Things we should be looking for while doing a physical
1. Hair and flecks
• Depending on the breed, the coat should be shiny and lustrous.
• Important: Look for evidence of fleas, flea dirt, hot spot (inflamed or infected skin) masses, etc. • If you don't see any fleas remember that flea eggs, and larva are microscopic – you can't see those with the naked eye. • Use flea prevention every month. • Flecks - dry skin; consider skin supplements like omega 6 fatty acids for skin. (Also consider omega-3) It's not that simple because you have to base these ratios on their diet as a whole.
2. How to feel for a pulse
• Use two fingers just like you would if you were taking your own pulse. Place them on the inside of the dog's thigh and move up until you hit the abdomen. Move your fingers back and forth until you feel the femoral artery pulsing beneath your finger. There you go! Now count the number of pulses in 15 seconds and multiply by 4 or you count over 30 seconds and multiply by 2. • Normals for dogs 60 – 160bpm. Bigger dogs and athletic dogs will have lower numbers. • Cats on the other hand will be as high as 130-180. A relaxed cat may have a slower pulse. • Just like with yourself, the pulse may be elevated if your pet has just exercised, or if he is stressed, or he's excited to play. Don't use the pulse rate as the sole determinant of whether your pet is healthy.
• Too rapid or too slow. • Pulse is weak, irregular, or hard to locate.
3. Feel the lymph nodes
• Feeling lymph nodes shouldn't be easy. • They should be small and inconspicuous. • If you put your hand in an area of a lymph node and it feels like someone implanted a large marble under the skin then you may need to see your vet. • It's similar to feeling your own lymph nodes. • Show them where some lymph nodes are. • (There are many more places, but here are at least three places that you can feel for them)
4. Teeth brushing for your dog
It's so important to know the normals!
• Teeth are clean and white. • Gums are pink. • CRT – (capillary refill time) Press, hold and watch. If color refills in less than 2 seconds then that's excellent.
Things to watch for
• Tartar accumulation around the base of the teeth.
• The gums are red, pale, inflamed, or sore in appearance.
5. Wet vs. dry nose
• Very common question • Dry nose my mean nothing at all. • Wet noses give better sense of smell.
Differences in large and small dogs
1. Resting heart rate
• Cats: 100 to 160 beats per minute (bpm). A relaxed cat may have a slower pulse.
• Dogs: 60 to 160 bpm. Relaxed or athletic dogs tend to have slower heart rates. • Pulse is easily palpated, strong, and regular.
2. Feeling the abdomen
• Touch and feel (palpate) the stomach. • Start just behind the ribs and gently press your hands into the abdomen, feeling for abnormalities. • If your pet has just eaten, you may be able to feel an enlargement in the left part of the abdomen just under the ribs. Proceed toward the rear of the body, passing your hands gently over the abdomen. • Good to do this frequently so you know normals.
• No lumps, bumps, or masses. • No discomfort on palpation. • No distension of the abdominal wall.
• Any lump, bump, or mass may be abnormal. • Palpation causes groaning or difficulty breathing. Any evidence or indication of pain is a serious finding. Use caution to avoid being bitten. • The abdomen feels hard or tense and it appears distended. • Any pain felt during an abdominal palpation could be a problem. See your vet.
3. Periodontal disease in toy dogs
• Smaller breeds are more prone than larger because the teeth are closer together in small dogs, and they usually live longer. Terriers, Maltese, and Shih Tzus are especially prone to periodontal disease.
4. Dogs hide symptoms when stressed
• Important to know the normals because when they come to the vet's office many times they will act totally normal.
• Instinct tells pets not to show any signs of weakness. • Stress hormones like cortisol and norepinephrine increase heart rate, blood pressure and breathing rate but they also shut down other processes like pain. • Most vets already know that almost every patient they see is masking their symptoms, so we rely on you for an accurate assessment of what is going on at home. Keep your pets healthy with more tips from Dr. Courtney Campbell at
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