Dog DIY Care

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.

“Dogtor” Sam

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

55 thoughts on “Dog DIY Care

  1. Great post! So many helpful tips. I am such a paranoid person and take my dog to the vet way too much. You don’t want to know how much I would have the add to those averages you mentioned!

  2. You are SO right about knowing how your dog’s body is when it’s healthy so that you can spot a change when it’s not!

    I find that doing a few grooming things also helps with making me examine my dog. I have to clean R’s ears almost daily so I sure know how those should look! I brush my dogs’ teeth daily so I noticed the very first day that Shyla broke a molar and avoided an infection. I also keep my dogs’ nails very short to avoid split nails (split nails can turn into a very big deal, we learned the hard way).

    Great tips. It’s good for people to know how much higher a dogs’ temp is than ours…

  3. Wonderful post! I won’t EVEN let you in on what last year cost me in vet bills alone for this Mob! It was NOT pretty! Oh well, they are my family and my life is so fulfilled with them!

  4. Great and helpful post. I have never felt of Tippy’s heartbeat. I’ll do that tonight, when we are cuddling. She’s outside, enjoying the sunshine, right now.

  5. Great article! We do many of these so that we can stay on top of things as best we can because Leroy has proven to be a million dollar dog.

    People often ask how much a Newfoundland costs (initial cost) and I always tell them that’s not the price they need to be concerned about!

      1. Yes two down and one more dog to go for teeth cleaning! Do you brush your dogs teeth?? I want to start doing this but I am having a hard time trying to find tooth brushes made in the USA.

        1. I do, though not religiously (neither dog is crazy about me doing it). Luckily both Sam & Elsa love gnawing on elk antlers and hooves which helps tremendously. I know your dilemma. I haven’t found one US (or even Canadian) made. *Sigh*

          1. I let them chew on things like that..Except last time when Alcide was chewing on a beef knuckle he broke his tooth off down to the gum and had to get it removed….. :/ So hopefully this brushing of the teeth goes easy!

  6. liked the article. some helpful advice to know.
    had to laugh when i read about checking her temp. sooo not going to happen at home with lily. she would us know straight up and quick to leave her butt alone.
    our main expense is health care. lily is very allergic to fleas and is put on meds. through the warm months which has aready started this year. this month we have been to the vets for flea meds, nails trimed and anal gland checked. she also needed a senior blood panel done. food costs are high.
    it’s all worth it. she is a very healthy 13 year old according to our vet. its not easy but we are able to cover the cost.
    my heart breaks for the people who truly love thier pets but can’t afford to keep them.

  7. Funnily enough, I read your post right after hanging up with the vet’s office. I could probably buy three round the world first class tickets with all the money spent at the vet’s. And I have become incredibly good at diagnosing ailments, treating minor ones and deciding whether they are vet-worthy – so good, in fact, my closest friends call me before taking their dogs to the vets. Ottie has a benign cyst, full of liquid, above one eye, that needs to be drained periodically. Hence the appointment. And I was wondering whether I shouldn’t ask my vet to teach me how to do it. The things we learn from having dogs. Will keep this post handy though. Full of good information.

  8. Wow! Mommy always tells us we need to move from being a cost center to a profit center. Tallulah and I aren’t going to show her the first part of this post. 😉 But we will share the helpful tips with her. They’re excellent, and I’m sure she’s going to learn a thing or two . . . or 10. Thank you!

  9. I think most of what you outlined I do with Benji – the WaWa is a slightly different story at the moment, I have started getting her out and exercised more in the hope that this will help to calm her down. I got her to the vet last week and she checked out good – nails clipped and her booster injection. Both dogs are in good health. The Vet keeps a record of injections and notifies me when these are due so that’s one less worry. And in answer to your question – No. I hear nothing from her Owner (mom). It will be a year in two weeks time.

  10. Excellent info, “Dogtor” Sam! My vet assistant course program manager would give you an A+!! Now, me? I have a hard time with the nail trimming on Shadow and Ducky (and Callie when she was still with us). I used to do Kissy’s nails, bath, and grooming myself; but at her heaviest she only weighed 14 pounds. And she wasn’t a squirmy worm like all 3 of her younger sisters. She was soooo easy! Thankfully, Auntie Andrea does a beautiful job on Shadow; and Ducky pretty much behaves herself during her baths and nail trimmings at daycare. Now, all that said, I can honestly say that I know when my girls are a little “off”. Mostly because since Callie got her angel wings I have been hyper-vigilant about Shadow. And Ducky doesn’t hide her discomfort at all. She doesn’t even try…she’s my little “drama princess”. (I used to blame myself for not catching Callie’s cancer symptoms long before the vet did; but I finally realized there was really nothing more we could have done than what we already had done. I still second-guess myself about it at times, but those moments pass.)

  11. Great Post Monika. Hopefully more people will find the potential costs savings alone will provide the incentive to get involved. Getting to know your dog better? Priceless! 🙂

        1. The food numbers were quite off for us, I’d feel like I was getting a fantastic deal if food was so inexpensive but it’s the one area I am not going to scrimp on since it makes a world of difference. You really are what you eat and I’m not serving my kiddos Trix.

            1. I ran twice as high too and that was just for Sam, so with the addition of Elsa and her special needs, our food totals have significantly increased. But to keep them both in the pink of health (and in Elsa’s case, a potential reduction in seizures), completely worth it. Treats don’t even factor in since I (generally) make them from food grade organic ingredients. I’m just grateful to be able to provide that for both of them.

  12. We’ve noticed Emma gets pebbles of dirt (and sometimes acorns) stuck between her toes, so I try and check them regularly!

  13. I’m not showing this to my husband – well, not the costs bit!
    We are lucky in that – fingers crossed – our nine are healthy beasts but we do generally take a look at them when giving them a cuddle to make sure there are no bits that need attention.

  14. And don’t forget that whatever the vet , food and other costs are, they are all the greater when it’s not your dog you’re paying for.

  15. I hear you…I rather go one time more to a vet than to risk anything… but after a while we can read our furfriends and we know when it is time to see a pro. and there is also google for the hobby-vets, but the tips and tricks there are often questionable… like the hairtutorials of youtube… the mama looks like Prince Valiant now :O)))))

    1. Not everything on the “Net is accurate for sure but it’s good when pawrents are able to check their fur-kids and be a pawtner with their vets when it comes to their healthfulness.

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