s time to take a closer look at those adorable squeakers. So what should we look for in healthy doggy ears?
- Neutral color and smoothness. Beneath the ear-flaps, swelling and discharge are signs of an infection. Dogs with floppy ears are more prone to these, especially if they’ve been swimming.
- Comfort during examination. If your dog flinches when you touch their ears, that’s a sign of some pain or discomfort – and there could be a foreign object in their ear.
- No funny smell. An odor indicates an infection caused by yeast or bacteria. An untreated infection can become very painful.
- Free from wax build-up. You can help your dog to keep their ears healthy by gently cleaning them – and you can buy a medicated formula (and lint-free muslin) for this purpose. If they love a swim or bath, dry the inside of their ears afterwards.
Know Your Dog’s Eyes
It’s an urban myth that dogs only see in black and white, most dogs do see a range of colors. However, their sight is not their dominant sense, their hearing and noses will tell them more about their world. But their eyes are still very important so it’s important to know what to check for. Most dogs can see well at medium distances and will notice movement, enabling them to spot prey or predators. Dogs with shorter noses tend to have better short-distance vision, so they’re great at reading the details in human expressions!
For a long time people thought that dogs were color-blind, but we now know that they see blue and yellow; that means that pink and red colors blend into the background as far as they’re concerned.
Let’s check out the signs of healthy eyes in your dog!
- Bright and clear. Look at the whites and pupils: there shouldn’t be any cloudiness. The inner eyelids should be pink, not red. You can see a cataract when it starts to form as a misty shape in the pupil (and many older dogs will adapt; you can help by supplying better night-time lighting). If your dog has a red eye, it might be due to an eye injury. Don’t fret – go to your vet who can form a treatment plan.
- Moist but not weeping or dry. If your dog has a dry eye, you’ll see them rubbing it with a paw. It can cause ulcers and discomfort, and might need treating with saline solution (artificial tears). An unusual discharge from the eye might be caused by a foreign object in their eye; clean it gently with a cotton bud. If it continues, discharge can be a sign of pinkeye, an infection requiring antibiotics. Eye discharge can also be a sign of an allergy.
- Smooth eyelids with outward-pointing eyelashes. Lumps appearing on eyelids (upper and lower) are often benign. Go to your vet, who might prescribe lubricating drops. Sometimes eyelids can start to fold inwards, an uncomfortable condition which scratches the cornea – if you see this, it’s time to call the vet again.
- Pupils which dilate occasionally. Like ours, dogs’ eyes dilate in dim conditions. If they’re constantly dilated, it can be a sign of glaucoma – which will cause the eyes to bulge and can eventually cause blindness.
- No fur covering their eyes. If you have your dog groomed, ensure their fur doesn’t sweep over their eyes or block their vision. It can cause them to scratch at their eyes, resulting in injuries.
Know Your Dog’s Mouth!
We’ve written on the blog about caring for your dog’s teeth. Gum disease is shockingly common among dogs and can lead to rotten teeth and even surgery; but it’s also extremely preventable. If your dog is young, train them early to have their teeth handled; you can use a fingertip brush to keep them relaxed.
Here are the signs that your dog’s mouth is healthy:
- Clean breath. Well okay, there might be a whiff of chicken-dinner, but in general your dog’s breath will smell ‘healthy’.
- Pink gums which finish cleanly against the teeth. Recessed gums or redness are two signs of infection (gingivitis).
- Teeth are firmly attached. Your dog shouldn’t flinch when you touch their teeth. Loose teeth can also indicate gum disease.
- Teeth are creamy white. You can keep them this way with canine toothpaste, which prevents plaque from building up each day. Yellow or brown teeth have likely started to decay.
Know Your Dog’s Nose
Their nose is vitally important to every dog. They use it to make friends, remember enemies, and find all their fave foods. So monitor your dog’s nose – sometimes it’s the first indication of an underlying condition.
Take a look at your dog’s nose right now. Here’s a healthy checklist:
- It’s damp. Actually, dogs’ noses sometimes dry up for a variety of reasons. If your dog’s been asleep their nose will be dryer than usual; in hot weather the same applies. Older dogs sometimes have dryer noses and it’s not always a sign of an underlying condition – but still worth mentioning to your vet if their nose is dry for a prolonged time.
- There is no bloody discharge. It’s probably obvious that blood around the nose is a cause for concern. It can be a cut or a problem inside the nose or even tooth cavity. A clear discharge is normal for dogs with influenza or allergies, but if there’s a lot then call your vet.
- There are no cracks in the skin. Cracks and crusting can be caused by an autoimmune disease, dehydration, hyperkeratosis, or even sniffing a toxic substance. They can become infected and should always be checked out with your vet.
- Their nose is the same old, regular shape. A swollen nose or lump can be caused by an insect bite, inhalation of a foreign object, or a tumor.
A few minutes a week should be all it takes to make sure nothing is amiss on your pup. A healthy diet and lifestyle can help keep your dog in tip top condition, our daily health supplement The One contains 12 clinically-proven ingredients to help inside and out.