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.