Be your pets personal Vet at home

Did you know that your pet's appearance is a mirror to his overall health and well-being, as well as a reflection of you?

Vets and professional dog groomers see many examples of how poor grooming can result in major health problems on a daily basis. Part of the problem is because many people acquire a dog without giving any thought to the amount of time needed to keep the dog's coat in good condition.

To help ensure that your dog not only looks good, but feels good too, here are some basic examination and care tips.

EYES: A dog's eyes should be bright and clean with no sign of redness or excessive discharge. Wipe with a clean, damp cloth at least once a week to remove day-to-day build up. Expect some tear staining with white-coated dogs but if the discharge is thick or mucous-like, call your vet immediately.

EARS: Pick the earflap up and look inside at least once a week. The ear should NEVER smell foul. Trim ear hair regularly and wipe with a clean damp cloth. Hairy ears or folded ears encourage moisture and dirt buildup, and invite infection. If you see a buildup of brown stuff, or if the ears are red and inflamed, see your vet.

TEETH: The same principles of dental hygiene that apply to you also apply to your dog. Tartar buildup causes gum disease. Ask your vet how you can clean your dog's teeth at home. Diet alone will not ensure healthy teeth.

HEAD AND FACE: Stroking the head and face with a soft brush helps remove dead hair, dander and dirt. Pay special attention to any folds in the skin, especially with wrinkly skinned breeds.

TUMMY: Watch for signs of redness, rash, enlarged nipples, or sores. With longhaired male dogs, you can trim the belly hair to help keep excessive urine out of the fur.

SKIN: Run your hands over your dog's body at least once a week. Feel for lumps and bumps. It is common to find sebaceous cysts. Most are not cancerous, but warrant a veterinary examination.

FEET AND NAILS: Trim nails at least once a moth. (Your vet or groomer can show you how.) Dew claws (located about one third up his leg) MUST be trimmed or they can curl around and grow into the flesh. In winter, long hair between the toes does not keep your dog's feet warm. On the contrary, it collects dirt, road salt and snowballs. Keep it trimmed short year round.

COAT: A dog's coat should be brushed weekly. Trim areas where urine or feces can build up. Be aware that a thick and matted coat encourages bacterial infection and other diseases of the skin, and it does not help to keep a dog warm or cool. A dull, dry coat is a sign of overall poor health and/or nutrition.

Fact Sheet Category: