Dog health checks at home

A dog health check is giving your canine companion a check-up. This includes examining their eyes, ears, mouth, body, skin, legs, paws, tail, and private areas. By understanding what’s normal for your dog, you can more easily spot when there are changes that should be checked by a vet. It's an essential aspect of dog care that you can perform at home to help ensure your dog stays healthy and happy.

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Why are dog health checks important?

Taking care of your dog's health is crucial for their physical and mental wellbeing as well as your peace of mind. Regular check-ups can help to catch any health issues early, leading to more effective treatment and a speedier recovery. Performing these health checks at home also strengthens the bond between you and your dog and helps you to recognise changes in behaviour or appearance that might indicate something is wrong.

It’s important to remember that while health checks can be done at home, if you do notice any changes in your dog’s health, or have any concerns, you should always contact your vet.

Preparing to give your dog a health check

Before you start your dog’s health check be sure to think about the following aspects to ensure a positive and successful experience for your dog.

  • Build confidence: Begin by getting your dog used to being touched gently all over their body. This builds their confidence, and they'll feel more at ease during their check-ups. If your dog appears uncomfortable, make sure to stop and take a break.
  • Find a suitable location: Choose a calm, quiet location, preferably on a non-slip surface. Yoga mats, or non-slip rugs, are helpful if you're checking your dog on a tiled or slippery floor.
  • Encourage positive association: Dogs learn through positive association. Offer rewards during or after health checks so your dog starts to enjoy them. Rewards can be food, praise, or stroking – whatever your dog enjoys most!
  • Take it slowly: Introduce health checks gradually. Focus on checking different body parts over a couple of weeks, starting with areas they're used to being touched and stopping if your dog seems agitated or uncomfortable.
  • Be consistent: Always try to perform health checks in the same order, starting at the eyes and ending at their bottom. Performing checks in the same order will help your dog know what to expect during their health check, whether at home or with their vet, and is also more hygienic and reduces the risk of infection.

How to perform a health check at home

You should always start at your dog's eyes and head, often considered the "clean end", and work your way down to their bottom, sometimes referred to as the "dirty end".

During a health check, if you spot anything that doesn't look or feel right, don't hesitate to contact your vet.

Reading your dog's body language during a health check

Dogs communicate their feelings through their body language, so always pay attention to their cues during their health check. If they show signs of distress or discomfort, such as lip-licking or turning away from you, take a break to make sure your dog feels happy and positive about health checks.

What are common health conditions to look out for?

There are many common health conditions that your dog may suffer from at some point in their life. By being aware of these conditions, you’re more likely to spot symptoms or anything unusual during their health check and in everyday life.

  • Fleas and ticks
  • Worms
  • Obesity and carrying excess weight
  • Vomiting and diarrhoea
  • Ear, eye, and skin infections
  • Foreign objects like grass seeds in eyes, ears, nose, and pads
  • Paw pad damage and overgrown nails

Who to contact if you notice something unusual

If you notice anything unusual during your dog health checks, don't hesitate to contact your vet for advice. Home health checks are an important part of looking after your dog and should be carried out regularly, but they shouldn’t replace routine vet visits for vaccinations and check-ups. If you suspect your dog or guide dog is unwell, always contact your vet for advice.

For guide dog owners with general questions (non-urgent), please contact Guide Line, who will be happy to help with any queries or concerns.