The five-point health check for dogs

Remember to examine all five areas in your dog:

Weight Checks

Weigh your dog regularly, at least once per month. You can also monitor changes in body weight by scoring your dog's body condition using the Waltham® S.H.A.P.E.™ guide.

If your dog is slightly overweight, you need to make sure that you account for all sources of calories as part of the daily intake, including treats.   Feeding guidelines printed on packages are broad by design, because they cover a wide range of sizes and breeds of dogs.  They are  an estimate of what the average dog requires based on his body weight.   Adjust your dog's daily intake of food according to his body condition (eg. reducing if he is overweight, increasing if he is underweight). You may also want to consider feeding a lower calorie weight management diet.  If your dog is moderately to severely overweight, discuss the need for a weight reduction program with your veterinarian. Implement an exercise program for your dog, starting slowly with short activity periods and gradually increasing the exercise time.

Coat and Skin

The coat should feel smooth from head to tail. Part the fur near the head and along the spine to check for flakes, scales or cuts. Check for the signs of fleas -black flakes or specks - at the base of the tail and on the rump and stomach. Dogs with a dull or matted coat may not be receiving all necessary nutrients, or may have a disease condition. Fleas can he treated with dips, shampoos and sprays.

Eyes and Ears

Gently pull down the lower eyelid to check for a pink colour. The whites of the eye should be glossy white with no redness. Look for normal pupil size and responsiveness of the pupil to light. Watch for coloured discharge, which can be a sign of infection.

Ears should appear clean, pink in colour (not bright pink), and free of debris and strong odours. Check for wax, especially dark wax, which may indicate the presence of ear mites or infection. Problems with eyes and ears should be a reason to visit your veterinarian.

Teeth and Gums

Lift your dog's lips away from his gums, and press a finger firmly over an upper tooth. When taken away, the white colour of the finger imprint on the gum should return to pink. Open the dog's mouth to inspect all his teeth. Beware of tartar build-up, which is yellow to dark brown in colour, and can lead to periodontal disease. This should be removed by a veterinarian. Regular veterinary dental cleaning along with specially designed pet toothbrushes and toothpaste and chew snacks designed to help reduce plaque and tartar build-up.

Spot Checks

Check for unusual lumps or bumps by placing both hands on top of your dog's head and moving down under the chin. Next, move your hands behind the front legs, under the shoulders, down the back, over the hips, and down the legs. Inspect your dog's claws and footpads for cuts or cracks. Report unusual lumps to a veterinarian, or plaque and tartar accumulation, gingivitis and malodor.