Your pet needs to see a vet sometimes, but in between visits you can monitor your pet's health with a wellness exam at home.
In fact, regular at-home exams can save lots of money in the long run by helping to catch problems earlier, and the steps are simple.
Choose a quiet location and a time when your pet is relaxed, such as following an exercise session or nap. You will want to start at the tip of your pet's nose, and work your way to the tail. Here is what to look for in each area.
First, check your pet's nose for debris. Is the nose wet or dry? A dry nose isn't necessarily indicative of a problem, as it will vary from moist to dry depending on your pet's body temperature, hydration, and activity level, but a severely dry nose could be a sign of dehydration.
Check for abnormal eye discharge; if your pet's eyes are always clear and suddenly he or she has discharge, there could be a problem. Make sure your pet's pupils are symmetrical and examine the sclera, or whites of their eyes. Redness could mean inflammation.
Examine the inside of your pet's mouth for lesions, swelling, and bad breath. Their gums should be pink and teeth free of plaque and tartar. Also gently palpate the jawline to make sure it feels normal. Check inside your pet's ears to make sure they are clean and free of debris and odor.
As you continue down your pet's body, brush back the hair and examine the skin and coat for excessive flakiness and lumps and bumps, particularly on the side of the spinal cord. Check for heat and swelling on your pet's body and take a moment to evaluate your pet's muscle tone and weight.
Make sure your pet has good range of motion and the joints move freely, and examine the claws and pads of your pet's feet for ingrown nails or cut pads. Don't forget to examine your pet's bottom for cleanliness.
Gently palpate you pet's belly to look for lumps and pay special attention to any discomfort your pet may show. Examine both mammary chains, in both female and male pets.
If you find any odd bumps or lumps on your pet that you don't think warrant immediate attention, record them on a pet body chart so you can compare them to later changes during your next exam.
An at-home exam should never substitute for a vet visit, but it can help you pay better attention to your pet's health and allow you to confront any problems earlier. And that is priceless.