Your dog will rely on you to keep him in good health. A proper diet, regular exercise and grooming, and routine check-ups at the veterinarian will help keep your dog in top form. It's important for you to know your dog's habits - eating, drinking, sleeping, and so forth - sometimes a variation in those habits can be an indication that he isn't feeling well.
Ask your veterinarian for advice on healthcare and prevention and be sure to seek medical advice if you think your dog is ill or hurt.
Signs of Good Health
# Skin - Healthy skin is flexible and smooth, without scabs, growths, white flakes, or red areas. It ranges in color from pale pink to brown or black depending on the breed. Spotted skin is normal, Check your dog for fleas, ticks, lice, or other external parasites. Black "dirt" on your dog's skin or bedding may be a sign of flea droppings.
# Coat - A healthy coat, whether short or long, is glossy and pliable, without dandruff, bald spots, or excessive oiliness.
# Eyes - Healthy eyes are bright and shiny. Mucus and watery tears are normal but should be minimal and clear. The pink lining of the eyelids should not be inflamed, swollen, or have a yellow discharge. Sometimes you can see your dog's third eyelid, a light membrane, at the inside corner of an eye. The whites of your dog's eyes should not be yellowish. Eyelashes should not rub the eyeball.
# Ears - The skin inside your dog's ears should be light pink and clean. There should be some yellow or brownish wax, but a large amount of wax or crust is abnormal. There should be no redness or swelling inside the ear, and your dog shouldn't scratch his ears or shake his head frequently. Dogs with long, hairy ears, need extra attention to keep the ears dry and clean inside and out.
# Nose - A dog's nose is usually cool and moist. Nasal discharge should be clear, never yellowish, thick, bubbly, or foul smelling.
# Mouth, Teeth and Gums - Healthy gums are firm and pink, black, or spotted, just like the dog's skin. Young dogs have smooth white teeth that tend to darken with age. As adult teeth come in, they push baby teeth out of the mouth.
To check your dog's mouth, talk to him gently, then put your hand over the muzzle and lift up the sides of his mouth. Check that adult teeth are coming in as they should, and not being crowded by baby teeth. Make sure the gums are healthy and the breath is not foul-smelling. Look for soft white matter or hard white, yellow, or brown matter. This is plaque or tartar and should be brushed away.
Mouth infections can lead to serious problems in the gums and other parts of the body, including the heart, so it's important to give your dog's teeth and mouth special attention.
# Temperature - A dog's normal temperature is 101 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit (38.3 to 39.2 degrees Celcius). To take your dog's temperature, you'll need a rectal thermometer. Put some petroleum jelly on the bulb of the thermometer. Ask someone to hold your dog's head while you lift his tail and insert the thermometer about an inch or so into the rectum. Do not let go of the thermometer. Hold it in until the temperature is read and then remove gently.
# Elimination - Urine is a good indicator of a dog's health, and should be clear yellow. Most adult dogs have one or two bowel movements a day. Stools should be brown and firm. Runny, watery, or bloody stools, straining, or too much or too little urination warrant a call to the veterinarian.
# Weight - A healthy dog's weight is the result of the balance between diet and exercise. If he is getting enough nutritious food and exercise but still seems over- or underweight, he may have a health problem. Don't let your dog get fat by giving him too many between-meal snacks; obese dogs often develop serious health problems. The best way to tell if your dog is overweight is to feel his rib-cage area. You should be able to feel the ribs below the surface of the skin without much padding.
# Regular vaccinations from your veterinarian can keep your dog from getting serious and sometimes fatal illnesses such as distemper, parvovirus, hepatitis, leptospirosis, coronavirus, and rabies. A vaccination is also available for kennel cough, a respiratory problem that affects young dogs or dogs exposed to many other dogs.
# A puppy's first vaccines ideally should be given at five or six weeks of age and continue over a period of several weeks, up to sixteen weeks. Afterward, yearly booster shots provide the protection your dog will need. Be sure to stick to the schedule your veterinarian gives you to insure immunity.
# Spaying or neutering is a fail-safe method of birth control. A spayed female will not come into season two or three times a year, as unspayed females do. She will not attract male dogs from miles around, she will not discharge on rugs, sofas, or bedding, and she will not be prone to diseases such as pyometra (uterine infection) and mammary cancer. A neutered male cannot breed successfully. His desire to roam in search of females will be reduced, and he may be less aggressive in defending his territory. Also, he will be less susceptible to prostate cancer.
******* When to Call the Vet**********You should alert your veterinarian if your dog exhibits any unusual behavior, including the following symptoms:
•Vomiting, diarrhea, or excessive urination for more than twelve hours.•Fainting. •Loss of balance, staggering, falling. •Constipation or straining to urinate.•Runny eyes or nose. •Persistent scratching at eyes or ears.•Thick discharge from eyes, ears, nose, or sores. •Coughing or sneezing.•Difficulty breathing, prolonged panting. •Shivering. •Whining for no apparent reason.•Loss of appetite for 24 hours or more. •Weight loss. •Dramatic increase in appetite for 24 hours or more. •Increased restlessness. •Excessive sleeping or unusual lack of activity.•Limping, holding, or protecting part of the body. •Excessive drinking of water.