It can be difficult to understand when your dog is unwell. You see them every day, and as they can’t tell you that they’re feeling under the weather, it makes it particularly tricky for dog owners to be able to check on their dog’s health.
While you may visit your vet occasionally for routine, general care, many months can pass without having a professional and expert health check of your dog. To help pet owners feel more informed about checking their dog’s health during the months between visiting the vet, we’ve put together a helpful Dog Health Checklist. Our list of veterinary advice will help you take every step to maintain your pet’s health and to know how to identify any signs of them being unwell as soon as they become ill.
How to check your dog’s general health at home
How to check your dog’s body weight
Canine obesity is, unfortunately, one of the most common nutritional disorders seen in dogs, which is why it is important to check their weight. It can be difficult to tell if big, fluffy dogs have lost or gained weight as they have more fur, whereas, with short-haired dogs, weight gain can be more noticeable over time. Often, naturally, lean dogs are mistaken for being underweight, which can lead to owners overfeeding them.
To check if your pet is under or overweight, place your hand on the side of their body; you should just be able to feel their ribs if they’re at a healthy weight. The belly should not sag, and your dog’s waist should be visible between your dog’s ribs and hips. If a dog is underweight, their pelvis will be prominent and ribs visible.
Overweight dogs may seem reluctant to go out for a walk or lag behind. Alternatively, if a dog is underweight, they could lack in stamina and low in vital nutrients.
Are there any changes in your dog’s appetite?
Keep a close check if you notice any changes in your dog’s appetite. There are various illnesses associated with a lack of appetite, some of which include teeth and gum problems, digestive issues, stress or an underlying infection.
Checking your dog's digestive health
Changes in your dog’s digestion also indicate signs of being unwell. Check for noticeable signs such as diarrhoea and vomiting which can be the result of a change in food, infection, or a stomach upset.
How to check your dog’s teeth
Dental disease is one of the main causes of a change in your dog’s appetite. Dental disease can make it painful for your dog to chew their food as they may have an infection in their teeth or gums, which can lead to bad breath.
To prolong the quality of your dog’s oral hygiene, check their gums regularly. They should look a healthy pink or black, and teeth should look nice and white, and not covered in thick, brown tartar.
How to check your dog’s skin and coat
The quality of your dog’s skin and coat is a major indicator of your dog’s overall health. As covered in our Dog’s Skin Problems page, there are various infections and diseases which can irritate your dog’s skin and affect their mood.
Check that your dog’s fur is free of any redness, fleas, lumps or ticks. Excessive itching and bald patches can also indicate a skin problem. A dog’s skin should look clean and pink, and healthy fur should look shiny and silky.
Check your dog’s ears, eyes and nose
Check your dog’s ears weekly to ensure they’re clean, look a healthy pink, have no wax, smell or discharge. Some dog breeds, such as Spaniels, are more prone to a yeast or bacterial infection and therefore require more attention to the health of their ears. Dogs tend to shake their head or scratch often as a sign of an ear infection.
A dog’s eyes should look bright, clear and have no discharge. Redness is a warning sign of ill-health: get in touch with your vet straight away if your dog’s eyes look irritated.
A healthy dog will normally have a cool, clean and moist nose. A dog’s nose can change colour, from black to pink, so monitor what is ‘normal’ for your dog. Bleeding, crusting or discharge are also signs of your dog being unwell.
How to check your dog’s feet and nails
Check your dog’s pads aren’t cut, torn, and are clean. Their nails should be cut back regularly while being careful not to cut the ‘quick’, as this could result in clipping the dog’s nerve, causing them discomfort. Healthy nails shouldn’t split, look rough or break easily.
Further signs your dog may be unwell
All dogs are unique and have their own personality – it’s what we love so much about them! If you notice anything different about your dog’s behaviour, this can be an indication that they’re not feeling themselves. An unwell dog may be less energetic than usual, reserved from their owners and laze about the home.
If you notice any changes in your dog’s health and behaviour, keep a diary to take note of any particular trigger of when these symptoms are more prominent. If you can provide the vet with any additional information, this is a huge benefit to help them provide a full and accurate diagnosis during your appointment.
At Animal Trust, we offer free consultations so if you’re ever in doubt over your dog’s health, you can feel rest assured that you can bring your pet into one of our local clinics for a check-up. Register your dog today.Register your Dog
There can be many different reasons why a dog is vomiting and it can be a worrying time if it’s not something they have experienced before. While the majority of vomiting cases will subside within 24 hours, continuous vomiting in a dog or if there is blood in their vomit can be a sign of something more worrying and may require urgent attention from a veterinary surgeon.
How do I know if my dog is feeling sick?
Unlike humans, dogs are unable to explain how they are feeling. Symptoms of sickness in dogs is subtle, meaning it’s important to be aware of the signs. The sooner you notice that your dog may be experiencing sickness, the quicker you can help them feel better again.
A key sign to be aware of is your dog wrenching or heaving from the stomach, but not being physically sick. Dogs perform this motion to help relieve the sickness feeling. If your dog is showing this kind of behaviour, we recommend seeking professional help to diagnose the issue.
Symptoms of your dog feeling sick
Why is my dog vomiting?
There are several lower-risk causes why your dog is vomiting, with one of the most common causes for a dog to vomit being an upset stomach.
Conditions which cause vomiting in dogs include:
How to care for your dog if they’ve been sick
If your dog has been sick once and is otherwise well in themselves, follow the steps below to care for them while monitoring their behaviour closely for any sudden changes. If their condition worsens or if they’re vomiting blood, call your vet immediately.
What to do if your Dog is Vomiting Bile
If your dog is vomiting bile, this is a fairly common occurrence which can happen when the dog’s stomach is empty. Foam like and yellow in colour, some dogs will vomit bile often and is no cause for concern.
Should I contact a vet if my dog has vomited?
If your dog is vomiting chronically and/or they are showing any of the below symptoms, consult your local veterinary surgery as soon as possible for advice.
Diagnosis and treatment of vomiting in dogs
When you take your dog to the vet, they will ask questions to understand the history of your dog’s symptoms. This will include; how long has your dog been vomiting for, have they shown any other symptoms, for example, has your dog vomited blood, bile, or shown any signs of foaming at the mouth and has there been any recent changes to their diet?
Once you have answered these questions, the vet will give your dog a full clinical examination and discuss the possible causes for their vomiting. The vet may also decide to take a urine sample for testing and/or examine your dog’s faeces for any foreign bodies. For more definitive answers, blood work and X-rays can be performed.
More serious medical and life-threatening conditions may require a dog to be hospitalised and connected to intravenous fluids to help with dehydration.
As always, it’s important if you are concerned about any changes in your dog’s condition or behaviour, consult your veterinarian for advice. Consultations with Animal Trust will always be free for everyone – find your nearest local surgery.
For more information on what to do if your dog is sick, an expert member of the Animal Trust team is more than happy to help.Make a FREE appointment
Vaccination is one of the most important measures of preventative care for pets and is the most effective way of protecting them against serious diseases.
How do dog vaccinations work?
Dog vaccinations work similarly to when humans have an injection, by inserting a small amount of the viral and bacterial antigen into the pet’s body. The body’s white blood cells quickly react to the antigen and learn to develop a protective response against the disease.
If your pet has been vaccinated against a disease and comes into contact with the virus, their system has already learnt a natural response to fight it off. The immune system recognises the antigens from the initial contact and activates a rapid defence response within a number of hours, to neutralise the disease.
Prevention is better than cure
At Animal Trust, our mission is to ensure all pet owners have access to the most affordable care, without compromising on the quality of treatment.
If your dog is not vaccinated, getting the following conditions can be extremely serious, as unfortunately, there still isn’t an available cure for all viral or bacterial diseases, and despite the advances in modern medicine, some unvaccinated dogs that get these conditions do not survive.
Many insurance policies will also require you to keep your pet’s preventative treatments up-to-date, so your policy is still valid to make a claim.
What do puppy and dog vaccinations protect against?
What vaccinations do puppies need?
When they’re born, puppies are naturally protected against diseases from the intake of their mother’s milk, which contains the antibodies required to fight infections. This is called maternal immunity and lasts during the earliest stages of a puppies life. While maternal immunity keeps pups safe, it also interferes with vaccines so we have to wait until the level of antibodies drops to administer the vaccination.
Once a puppy is old enough, usually at eight weeks old, they can have their first vaccine, which is followed up two weeks later by a second vaccination to complete the primary set. Because immunity takes a while to develop, it is recommended to not take your pet outside to high-risk areas for at least one week after the second vaccine.
How long do dog vaccinations last?
Once a pet has had their initial vaccinations, we recommend you provide a ‘booster’ vaccination annually. This helps to remind your dog’s immune system to continue protecting the body against the disease.
We don’t need to boost every element of the vaccine annually as some parts of the immunity last longer than others. Immunity to Parvovirus, for example, will typically last three years, but a disease like leptospirosis requires boosters every year.
While vaccines are extremely safe to give on a yearly basis, some owners prefer us to take their pet’s blood to test their immunity levels, before administering the vaccine.
If you have adopted an older dog and are unsure whether their vaccinations are up-to-date, your vet can restart the vaccination process, just like when they were a puppy. This is the best way to ensure your pet is protected from serious diseases.
Getting your dog vaccinated
Animal Trust is a not for profit business, which means that every penny earned is invested back into our clinics to update and provide our patients with the best treatment and facilities available for sick pets.
We want to provide the best treatments for your pets, which is why our dog vaccination price includes preventative treatment for fleas and worms at no extra cost.
If your puppy or dog needs vaccinating, contact your local Animal Trust clinic to book an appointment. If you’re already registered at another practice, this is no problem at all; you are more than welcome to visit one of our clinics in the north-west. Register your pet using our online registration form to speed up the process.Book an Appointment
Preparing to bring a new puppy home
Bringing a new puppy into the home is a really exciting time and one that will fill your life with joy and pleasure for many years to come. Congratulations on your new addition to the family!
For a new puppy going into a new environment without its mum or siblings, it can be daunting for them. As an owner, you can help to make this transition a smooth one by being prepared and planning ahead so your puppy gets the best start and lives a long, healthy and happy life.
Settling a new puppy into the home
Your puppy has just left its mother and litter-mates to come to unfamiliar surroundings alone. Therefore, it is common for your new addition to take a few days to accept this as their ‘new normal’ and start to come out of their shell. Provide them with a ‘safe place’ where they can hide away if they need to. This can be a crate or a little den with a snuggly blanket and toy. Allowing them to have quiet time to adjust and learn to come to you for affection, treats and play will encourage them to be friendly and not overwhelmed.
Many puppies will have some degree of an upset tummy due to stress and often changes in diet. In order to minimise this, it is recommended to keep your puppy on the same food as the breeder gave them for the first week before starting to change them gradually onto the food you will give them long-term.
Pheromone (Adaptil) and calming oil (Pet Remedy) diffusers can be useful to help reduce stress and are available to purchase from Animal Trust surgeries. The sprays can also be useful in getting your puppy to accept things like crates and car travel.
What to feed a new puppy
Puppies should be fed between 3-4 meals a day until they are six months old. After this age, you can reduce this to two meals a day.
Your puppy’s weight may double or even triple during the first few weeks of life. In addition, their high activity levels mean your puppy may have 3 times the energy needs of an adult dog. Puppies also have a higher requirement for protein, minerals and some vitamins. It is therefore very important that you feed your puppy a life stage appropriate complete diet, i.e., puppy food/junior food up until 1 year of age for small and medium breeds, or until 2 years of age for very large breeds.
Dry food is generally found to be best for your dog’s dental health, although a combination of wet and dry foods can be given.
Homemade and RAW diets should be used with caution. They can be low in calcium and other vitamins which will lead to health problems for your growing puppy. RAW diets can also carry bacteria which can lead to severe illness for your puppy and members of your family. Fresh drinking water should always be available.
How to socialise a puppy
A large part of a puppy’s socialisation period occurs at the breeder’s home between two and eight weeks of age. Your puppy will, therefore, be more relaxed and confident if he/she has been exposed to being handled, mixed with children, different visitors and other animals during this time.
Once home, you can begin to get your puppy used to gentle handling by multiple people early on. Gentle stroking and providing special treats will make the experience a positive one for your pup. Meeting as many different people, places and animals as possible in their first few months will mean they accept far more as they get older. Introduce your puppy to any crates/carriers you may need to use at a young age. Leaving one open in the room with comfy bedding, toys and treats will encourage your puppy to explore it.
Travelling with your puppy in the car
Expose your puppy to car travel at an early age to ensure they feel secure. Short journeys and treats will again create an association positive. Many pups will be a little car sick initially, so don’t give up and keep going to make the experience positive — most dogs love the car if it means an outing somewhere fun.
It’s also good to get your puppy used to the handling of their feet, ears and mouths early on to avoid problems if they hurt themselves or need examination by a vet in future.
What vaccinations do puppies need?
Puppies should be vaccinated against Canine Distemper, Canine Parvovirus, Canine Hepatitis and usually Leptospirosis. A Kennel cough vaccination is also recommended for any dogs that are attending training classes/clubs, kennels, or where they will be meeting lots of other dogs.
A first vaccination can be given at 8 weeks of age. A second vaccination is given 2 weeks later at 10 weeks of age. Immunity can take a while to develop and it is recommended to not take your pet outside to high-risk areas for at least one week after the second vaccine.
Revaccination should be every 1-3 years dependent on the vaccine used and the risk of infection to individual dogs. We can discuss this with you if you feel your dog is low risk. Learn more about how important dog vaccinations are.
Side effects of vaccinations are extremely rare and are usually limited to a slight temperature or 24 hours of being a little quiet. If you are concerned about your pet following a vaccination contact your local Animal Trust surgery for advice.
Microchipping a puppy
Microchipping a puppy is a legal requirement whereby they are required to be chipped by eight weeks of age. Microchipping costs £17.50 and the procedure is a quick, relatively painless, injection of a chip the size of a grain of rice into the scruff of the neck. The procedure can be completed in a free consultation at Animal Trust and at the same time as your puppy’s first vaccination.
By microchipping your puppy it ensures that they can be reunited with you if they ever go missing or are stolen. Once implanted into the puppy, the microchip is registered with your details using the 15-digit microchip number. The contact details you provide are then linked to the number. If your dog then ever goes missing they can be scanned for their microchip and the registration details contacted.
Should I get puppy Insurance?
Yes, it is advisable that you have some level of insurance in place for your pet. This will help to make decisions much easier if they ever require treatment as financial restrictions can’t interfere.
There are all lots of different plans available and it is best to spend some time researching what is on offer and what level of cover each policy will provide for your pet.
How to care for a puppy’s teeth
You can care for your puppy’s teeth by starting to brush them early on so your pup will be able to get used to the motion, and, therefore tolerate the brushing as they get older.
It’s important to use a pet-friendly toothpaste along with a finger brush or a soft child’s toothbrush to avoid hurting the puppy’s gums. You can also start by using your finger, to help your puppy get used to the motion before you move towards other brushing tools. Some pet toothpaste has a meaty flavour and contain enzymes which help to break down plaque and tartar.
When should a puppy be neutered?
A puppy should be neutered before their first season. Female puppies can become fertile from their first season around 6-10 months of age which is when we usually recommend they’re neutered. This makes it a more straightforward procedure, with only a small incision in the middle of the tummy to remove their reproductive tract. Neutering before the first season also leaves your dog with a much lower chance of getting mammary gland cancer as they get older, avoids any unwanted pregnancy, false pregnancies and womb infections including pyometra.
There are some cases where a vet will allow a bitch to have their first season or leave them until they are a little older before neutering. This will be discussed on an individual basis with the vet and the dog will require a general anaesthetic, although the risks are lower in young, healthy animals.
Male puppies will be more inclined to start to roam, scent mark and fight with other males if left intact (not neutered). The procedure for male dogs is straightforward, with a small incision to remove both testicles. In addition to the prevention of unwanted litters and the behavioural benefits, neutered males are much less likely to suffer from prostate disease as well as some types of tumours and hernias later in life.
A general anaesthetic is again required, and the risks are low. The age a male dog can be neutered from is dependent on their breed, size, temperament and whether they live with other entire males or females puppies.
Removing dewclaws and tails
It is illegal to dock (remove part of the tail) on puppies unless they are working dogs of certain breeds. They must be microchipped and accompanied by the certificate to show it was done legally.
Front dewclaws can be removed by a vet in a very young puppy (under 1 week of age). If your puppy has dewclaws, we cannot remove ones with bony attachments except for medical reasons and this would be carried out under general anaesthetic. We can remove hind dewclaws with just skin attachment at the same time as neutering if indicated.
Parasite Control for Puppies
All Animal Trust surgeries offer a puppy starter pack, which includes everything needed to help give your puppy the best start in life. The puppy pack costs £70 and includes; a full health check, both 1st vaccinations, microchipping and flea and worming treatment.
Registering your new puppy with your local Animal Trust surgery is also quick and easy to do online. If you have any concerns about your new puppy or would like veterinary advice, please contact your local Animal Trust surgery.