paw prints

Keep your dog strong and healthy

By Karen A. Soukiasian

It is imperative to have a physical, emotional and medical baseline of your pet’s habits and behaviors. With that in mind, you can note subtle changes in your puppy or dog that could be significant.

Early, pre-emptive awareness and action, can often prevent unnecessary pain, exhortative veterinary expenses and even heartbreak.

By being familiar with and accustomed to your puppy or dog’s age appropriate, typical energy level, eating, drinking, elimination and emotional behaviors, you will be aware of minor variations, hopefully in sufficient time to address them, before they become serious.

It’s perfectly normal for a puppy or dog to have a bad day or two. However, should changes last for three or more days, it’s a safe bet for your peace of mind and the comfort of your pet, a visit to your veterinarian should be on your agenda!

Signs of a Healthy Dog
The first thing that should be noted is your dog’s age and general health. Senior dogs often show signs of normal aging and health/behavior issues that are not expected for younger dogs. However, if you acquaint yourself to ordinary expectations of your puppy or dog’s age, you will be better prepared to recognize changes that are red flags.

Healthy dogs should have a shiny coat, suitable appetite, predictable thirst, steady weight, regular eliminations, age appropriate energy level, and well-balanced emotional behaviors.

Let’s face it, other than expressing pain, your dog can’t tell you when they don’t feel well… nevertheless they can and will show you!

Warning Signs and Symptoms
The most important things to bear in mind are your dog’s “normal” habits, physical appearance, emotional behavior, thirst, hunger, elimination routines, and their energy levels, in order to have a baseline so you can recognize and identify possible underlying problems.

Impaired movements, for example, the inability to get up or down, difficulty walking, dizziness, prolonged limping, imbalance, ignoring you, constant circling and seizures require immediate veterinary attention.

Certain other health problem signs to watch for are: dull coat, dull or coated eyes, changes in appetite, excessive thirst, dehydration, fever, vomiting, and coughing.

Unexplained rapid weight changes of plus or minus 10 percent, should necessitate a trip to your veterinarian.

Stools should be firm, well formed, moist and without obvious parasites. Constipation or diarrhea are warning signs of a problem, if it lasts more than two days. Urine should be clear. Cloudy, dark urine could be a sign of infection, or dehydration. Excessive, lack of, or painful urinations should be given immediate attention, as they could be signs of bladder infections or kidney disease or failure.

Discharges from eyes or nose, and changes such as red eyes and sneezing could be signs of respiratory problems or allergies.

Excessive licking and vaginal discharge could be a red flag for pyometria, a possibly fatal condition for un-sprayed females. The enlarged, infected uterus could rupture, causing peritonitis and death.

Labored breathing, unusual lethargy, impaired movement, dizziness, excessive panting, wheezing, drooling, excessive salivation, whimpering, flinching, blood, lumps and swelling require immediate attention.

If you dog is ignoring you or is unresponsive to stimuli, it could be the beginning of hearing loss.

Watch for swellings, lumps, pale gums, dry mouth, and bad breath. All are signs of more serious problems.

Unexplained behavioral changes such as aggression, snapping, fearfulness, depression, clinginess, excessive barking and anxiousness, should be discussed with your veterinarian.

Bottom line: Know your puppy or dog! Watch for, and be aware of changes. Be honest with yourself… don’t make excuses! Play it safe. For anything that lingers for three or more days, a visit to your veterinarian may be a sound idea.

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