Nose to Tail Checkup

Oct 10, 2019   Tracey Aston   Health & Wellness

Even though sometimes we wish they could, our pets can't talk to us. In the case of keeping our secrets, that may be a good thing, but in the case of their health, it adds a layer of difficulty when they aren't acting like themselves. A high energy, young pet lying around would be cause for concern whereas a lower energy, couch potato lying around would be normal behavior.  Other than changes in behavior, the quickest way to notice the abnormal is to know what is normal for your pet. 

A nose-to-tail wellness checkup can easily be done at home to get familiarized with your pet's baseline health.  

When brushing, bathing or simply petting your furry friend, make note of any places they have lumps, bumps, moles or skin tags. Most new lumps are nothing to worry about but any new lumps should be brought to the attention of a veterinarian to determine they are benign. Be aware of callus growths, especially on elbows and pressure points. If you do notice these calluses starting to form, Musher's Secret Paw Pad Protector or Vaseline can be used to keep calluses moist and prevent cracking.  

Eyes should be clear and bright, and respond appropriately to different lighting situations. The pupils should be very small when it's bright and get larger the lower the lighting. Check both eyes are similarly shaped and sized. The “white part” of the key shouldn't be irritated or bloodshot but you may notice small veins, this is normal. Bloodshot eyes could be a sign of allergies, irritation or stress. Pay attention to the eyelids for any signs of growths or abnormalities. 

The inside of the ears should be checked for impacted hairs, infection and even fleas and ticks. Dogs with floppy or heavy ears are more susceptible to ear infections due to the lack of air flow.  The inside of a pet's ears shouldn't have an odor.  Therefore, if you notice a yeasty smell to the ears, it could be the sign of an infection.  Dogs suffering from ear infections or allergies often vigorously shake their heads. Doing so could eventually lead to the pet developing hematomas on the ear. Hematomas don't always burst, but if they do the bleeding can be very hard to stop because of the location and can take many months to fully heal.  If a pet is consistently shaking their head, it's time to take them to the veterinarian for a checkup to make sure there isn't an impaction, allergies or infection in the ears. 

Not many pet parents want to get up close and personal in their pet's mouth, but dental health is very important and a change in the smell of a pet's breath could indicate a health concern.  Tooth decay and gum disease is the leading cause of bad breath in our pets, but Kidney disease creates a urine-like smell, and diabetes can cause a pet's breath to smell metallic. Gums should always be a healthy shade of pink. Pale/white gum color can mean anemia; yellow can indicate jaundice and a blue/gray color can indicate lack of oxygen in the cells.

The easiest and least invasive place to check a pulse on a pet is the femoral pulse, which is located on the inside of the thigh the back legs. Move around fingers inside the upper thigh, feeling for a slight depression. Once you've located the pulse, use a watch to count the number of beats for six seconds, then add a zero to that number OR count the beats for 15 seconds and multiply by 4. The resting pulse rate for adult dogs is between 60-140 beats per minute.  The resting pulse rate for cats can vary from 140-250 beats per minute. 

You can visually or manually check your pet's breathing. Place your hand on the side of the chest or watch for the rise and fall of the chest; count the rises or the falls for 30 seconds and double to get breaths per minute. Your pet's breathing should be even, smooth and rhythmic while at rest. The breath rate for resting dogs is 10-30 breaths per minute. Relaxed and resting cats can breathe at 20-30 breaths per minute.

The normal body temperature for dogs is between 101 and 102.5 F and for cats the range falls between 99.5 - 102.5 F. A higher temperature could indicate the presence of an infection or inflammation. 

A pet's foot paws should be firm but supple with no signs of cracking or bleeding. Dog nails should be firm and hard, not dry, cracking or brittle. Cat nails are different and their nails do shed and will flake off, this is normal for cats.  If paw pads due become chapped, dry or cracked, Musher's Secret Paw Pad Protector can be used to moisturize and heal the area. 

Our pets use their tails to communicate with us and each other; a pet tail is capable of many different movements and positions. If a pet is holding their tail limp or can't raise it at all, this could be the sign of a serious injury or illness. Some pets get what is known as “happy tail” and will excessively wag their tails, bumping into objects and causing the tail to bleed. This isn't a medical emergency unless you notice infection or the bleeding won't stop. 

As always, if you notice anything concerning about your pet during the nose to tail checkup, a trip to the veterinarian is always recommended.  You see your pet more than anyone else and it's simple and easy to perform a nose to tail checkup while hanging out, or cuddling watching TV.

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