How Can I Assess My Pet's Overall Health?

by Sarah Griffiths, DCH in Raw Basics
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Written by Inna Shekhtman

March 14, 2018

Ever wonder what the best methods are for assessing you pets' health and wellness? Knowing these basics can help you to catch an abnormalities early and address them as quickly as possible. Being proactive is the best way to prevent long term illness or discomfort for your pet.

Weight
Keeping an ideal weight is a result of a balance between nutrition and exercise and it's crucial for your pet’s long term health. The term "ideal weight" is used to refer to the optimal weight for a specific dog or cat based on breed, age, and overall build. Here are some quick checks to see if your pet is in a good weight range:

  • Touch: You should be able to feel ribs below the surface of the skin, and a healthy layer of tissue over the ribs and spine. Put your hands on your pet’s ribs and spine. Your pet may be underweight if the spine and ribs are significantly protruding, or overweight if you cannot feel the outline of the skeleton at all.
  • Visual Inspection: You should visibly see a waist when viewing your pet from above. The belly should be tucked up higher than the chest when viewed from side. Your pet may be underweight if ribs, hip bone or spine is highly visible. He may be overweight if no waist is visible and if the belly shows no distinction when compared to the chest.

The most common reason for obesity is highly processed carbohydrate-based diets. These foods contain a high starch content that converts to sugar and results in excess calories being stored as fat. Switching to a diet consisting of real, whole foods promotes easier and more natural digestion and helps pets return to and maintain an ideal weight. Changes can start to show in as little as two weeks!

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Weight
The health and appearance of the skin and coat is a reflection of the internal health of your dog and cat. Some holistic practitioners believe that your pet’s skin and coat actually constitute an organ that performs tasks vital to your pet’s survival including maintaining body temperature and protecting against external infections. A healthy skin and coat should be shiny, soft and odour-free. If your pet has any of the below indicators, they may have an internal health imbalance:

Below are some typical skin and coat conditions that are indicators of health issues:

  • Dull or scaly coat
  • Dry flaky skin and “pet” odour
  • Overly oily and smelly coat
  • Sores or hotspots on skin
  • Excessive scratching of same spot
  • Lumps

Mouth, Teeth and Gums
Healthy gums are firm and pink, black or spotted, just like the dog’s skin. Healthy teeth should be white and smooth. In nature, dogs chew bones, which clean their teeth and strengthen the jaw muscles. In addition, their mouths are naturally acidic and deter bacterial overgrowth. Feeding a commercial dry diet can change the pH levels in the mouth and digestive tract, making your pet more susceptible to unfriendly bacteria overgrowth.

While certain commercial foods and treats contain plaque-reducing ingredients, the starch in these products promote unhealthy bacterial growth.

Eyes
Healthy eyes are bright and shiny, with minimal tearing and discharge.


Ears
The skin inside your pet’s ears should be light pink and clean. There should be some brownish wax, but a large amount of wax or crust is abnormal. There should be no redness or swelling in or around the ear area.

Stools

As pet owners, we spend a lot of time talking about poop! It gives us an insight into our pet’s inner workings, especially their digestive system. A healthy stool should not be excessive in size and should be fairly firm and low in odour.