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How to Perform a Simple Health Check on Your Dog

I love pottering in the greenhouse and garden and listening to classic rock with my Labradoodle, Florrie.


Our furry friends can’t tell us when they are feeling ill or when they have a health problem. Sometimes we can observe that something is wrong by a change in their behaviour. If Florrie leaves her food, won’t play ball and takes to her bed then it is usually a sign that she is feeling unwell.

The Health of Your Dog

Sometimes dogs can become more irritable or less tolerant of other dogs when they are ill. However, early signs of health problems can frequently go unnoticed.

It is important to take your dog for a periodic health check performed by your vet. They can advise on the best frequency for professional check-ups based on the age and general health of your dog.

In the time in-between, you can give your dog a nose-to-tail check at home to make sure everything is as it should be. Regular home checks may help you notice any changes to your dog's health early on so you can seek treatment sooner.

Your Nose-to-Tail Health Check

  • Head
  • Ears
  • Eyes
  • Nose
  • Mouth
  • Teeth
  • Skin & Coat
  • Paws
  • Backside
Add a Health Check To Your Dogs’ Grooming Routine

Add a Health Check To Your Dogs’ Grooming Routine

Make it Fun!

Try to perform the health check in the same way each time in order to get both you and your dog into a routine. For example, the health check could be added to your usual grooming session with your dog. Remember to be gentle and give plenty of praise and reward in order to make it a fun experience. If you notice anything unusual or your pet appears unwell, then contact your vet.

Florrie With a Sore Eye

Florrie With a Sore Eye

Eyes and Nose

Your dog's eyes and nose are often the first part of their body to be plunged into bushes or undergrowth when they are playing or running. As a result, they are susceptible to cuts and scratches. So check your dog's head regularly.

Your dog's eyes should be clear and bright with no clouding or redness. Examine their nose for sore patches or any discharge.

Carefully Lift Your Dogs’ Lips

Carefully Lift Your Dogs’ Lips

Mouth and Teeth

Be careful when checking your dog's teeth and gums and only do so if you know your dog will allow it. Even then, they can still bite!

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You need to carefully lift their lips and look at their side and back teeth as well as the front. Look for any broken or chipped teeth or brown tartar build-up. Check for any swellings or red inflamed areas on the gums and tongue.

Lift the Ear Flap

Lift the Ear Flap


Ear infections are just as painful for dogs as they are for humans. We know Florrie has an ear problem when she shakes her head a lot or pokes and scratches her ear with her foot.

Lift the ear flap and check for any redness or discharge. A dark waxy discharge might be a sign of ear mites. Smell inside the ear too as offensive odours are a sign of a problem!

Florrie Had Some Lumps Removed By Her Vet

Florrie Had Some Lumps Removed By Her Vet

Skin and Coat

Your dog's fur can make health problems difficult to spot. Look and feel over your entire dog's body with your hands for lumps and bumps, sores or tender spots. Be careful the first few times you do this, especially if your dog is not used to being handled in this way.

Doing this check regularly will allow you to understand what is normal for your dog and what is not. If you find something that looks or feels strange or different, try checking for the same thing on the opposite side of your dog's body. Normal features are usually symmetrical.

Florrie developed several lumps and bumps on her side as she got older which we informed her vet about. Her vet removed them in a minor operation.

Constant Scratching Could Be a Sign Of Fleas

Constant Scratching Could Be a Sign Of Fleas


Look for evidence of fleas even if you treat your pet regularly for them. Check for raised red spots or irritated skin especially if your dog has been scratching. Look for fine black specks of flea poo in your dog's fur which turn reddy brown in colour on a wet paper towel.

Check Claws and Pads

Check Claws and Pads


Examine your dog’s paws to make sure there are no sore patches or grass seeds between the pads. Note that many dogs have very sensitive feet and may not like you touching them! Inspect each claw to make sure it is not broken or too long. Dew claws are not in contact with the ground so can become overly long. So make sure they do not curl round and embed themselves in the pad.

Florrie Waiting Her Turn at The Vets

Florrie Waiting Her Turn at The Vets


Anal glands are everybody’s least favourite subject, so I have saved it to last! If you notice your dog scooting its backside along the floor, then it probably has overly full anal glands. This is definitely a job to ask your vet or groomer to sort out.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

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