Conditions that are caught early can be treated better. As it is with people, so it is with dogs.
One of the most important things we learned at the Pet First Aid and CPR class that we took from Denise Fleck at Sunny-dog Ink, was the importance of doing a weekly head-to-tail check. Making this a habit is one of the resolutions Fido and I have made for 2014.
It’s an easy way to stay on top of changes in your dog’s body, habits and health. It can be a wonderful time for bonding and a great warm-up for a grooming session. Regular monitoring makes you a better partner with your veterinarian in keeping Fido healthy. Here are tips and a handy form for noting what you find when you do your dog’s head-to-tail check.
Start slowly and keep it relaxed and fun. Fido and I found a warm, sunny spot. Just the kind of setting he enjoys. I started slowly and gently petting him from head to tail and then down his sides. At first my hands moved just across the surface of his body. His eyes started blinking shut.
As he relaxed, I started rubbing my fingers into his fur. Think a massaging touch, still gentle and slow. Keeping one hand touching him, I took notes on the form with the other. I noted that both of his eyes were a little runny and that for the past day or two he had been rubbing his right eye (the “good” one) with his paw. Scratching under his chin, I checked the left eye (the one with iris atrophy) to see that there were no changes.
I flipped over both of his ears. They were clean and light pink, not hot or smelly. I ran my hands along his legs. Fido hates having his feet and legs touched so I was very gentle and quick. I noted that his claws are still short. That pedicure can be delayed a few more weeks.
I spent a lot of time feeling his chest behind and under his front legs. Several times I’ve felt a small lump there that I assumed was a simple fatty lump. That lump was one of the things that pushed me to commit to the weekly check. It’s exactly the sort of thing you dismiss as nothing and can discover much too late that it grew into a tumor. The good news is that I didn’t find the lump. I noted that on my form that I didn’t find the lump this session.
It would be so much easier if you could really be systematic in going from head to tail. I chose to keep Fido peaceful as I worked. That meant that some spots got done out of order. I knew he would fight me checking his teeth (which are yellow, but the gums aren’t flaming), so I check everything on his head and body before I went back to check his mouth. Flipping him over on his back was going to be a deal-breaker, too, so I inspected with my fingers rather than with my eyes.
I followed up the check with a grooming session. This is a great combination. The body check alerts you to any skin issues or tangles before you get out the comb and brush. As I brushed, one hand trailed after continuing to feel just in case I missed something. Because he preferred to stand up while I was brushing, I could reach him from different angles than when he was lying down and enjoying the sun and massage.
This was a pleasure to do — for both of us.
We’re sharing the form we used below.