Dog Health: A Checklist
- Make sure your dog is getting a balanced diet and not getting extra calories by feeding from the table or excessive treats. Be sure the weight and body conformation of your dog meets the standards for a dog of their breed, size and age.
- Make sure your dog is drinking all the fresh water they want and that they gets fresh water at least three times per day, even if you must pour some of the stale water out.
- Check their stool to see if it is moist and formed, and there is no diarrhea or blood.
- Make sure your dog urinates freely without straining.
- Check the tip of their nose to see that it is moist and not cracked.
- Make sure they get plenty of exercise daily by taking them for a walk or playing games. In the winter time wash their feet when they come in from outside to remove any chemicals that may be on concrete surfaces for snow and ice removal.
- Brush their teeth at least once.
- Observe your dog for any signs of pain; such as, unwilling to move or groans when moving. Do they exhibit anxiety or aggressiveness?
- Brush and comb long-haired dogs, wipe down short-haired dogs.
- Palpate the entire body to note any changes in size of lymph nodes, hair loss, rashes, lumps and bumps, matted or saliva-stained fur or dehydration.
- Check eyes for discharge and wipe away any debris that accumulates under the eyelids or on the surface of the eyeball with a tissue, cotton ball or soft cloth.
- Check ears to see if they’ve been scratching or digging, and clean with a cotton ball if there is dirt or debris in the ear canal. Do not use Q-tips to clean ears because you might injure the ear drum by pressing too deep into the ear canal.
- Check skin for external parasites, growths and bumps, red or lick spots and matted hair.
- Check for fleas and ticks on the dog and signs of fleas and ticks throughout the household.
- Bathe as necessary.
- Check mouth for loose or broken teeth, tartar build-up on teeth, infected gums, periodontal disease, abscesses or oral tumors.
- Check paws and toenails to make sure there are no balls of hair or debris collecting between toes, and that the nails may need to be trimmed. Be careful that neglected nails do not grow back into the pads of the feet.
- Give heartworm preventive medication. All dogs, no matter if it is an inside or outside dog, must be protected from heartworms. Heartworms have infiltrated all geographic areas of the United States, so regardless of where you live, heartworms may infect your dog.
- Observe whether your dog is scooting on their rear end. If so, check to see if their anal glands need expressed. Check for abscesses and fecal mats. If found, make an appointment with your veterinarian to resolve the problem.
- Take your dog to a veterinarian for a comprehensive checkup at least once per year. That examination may include a physical examination of your dog from his nose to the tip of his tail. These examinations may include blood testing for heartworms and other signs of disease or conditions, x-rays, palpation of the internal organs and legs and joints, listening to the heart and lungs with a stethoscope and temperament. Yearly checkups are key to catching, diagnosing and treating all potential health problems.
- Schedule dental cleaning under general anesthesia.
- Keep your dog’s vaccination records and follow the vaccination guidelines recommended by the veterinarian to prevent illnesses such as rabies, distemper, parvo virus and other communicable diseases.
- Have a microchip placed under the skin of your dog to give they a better chance of reconnecting with you in case they wander off, get lost, or are stolen.
- If not already done, have your dog spayed or neutered. Research tells us that spayed and neutered pets live healthier and happier lives than those who have not had the surgery.
No one knows your dog as well as you do, however, veterinarians are trained to detect diseases before they become costly issues for both your and your pet. Make it a habit to schedule an annual checkup for your dog. There is no better gift you can give your four-legged family member than a long, healthy life and annual checkups are an easy way to ensure your dog is receiving preventive care on a regular basis. It will be less expensive for you, and it will be better for your dog.
Compiled by Dr. Bruce Little