You probably know that ticks cause Lyme disease in dogs. But did you know that removing a diseased tick in the early stages of attachment could save your dog a lifetime of pain, decreased mobility and possible damage to the heart, kidneys and nervous system?
You probably know to keep your dog away from chocolate and candy. But did you know that a handful of raisins could induce kidney disease? And would you recognize the symptoms of failing kidneys?
You probably know that a limping dog is an uncomfortable dog. But did you know that a dog with a “skip” to his gait might have a patellar luxation? And did you know that a consequence of patellar luxation is degenerative joint disease that causes chronic pain and lameness?
You probably know that obesity leads to diabetes in dogs and humans. But do you know how diabetes presents in a dog? Would you notice the symptoms of lethargy, decreased appetite, excessive water consumption and increased urination?
You probably know all about the dangers of snakes hidden in tall grass. But what about the danger of some grasses themselves? Foxtail barbs designed to move forward and not backward pose a serious threat of soft tissue damage and infection when left embedded in a dog’s nose, ear canal, paw or skin.
A little bit of awareness is all it takes to prevent most of these scenarios from spinning dangerously out of control. Daily attention to your dog’s overall being can save you thousands of dollars — and his life.
I call it the nose-to-toes one-minute morning checkup, and it’s the best return on investment you’ll ever see.
As the name suggests, start at the nose and work back. Check the nose, eyes, ears and gums. At first, you’re looking to get a feel for your dog’s norm. Once you know his norm, you’ll readily pick up on changes — drippy nose, bad breath, inflamed gums, foul-smelling ears.
From there, palpate head to tail, back to belly for lumps. As a dog ages, lumps become more common. Most of the time, they are nothing more than fatty fluid. Sometimes, though, they’re malignant and should be removed. Your vet will know the difference. Draw a map of your dog’s body, and keep track of those you’ve had checked.
Check the niches of his paws for ticks, foxtails or any other foreign body. Check his paw pads to ensure they aren’t dry and cracked.
Pay careful attention to your dog’s weight. Any unexplained significant weight loss or gain should be reported to his veterinarian. “Significant” varies depending on size. A one-pound loss over the course of a week is not particularly noteworthy in a Great Dane. In a Pomeranian, it’s significant.
It’s also important to be familiar with your dog’s water and food habits, as well as his overall energy level. Changes is any of these behaviors are worthy of your attention. A sad dog is a sick dog, and so a sad dog will likely benefit from a visit with the vet.
In addition to educating yourself about your dog’s normal, pick up a resource book of veterinary medicine for laymen. Pocket size will do. Just have something on hand that links symptoms to possible causes, and don’t be afraid to hit the vet. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Dog trainer Matthew “Uncle Matty” Margolis is co-author of 18 books about dogs, a behaviorist, a popular radio and television guest, and host of the PBS series “WOOF! It’s a Dog’s Life!” Read all of Uncle Matty’s columns at the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com, and visit him athttp://www.unclematty.com. Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to Uncle Matty at P.O. Box 3300, Diamond Springs, CA 95619.
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