Saturday, 30 April 2011

Identifying Signs of a Healthy Dog

Posted by Blog Administrator at 04:16
No matter what age, size, sex, or breed you’re looking for, the health of the dog you’re considering is one of the most important factors to evaluate before you adopt. Although many adopted dogs have minor health issues that are easy to resolve — a skin irritation, ear infection, or minor arthritis,basic sound health keeps basic vet bills at a minimum. If you adopt a dog with serious health problems such as chronic kidney trouble, heart worms,glaucoma, or heart disease, the vet bill can quickly skyrocket. Maybe you’re willing to take on that expense for the sake of an ailing pet, but unless you’respecifically prepared to adopt a dog with special medical needs, adopting a healthy dog probably is one of your top priorities.
Fortunately, most shelters and rescue groups have dogs checked by veterinarians and treated for any health issues before making them available for adoption. If you want to adopt a dog that has a minor health problem such as ear mites or a skin rash, you can ask the shelter to have these issues treated first. Although the shelter may not have the resources for such treatment, ifit’s something the shelter’s vet overlooked, it may be willing to take care of the treatment for you. You can expect the shelter to have records of all vaccinations, dewormings, pest control measures, tests, medications, and any other medical diagnoses or treatments that have been administered during the dog’s stay at the shelter. In some cases, the dogs’ previous owners maybe another source of information, providing medical records or at least the name of the vet caring for the dog before it was surrendered.

Beyond written documents, however, you can tell a great deal about a dog’shealth just by looking. When you evaluate a shelter or rescue dog, look for the signs of bright, vibrant health that I describe in the following sections.

Bright eyes and bushy tails

On first examination of a dog, you need to notice a few obvious signs of good health, including:

Bright eyes: Eyes need to be bright and clear with no cloudiness and no discharge. Dogs older than 5 or 6 years old may have slight eye cloudiness caused by progressive hardening of the lenses, appearing as a barely detectible blue in the pupils and eventually a grey. This symptom is normal for older dogs, but milky opaque lenses are a sign of cataracts that cause blindness and need to be fixed, requiring expensive surgery.

Note: Some breeds tend to have tear stains, including Poodles, Shih Tzu,Maltese, and other white or light-colored dogs. Tear stains are not usu-ally a sign of ill health; they can even be remedied with some special products. However, a thick gooey discharge and redness or irritation in a dog’s eyes may be a sign of an eye infection that requires medication.

Tight eyelids: Eyelids need to fit tightly around the eye and not hang loose, except in the case of loose-skinned, droopy-faced dogs like Bloodhounds and Basset Hounds. Some dogs have entropion, a genetic condition in which the lower eyelid curls inward, irritating the cornea,or another similar condition called ectropion, where the lower eyelid curls outward, hanging and enabling debris to become trapped under the lid. These conditions are easily fixed with a simple surgery, but they need to be addressed.

Discharge-free noses: The dog’s nose also needs to be free of any dis-charge, and the dog shouldn’t be wheezing or coughing. These symptomscan signal a respiratory infection or other problems. A cold wet nose isn’tnecessarily a barometer of good health despite the old wives’ tale, and ac old wet oozing nose is certainly not a sign of good health.

Polished ivories: Take a look at those teeth. They should be white and clean and mostly free of tartar buildup. If they aren’t, you need to do some-thing about it. Tartar isn’t necessarily a reason not to adopt a dog. Clean teeth are important because dental bacteria can travel through the blood-stream, infecting the dog’s heart, causing heart disease, and decreasing life span. Teeth with a lot of tartar may need to be professionally cleaned by your veterinarian while your dog is under anesthesia. Generally a safe procedure, anesthesia can be risky for some breeds and for older dogs.This procedure also can get pricey. If your dog has just a little tartar,your vet may be able to scrape it off without putting your dog under.

Clean, infection-free ears: Ear infections, usually caused by yeast, are common in dogs, especially dogs that have been wandering outside for extended periods and dogs with floppy ears (moisture and bacteria can get trapped inside the ear). Even dogs with short, prick ears can get ear infections because the ears are wide open to the introduction of bacteria. Another common ear problem is ear mites. Signs that a dog has an ear infection, or mites, include scratching, head shaking, and pawing at the ears. Ear infections must be treated by a vet but usually are easy to resolve.

A dog’s coat — whether short, tight, and smooth as silk; long, flowing, and glamorous; or harsh, crispy, and wiry — is his crowning glory. The condition of the coat can also be an important indicator of the dog’s overall health.Many health problems manifest in the skin and coat.Parasites like fleas, ticks, and mange mites not only are uncomfortable and cause itching, but they also can transmit serious, even fatal diseases and result in rashes, allergic reactions, and massive hair loss and sores, including the red, inflamed, painful areas called hot spots. Skin infections — common in animals that are injured while wandering — can be caused by staph or other bacteria or by a wound that becomes infected. Likewise, immune system and other systemic problems can cause dull coats, hair loss, and skin problems.Any of the following skin-and-coat conditions can indicate a health problem that needs to be addressed:

Patches of missing hair: Even small patches of missing hair can signal as kin infection that requires treatment. Large patches can signal mange,which is caused by tiny skin mites.

Signs of fleas: You may see tiny black specks — flea dirt — or the little brown hopping bugs themselves.

Ticks: Ticks can be as tiny as pinheads, or when attached to the skin,swollen with blood to the size of acorns.

Signs of mites: Mites are tiny black bugs that you may be able to see.They are smaller than fleas. Signs of mites include itching, ear irritation,red scaly patches, rashes, and hair loss.

Hot spots, those red, itchy, inflamed, weeping wounds caused by excessive scratching: Hot spots can be the result of many possible causes. The most common are allergic reactions to fleabites, food, or other environmental irritants, or an irritated or infected injury. Although usually not serious, hot spots are incredibly uncomfortable for the dog and can be difficult to resolve because the dog will keep scratching and licking the wound.

Dull, thin coat: A dull coat can signal diseased skin. Keep in mind, how-ever, that this symptom also can be a sign of something as normal as seasonal coat change or a post-delivery hair loss (in some breeds, the female loses much of her coat after having a litter of puppies). If coat changes signal a serious disease, such as hypothyroidism, it will have to be treated by a veterinarian.Lumps or bumps in the skin or under the skin: These afflictions may becysts or tumors that may be simple to remove or that may be cancerous.

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