Health check 101- when to call the vet

Your puppy is your whole world and it is your responsibility to ensure that he is healthy and well. It is sometimes difficult to know if he is sick, as dogs don’t always show when they’re in pain. And, of course, they can’t tell us if something is wrong.

Here are some signs to look out for if you think your dog may be unwell.

Overall appearance

Attentive dog owners normally know when their dog is not feeling well – it has much to do with how the dog behaves and acts. If you have a highly energetic dog who suddenly lies down more than usual, or a couch potato who seems highly agitated, you’ll know that something is wrong. A healthy dog looks bright, alert and happy, while an ill dog looks depressed with his tail down.


Keep an eye on your dog’s body condition. If he is losing or picking up weight and it is not food-related, there might be a problem. Speak to your vet, as the problem could be the result of an underlying medical problem. Also look out for sudden weight loss. If your dog’s tummy looks bloated, it is also an indication that something may be wrong.


Your dog’s membranes can tell a lot about his state of health. Lift up his lip to check his gums, which should be pink and moist. Gums that seem inflamed, very pale or yellowish is a sign that you need to take him to the vet. Get your puppy used to having you look in his mouth while he is still a puppy.


Take a good look at your dog’s nose. Most healthy dogs will have a cool and moist nose, and in some cases their noses will be dry – know what is normal for your dog. If you see a discharge from his nose, his nose is crusting or the skin is cracking, it can be a sign of illness.


His eyes should be bright and clear, and fully open. As dogs don’t blink as much as people, it can be an indication of some sort of irritation if he blinks often or rubs his eyes. A slight, clear discharge in the corner of the eye is quite normal, but a profuse, pus-like discharge needs immediate attention. If grey areas appear in his eyes as he gets older, it can be an indication of cataracts.


You need to clean your dogs’ ears regularly, and check that all is well. A foul smell from the ears is not normal and you should see a vet. If he holds his head to one side or shakes his head, you should consult your vet. Don’t pour any liquids in your dog’s ears, unless your vet advised you to do so.


Your dog’s coat is another indicator of his health. His coat should look healthy and glossy. Dryness, oiliness, a dull coat and extremely unpleasant smell from the coat are signs of illness. If his coat looks thinner than usual, he is losing more hair than normal, or has bald patches, speak to your vet.

Bathroom habits

Your dog’s faeces are a big indicator of his health. The amount of water he drinks and his diet play a big role in the texture of the stools. A healthy stool should be firm with no blood or mucus. On average, dogs defecate two to three times a day. If your dog defecates much more or less than usual, or if his stools look different to what is normal for him, you should take him to the vet.

Immediately take your dog to the vet if he shows any of the following signs:

  • Unconsciousness
  • Seizures
  • Struggling to breathe or breathing rapidly
  • Weak or fast pulse
  • Pale gums
  • Difficulty walking or seeming paralysed
  • Large wound, blood loss
  • Continuous vomiting paired with any of the above signs or white foam around the mouth


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