Tip of the Month

2/25/2010 Assessing Your Dog

Being in tune with your dog’s body is very important to her health and well-being. You should take time to assess your dog by moving your hands over her entire body in a caressing manner. Doing this from time to time will relax your dog, alert you to changes, and make your dog more at ease with the groomer’s touch. This is especially important with the paws and ears.

Beginning with her head, gently massage her skull, ears, muzzle, and neck with your fingers. Keep track of any lumps anywhere on the body as well as any changes in size or constancy. If you find a lump is changing or growing in size, you should consult your veterinarian. Continue your examination by massaging the ears being aware of any discharge, odor, or mats behind the ears. Look in your dog’s eyes for discharge, dried tears, redness, or cloudiness. Open your dog’s mouth to inspect the teeth for plaque, decay, and be aware of odor.

As you continue, bring your hands over the shoulders, withers, and across the back. Lift one leg to a bend at the elbow; fold the paw backward to view the pads. Continue around the dog to check each paw. You can also do this while the dog is lying down or on its back in your lap. Be aware of any hotspots or sores, and treat accordingly.

The nails should be nicely trimmed, not cracked, and not clicking on the ground while walking. Check for dewclaws (the claw higher up on the inside of the leg). When your dog is in for grooming, always remind them to trim it. If your dog walks with a limp or favors a leg, inspect the foot. Again, while the dog is on the ground or in your lap, look at the bottom of the foot. The pads should be smooth; hair should not be matted in between the toes. Look for foreign objects such as thorns, foxtails, etc. Take time to massage the pads so your dog will be well accustomed to someone touching her feet.

You should check the armpits, chest, and down the legs for mats. Continue to move your hands over the rump area and down the back legs. One spot where dogs love to be massaged is just at the rear above the tail. While around the rear area be aware of any odor around the rectum or if there is swelling. If you suspect that the anal glands need to be expressed you should have that performed by your veterinarian. It is important to have them expressed professionally, or you run the risk of a rupture.

Personally examining your dog at least once a month is another valuable time of bonding. You will be in tune with your dog, as well as preparing her for a visit to the groomer.

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