No matter how wonderful your dog’s veterinarian is, you must be involved
with the healthcare of your pet. As the dog’s owner, you will know if he is
feeling great or if he is under the weather. Dogs can catch viruses that turn
your bouncing puppy into a pooped pooch. They can ingest items that are
not part of a canine diet, upsetting their stomachs or causing more serious
problems. You are in the best position to notice changes in appetite and
behavior that signal trouble.
You should learn to take your dog’s temperature with a rectal thermometer.
It is not much different than taking a baby’s temperature. Coat
the thermometer with a little baby oil and insert into the dog’s rectum
about an inch (less for little guys) for sixty seconds. You may have to gently
hold the dog under the tummy while taking his temperature to keep
him standing. A dog’s normal temperature is between 100 degrees and
102.5 degrees Fahrenheit.
It is important to take your dog’s temperature while he is healthy and
at home, so you get an accurate reading and know exactly what his normal
temperature is. For instance, I know my dogs’ normal temperature is
101.3 degrees. When I see one of the dogs is not feeling well, the first
thing I do is take his temperature. If the dog is running a fever, I know
something is wrong. If the dog is listless, this is another sign that he is ill.
If the dog is not feeling better in a few hours, it’s time to call the vet.
Take time each month to look for lumps and sores that may need veterinary
attention. Not every lump, bump, and sore needs immediate medical
attention, but some malignant tumors can grow very quickly and get
out of hand, becoming difficult and expensive to treat. Knowing your dog
will enable you to watch for problems. Your dog, just like your kids, will
bang into things during playtime, which often results in tenderness or
bruising. If the dog bumped into the gate in the yard, you might notice a
little swelling at the point of impact. Keep an eye on it, and if it doesn’t
go down the way a bruise on your own skin would, call the vet.
As dogs age, they develop an array of lumps and bumps, most of the
time benign tumors called fatty tumors. Unless one is located on a spot
that will irritate the dog in some way, they pose no real problem. You can
play it safe by having your veterinarian examine the various lumps and
bumps you find when you go in for your dog’s checkup, and he can determine
which lumps pose a risk to your pet and will advise you to watch
them closely for any growth, discharge, or change of texture.
If your child and dog collided in the backyard or your dog has any
other kind of spill, he may start to limp. It could be a simple tissue injury,
which will probably disappear overnight with rest. A cold compress will
be soothing and will help the swelling go down. However, if your dog is in
very obvious pain, or is still limping and the leg is still swollen the next
day, he may have a deep tissue injury, pulled a muscle or ligament, or even
broken the leg. It’s time to go to the vet.
Watch for unusual bowel movements that contain blood or mucous, and
for blood in the urine or urine that is unusually foul smelling or a strange
color. All are indications of internal problems. Also look for discharges from
the eyes or nose. Watch for unusual discharges from a female in season—a
sign of a possible uterine infection. One serious infection is pyometra, which
usually occurs about six to eight weeks after a female has been in season, but
can happen at other times as well. Signs of this include fever, drinking excessive
amounts of water, and discharge from the vagina.
The bottom line is that you need to know what is normal for your dog:
appetite, thirst, elimination, sleep, activity level, behavior, body temperature,
and physical appearance. When you notice a change in any of
these, monitor the situation and do not hesitate to call your veterinarian.