General Observations an Owner can make on a regular basis:
By Heidi Mitchell of All Creatures Great and Small
Carefully grooming the dog at least once a week (more frequently in long haired breeds) to ensure the dog is free from wounds, lumps and bumps, ticks or parasite infestations. If necessary back combing the hair will help reveal any skin conditions or wounds.
The health of the coat will give a very good indication to the health of the dog. Shiny and glossy. Free from dandruff will indicate the diet is appropriate for the dog and the dog is also still metabolising that diet adequately. It will also help reveal if your dog is becoming dehydrated. (a greasy coat which is sticky is a sign of dehydration).
Regularly monitor the colour of the gums for general health. They should be a nice pink colour and should feel moist.
- Red gums – are a sign of inflammation
- Purple gums – are a sign of poor circulation
- Bluey gums – cyanotic, a sign of poorly oxygenated blood
- White gums – a sign of losing blood internally or the animal is in shock.
- Dirty coloured gums are a sign of poor health as it shows the circulation is not working to full capacity. Any colour other than pink cannot be ignored and further advise should always be sought.
If the gums feel dry and sticky, combined with the dog have a greasy looking coat then the dog could be dehydrated. As a general rule of thumb for normal health a dog requires 50ml per kilo bodyweight per 24 hours. If the dog has physical health problems then this quantity may be increased. So if your dog is 20kilos then he will need 1 litre of water a day. (20 x 50 = 1000)
Signs of excessive drinking can indicate health problems such as kidney failure. So it is helpful to have an idea of what your dog should be drinking so you then know if he or she is drinking too much or not enough.
Regularly check your dog’s eyes for any discharges, look for foreign bodies (such as a grass seed) which will cause irritation. Also checking inside the ear for excess wax which can be down to ear mites.
Observations should continuously be made, in effort to always be making an overall assessment of the health of an elderly dog. Every observation helps build a picture of the health. Symptoms on their own may not be a worry but when added together with other symptoms such as weight loss or anxiety, pacing, restlessness these then builds a history from which a vet can base his diagnosis on.