Published: 07 January 2021

Learning First Aid for Dogs is a great way to feel prepared if illness or accidents occur. However, by also knowing what is "normal" for your dog, you can easily identify abnormal signs. You can do this by taking your pet's pulse,making circulation checks and looking at the colour inside the mouth. Find out what is normal now so when you have a problem you know what is wrong. Here are just some of the ways you can make sure you're familiar with your dog's health and behaviour:

1. Body Check - on a weekly basis you should be (whilst grooming if appropriate for your breed) performing a full body check of your dog. Gently run your hands over every part of your dog’s body and check for lumps, cuts, inflammation and any signs of discomfort. Be familiar with where the pulse is on the inside of the hind leg area.

2. Eating & Drinking - if your dog goes off his food or drink for more than 24 hours it is time to contact the vet, especially if your dog is usually a big eater. Remember, you know your dog better than anyone -- if you think something is wrong it probably is.

3. Mouth Check - check the mouth for anything out of the ordinary. Gums should be pink, so darker/redder patches may indicate a problem. Check for growths and lumps, and make sure that the teeth are clear and that none are loose. Check the tongue for cuts and sores. Unusually bad breath could be an indication of digestive problems. You can also check capillary refill time (time taken for colour to return to an external capillary bed i.e. gum after pressure is applied).

4. Eye Check - your dog’s eyes should be clear and the pupils should be the same size. Check for ingrowing eyelashes or hair that looks like it's causing a problem. There should also be no excessive discharge or signs of irritation. If there is, visit the vet.

5. Feet Check - examine your dog’s feet for any cuts, grazes or growths. Long nails can sometimes cause problems and should be trimmed, either with dog clippers or a file. Be careful when cutting/trimming your dog’s nails as this can sometimes cause bleeding.

6. Skin and Coat Check - does the coat feel smooth and healthy? Can you feel any lumps either on the skin or under it? Does your dog flinch when you run your hands over a specific area? Are there any greasy or moist areas? Does the skin move freely across your dog’s body? If you part the hair does the skin look flaky or dry?

These basic checks should be performed on a routine basis and doing so will ensure you catch any sign of trouble early on. Remember, if anything looks out of the ordinary consult your vet. We cover each of these points, and others, on our First Aid for Dogs course. If you'd like to know how to deal with an emergency, why not join us on our First Aid for Dogs course?

We currently offer face-to-face courses, a Zoom option or an online course, that you can follow at your own pace from home. We can run bespoke courses for you and a group of friends or colleagues.

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