Can you believe we’re well into our first month of 2019 already? Whilst we’ve been busy making resolutions and plans for the year ahead, there are some things you just can’t plan for. Our pets know how to surprise us, but sadly this is not always in a good way. Illness or injury can strike when we least expect it. For the next three weeks of Jo Blogs we are concentrating on keeping your pets healthy in 2019.
We have now welcomed the final year veterinary students from Nottingham Vet School to the centre. They are taught a logical approach to examining animals and start from the nose and work back towards the tail. It’s also important to know what normal looks like, so we can spot when it’s not right. We’ll follow this approach in talking you through what to watch out for in your dogs, cats and rabbits.
Your dog has 50 times more smell receptors in their nose and an area in their brain 40 times bigger than ours devoted to processing all those sniffs and scents. It is an amazing organ which dogs can use to their full advantage! Watch out for discharge, sneezing or any breathing changes so your dog can keep sniffing!
Have a look at your dog’s eyes and watch out for discharge, redness or blinking. These can all be signs of infection, pain or serious issues like scratches on the eye. Your dog has third eyelids – these are there to help protect the eyes. If they are raised it can be a sign that your pet is unwell or dehydrated. With any eye problem it is best to get your dog checked by a vet as soon as possible.
Dogs can hear sounds that are further away and much higher than we can even detect. Your dog may have floppy ears or upright ears but these are designed to help with this special skill. Dogs have ear canals just like us but sometimes these can become infected, inflamed or even trap foreign bodies such as grass seeds within them. Signs of ear problems can include your dog shaking their head, their ears looking red or smelling different. Inner ear problems might cause your dog to have a head tilt or lose their balance. A vet can check your dog and their ears with an otoscope for these problems.
If it is safe to do so have a look in your dog’s mouth. Dogs have 42 teeth when they are adults – ranging from their tiny incisors at the front of their mouth to their chunky molar teeth at the back. Check your dog’s gum colour. It should be a salmon pink colour (unless pigmented) and when you press on the gum the colour should return within 2 seconds once released. Some dogs have teeth removed if they are rotten or have tartar build up and so it’s important to help your dog’s dental hygiene from an early age with tooth brushing, dental chews and if possible just feeding dry food.
If your dog is coughing or sneezing it can be a sign of infection or inflammation in their airways. If your dog coughs, especially when you pinch on their windpipe then it could be a sign of Kennel cough. Kennel cough is a highly contagious infection which is usually not life-threatening but can cause a nasty hacking cough. It is important to try and keep your dog away from other dogs until a week after symptoms have subsided.
Some dogs may struggle to breathe because of their conformation – e.g. short, squashed noses and airways and these breeds especially need help when trying to stay cool. They can easily overheat so avoid walking in the heat of the day and use fans/cool towels for them in the hotter months. If your dog has a cough or trouble breathing it’s important to get them checked out by a vet. Sometimes it can be a sign of heart problems so your dog may need regular monitoring and medication to help.
Your dog’s abdomen contains some very vital organs. These assist your dog in digesting food, storing blood, processing fluid and urine, as well as having reproductive organs until your dog is neutered. Just like us, dogs can get stomach upsets and signs of this can include gurgling, stretching and a reduced appetite. Your dog might also have vomiting and/or diarrhoea. If their signs are mild then a bland diet of chicken and rice or scrambled eggs can help, but if symptoms continue it’s best for your vet to check them over.
Dogs can become bloated which is an emergency and requires immediate veterinary attention.
Signs might be a swollen stomach, retching or collapse. Phone your vet straight away if you notice these signs. To reduce the risk of bloat avoid exercising or playing with your dog soon after they have eaten
Most dogs are covered in fur but sometimes their coat may become dull, scurfy, greasy or even fall out. There are lots of reasons that this can happen but your vet can take a look and decide what the best treatment is. This may be medicated shampoos, topical creams or tablets. A common time for skin problems is during the summer months due pollen and grass allergies but other causes of itching and irritation can include parasites such as fleas, food allergies and infections.
These areas can be commonly injured so look out for split pads or nails as well as foreign bodies such as seeds and thorns in your dog’s feet. Signs to watch out for include limping or licking to point out there’s a problem. Dog nails can become long if not worn down by walking on hard surfaces like pavements. Your vet can help with clipping these if needed, especially the dew claws.
What goes in must come out! Therefore it’s important to check your dog’s poo. It can vary in colour, consistency and sometimes even contain blood, worms or mucus. If this is the case your dog will need to be seen by a vet to prescribe your dog the correct treatment. Sometimes your dog might try and show you there is something wrong by scooting (dragging their bottom) or by chewing around the top of their tail. This could be signs of worms, fleas, anal gland problems or all of the above but luckily all can be treated!
If you have any concerns at all about your pet’s health then you should contact your vet immediately.