Selecting a healthy dog

Today’s the day. After all of the research you’ve conducted to find the type of dog that’s right for you, you’ve decided to bring a puppy or dog into your home. Of course, you want to be sure you choose a healthy animal. Here are some helpful tips on inspecting your puppy or dog before you bring him home.

Think like a vet

Give your potential new best friend a complete “checkup” to detect any immediate problems and uncover the potential for future problems. Make sure you also see the puppy with his mother, and that she too looks in good health and has a friendly temperament.

Coat colour and condition. White or light-colored animals can be susceptible to extra problems. Also, grey Collies sometimes suffer from a blood immune problem, which increases their potential for contracting infections. Dogs with a lot of skin folds (e.g. Shar-Peis) often develop skin infections in the folds. Does the coat smell healthy and clean? Is it overly greasy? Check for red patches underneath, dry skin or fleas. Minor skin and coat problems can often be treated with proper nutrition, while other, more serious conditions require medication.

Nose and jaws. Unusually long and pointed or short and pushed in features can serve as warning signs for teeth and gum trouble, along with respiratory problems.

Breathing. Raspy, heavy sounds, specifically after some exertion, are warning signs of respiratory problems.

Eyes. Eye trouble could result in unusually large or small eyes. If you notice discharge from the eyes, this is a sign of plugged tear ducts. (Normally, tears and liquids are released through the nasal cavity). If the eyelids are too loose, or are turned in, this can cause infections.

Ears. Check for redness, inflammation or waxy discharge, any of which could signal chronic ear infections.

Movement. Does he swing his hips from side to side as he walks? This could signal hip dysplasia. Are his legs a normal length and in proportion to each other?

Pigmentation. If the colour and smoothness of the skin on his nose looks abnormal or spotted, the dog may be prone to sunburn or skin cancer.

Even temperament. Be alert for dogs that seem particularly aggressive, clingy, jealous, fearful, suspicious, hyperactive, noisy or unaware. Characteristics like these may be tough to live with on a daily basis, and even harder to correct. If you’re looking for a playful or affectionate dog, pick one that responds to you. Try rolling him on his back. If he fights to get up or is aggressive, he may be difficult to train. A dog that keeps his tail low and is submissive will be easiest to train.

Picking the perfect puppy

Welcoming a happy, cuddly puppy into your home is a joyful experience, especially when you have the peace of mind that comes with knowing he’s healthy.

Check out his living quarters. They should be warm, clean and dry. Even though he’s soiling the area, there shouldn’t be an accumulation of waste. Dirty living quarters suggest he may not be getting the best care.

Examine the puppy. He should be alert, playful and full of energy, not lethargic or depressed. Physically, he shouldn’t be too thin or pot-bellied. His coat should be clean and smooth, with no lesions or missing hair. His gums should be pink, his ears odour-free and his eyes free of discharge. Puppies with scruffy coats, those who scratch a lot, cough or have fecal matter caked under the tail could be sick, which means others in the litter are probably infected, too.

Check his hearing. Clap your hands above and behind the puppy’s head to see if he reacts. If he doesn’t, he could be deaf or hearing impaired.

A Head-to-Tail Inspection Summary

Signs of a healthy dog:

  • Eyes are clear of film or discharge
  • Nose is cool and free of crusty deposits around the nostrils
  • Mouth has pink, firm gums; no odor
  • Skin is smooth and soft, free of growths, scabs and scales
  • He is alert and responsive
  • He is curious about an unexpected noise

Warning signs:

  • Stomach looks distended
  • He has difficulty lying down
  • He pants rapidly
  • Strained defecation
  • Whites of eyes look yellow
  • He refuses food
  • He drools excessively
  • He circles excessively

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