Monitoring changes in your pet’s health is an important part of pet ownership! By being vigilant and familiar with your pet’s ‘normal’ health status, slight changes are easily noticed, and care can then be given before the problem becomes magnified.
So, here’s a simple list that we’ve put together to help you out. Please note, that a simple check over, should not and cannot replace professional veterinary care. If you do however notice any changes, visit your vet and seek treatment. Our pets rely on us and often don’t show any signs of pain, when they are in fact experiencing discomfort.
Check for signs of debris, discharge, blood, dirt or wax. Your pet’s ears should not have an unpleasant odour, but a small amount of wax is normal Pet’s with pink skin have a much higher risk of getting skin cancer so Its especially important that the skin is monitored for any new lumps, bumps or changes in skin pigmentation. Swelling and change in skin colouration in most cases also isn't normal.
Eyes should be nice and clear, without any redness, discharge or weeping.
Noses should be free of discharge and swelling. Check for changes in skin pigmentation or sores that won’t heal.
5. Mouth, teeth and gums:
When looking in a pet’s mouth, be careful! Their teeth should be nice and white, and there shouldn’t be any chips. Healthy gums are nice and pink without any signs of receding gum lines, bleeding or swelling. Pets often have tartar build up, this needs to be monitored and you might look at changing their diet. If the build-up and odour is quite bad, talk to your vet professional about a possible dental or other option such as brushing their teeth or adding special treats that help combat tartar build up. The mouth should also be free of ulcers and lesions. For some great photos and more information, click here.
As we spend time with our pets, we get to learn what their normal breathing patterns are like. Their breathing should be nice and even. No rasping should be heard, panting, wheezing, coughing or even increased effort during respiration definitely warrants a visit to your vet.
7. Skin and coat:
Fur should be nice and shiny. Bald patches need to be monitored and if the skin has any lesions, we suggest a quick check up at your vets. Skin should not be flaky, there should be no dandruff, and if there is, ensure your pet’s diet is meeting all of their nutritional needs. If your pet’s skin is often red, itchy and sore, please visit your vet.
8. Nails and paw pads:
Check the paw pads regularly, especially during grass seed season, and ensure there isn’t any discolouration, lesions or bleeding. If your pet is showing signs of lameness or their paws are sore to the touch, pay a visit to your local vet. If your pet’s nail needs a trim, ensure you’re not cutting too close to their quick as this can be really painful. For more tips on correctly trimming nails, click here.
Lack of mobility, or favouring one limb, or lameness, is a sign that something is not quite right. Keep an eye on how your pet moves. Are they having difficulty getting up or sitting down, are they not as playful as usual? Your pet may be getting old and could benefit from supplements or pain management medications.
When you pat your animal, you will often notice changes such as new lumps and bumps. With the help of your vet professional, monitor these lumps and ensure there isn’t any discharge or sudden growth or pain. When patting your animal, you should also be able to slightly feel their ribs. If they can easily be felt and seen, your pet may be underweight. If you can’t feel them at all, chances are your pet needs to reign in on those cheeky treats!
11. Your pet’s weight:
As a pet owner, one of the most important things you can do for their health, is ensure their diet and weight is monitored. Your pet will live a longer and happier life! Your pet’s weight is directly linked to their health, just like ours. Obesity in pets is linked to diabetes mellitus, heart disease, cancer, early onset arthritis and even skin problems. They will experience decreased mobility, pain and their organs and joints will be under added stress. This is especially a problem in older, senior pets who are already experiencing changes as a result of ageing.
One of the best ways to prevent health complications is to ensure you’re feeding your pet a good quality, balanced diet and ensuring they are not overweight. Some pet owners feed their pets once a day, others like feeding their pets a few times a day. Whatever feeding regime you have, ensure that you’re splitting your pet’s daily food needs correctly and not under or over feeding. Most foods will have a guide on their label advising you of suitable intake guidelines so make sure to have a good read. A great way of ensuring your pet doesn’t overeat, is not allowing them access to food to graze all day. This way you can monitor their exact intake and they are less likely to overeat or steal some extra mouthfuls from their friends.
For information on pet foods available in Australia visit Pet Food Reviews. Thankfully someone has already done the hard work for us and researched pet foods, their nutritional content and reviewed and rated it all for us! Hoorah! We love the Meals for Mutts/Meows, Blackhawk, Ivory Coat and Ziwi Peak brands. There are dozens of websites dedicated to the raw prey model for dogs also, you might also join a group on Facebook!
Remember, if you’re feeding a cheap food, you’re likely having to feed more of it so that your pet gets all of their nutritional needs. This also means more poo! If you invest in a good quality, balanced diet, with minimal fillers (fillers are things such as soy, corn, wheat), you’re likely to save money in the long run, there will be less poo, less smelly gas and your pet’s quality of life will increase.
Senior pets will need a specialised lower calorie food as their energy levels will decrease, whilst puppies and high energy dogs will again need a different type of food to meet all of their body’s needs.
How do you know if your pet is overweight?
- Can you see your pet’s waist?
- Do you have difficulty feeling their ribs?
- Does your pet easily tire with exercise or even low-grade activity?
- Does your pet have a constant supply of food and treats?
Carrying excessive weight will put extra strain on your pet’s joints and organs. They also live a less active and shorter life. For more info on scoring your pet’s weight, click here and as always, your local vet professionals will be more than happy to answer any questions you may have.