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How to perform a health check on your dog

  • 26, Sep 2023
  • Read time: 9 mins

If you’ve got a dog or puppy, you'll know that it's important to keep their health in check.

We’ve teamed up with our partners at Dogs for Good to show you how to complete an at-home health check on your dog. It only takes 5 minutes!

Our in-house vet, Luke, says:

“Taking just a few minutes to check your dog over, even if it is just when cuddled up on the sofa watching TV or when outside enjoying the fresh air, can help you keep on top of their health and allows you to pick up on any subtle changes quickly. Nobody knows your dog, and what is normal for them, better than you do”.

How to complete a health check on your dog at home

Completing a health check on your dog at home should be easy and take no longer than five minutes.

Our in-house vet, Luke, recommends these steps for checking different areas of your dog:

Nose

Your dog’s nose should be moist, with no discoloured discharge and good airflow. If their nose is dry, this might mean they're dehydrated. Make sure they drink enough water throughout the day.

Mouth and teeth

Your dog’s teeth should be white with no plaque and the gums a fleshy pink colour. If there is a build up of plaque, try brushing the teeth with a dog-friendly toothbrush and toothpaste. Speak to your vet for advice if you're not sure of which products to use.

If your dog has broken teeth, or any redness on their gums, this may be a sign of a health problem. Speak to your vet if you're concerned about your dog's mouth or teeth.

Eyes

Your dog’s eyes should be open and bright, with the pupils at equal size. There shouldn’t be any discoloured discharge or tear staining around the eyes.

Some build up in the eyes is normal from time to time, just like it would be for us. However, any more than normal could be a sign of an eye infection, allergies or something else.

If you spot anything in or around your dog’s eyes that doesn’t look right, seek advice from your vet.

Ears

Your dog’s ears should be free from lumps and bumps and redness. There shouldn't be any abnormal smells or too much hair or earwax.

Dogs with long ears or allergies are more prone to ear infections. Signs of this can include shaking their head or itching their ears, or a build up or smell in their ears. Seek help from your vet if you notice these signs and they will be able to advise.

Skin and body

Your dog’s skin should be free from rashes, redness, abnormal smells and wounds. Make sure to regularly check their fur, keeping an eye out for unusual spots or flaky skin.

Missing patches of fur, or more frequent itching, could be signs of an allergy or skin condition. Seek help from your vet if you spot anything not quite right on your dog’s skin.

Feet and legs

Your dog should be able to move about freely without restriction or pain.

If you notice any signs of lameness, such as limping or difficulty standing, speak to your vet. Joint problems can develop in dogs of any age.

Nails and paws

Your dog’s nails shouldn’t be too long, brittle or broken. If they are, this can restrict their movement and cause them pain or discomfort. Be sure to get your dog’s nails trimmed regularly.

Check between your dog’s paw pads to make sure there aren’t any sore parts, lumps, bumps, or any other abnormalities.

If you spot anything on your dog’s nails or paws that you’re unsure of, seek advice from your vet.

Tail

Your dog’s tail should sit in a normal position and be able to move about freely. There shouldn’t be any sores or fractures on or around the tail, and it should be clean underneath.

If you notice any changes in the movement of your dog’s tail, seek help from your vet.

Why should you check your dog's health?

Checking your dog can help to identify signs of a more serious health problem.

Pet insurance could help to cover your dog against certain illnesses or accidents. Some illnesses are common in dogs. Knowing what to look out for can be helpful in case your dog ever shows signs of being unwell.

When should you visit a vet?

Most insect bites, scratches and scuffs that your dog gets while out and about won't be a reason to worry. However, it’s always best to speak to your vet if you’re ever unsure about something. This is especially the case if you notice any of the following changes in your dog:

  • Discoloured discharge
  • Signs of pain
  • Limited range of movement
  • Flaky skin or sore patches
  • Increased itching

Grooming your dog

It’s important to regularly groom your dog to help them maintain a healthy coat and prevent shedding.

Top tip: It’s wise to introduce brushes and other grooming tools to your dog while they’re young, if you can. Make it a positive experience by giving your dog treats and fuss while grooming them.

How frequently should I groom my dog?

This all depends on their coat type. For example, if they have a double coat, you may find you need to brush them more often to keep shedding hairs at bay.

How do I groom my dog?

  1. Grab some treats, and get your dog into a comfortable position such as sitting or lying down
  2. Run the brush down their body, making sure to be gentle in sensitive areas such as the belly and around ears
  3. If you spot any tangles or knots, try to remove them gently with the brush. If the knot is too strong, it might be a good idea to take your dog to a professional groomer
  4. Don’t apply too much pressure and allow the brush to glide over your dog’s fur, removing the dead hair as it goes

Protecting your dog

Illnesses and accidents can happen at any time, so it's important to check your dog's health often. At MORE THAN, you can choose from three cover levels of dog insurance to help keep them protected.

Find out more about our pet insurance

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