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Routine home health checks for your dog

One of the major responsibilities of the conscientious owner is to ensure that a thorough veterinary check-up is carried out annually. Between visits owners should perform routine checks at home on a daily and weekly basis in order to assess any changes in their dogs which may indicate that an early visit to the vet is required.

Daily checks

Eating and drinking

Some dogs may go off their food for a day and this will not harm them, but if a previously enthusiastic eater is rejecting food for more than twenty-four hours a veterinarian should be consulted as any changes in feeding habits may signify a problem. Similarly, drinking patterns should be observed. Any deviation from the norm, particularly an increase in water consumption, should be investigated.


Watch the way your dog moves. Look for any signs of lameness and for any swelling on the legs or joints. Does he show any reluctance to jump into the car, walk upstairs, run, or play. Does he seem stiff when he gets up from a rest. Does he show any discomfort when touched on any part of his body. Arthritis is one of several causes of lameness and discomfort which can be alleviated by medication

Defecation and urination

Observing your dog’s toilet habits may not be among the top 10 spectator sports, but it can provide valuable insight into the health of your dog..The number of bowel movements per day varies considerably from dog to dog. The important thing is that the evacuations are regular and of consistent appearance. Bear in mind that certain foods may change the colour of the faeces, e.g. charcoal biscuits will produce black faeces. Any chronic or acute diarrhoea or constipation requires veterinary attention, as does the presence of blood or mucus. If the urine appears dark, cloudy, or blood tinged, or the dog is urinating excessively or has difficulty in passing urine, again, consult your veterinarian.


Coughing, breathlessness, or excessive panting may indicate problems.

General demeanour

As with humans, dogs can be energetic one day and lethargic the next. However, any major fluctuation in normal energy levels lasting more than a couple of days should be investigated.

Weekly checks

Grooming and general check

Grooming requirements depend upon the breed but most dogs require at least a weekly going over. This time can be invaluable for a general check-up. Run your hands over every part of your dog’s body to check for lumps and bumps,. Examine the skin top to toe, stomach, armpits and under the tail for any cuts, scratches, inflammation, hot spots, parasites, dandruff, etc. Note any signs of discomfort when being handled and listen to the chest for wheezing.


Examine the feet carefully. Look and feel between the toes and between the pads for any soreness, grass seeds, cysts, ticks, or excessive hair. Over-long nails can cause problems so they should be kept trimmed as short as possible. Nails can be cut using specially designed clippers, or they can be filed. Be careful when shortening nails to avoid the quick as cutting this will result in bleeding and will cause the dog pain.


Smell the ears. Any unpleasant odour is a sign of problems. Wax build-up can be gently removed with cotton wool, but never poke anything down into the ear. If your dog’s ears need a thorough cleaning then this must be done by a vet. If the ear is swollen or red this is indicative of inflammation which will need veterinary attention.


The eyes should have no excessive discharge. Gently wipe the corners of the eyes to remove any build-up of debris. Check the pupils to ensure that they are of the same size. The eyes should be clear with no cloudiness, no dull spot or bluish tinge. Check the eyelids and the edges of the eyes for any lumps. Check that there are no inward growing lashes. Any hair which obscures vision should be trimmed. If the dog shows any sign of eye irritation or soreness it should be taken to the vet.


There should be no discharge from the nose and no excessive sneezing. The dog should have no difficulty in breathing normally through its nose. The nose leather is usually moist and cool, but a warm dry nose is not necessarily indicative of illness. If the nose is very dry then oil or Vaseline will help restore it.


Examine the teeth and gums. Gums should be pink, any redness may indicate a problem. Check for growths on the gums. Make sure that there are no broken or loose teeth and that the teeth are clean and have no brown accumulations of tartar or trapped food particles. Check the tongue for sores, cuts, growths. Check the lip folds for any accumulation of food. Smell the breath. If there is a foul odour this could be a sign of bad teeth, gum problems, or digestive problems.


If your dog is on a program to adjust his weight weekly recording of any increase or decrease is important. Obesity is the cause of a great many problems in the dog.

There is an old saying “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”, if you have any concerns at all about the health of your dog then consult your veterinarian promptly. Quite often early diagnosis of a potential problem will result in a quicker, more effective, and less costly, cure.

Your comments and views:
Joined: May 2004
Posts: 49,483
Female  Diamond Supporter 
05-05-2005, 09:56 PM
Another useful article thank you Shadowboxer and a reminder to us all that a few minutes spent checking over our dogs each week can help us to spot any little problems before they becoming big ones!
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Dogsey Veteran
Joined: Feb 2005
Posts: 4,638
06-05-2005, 06:35 PM
great article SB, thanks.
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Dogsey Veteran
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09-05-2005, 01:44 PM
Thanks SB - great article !!
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Dogsey Veteran
Joined: May 2004
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21-05-2005, 10:27 AM
First class article, invaluable for dog owners, experienced or not.
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Lucky Star
Dogsey Veteran
Joined: Nov 2004
Posts: 20,145
27-08-2005, 08:38 PM
A very useful, well-thought out article. I hope everyone reads this.
Thank you.
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Dogsey Veteran
Joined: Feb 2006
Posts: 3,042
10-03-2006, 08:26 AM
Again staight forward, simple, common sense advice. Thanks SB
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kelly and jake
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29-04-2006, 08:11 AM
thank you,very informative
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New Member!
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30-08-2006, 07:24 PM
Brilliant info, thanx.
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New Member!
Joined: Sep 2012
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08-10-2012, 06:25 AM
The easiest way to start is to use your fingers to feel all over the pinna (the sticky up bits or the flappy bits, depending on your breed). Make sure you feel the whole of the surface of the ear and note anything that seems unusual. A normal ear flap is cool, soft and free from lumps and bumps or areas of pain.

After you have checked the ‘flappy bit’ of the ear then you want to have a look in and around the ear canal itself. You are looking for anything you wouldn’t expect to see. A normal ear canal should appear a pale pink colour, it may have a little wax but should generally be quite clean and not smelly (it may smell a little waxy but not offensive). It should not be moist.
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