Pet Peeves – Animal health in your hands

Lynsey Kitching


Dogs and cats are pretty good at trying to hide any pain. I don’t know why they do this, but they don’t ever want us to know something is wrong, maybe they don’t want to show weakness, or maybe they don’t experience pain like we do.

Even still, there are some signs they give us that they can’t hide, and there are ways for us to keep in tune with the health of our best friends, who can’t speak up and just tell us.

This week is national Animal Health week, a week where veterinary clinics around the country really push pet owners to do their part in carrying out preventative measures to keep pets healthy. The slogan for this year is Animal Health in your Hands.

So we all know (or should know) dogs need exercise to stay healthy and experts say they should go to the vet annually for a check-up. But at home, there are a few ways you can give your dog a little exam to make sure everything looks ok and there is nothing Rover is hiding from you.

The first place to casually check out is their ears. Lift their ear and look inside. When you do this there should be no pain for Rover, and you shouldn’t see any dirt or wax. Of course if you’re doing this exam after a romp through the woods, where Rover was chasing grouse, rolling in the mud and sprinting through the puddles, Rover’s ears may be a little dirtier than normal, keep that in mind.

Also, there shouldn’t be a strong odour coming from inside the ear. A rule of thumb when it comes to pets, anything that smells bad, especially really bad, should get looked at.

The next area that can reveal some health answers to you is the mouth. Though they may resist at first, try to lift up their lips to their cheeks, and open the jaw. This gives you a great vantage point at their teeth, which you can check for tartar. Tartar is a brownish coloured film on their teeth. If there is lots of tartar on their teeth, it can cause their gums to be sore, bring on gingivitis and in severe cases their teeth to decay. Chew toys are a good way to keep down the tartar buildup.

Bad breath (though I haven’t met too many dogs with fresh breath), especially offensive bad breath, is sometimes a first warning sign of something wrong in the mouth or even other areas of the body.

Healthy gums are pink, not red or white and shouldn’t be inflamed.

The next features to examine are the eyes. Excessive discharge could be a sign of a health issue, or it could just be they have sleepy eyes. Either way, the eye goops should be cleaned out. The same goes with their nose. A dog’s nose is usually a little wet, that’s how they leave their personal touches on the windows and sliding doors, however, they may not be feeling well if there is excessive drippage.

Moving on, no dog can resist a body massage. While giving Rover his daily dose of love, it’s a good idea to give him a little once over health-wise while you’re at it. Check for any irregularities or new bumps and lumps. Also have a look for any bald patches, irritations, soreness or scabs.

Any of these findings should get reported to your vet at the next visit.

Something else you may find during the daily pet, are matts in the fur. Though dreads are a hair style some humans choose to fashion, most dogs are not trying to be spiritual or trendy. In fact, those matts cause them discomfort and if left without being cut out, can lead to infections.

These were just a few things you can do at home to take your animals health into your own hands. On top of these little routines, vaccinations are also an important way for pet owners to keep their animals safe from certain viruses and diseases. Different vets have different specifications for vaccination schedules and this should be worked out between the pet owner and the vet.

However, it is important to note that some vaccines will not go into effect until 14 days after the vaccination. The animal’s body needs this time to form the antibodies against the virus.

This is especially important when talking about kennel cough medication. Kennel cough is an upper-respiratory infection that effect’s dogs, much like a cold for humans. The most common organisms associated with kennel cough are the bacteria called Bordetella bronchiseptica and two viruses called Parainfluenza virus and Adenovirus.

Dogs can be susceptible to kennel cough if they, obviously, hence the name, have to spend some time at a kennel, but also in any situation where they are in contact with other dogs. Before boarding, a decent kennel will ask for your animal’s immunization history, however, having the kennel cough vaccination is sometimes optional.

This vaccine can be administered by the pet owner and it is not difficult to do, as long as Rover keeps his head still! If you are going away and would like to give your dog the vaccine against kennel cough, otherwise known as canine cough (so as not to discriminate against the kennels) make sure to do it at least two weeks before you leave on holiday.

We all think our pet is going to live forever, and though deep down we know this ain’t so, these were just some handy ways to keep our pets health in check.