Pet blog and guide
Is there anything better than being greeted every morning by a happy dog wagging its tail? In a lot of households, dogs are a member of the family and share in many daily routines and recreational activities. Playing with the kids in the garden, taking a walk in the woods or a long hike in springtime: A healthy dog is sociable and enjoys exercise. To an attentive dog owner, a change in a dog’s behaviour is often the first sign that something is wrong. But as an animal owner, what should you watch out for to correctly gauge your dog’s health? And when is it time to go to the vet?
Changed behaviour and posture
Changed behaviour in dogs can be expressed by listlessness, more frequent lying down or reduced mobility. Unusual postures, such as arching the back, refusing to place any weight on a leg or limping, can be indicators of pain stemming from the musculoskeletal system or inner organs. Pain can cause a dog to exhibit more aggressive or anxious behaviour. Similarly, a change in eating or drinking habits can also be a sign of illness. A dog that suddenly drinks significantly more can, for instance, have kidney problems or diabetes. A check-up by the vet and a blood test can give insight into what may be wrong.
A healthy animal has clear, shining eyes and an alert look. It’s time to go to the vet if your dog squints one or both eyes, or has eye discharge. Redness of the conjunctiva and changes in the eye itself, such as a cloudy appearance, are additional warning signs. Foreign bodies, allergies or eye infections are frequently the cause of these symptoms in dogs. Extremely dilated pupils can be a sign of pain.
Teeth and oral cavity
Dogs have 42 adult teeth, 10 more than humans! Check your dog’s teeth on a regular basis by lifting the jowls on each side. Go to the vet if your dog has foul breath, develops tartar or reddened gums or has a broken tooth.
Healthy dogs have clean, light-pink ears and ear canals. Redness, excessive ear secretion, frequent shaking of the head and scratching of both the ears and head are indicators of a health issue. Using an otoscope, a vet can examine the inner ear canal and the eardrum.
Some dog breeds have narrow or hairy ear canals and therefore tend more towards infection. The same applies to dogs with floppy ears. Owners should check their dogs’ ears daily!
Fur and paws
Every dog breed has a typical coat of fur. A dog owner should take note if a dog’s fur changes suddenly in any way. Flaky, oily or crusty skin can be a sign of a skin problem. Most of the time these symptoms are accompanied by itchiness and the dog tends to lick or scratch excessively. Diagnosing a skin disorder is not always easy and should be done by a vet. Possible causes include various parasites, such as fleas or mites. Bacterial or fungal skin infections can likewise cause irritation, bald spots or crusty patches. Often in these cases, there is a musty smell. Redness between the toes and on the belly can be a sign of allergies. Hair loss without any irritation of the skin can be the result of a hormone problem.
Important: Excessive chewing or licking of an area of the body can also be a sign of a psychological issue or pain!
Prevention is better than cure
Skin, fur, eyes and ears are mirrors of your dog’s health and immune system. To preserve your dog’s vitality into old age, try to meet its various needs:
- Sufficient exercise
- Daily social contact with people and other dogs
- Regular treatment to prevent internal and external parasites
- Annual check-up by a vet and vaccinations against the primary canine diseases
- A balanced diet which can be enriched with dietary supplements and is adapted to a dog’s needs
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Barbara Fox, veterinarien