Taking care of a dog is incredibly rewarding. Your dog is likely to be your best friend and an integral part of your family unit, so recognizing when something's wrong will be very important. Learning how to detect worrying symptoms can be a little daunting at first, but identifying your dog's "normal" is essential. Here are five DIY tips to check up on your dog's health.
1. Check your pup's pulse
This first step is not as hard as it sounds. Rest your fingers against your dog's femoral artery on the inside of their thigh. Stroke them to keep them calm and gently feel around for the tube of the artery under their skin. To calculate your dog's heart rate, count the number of beats during a 15-second window and multiple that by four. A normal rate is 80 to 120 beats per minute, though larger breeds will have far slower pulses than smaller dogs and puppies.
2. Take a good look at your dog's face
Is your dog's nose smooth and clear? Are their eyes bright and moist with equally sized pupils? Are their ears clean and dry? Check your dog's mouth; the teeth should be clean and white, and the gums pink and moist to the touch. While you're at it, give their teeth a good brush.
3. Gently examine your dog's body
Run your hands along your dog's torso, paying attention to their ribs, belly, rear, and legs. Take note of any areas that appear sensitive. If your dog seems uncomfortable with any aspect of your examination, or if you notice abnormal lumps, bumps, or distention in the stomach area, contact your vet for a professional opinion.
4. Check their skin
Just as it is in humans, your dog's skin is an excellent indicator of health. Your pup's skin should be soft and unbroken, and their coat smooth and sleek – unless you're lucky enough to have a wire-haired breed. If your dog's skin is displaying a rash, has cracks or sores, or is dry and flaky, there could be something wrong. It's so easy for pets to become dehydrated, particularly during the warmer summer months. To check your dog for signs of dehydration, gently pull the skin around their neck or back and release; it should spring straight back into place. Skin that stays pulled could indicate that your pooch is dehydrated.
5. Breathe with them
Ensure that they're relaxed as they breathe. A dog's chest should rise and fall rhythmically and without effort, with a normal respiration rate of between 15 and 30 breaths per minute. This is a great opportunity for bonding with your pup.
It's essential to conduct your dog's health check when they are happy and calm. It's often easiest to tell when something is wrong when your pet is at their most comfortable. If you're ever in doubt regarding your dog's health, or you have concerns regarding your pet's behavior or a particular symptom, please do make contact with your veterinarian. Their advice is second to none when it comes to diagnosing and treating ailments and potentially life-threatening conditions. While home checkups can help you catch any potential problems early on, they are no substitute for regular visits to the vet.