The relationship between yourself and your dog is one that cannot be replaced. Truly knowing your dog includes knowing what they enjoy and what they don’t, their behavior, their fears, their diet, and their routine. It also means knowing your dog’s body inside and out.
While most of us don’t have fancy imaging equipment at home to see what’s really going on inside our dog’s body, there is still a lot we can learn when we examine the exterior of our dog’s body.
We call this process a body scan.
What Is a Dog Body Scan?
A body scan is the practice of examining your dog’s body from head to toe, nose tip to tail while using our sense of touch, sight, and even smell. This practice allows pet parents to familiarize themselves with their dog’s body and to quickly find body changes or potential problems. By finding these potential problems quickly, we’re able to act faster to remedy or treat them.
Have you heard about the importance of performing a female breast exam to catch breast cancer early? It’s the exact same idea, but for our pets and for their entire body.
We recommend performing a dog body scan at least once a month. Creating a new habit like this can sometimes seem overwhelming, but we have you covered. A reminder to perform your monthly dog body scan is built right into Pet Health 5. If you join us, you’ll receive an email each month reminding you to check five vital stats on your dog.
With all this practice you’ll soon be performing a body scan each and every time you’re snuggled up on the couch with your pup!
What to Look For During a Dog Body Scan
When performing a body scan on your dog, there are several things you should be looking for. Some of these findings are information-gathering without an immediate need to act, but others will require in-home or even veterinary treatment.
While examining your dog, make observations and notes in your Pet Health 5 log about:
- Lumps, bumps, and warts (What’s the difference?)
- Scrapes and abrasions
- Fleas, ticks, and mites
- Hair matting
- Dog’s reactions to touching or moving certain body parts as a sign of pain
- Strange smells from your dog’s ears, mouth, or paws
- Dry skin
- Broken or cracked nails and teeth
- Dog’s weight (by determining your dog’s body condition score)
- Any redness or discoloration of your dog’s eyes
The key when making your observations and notes is to pay attention to changes over time. Did something change shape, size, or color? Make a note and take a picture then refer back to it during your dog’s next body scan.
Performing a Dog Body Scan: A Step by Step Guide
When you perform a body scan on your dog, you’ll want to start from one end and move over their entire body to ensure that you check every spot. We recommend starting with their head and ending with their tail.
Check Your Dog’s Face & Head
Place your hands on their snout. How do they react? If this is the first few times that you’ve done a body scan on your dog, then your pup might be startled or uncomfortable with this contact, but with time and practice, you’ll be able to see if your dog reacts to pain.
Look at their nose. Do you see any cuts, discharge, dryness, or roughness?
Look in their mouth. How does it smell? Do you see any color changes on their gums, teeth, or tongue? Do you see any cracked, broken, or missing teeth? Do you see any lumps, bumps, or warts? When you run your fingers along their teeth and gums, do they pull away or snap in a sign of pain?
Now is also a great time to brush your dog’s teeth!
Look into your dog’s eyes. Do you see any redness, discharge, scratches, or other discoloration? Is your dog squinting or pawing at their eye? Do their eyes follow you as you move?
Look at your dog’s ears. How do they smell? Do you see any redness, dirt, discharge, or excessive ear wax? How does your dog react when you touch them?
Now is also a great time to clean your dog’s ears, especially if you have a floppy-eared pup!
Touch and move your hands around your dog’s head, moving their fur. Do you feel any lumps, bumps, warts, scratches, or abrasions? Do you see any fleas, ticks, or mites? Does your dog show signs of discomfort?
Check Your Dog’s Neck
Continue moving your hands down your dog’s neck. Do you see any signs of hair matting, abrasions, or scratches (especially around the collar area)? Can you feel any lumps, bumps, or warts? Are there any signs of fleas, ticks, or mites? Does your dog show any signs of pain?
Check Your Dog’s Legs & Paws
Move your hands over each of your dog’s legs down to their paws. Are there any lumps, bumps, warts, or abrasions? How does your dog react? Do you see any ticks, fleas, or mites?
Spread your dog’s toes on each paw and touch each of their paw pads. Are any of their nails cracked or broken? Are their nails a good length? What about their dew claws? Is there anything stuck between their paws? Are their paw pads smooth or rough? Any signs of cuts or scratches? How do their paws smell?
Now is also a good time to trim your dog’s nails or long hair on their paw.
Check Your Dog’s Body
Move your hands back up to your dog’s torso, running your fingers through their fur. Be sure to examine their entire torso. Are there any signs of hair matting, abrasions, or cuts? Do you feel any lumps, bumps, or warts? Are there any signs of fleas, ticks, or mites? Does your dog react in pain to any touch?
Examine your dog’s weight by determining its body condition score. Can you feel their ribs? Do they have a pronounced waist?
Now is also a good time to brush or use a de-shedding tool on your dog.
Check Your Dog’s Rear End & Tail
Move your hands along the entire length of your dog’s tail. Do you feel anything unusual? Does your dog react from pain or discomfort?
Lift your dog’s tail and examine their rear end. Are there any changes in color or smell? Can you observe any swelling or excessive redness?
Now is also a good time to check your dog’s temperature!
The more you go through this process, the more familiar you and your dog will get with it. The first few times may take 15-20 minutes, but it will speed up as you both get more comfortable with the examination.
Another benefit to adding a body scan to your monthly routine is that this will make vet visits easier! Your pup will become more familiar with human hands on their body, touching their paws, and even looking in their mouth.
Do you perform a regular body scan on your dog? Have you ever found anything that needed veterinary attention?
Body scans are one of the five important health checks that we encourage you to perform each month to stay on top of your dog’s health. Not only will body scans help you to identify possible health concerns early, but they will also help you build a better relationship with your pup.
Join us in our Pet Health 5 Movement and together we can start tracking our pet’s health. It’s super easy! We’ll send you a reminder on the 5th of each month with a checklist of what to do and how to do it. Then, all you need to do is take 5-15 minutes each month to check your dog’s health stats and log them.
Dog health is an important aspect of helping our dogs live long and happy lives. You can start today by doing a complete body scan on your dog and signing up for Pet Health 5.