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We often get asked when talking about the health of any animal is, how do you know if a dog is unwell? And some of these things you need to look out for are the sort of signs of what is wrong. Now, when you are doing human first aid, we look at what is called, signs and symptoms. A sign is something that you see, a symptom is something the patient tells you. Now, with Deco here, she cannot directly talk, obviously, but she can show signs of where there could be any possible problems. So we are really concentrating on the signs here.

If you think there is a problem with your dog, the first thing you are going to notice is just its behaviour. Maybe she is not lively when you come back. She is sitting down. She might be rubbing her back end, or scratching, things like this or just not her normal self. Another thing could be an appetite. It is quite common for a dog to go off its food or be very ravenous, wants to eat everything that is going, or maybe just starts destroying the house, things like this. These could be all signs that there could possibly be something wrong. Not necessarily, because it might just be the dogs being naughty, especially if it is a new dog of yours.

So if we just sort of have a look through some signs that you can look for within a dog. Now, obviously, Deco is a large dog. This would be exactly the same whether we are doing it with small dogs, large dogs. But also we can apply this to other animals. You know, a little bit different with some of them, but say the smaller animals, with your rabbits and cats and all sorts of other creatures.

A really good thing to do is start at the head and work your way down round the body. Now, Deco here, she is dribbling well, she is lively, she is alert, so that is pretty much covering that she is her normal self. Panting is a normal reaction for dogs. Dogs cannot sweat the way that a human would, so as you see now she is panting and her tongue is out. She is dribbling. This is all normal behaviour. Some of the older dogs you might notice their breath smells a bit. This could be what they have eaten or it could be a dental problem, so maybe it might be worth checking. So to start with here, as we can, we will just have a look through at her teeth to make sure there are no major problems. Gum colour can be quite a good indication. So from here, we can look through and her gums are pretty much as they normally are. She has got pink and black type gums. There are no growths or any other problem within her mouth. Her tongue is quite normal.

So, looking up, the next thing is to look at the nose. If you touch the dog's nose, it is normally very cold. Another indication would be, if you just tap on the end of a dog's nose, she will normally just pop her tongue out. Let us see, I am not going to do it for us now, but it is just a normal reaction. Again, it is just the way that the dogs. If you know the nose is cold it is quite a good indicator. If a dog has got a hot nose, it not necessarily means it is unwell, but it could just be one of those signs that could give you some hints.

From here just looking at her, her nose is cold, she is breathing well, respiration is fine, she is panting, which is fine. We look at her eyes, within the eyes, just lift the eyes up, have a look at the whites of the eyes as well. You will notice with a dog, they have an inner eyelid that comes across this way as well. Again, that is normal. It is more of a protection method for them. So their eyelids go up and down this way so that they are closed this way. And if we open up, we can also see another lid that will come across here. So you want to have a look there, and look at one eye compared with the other eye. Is there a problem? Have you got any discharge? Sometimes you will see discharge coming out of the eyes. Now, sometimes that is normal. But is it continuous? Is it a colour to it?

Moving around, let us go through and have a look at ears. Dogs' ears are different, in different breeds, some go up, some go down, some go one up and one down; that is completely normal. We want to have a look through. Now with an ear, do not go sticking stuff inside it. You are not quite sure what damage you could possibly do. But sometimes you will find with dogs running in a field and it gets a little grass seed in its ear, and these can go in quite deep and cause problems and then get infected as well. And this is something you want to take the dog to a vet to get it out. One of the signs you might see is you might see her scratching an ear a lot or maybe rubbing her ear against your leg or the furniture or rubbing it on the floor. It is anything that is going to show that an ear type problem, also shaking the head quite violently.

If you just stroke your dog, you will be able to feel any other problems. You can feel any growths, especially older dogs; older dogs often have little warts and things come up. But just see what is actually normal. So, a good thing for you to do right now is to just make some fuss of your dog, and find out what normal is. If you start getting a lot of swelling around the neck, this could be an indication. Do not go pushing in the neck to cause any harm. Always make sure the collar is not on too tight on the dog. Pop your hands around and just make sure that there is no excessive swelling. Sometimes within the cheeks here, you start to see swelling and this could indicate a respiratory type problem or it could indicate some other internal problems.

As you go down, just work your way down the body and push into the stomach very gently and see if it is tender; again, be careful of this. It is often good to do these sort of things when there is two of you, and one of you can just hold the head out the way. Come around and just feel around the stomach and make sure there is no problems there and just look at the dog the whole time; see what her reaction is. If she growls or she looks upset, or she gets up and tries to move, just be careful of that; it might be an indication. Going down the legs, just in case there was any injury or swelling, it may be she has been unwell, she has been stung by a bee or a wasp or snake bites are quite common as well. Let us just have a look through, and if you notice anything then you need to obviously have a closer look.

The other end, around the backend, we want to make sure is clean. And there are all sorts of problems within dogs; they get upset stomachs and problems. So maybe one of the things you need to do is clean your dog. We do not want to leave any muck on the backend, because this can cause more problems, can be discomfort. And also it will stress the dog. Dogs like to be clean, and if they are not clean then it can really stress them out.

So have a look now at your dog. Just look through at its respiration rates, look at its breathing, how warm is its nose, eyes. Find out what is normal for your dog, and then as you work your way down the body, you can just check it over and just make sure there are no abnormalities there at all. Other little things, maybe looking out for within the coat. We are looking at the main part of the dog, with Deco here, she is very, very hairy. The long-haired dogs, you can get a matting and problems within the coat, we are going to look at that a little bit more later on with the grooming side.

Just to summarize, dogs, you are looking for the signs, things that could possibly be wrong with her. Look at what is normal and what is then not normal. And if you need any more advice or any help, contact your veterinary surgeon.