Feeling for problems - a Dog Examination

The biggest and most successful tip is: Watch what comes out as carefully as you watch what goes in. Any change in your dog’s toilet habits may indicate a problem.

One thing a dog owner can perform at home is the physical exam. Starting at the front and working your way down the dog’s body will give you clues of the current state of the dog’s health.


1. Check your dog’s eyes for redness, discharge, cloudiness, or obvious injuries. Dilated pupils in bright light mean fear, pain, excitement, or shock.

2. Look in the ears for inflammation, discharge, excess wax, or physical damage. Check the skin on the earflaps, especially the tips of the ears a happy home for some skin parasites such as burrowing Sarcoptes mange mites.

3. The nose should be gloriously cool and slightly wet. There should be no sign of discharge from either nostril

NOTE: A dog really does have a cool, wet nose, but the opposite a warm dry nose does not always mean a dog is unhealthy. During sleep and in certain climates, a dog’s nose may become warm and dry. And a few perfectly healthy dogs always have warm dry noses. If your dog’s usually cool, wet nose becomes warm and dry, look for other changes, such as a fever, that may indicate the dog is unwell.

4. Examine the lips, especially the lip folds in breeds such as spaniels, for smell or inflammation. Look at the gums on both sides. There should be no inflammation or unpleasant odor.

5. If your dog has folds on the face (a Pug or a Shar-Pai for example) gentle open the folds to check for redness, inflammation, or an unpleasant odor.


With age, a dog’s teeth lose their brilliant whiteness of youth. You will probably see a little staining, but there should be no tartar on the teeth. Open your dog’s mouth. The tongue should be a healthy pink and the roof of the mouth delightfully corrugated and free from debris.


1. Run your hands over the dog’s head, cheeks, jaws, and throat.

2. Gentle turn the head left,, right, up, and down. Resistance could mean pain.

3. Feel down the dog’s neck, then over the back, sides, and chest. Any stickiness might indicate a site of skin infection or a penetrating injury, for example, a bite, prickle, or piece of glass.

4. Frequently part the hair to examine the skin which should show no sign of redness, flea dirt or much flaking dander.

5. Run your hands down the hips, around the groin and down each limb, feeling the joints and particularly examining for swelling or excess heat. Examine both hind legs or both forelegs together. The muscles and joints should feel perfectly symmetrical. If, for example, one leg feels less muscular than the other, it means there might be pain leading to less use of the less well-muscled limb.

6. Feel along the length of the tail and gently lift it to inspect the anus, which should be perfectly clean and odor-free. There should be no discharge from a female dog’s vulva and little or no discharge from a male dog’s sheath. A male dog’s testicles should be symmetrical.

7. Flex each limb. When all is fine, your dog will put the limb down immediately. If the dog has joint pain, it will put the leg down gingerly because it hurt when you flexed it.

8. Move on to examining the feet, checking the pads for damage, the space between the pads for debris, and the nails for length.

If you find any signs that could point to a problem, consult your vet. They are the experts with the methodology, means and ability to quickly diagnose potential concerns and possibly save your dog’s life.


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