We all want the same thing for our pets. From the food that they eat, to the love that they receive, to the medical care that they need, we just want them to be happy and healthy. Fortunately, much of their needs lie in our own hands and capabilities. You don’t even have to have a fancy medical or veterinary background; you just have to care enough to take the time to learn a few simple at-home tricks in order to keep a thorough watch on your pet’s health and wellbeing.
Learning to examine your pet is the easiest way to identify any changes that could affect their health. It’s true that there is no substitute for your family veterinarian’s expertise, but your veterinary team does not live with the pet all day, every day, like you do. Early detection on your part could mean the difference between life and death. That’s why we recommend regularly checking your pet. Here are a few simple things that you can do:
The most basic thing that you can do for your pet’s health – watch them. Keep an eye out for changes in their appearance, physicality, behavior, mood, eating habits, etc. Pets aren’t able to communicate in the same ways that humans do, so you may not know if something is wrong. Is your pet limping? Have they stopped eating? Are they loosing hair? Has their breathing changed? Do they appear to have a swollen abdomen? Are they having more tummy aches than usual? These are all things that you can watch out for on a regular basis.
While observation might indicate a potential problem, or need for a checkup, you can also conduct basic physical exams on your pet. The simple act of running your hands along your pet’s body will help you get in tune with their normal physicality as well as help you to identify any issues. Make this a part of your regular routine so that you have a baseline understanding of what “normal” is for your pet. From there, you will be able to note any changes in the future.
A few key areas that you’ll want to examine include:
- Hair & Nails – You’ll want to check to make sure that your pet’s coat remains unmated, as this can cause all sorts of issues (e.g. vision impairment, knots that tighten the skin, etc.). Also, check to see if their coat is drier than usual and if they are experiencing any areas of hair loss. Then, check their nails. If they are starting to curl under, it is time to clip them, as it may be causing a great deal of discomfort.
- Skin – It’s important to keep an eye on your pet’s skin in case they develop scratches, sores, scabs, red patches, dryness, painful spots or even lumps. Again, they won’t be able to tell you when something’s wrong, and often, these things go unnoticed simply because any injuries or changes will be covered by fur or hair.
- Ears – It may sound strange, but you should know what your pet’s ears look and smell like. If you start to notice them turning red, producing strange smells or discharge, you need to take them to your veterinarian, as these could all be signs of infection.
- Mouth – As we’ve discussed many times before, pet dental care is very important to their overall health and wellbeing. Be sure to check their mouth for bad smells, discoloration, damaged teeth or gum inflammation, as these are all signs of infection or a deeper underlying disease.
- Eyes – Any change in your pet’s eyes should not be ignored. Things like redness, discharges, squinting or signs of cataracts should all be looked at by a professional.
- Weight – Pet obesity is a growing problem and of real concern for both pet owners and veterinarians alike. It’s important to keep an eye on your pet’s weight and food intake, as too much weight can lead to all sorts of diseases and even death. On the other hand, you should also take note if your pet starts losing weight, as this too is cause for real concern.
- Bathroom Habits – As much as we all dislike this particular task, you must keep an eye on your pet’s bathroom habits. If you notice any changes at all in frequency, smell, color or hardness, a doctor’s visit is advised.
If you notice any changes in your pet’s physical being or behavior, be sure to write them down, as these notes can come in handy later if and when your veterinarian has any questions. Remember, you know your pet better than anyone. Be sure to stay on top of things with regular, at-home examinations so that you and your pet can go on living happy, healthy lives.