We all know owning a dog can be expensive but did you know the cost of owning a dog averages approximately $3100 for the first year? Broken down by size the cost for smaller dogs runs around $2675; for medium dogs it averages about $2890; larger dogs average around $3230 and giant breeds have an annual price tag of about $3535. The average first year cost for all sizes comes to $3085 (all figures were rounded off). So what does that cover, you ask?
According to the American Kennel Club’s website, “supplies were estimated at $432 per year, Food was $435 per year, and Preventative Medications were estimated at $389 per year. Veterinary costs were $650 per year and included all lab work plus are for one serious illness per year was added into the figures.” Training costs are not included.
Often proactive veterinary care is the last thing people think of beyond vaccinations especially when we can pretty much do the same kind of treatments for our furry friends that we can for the two-legged members of our families.
All of these expenses can make routine veterinary care one of the first things that gets postponed. Many people think, if it ain’t broken, it probably doesn’t need to be fixed. But there are some do-it-yourself tips that require no money, have the potential to build trust, can increase the bond between you and your canine as well as alert you to conditions that require professional help. The first reason for Dog DIY is the more familiar you are with your pup, the better you’ll know when something isn’t right and when to seek professional care. Getting your dog familiar with these health exams at home will make trips to the ‘dogtor’ a more pleasant experience. In order to know when things are off, you need to know what’s normal for your dog. The following checkup list can aid in evaluating your dog’s day-to-day health.
- Temperature. This critical health indicator should be between 100 and 102.5 degrees F for dogs (whenever Elsa has a seizure, her temperature goes up, by a lot. I cover her with ice packs to minimize potential damage during a seizure and to minimize dehydration. That alone could make all the difference between a costly vet trip or a simple at-home administering of Valium and in our case, has the potential to save a couple Ben Franklin’s). It’s easy to take a dog’s temperature. Lubricate the end (coconut oil works great) and gently insert about 1 inch into the anus of a small dog, 2 inches for a larger dog. Don’t force it. Results take about 60 seconds.
- Pulse. For the most reliable indicator, locate the femoral artery on the inside of the thigh. Gently feeling for the ‘artery roll,’ you can feel the pulse. As with us uprights, count the beats over 15 seconds and multiply by 4 for a per minute result. Normal heart rates for dogs are between 80-120 beats per minute. Larger, working or athletic dogs will have slower pulses than puppies or smaller dogs. You can also get a pulse by placing your hands low on your dog’s chest near the elbow joint, and feel the heart beats.
- Check the nose. It should be smooth and soft to touch. It doesn’t necessarily have to be cool or moist, healthy dogs can have dry, warm noses.
- Eyes. They should be clear, bright, moist with little or no discharge. Pupils should be uniform in size, the whites actually white with just a few visible blood vessels.
- Ears should be clean, dry and odorless.
- Gums on a healthy dog are pink and moist without lesions or swelling, and the mouth free of bad breath. Teeth should be without tartar (remember Canine Dental Awareness last month so hopefully you scheduled that teeth cleaning then). Tongue should be clear with no debris in the roof of the mouth.
- Watch your dog breathe. The chest should move in and out effortlessly and be rhythmic. Unless your dog is panting or is a flat-faced breed, the breath should be inaudible. Normal resting rate is 15-30 breaths per minute. If excited or anxious, it will be toward the upper end while the sleeping rate will be closer to 15. At rest, small dogs breathe faster than larger breeds.
- Skin. Should be soft, smooth with no lesions. No redness or rough spots and little odor. The coat should be soft, shiny and smooth unless your dog is a wire-haired breed.
- Hydration. Healthy dogs are well hydrated and that’s easy to check. Lift the skin of the neck or back and ‘tent’ it, then release. It should spring back quickly. If not, more water or moisture in diet is needed. For us, this is a critical component when treating Elsa’s seizures.
- Move your hands all over the dog’s body to check for lumps or masses. If you notice a bump or wart that doesn’t need immediate attention, take notes, draw a sketch and keep an eye on it. If it changes over the course of a couple of days, it’s time to call the vet for further evaluation and treatment.
- Assess muscle tone and weight. Does your dog have a ‘waistline’ and can you feel ribs easily? If not, remember the same holds true for dogs as it does for their owners, eat less, move more.
- Check the range of motion on joints. They should move freely without resistance or difficulty. Note any signs of pain, they can indicate an injury that may need professional care.
- Toes, nails, pads. Make sure they are free of sores or cuts, keep the nails at a comfortable length trimming just the tip ends to avoid cutting the nail quick. Keep debris out of between toes. Keep hair trimmed as necessary. Some breeds require regular trimming (having owned poodles and OESs I’m all too familiar with the importance of keeping pad hair trimmed up).
Performing these easy to DIY checkups can provide you with a valuable record of your dog’s health, can alert you to potential issues before they become critical and will make you a partner with your vet as you care for your pup. Are you ready to perform a few exams to be a partner with your vet in evaluating your dog’s health?
Live, love, bark! <3