By Karen Geissert, D.V.M.
Q: I just adopted Dexter, a middle-aged dog, from a shelter. He is my first pet. What are the most common health problems that may come up? How will I recognize important symptoms and when do I need to take him to a veterinarian?
A: Congratulations on adopting a pet in need of a home. You will soon learn what is normal for Dexter as you live together. You and Dexter will develop a schedule that fits with your lifestyle. You will observe his appetite at meals, his bathroom schedule and any fluctuations in activity levels during the day. These observations will help you determine what is normal for Dexter and then it will be easier to recognize when he is behaving abnormally.
As a pet owner, you should frequently look carefully at Dexter’s eyes, mouth, teeth and ears. It’s important to notice the usually color of the eyes and gums, appearance of teeth, and color of the inside surface of the ears. You should run your hands over his body to see if you notice any changes on the skins surfaces, any hair coat differences or any lumps or bumps that shouldn’t be there. Check for ticks and fleas. Teach him to lie down and roll over so you can see his underside. Handle his paws and look at the footpads and nails. Nails need to be trimmed routinely or they can get caught and tear when he is running or playing. Notice whether he is sensitive about allowing you to touch his paws.
Here are some frequent reasons a pet may come to the veterinarian for a problem: eye or ear problems, skin irritations, lumps found by owners, poor appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, listlessness, lameness or weakness notice by the owner.
By observing, grooming, and examining your new dog, you will soon be able to recognize when something is not normal. Sometimes a specific health issue is not obvious to the owner but he or she is usually able to perceive physical or behavioral changes that may need attention.
Veterinarians are always happy to help their clients with any questions concerning your pet’s overall health and identify a schedule to administer his annual vaccinations, so if you have any questions, contact Dexter’s veterinarian for advice.
Karen Geissert, D.V.M., owner of Acton Animal Hospital, has practiced veterinary medicine for over 30 years. Questions for her may be submitted to ActonAnimalHospital@comcast.net.