9-Step Easy At-Home Dog Health Check Guide

by Oct 25, 2021Pet Lifestyle

As pet parents, we aim to do everything we can to ensure our pets stay free of any harm. While veterinarians spend years learning how to properly examine the animals they take care of, it shouldn’t stop you from doing your bit to stay on top of things. Especially since you’re the one who spends the most time with your pet.
Like humans, dogs need regular health check-ups to stay healthy. A bi-annual vet visit may be sufficient for an adult dog. But routine at-home health checkups help you understand your pet’s body better and help set a starting point for comparison if you feel something might be up.
On the bright side, knowing the basics of pet care can help your pet live their best life, while quite possibly even saving you some bucks in the long run!

DawgieBowl Healthy Pet Food for Indian Dogs & Cats

Why Do I Need To Check My Dog’s Health At Home?

Our pets cannot communicate in our language and mostly only visit vets annually for their vaccinations. Many things can change through the course of 12 months and it is crucial to be sure that your pet is in the best health that they can be. 
Learning how to do a primary dog health assessment at home can prove beneficial in unavoidable situations where you find it difficult to take your pet to the vet. Circumstances like the pandemic that locked everyone indoors can be testing times if one cannot conduct a basic health check for their pet at home.
Regular health checks at home help you notice any changes in your pet’s body early. This can help you seek the right treatment sooner.
While veterinarians can do a more thorough checkup for your pet, home health checks can be stress-free for your dog. You can even make these a part of their routine. 

How Can I Do An At-Home Health Check For My Dog?

An at-home dog health assessment needs to be a holistic check of the different aspects of your pet’s health and well-being. For our quick 9-Step Check we recommend focusing on some key health indicators.
These include your pet’s:

  1. Teeth
  2. Ears
  3. Eyes
  4. Skin/Body
  5. Feet/Paws
  6. Movement
  7. Poop/Digestion
  8. Water Consumption
  9. Weight

It’s best to do the checkup in a quiet area of your house that is free of any distractions that might make your dog anxious or worried.
9-Step Easy At-Home Dog Health Check Guide | DawgieBowl Healthy Pet Foods

STEP 1: Oral & Dental Health Check

Gently pull your dog’s lips to check their teeth and gums. After this take a peek into their mouth- the roof, and under the tongue.

  • Bits of food stuck on the roof of the mouth, or under the tongue
  • A buildup of yellow or brown material (tartar) on the tooth
  • Reddened or inflamed gums around the tooth
  • Swollen gums
  • Foul-smelling breath
  • Broken or loose teeth
  • Holes in the teeth, caused by decay

Never stick your finger in your dog’s mouth without being sure about what you are doing. Get them as relaxed as possible so that they can be more cooperative with you.
Ideally, your dog’s gums should be pink and free of any bumps or ulcers. Their teeth should be largely white and the mouth should not have a strong foul smell. 

At least 80% of dogs develop signs of periodontal diseases by 3 years of age if their dental health is neglected.

Also Read: How To Take Care Of Your Pet’s Dental Health

STEP 2: Ear Check

Start by using your fingers to feel the whole surface of your dog’s ear and take a close look. Note if anything seems unusual. Also, take a whiff to see what it smells like.
The area around the ears is also a favorite place for ticks and fleas to hide. Stay vigilant and remove any unwelcome guests that you find on your dog’s body.

  • If any area of the ear is painful
  • Excessive wax buildup
  • A reddened or inflamed ear canal
  • Newly discovered lumps or bumps
  • Movement in the ear canal, caused by ear mites
  • A yeasty smell

If your dog is experiencing problems in their ear, they’ll show signs of discomfort by scratching their ear excessively, flipping their head repeatedly, or turning around in circles.
Normally, your dog’s ears should appear to be moist, in a pale pink color, free of any smell.
You should routinely check the insides of your dog’s ears, especially if they have big earflaps. The lack of air circulation can increase the chances of an ear infection.

STEP 3: Eye Check

Start by observing your dog’s eyes from a distance. Grabbing hold of your dog’s face to stare into their eyes will upset them. Try to get their attention instead.
You can have their favorite toy or treat held up in front of them. This will cause them to stare at it and will give you time to get a good look at their eyes.

  • Excessive rubbing
  • Squinting
  • Snotty discharge
  • Foreign objects in or near the eye
  • Scratches 
  • Cloudiness or discoloration
  • Swollen eyelids

Direct stare might be taken as a form of aggression by dogs, however, you can still notice a lot of signs of trouble from a distance.
A healthy dog’s eyes should be clear, bright, and free from any dirt, discharge, or redness. The whites of the eye should be white, not red or yellow.
Your dog’s vascular and neurological systems are both connected to their eyes. This makes them a great source of information; not just their eye health, but overall health in general.
9-Step Easy At-Home Dog Health Check Guide | DawgieBowl Healthy Pet Foods

STEP 4: Skin & Coat Check

Start by examining your dog’s skin and coat. Use both your hands and simultaneously run them through your dog’s body. Down their neck to the chest, over their back, and under the belly. Cover the entire span from head to toe.

  • Lumps or bumps on the skin
  • Any sore areas
  • Greasy or moist areas
  • Redness on the skin
  • Dandruff or dryness
  • Attached ticks
  • Dirt buildup

If your dog expresses pain or discomfort when you touch certain areas, do not continue to touch or inspect. Observe it from a distance, and make a note to mention it to your veterinarian.
Ideally, the skin and coat should feel smooth and healthy. It should be free of bumps, grease, and redness.

It has been estimated that from 20% to 75% of cases seen in the small animal veterinarian practice have skin problems as a chief or concurrent owner complaint.

Also Read: Understanding and Preventing Ticks In Dogs Naturally

STEP 5: Paw Check

Gently spread your dog’s toes apart and inspect the sides of their paw pads. If they are lying down, sit facing their feet and belly so that you can easily inspect them.

  • Brittle or dry paws
  • Matted fur between toes
  • Redness
  • Bleeding
  • Discharge
  • Torn nails
  • Foreign objects stuck between paw pads

Many dogs don’t like their paws being held or poked at. Sore paws can be very painful for your pet, so be careful and patient to avoid getting accidentally bitten.
A healthy dog’s paw pads will be smooth to touch, with little to no abrasions.
Your pet’s feet are impacted the most by the wear and tear during their exercise and daily walks. They should be checked as regularly as possible to prevent any serious damage.

STEP 6: Activity Check

It is typically easy to tell if your dog starts to act differently. They may look uninterested in playing, going for a walk, or taking part in activities they usually enjoy.

  • Lethargy and weakness
  • Excessively tired, slow, or droopy
  • Lacking energy or enthusiasm
  • No reaction to stimulation
  • Shaking or restlessness

Your dog will work very hard to appear healthy on the outside so it’s extremely important to be observant of the slightest of changes in their daily activity.
A change in enthusiasm and activity can also be a normal sign of old age in pets. For puppies and adult dogs, it is crucial to maintain a good level of daily activity to avoid serious health issues in the future.

STEP 7: Poop & Digestion Check

Scooping up your dog’s poop can give you a direct insight into their health. Look for “the three C’s” when examining your dog’s poop: Compactness, Color, and Consistency.

  • Blood in your dog’s stool
  • Black or tarry poop
  • Greasy poop
  • Wormy poop
  • Diarrhea

A healthy dog’s poop will be moist, chocolate brown in color, and sized proportionately to the amount of food your dog ate.
Any changes in your dog’s schedule like a recent change in diet can affect their poop. However, be mindful to avoid this change in poop from going out of hand or lasting for more than 3-4 days.
Also Read: Dog Poop Health Guide
9-Step Easy At-Home Dog Health Check Guide | DawgieBowl Healthy Pet Foods

STEP 8: Water Intake & Hydration Check

Water is the most essential and yet the most underrated nutrient for all living beings. You can recognize dehydration in your dog by checking their skin elasticity. Pinch a small amount of skin on your dog’s back gently and release it. If the skin doesn’t snap back to its place immediately, it means your dog may be dehydrated.

  • Sunken eyes
  • Dry nose and gums
  • Dry skin and/or dandruff
  • Weakened hind legs
  • Lethargy and tiredness

Providing ample fluids through water and moist foods can restore your dog’s water and electrolyte balance. Always ensure your dog has access to adequate water throughout the day.

Dogs need to consume fluids equivalent to 10-12% of their body weight a day. For example, a 30 kgs dog should ideally consume at least 3 liters of water a day across their food, snacks, drinks, etc. 

Also Read: How To Keep Your Pet Well Hydrated

STEP 9: Weight & Body Condition Check

The best way to assess your dog’s condition is by using the Body Condition Score system. Simply look at your dog from the top and side and feel their ribs to understand where they stand on the scale.
Body Condition Score Chart | 9-Step Easy At-Home Dog Health Check Guide | DawgieBowl Healthy Pet Foods

  • Sudden weight loss or gain
  • Skipping meals
  • No or little visible waistline
  • Lethargy

Rate your pet on the BCS chart. If they are straying away from being a 5, make immediate changes to their lifestyle to prevent obesity. Finding and maintaining your dog’s ideal weight can help your pet live a longer and healthier life.

When we talk about a dog’s weight and its management, it all comes down to the basics, what your dog consumes. A well-balanced diet like DawgieBowl goes a long way to ensure your pet stays active and healthy.

Also Read: How To Help Your Pet Lose Weight

How Often Should I Examine My Dog?

Now that we have discussed the importance of conducting an at-home assessment for your dog and the signs to be on the lookout for, it is important to form a routine. 
At-home health checkups are best done on a monthly basis. If your dog is on the older side, you can increase the frequency of the checkups. Regular checks can even be incorporated into your pet’s daily routine like grooming. Keep a note of your observations every month so you can track your dog’s health journey.
Remember, this checkup is in no way a replacement for regular vet checkups. It is simply to help you identify any changes that your dog may be going through. Your pet needs to visit a veterinarian for a thorough full-body checkup at least once a year.
It goes without saying that if you notice any of the problems listed above, consult with your veterinarian immediately and make lifestyle changes as needed.

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Another constant you should incorporate into your pet’s life today is a super healthy, all-natural, balanced diet. DawgieBowl helps keep your pet’s nutritional needs in check while focusing on problem areas like weight issues, skin & coat problems, fussy eating, etc. Get started with a week’s pack today!

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The content of this blog is NOT intended to substitute professional veterinary advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If your pet is sick, injured, or in need of medical attention, please contact your veterinarian or local emergency animal hospital immediately. Never disregard professional veterinary advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

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