8 signs your dog is healthy
Good health is a cornerstone of a long and happy life. But how do we know if our dogs are healthy? Since they cannot tell us how they feel, we have to look at their physical signs to determine if they are healthy and happy. Below, you will find 8 important signs of health in your dog. Create a routine where you monitor these signs so you quickly discover any changes in your dog. Signs of a healthy dog include:
1. Healthy body shape
Bodyweight is an important indicator of health, as it impacts everything from joints to organs and overall well-being. Unfortunately, obesity in dogs is on the rise resulting in an increase in lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer and joint problems. Osteoarthritis and obesity can go hand in hand and excess weight impacts your dog’s longevity and quality of life.
A dog’s shape as seen from above will be widest around the shoulders and taper in towards the hips. The waist should be defined as the smallest part of your dog’s body. You should not be able to see the ribs or other pronounced bones. However, you should be able to feel the ribs under the skin when stroking the sides.
From the side, your dog should have a noticeable tummy tuck, but the ribs should not be visible. Overweight dogs will have a rounder body shape with a slight waist, or in severe cases no waist at all. In dogs with a lot of fur, it will be necessary to feel for ribs and hip bones to ensure they are neither protruding nor hidden under a thick layer of fat. See the diagram below.
2. Healthy eating and drinking habits
A healthy dog will have an appropriate appetite for its age and activity level as well as drink enough water. Sudden changes in your dog’s eating and drinking habits without changes in activity levels are a warning sign something is not quite right. Loss of appetite is a non-specific sign that your dog is unwell, meaning it can be a symptom of a variety of diseases and conditions. Coupled with fever, pain, vomiting, diarrhoea or weakness require immediate medical attention by a vet. Also if your dog starts drinking excessively.
A healthy diet should include an appropriate balance of easy digestible protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals for your dog’s age, size and activity level. The quality of the food is also imperative for the health of your dog. A good ingredient list should have identifiable ingredients (eg. lamb meat, carrots, coconut oil, insect protein) as opposed to unidentified ingredients (meat meal, poultry fat, animal fat and vegetable derivatives).
Dog food with fillers such as maize, soy and wheat will provide your dog with empty calories and should be avoided. Try to look for foods that have healthy ancient grains instead. Many high-quality dog food brands will also include the amino acids L-Carnitine and Taurine as these are good for your dog’s heart and fat metabolism. Nala Health dog food has worked with innovative animal nutritionists to ensure the best quality nutrition for your dog. No fillers, artificial flavours, harmful preservatives or GMOs. We have only included premium, tasty and sustainable ingredients.
3. Pleasant smell
A healthy mouth will have a neutral smell and clean white teeth. Bad breath can be an indication of an unhealthy gut, something being stuck between your dog’s teeth or an oral infection. Oral health is imperative for overall health as an infection in the mouth can spread to your dog’s vital organs if left untreated. Check your dog’s gums and teeth for plaque, oral disease or broken teeth when you brush them. Read our blog on how to keep your dog’s oral cavity healthy.
Skin and coat
When clean, your dog’s body odour should not have a pronounced smell. Bad body odour can be a sign of amongst others; allergies, inflammation of anal sacs/impacted anal sacs, skin issues or a urinary tract infection. The condition of your dog’s skin and coat is one of the most obvious signs of whether your dog is healthy or not. A healthy dog will have a shiny and full coat. Their skin will not show signs of dryness or being too oily. If the coat becomes dull/lack lustre – or you see dandruff – it is one of the earliest signs of something not being quite right. It may be a sign of for example micronutrient deficiencies (such as omega 3, vitamin B, zinc etc). A diet that is balanced and includes good fatty acids will help with skin and coat healthy.
A dog’s ears should have a neutral smell, and not a lot of ear wax. Your dog should also not have the desire to scratch them constantly. Make a habit of smelling your dog’s ears to quickly detect potential changes. Dogs with long ears are more prone to ear issues. Should you need to clean their ears, you can read our blog on how to safely do so.
4. Normal bowel movements
You can tell a lot about what is happening inside your dog’s body by looking at its stool. How often they have bowel movements and the condition of the faeces/poop gives a good indication of the quality of their food and digestive system. Healthy poop is firm (but not hard), brown and log-shaped. It should have an appropriate size for how much your dog eats and you should be able to easily pick it up without much residue on the ground. Dog food containing healthy fiber and probiotics will benefit gut health. Read more about a healthy stool/bowel in our blog here.
5. Moist, cool nose
A moist, cool nose/snout is normal and healthy. A dry and cracked nose can be a sign of dehydration or fever. The surface of your dog’s nose contains a protein called keratin. Sometimes it can grow too quickly, causing the nose to become dry and crusty. To determine whether your dog has a fever, you should take her temperature from the rectum. A normal temperature ranges from 38,3 degrees to 39,2 degrees.
6. Clear, clean eyes
Healthy eyes will be bright and clear, with pink inner lids. It is normal to have a little bit of mucus, especially in the morning (but it should be minimal). If your dog has a lot of secretion from the eyes, red eyes or cloudy eyes, it is often a sign of some kind of infection or illness. You may even be able to tell if your dog has high cholesterol as one symptom may be cloudy eyes and white patches. it is important to go to the veterinarian if your dog has the following symptoms: abnormal discharge from the eyes, swollen/red eyelids, itchy eyes, growths, or if the pupils are different sizes. Cataracts can be caused by diabetes or too much exposure to sunlight. You can see cataracts as a grey/opaque hue on the eye.
7. Energy level and movement
Your dog’s energy level should be appropriate for its age. Puppies sleep a lot, but when awake they will have a lot of energy for play. Senior dogs will have lower energy levels and require shorter and more frequent walks. Your senior dog should, however, not show signs of pain when they are moving. Limping, stiffness or unnatural gait are all signs of some kind of pain such as arthritis or an injury.
8. Stable and good mood
You know your dog’s personality and mood, and healthy dogs tend to have a stable mood. A well-socialized dog should not be aggressive and will enjoy the company of its family. If your dog shows sudden changes in their mood or behaviour – such as isolating themselves, irritability or aggression, it may be a sign of pain or disease. Sudden changes in mood and personality can also be a sign of psychological trauma, fear and/or stress – or even dementia.
So what defines a healthy dog
Regular grooming, daily exercise, love and a diet filled with quality nutrition is the cornerstone of a healthy lifestyle. Getting to know the way your dog looks, behaves and smells when she is healthy will be very helpful to discover changes that indicate discomfort or disease. Create a weekly routine to go through a body condition check, so that you know the state of your dog’s health at all times. If you notice any changes then you should consult your veterinarian to get the appropriate treatment.