You should routinely check your animal carefully and systematically for possible early signs of illness. Just remember that some animals are very good at hiding ill health or pain, so you need to be vigilant when it comes to pet first aid.
When you run your hands over your pet check its weight and any strange lumps and bumps. Checking will enable you to notice any changes that may occur over time and alert you to possible weight loss or gain, which can sometimes indicate underlying health problems and should always be checked by your vet.
Skin & Coat
Your pet’s coat should be free of crusting, itching, scaling, black/white spots and infected or hot and inflamed areas. The coat should be thick (depending on breed) and shiny with no broken hairs, bald patches, dandruff or fleas.
Ears & Eyes
Your pet’s ears should always be clean and without any thick brown or green waxy discharge. There should also be no redness, itchiness or offensive smell. Eyes should be bright and clear, with no signs of runniness, redness or soreness. Your pet should not squint or shy away from light (as though looking at the light hurts the eyes). If you notice them bumping into objects all of a sudden then this can also be a sign of a problem.
Nose & Mouth
There should be no crusting on the surface of a healthy nose, nor there any runny or thickened discharges or bleeding. Bad breath is not just a cosmetic problem; it can indicate an underlying digestive or kidney problem. More commonly it indicates bacterial overgrowth/plaque on the teeth/gums, which can lead to tooth decay and gum disease. Teeth should be white/cream with no excess tartar, which looks thick and brown. The gums should be a healthy pink (or black depending on skin pigmentation) and not red, swollen or bleeding.
Check length to see if there are any splits, also check for grass seeds between the toes and pads for any soreness and cracking. Nails that are roughened and flake or break easily may require veterinary attention.
Stools should be a consistent brown colour of solid texture, without any straining, blood or mucus (clear jelly) passed. If you notice any changes in appetite or digestion this may be normal, but it could also indicate an underlying medical problem, so it is always recommended to seek veterinary advice.
Knowing what to do in an emergency could save your pet’s life.
In emergency situations:
- First ensure the safety of yourself and others. Keep calm and assess the situation before acting. Injured animals are frightened and in pain and may try to bite anyone who touches them.
- Contact the vet. Keep your vet’s phone number to hand and know the name of the practice.
- Always phone first, whatever the situation, as there may not always be a vet available but staff may be able to suggest immediate action you can take.
- Have a pen handy in case another number is given. Treatment can usually be provided more quickly if the dog is taken to the surgery, rather than if the vet is called out.
- If there is a risk of biting, put a muzzle on a dog, or wrap tape around the nose and tie behind the ears, unless the dog has difficulty breathing. Small dogs may be restrained by putting a thick towel over their heads.
- Never give human medicines to a pet – many will do more harm than good. Do not give food or drink in case anaesthetic is needed.
- Drive carefully when taking the patient to the surgery.
Sometimes accidents and illness happen. Having an insurance policy in place can help you with the costs of caring for your pet.