Your Dog’s Physical Examination at Home
How to Examine Your Dog at Home
Your dog cannot explain his symptoms, so it’s the responsibility of you and your veterinarian to take care of him. You can help speed the diagnosis and recovery by having the answers to the following questions ready.
Questions to Consider Before Examining Your Dog
Start by having the answer to some general questions.
- How long have you owned your dog?
- How old is your dog?
- Has your dog ever been ill?
- Is your dog currently under treatment for an illness or disease?
- Where did you get your dog (adoption center, breeder, previous stray, etc.)?
- What medication is your dog currently taking?
- Does your dog receive any consistent flea treatment?
- Is he/she vaccinated? And if so, which vaccines and when last vaccinated?
- What other type of pets do you have?
- Are any other pets ill?
- Have there been any recent acquisitions?
- Have there been any recent activities such as boarding, grooming, etc.?
- Is the majority of his/her time spent indoors or outdoors?
- Have there been any recent changes in diet or eating habits?
- What brand of food, how much and how frequently does your dog eat?
- Do you feed your dog table scraps? What kind? How often?
- Do you feed your treats? What kind? How often?
- Have there been any recent changes in water consumption?
- How much water does your dog typically drink per day?
- Have you noticed any coughing or sneezing?
- Have you noticed any lumps or bumps on your dog?
- Is your dog urinating normally?
- Is your dog having normal bowel movements?
- When is the last time he/she had a bowel movement?
- Have you noticed any recent weight loss or weight gain?
After answering some general questions, more specific questions need to be answered. As you examine your dog, look of the following questions so you can answer them as much as possible.
Examine the Dog’s Eyes:
- Have you noticed an increase or decrease in tear production?
- Do the eyes appear cloudy or red?
- Have you noticed any discharge coming from the eyes?
- Do the eyes appear bloodshot?
- Are the pupils the same size in both eyes?
- Have you noticed your pet rubbing or pawing at eyes?
- Is your dog squinting his/her eyes?
- Do the eyes appear to be sunken or excessively protruding?
Examine the Dog’s Ears:
- Do you notice any swelling or discharge from the ears?
- Are the ears drooping when they normally stand erect?
- Are the ears red and inflamed?
- Do you notice any odor to the ears?
- Is your dog rubbing or pawing at the ears?
- Have you noticed a lot of head shaking?
- Have you noticed any pain or crying when you rub or scratch your dog’s ears?
Examine the Dog’s Nose:
- Have you noticed any congestion, sneezing or coughing?
- Have you noticed any blood coming from the nose?
- Have you noticed any nasal discharge?
Examine the Dog’s Mouth:
- Have you noticed any swelling of the lips or tongue?
- Any bleeding from the mouth?
- What color are the gums – tissue just above the teeth?
- Is your dog able to open and close the mouth normally?
- Is there any pain involved in opening or closing the mouth?
- Have you noticed any excessive drooling or foaming at the mouth?
- Is your dog able swallow food normally?
- Looking inside the mouth, are there any foreign objects such as bones or sticks stuck on the roof of the mouth or around the teeth?
Examine the Dog’s Chest:
- Is your pet experiencing any difficulty breathing?
- Have you noticed any panting?
- Is there any pain when the chest area is petted?
- Have you noticed any recent coughing?
- What is the heart rate?
- Is the heartbeat steady and consistent?
- Place your hand or your ear on the left side of your dog’s chest, just behind the elbow. You should be able to feel or hear the heartbeat. Count how many beats the heart pumps in one minute.
Examine the Dog’s Abdomen/Stomach Area:
- Has your dog been having any diarrhea or vomiting?
- Is your dog able to eat and drink normally?
- Does the abdomen/stomach area appear swollen or distended?
- Does your dog appear in pain when the stomach area is petted?
- Is your dog known to chew on non-food items such as clothing, towels, strings, etc.?
Examine the Dog’s Urinary and Reproductive Systems:
- Have you noticed any difference in urinating?
- Does your dog seem to strain when urinating or cry in pain?
- Does your dog repeatedly try to urinate with no urine produced?
- Is there any blood in the urine?
- How frequently does your dog urinate?
- Is your female dog spayed? If so, at what age?
- Did your female dog ever have puppies? At what age?
- If unspayed, when was her last heat cycle and was she bred?
- Is your male dog neutered?
- If so, at what age?
- Do you notice any discharge from the vaginal area?
- Do you notice any discharge from the penis?
- If your dog is not neutered, do you notice any swelling of the testicles?
- Have you noticed your dog excessively licking or grooming the genital area?
Examine the Dog’s Musculoskeletal System – bones and joints:
- Have you noticed any limping?
- Are any legs or joints swollen?
- Has your dog been excessively licking at one area of his/her legs?
- Does your dog show signs of pain when walking?
- Is your dog able to walk normally?
- Does your dog walk on his/her knuckles?
- Does your dog drag any legs when walking?
- Have you noticed any pain when petting your pet?
By being able to answer these questions, your veterinarian will be in a much better position to help your dog. Additional tests may be necessary to find out what the problem is but the answers to the above questions can greatly narrow the area of concern.