Assessing Your Dog’s Health

I recently had to say goodbye to my beautiful German Shepherd, Cortez. We knew this day was coming and he was living on borrowed time. Three months prior, he was diagnosed with a mass on his spleen. We removed his spleen but the vet told us that he may have cancer elsewhere in his body. We were told that he could possibly live another 3-4 months. It was a waiting game. I watched him daily for signs that the disease was taking over again. Would you know what signs or symptoms indicate that your dog is no longer healthy?

First, observe your dog right now, in his healthy state. Get a baseline as to what he should look like. Start with his general demeanor. Is he normally playful, feisty, calm, quiet, hyper, lazy? Any change in his normal personality could be an indication that he is not feeling well. Another indicator is appetite. A dog that won’t eat probably is not feeling well. You dog’s elimination habits should be normal as well. Frequent urination, diarrhea, constipation are all abnormal and should be addressed.

A simple physical exam can be done at home. The first thing I do is check my dog’s gum color. Normal gums should be pink or pink with black spots. Gums that are grey or white indicate that the dog is not well. It can be an indication of shock or that his blood flow is compromised. You should check capillary refill time. To do this you should press your thumb on the pink gums, when you remove your thumb you will see a white spot that will quickly fill back in pink. With an unhealthy dog, the thumbprint will remain visible. Gums should also be warm and moist. Cold, sticky gums indicate poor health as well. The next thing to do is take your dog’s temperature. A normal temp for a dog is 102 degrees. Yes, you will have to take a rectal temperature. It’s not difficult, just remember to keep one thermometer designated for rectal temps only.

Taking quick action can mean the difference between life and death. Know your dog and recognize what is normal and abnormal for him.

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