Taking your dog to the vet for their annual check-up is a must for every dog owner, but it is only the first step in looking after your dog's health. Regular monitoring by the owner is the best way to identify dog health problems early before they can become serious. That means looking, touching and smelling.
About once a week, choose a quiet time and spend 5 to 10 minutes checking your dog from nose to tail. This will allow you to recognise what is normal and healthy for your dog and spot any problems early.
Your dog's eyes should be bright, without signs of red or yellow tinges in or around the white of the eye. The pupils should get bigger in a darkened room and shrink when exposed to bright light. The eyes shouldn't have any discharge coming out of the tear ducts.
Look for signs of soreness, tenderness and odd smells. Overproduction of wax is also something to look out for.
Your dog's nose can be dry or wet, but should not be dry to the point of cracking or excessively wet with heavy mucus.
Check paws for cuts, tenderness or redness. Nails shouldn't be too long or curving. Remember to check the dewclaws too.
Carefully and gently open your dog's mouth to inspect the status of their gums. Check for missing or cracked teeth. Excessive bad breath could indicate gum disease, liver or kidney problems.
Feel along the body of your dog with an open palm from tail to the head and back again to examine the coat hair. Small brown or black spots could indicate fleas. Feel for unusual lumps or bumps and signs of tenderness.
Feel the tail for signs of discomfort, cuts or bald spots. Check the anal area for oozing or soreness.
While your dog is resting count the number of breaths taken. The number of breaths taken should be between 10 and 35 per minute. Breathing should be easy, regular and not laboured.
Press your hand against your dog's ribcage over the heart. A normal heart rate range for a resting dog is about 60-100 beats per minute. Stress and disease can cause elevated heart rates.
Check skin elasticity by gently lifting a little of your dog's skin at the back of their neck and releasing it. If the skin springs back immediately it means that they are well hydrated and are receiving enough fluids.