Looking after your pet's health, especially your dog's health can be a challenge. As a responsible dog owner, it's essential to have at least a basic knowledge of what makes a healthy dog. A dog health checklist is a perfect way to understand what you need to do to keep your dog healthy because not all pets are the same!
We've combined our many years of experience in the pet care industry with expert advice to cover everything you need to know in a simple and easy dog health checklist. You can use this list to check the health of your puppy, adult dogs and older dogs.
Your dog's skin provides a barrier to prevent infection. There are many possible causes of skin disease in dogs, including allergies, parasitic infestation, and contact with toxic substances.
A healthy dog's skin should be clean, and any sudden hair loss should be reported to the vet. If there is excessive scratching or licking, your vet may recommend allergy testing or a parasite check.
In addition to regular vet check-ups, grooming, and sun protection, you should also have a regular worming and flea treatment schedule to ensure that your dog doesn't suffer from any infestations, which could lead to further health complications. Pet owners with more than one animal might find recurring fleas a problem and so regularly check all of your animals to make sure you spot all instances where fleas are present.
The Blue Cross states:
“Not only can fleas make your pet uncomfortable, sore and itchy - they also pose a serious health risk. Flea infestations can cause anaemia due to the amount of blood a dog can lose to the parasites, and it can be fatal - especially in puppies or weaker dogs.”
When it comes to your dog's health, you need to know what's normal behaviour and what might indicate a problem. Your dog's ears should be clean, dry and free of discharge.
It's always a good idea to have an open dialogue with your veterinarian about any concerns or questions you may have about your pet's health. Your vet will be able to provide guidance on everything from diet to vaccinations and more.
Discussing serious dog ear issues, the PDSA says:
“Sometimes, our pets can develop serious ear problems that don’t go away easily with treatments like ear drops or tablets. If your pet’s ear problem doesn’t clear up after treatment, your vet might want to have a proper look at the inner ear and try to flush out the problem with a water solution.”
Your dog's nose is a major way they communicate. It's also a key way they process the environment around them. Dogs use their noses to find food, protect themselves from danger, and find mates. A healthy dog's nose should be moist and free of redness or discharge.
A dog's nose is relatively low maintenance. However, if your dog has lost its appetite, lethargic, or has nasal discharge that won't stop, it might have an upper respiratory infection. In this case, it's always best to take your dog to see their vet for treatment.
Explaining how a dog’s nose works, The UK’s Medical Detection Dogs organisation states:
“The dog has two nostrils (nares) divided by a cartilaginous and bony septum. The tip of the dog’s nose – rhinarium – is typically moist and cool to touch. When a dog flares its nostrils to sniff, the shape of the nostril openings change thus allowing redirection of air into the upper part of the snout and more direct airflow to the olfactory area.”
Your dog's eyes are vulnerable to a range of problems, such as exposure to dirt, chemical burns and injuries.
Another issue often seen with dogs' eyes is tear staining, which is quite common and typically nothing to be worried about. You will often see brown or red staining on dogs with lighter coloured coats. However, if your dog suddenly develops this issue, it's best to have them checked by the vet as while it is usually harmless, it can be a sign of further problems.
Keeping your dog's eyes clean and avoiding irritants is the best way to ensure your dog's eyes stay healthy. If you notice your dog is in any discomfort or there is any discharge, check in with your vet.
Discussing common dog eye injuries The Kennel Club states:
“Many eye emergencies are caused by some sort of injury; caused by a sharp or blunt object, for example. Damage caused by sharp objects, such as a cat’s claw, will generally cause less damage than a blunt object, such as being punched in the eye or hit by a ball. Injuries caused by blunt objects create shearing forces that tend to push one part of the eye one way and at the same time push another part of the eye another way, causing significantly more damage. This type of damage is not always obvious and may need urgent assessment by a specialist.”
Your dog's teeth are one of the most important parts of their anatomy. They are used for a number of things, including not only eating but also for grooming.
Healthy teeth are important for ensuring your dog can eat properly and engage in activities that benefit their well-being.
Some signs that your dog may have an issue with their teeth include:
If you notice any of these symptoms, it is probably time to schedule an appointment with the vet to get professional advice on how best to deal with the problem.
“Keeping your pet’s mouth healthy is so important to their overall health and quality of life. If you notice that your dog is losing teeth, has loose or wiggly teeth, or has progressively worsening breath, please set up a consultation with a veterinarian as soon as possible.
Even if it seems like they just lost one tooth, it is likely that your pet has more diseased teeth in their mouth causing discomfort that would benefit from removal.”
If you can feel your dog's ribs easily when you run your hands along the sides of their body, they are underweight. Your dog's rib cage should be easy to feel but shouldn't be seen as prominent or protruding from the fur.
It is important that you ensure your dog is not over or underweight. However, if you are unsure if your dog is the right weight or there are any sudden and unexplained changes in their weight, talk to your vet for advice on the next steps.
Discussing a dog’s weight and how important it is, the RSPCA said:
“Obesity can affect all types of pets, and the main cause is from eating too much or not exercising enough, although some diseases can cause obesity. To help prevent obesity in your pet ensure they maintain a healthy diet and receive plenty of exercise. If you're concerned about your pet’s weight, contact your local vet.”
The first thing you should do when looking after your dog's health is to keep up with the most basic tasks, which include clipping their nails. A dog's nails should be trimmed every 4-6 weeks, and if you ever hear a clicking or grinding noise coming from their nails as they walk, it's time for a trim.
Nails should be checked regularly to prevent them from becoming too long. The best time to cut your dog's nails is when they're sleepy, so they're more relaxed, and their nails don't retract as much.
Gentle restraint is recommended, but this should be a positive experience for your dog to ensure they do not become stressed every time they are due for a trim.
Discussing nail care for dogs, the PDSA said:
“Just like us, dogs’ nails continue to grow throughout their life. Ideally, when you walk your dog, hard surfaces should wear down their nails naturally and maintain a good length, but sometimes nails are not worn down as quickly as they grow, especially with dogs who are walked on softer surfaces. As a pet owner, it’s good practice to check that they aren’t growing too long routinely.”
The first step in ensuring your pet stays healthy is knowing how much he or she should eat. If you're unsure of the right amount, ask your vet for a recommended daily allowance. The quantity will depend on the dog's size and breed.
In order to help your dog feel more at ease while eating, try to offer high-quality food and be sure to feed them at the same times every day, so they get used to the routine and know when it's mealtime.
Many vets recommend that dogs have two small meals per day rather than one large one. However, some dogs need their meals split into three times a day, but your vet can help you work out a schedule that suits your dog.
Commenting on diets for dogs, the PDSA says:
“Feeding your dog the correct diet is really important for their health. Just like us, your dog needs to eat a balanced diet each day to give them all the nutrients they need to keep them fit and active.
Diet also plays a big part when it comes to your dog’s weight, and with the right exercise, diet can go a long way towards helping your dog stay in perfect shape.”
A lot of people are not sure what the needs of a pregnant dog are. They think that all they need to do is feed and house their pregnant pet. But it's actually quite a bit more complicated than that.
Typically, a dog's pregnancy lasts between 58 to 68 days. Your pet will likely feel tired during her pregnancy due to carrying extra weight, so make sure she has somewhere quiet to get enough rest. Additionally, you will need to have regular trips to the vet to ensure a healthy pregnancy.
Here are some tips on pregnant dog care from Prestige Animal Hospital:
“Giving birth to multiple puppies requires a lot of strength and energy, so it’s important that you keep your pregnant dog healthy and fit. Going for regular walks will help keep her primed and ready for the challenge of giving birth.
Try to keep walks shorter, as your dog will most likely tire more easily as her pregnancy goes on. Try for three to five short walks a day, and always keep temperature and terrain in mind (i.e. no uphill hikes on a hot day). Avoid any rigorous activity, or even training/obedience schooling during your dog’s pregnancy; this can be stressful, and bumps or knocks from other dogs could hurt her unborn pups.”