How To: A weekly Doggy MOT

So what is the purpose of a weekly MOT for your dog and what should you be looking for?

As a vet, people often ask me whether I wish dogs could talk and tell me what’s wrong or where they feel poorly.  My answer is that dogs are constantly talking to us and telling us how they feel through their unique body language. However, despite trying to ‘speak dog’ as much as possible, it’s always useful to learn the skill of a full physical exam, which if performed weekly, will help to catch problems early before they develop into something serious. 

Doing an MOT at home will also really help your vet if you need to take your dog in for an examination. A dog that is used to being looked over nose to tail will be less anxious at being examined with less stress for everyone. Once you have done it a few times and you and your dog are practised at the process it should only take around 15 minutes to complete and can be a great exercise in pet-owner bonding.

It is a good idea to work from nose to tail and if necessary you can initially use treats to encourage your dog to stay still.  I’d suggest that you try and wean them off of the treats over a few weeks, once they are used to the check up. 

Nose: The nose should be moist, soft and free of any discharge, cracks or sores.

Ears: Inside the ear canal it should be free of any bad smells or nasty waxy discharges. The ear canal should also be free of excess hairs and the flap should be soft and flat and not swollen and inflamed.

Eyes: The eyes should be bright and able to open fully. They should also be free of any discharges, redness or irritation. The conjunctiva (the fleshy area around the eyeball) should be light pink in colour.

Coat: Your dogs’ coat should be free of any knots or tangles. It is a good idea to also check for any new areas of hair loss, dandruff or parasites.

Skin: This is easy to check in the hairless areas, such as the abdomen, but don’t forget to look at all parts of the dog by parting the hair in multiple locations across the body.  Your dogs skin should be dry and free of any rashes, lumps, bumps, wounds, sores and bad smells.

Teeth/Gums: When checking the teeth and gums it is also important to check your dog is able to chew their food properly. Offer a small portion of their daily food portion and ensure they are not dropping bits of food or favouring one side of the mouth. 
When examining the teeth and gums check for any missing, broken or cracked teeth or swelling and irritation on the gums around the teeth. It is also important to check for any lumps or bumps on the gums or the tongue.

Legs: Your dogs’ legs should be able to support your dog and enable them to move normally so have a look at them walking – a helper with a lead may be useful here. Nails should also be checked to ensure they are not overgrown or broken. You should also check down the entire length of each leg for any lumps, bumps or sores.

Tail: Check your dog can move their tail freely and that there are no lumps, bumps, wounds or sores down the length of the tail. You should also check under the tail to ensure it is free from any poop.

Body Condition:  Finally, check your dog’s weight (if you have scales at home) and their body condition. Ideally you should just be able to feel their ribs and spine with light pressure.  If you have to push too hard then it might mean they are overweight. Also check for a nice abdominal tuck which means your dogs waist should be far narrower than their chest.

So what is the purpose of a weekly MOT for your dog and what should you be looking for?

As a vet, people often ask me whether I wish dogs could talk and tell me what’s wrong or where they feel poorly. My answer is that dogs are constantly talking to us and telling us how they feel through their unique body language. However, despite trying to ‘speak dog’ as much as possible, it’s always useful to learn the skill of a full physical exam, which if performed weekly, will help to catch problems early before they develop into something serious.

Doing an MOT at home will also really help your vet if you need to take your dog in for an examination. A dog that is used to being looked over nose to tail will be less anxious at being examined with less stress for everyone. Once you have done it a few times and you and your dog are practised at the process it should only take around 15 minutes to complete and can be a great exercise in pet-owner bonding.

It is a good idea to work from nose to tail and if necessary you can initially use treats to encourage your dog to stay still. I’d suggest that you try and wean them off of the treats over a few weeks, once they are used to the check up.

Nose: The nose should be moist, soft and free of any discharge, cracks or sores.

Ears: Inside the ear canal it should be free of any bad smells or nasty waxy discharges. The ear canal should also be free of excess hairs and the flap should be soft and flat and not swollen and inflamed.

Eyes: The eyes should be bright and able to open fully. They should also be free of any discharges, redness or irritation. The conjunctiva (the fleshy area around the eyeball) should be light pink in colour.

Coat: Your dogs’ coat should be free of any knots or tangles. It is a good idea to also check for any new areas of hair loss, dandruff or parasites.

Skin: This is easy to check in the hairless areas, such as the abdomen, but don’t forget to look at all parts of the dog by parting the hair in multiple locations across the body. Your dogs skin should be dry and free of any rashes, lumps, bumps, wounds, sores and bad smells.

Teeth/Gums: When checking the teeth and gums it is also important to check your dog is able to chew their food properly. Offer a small portion of their daily food portion and ensure they are not dropping bits of food or favouring one side of the mouth.
When examining the teeth and gums check for any missing, broken or cracked teeth or swelling and irritation on the gums around the teeth. It is also important to check for any lumps or bumps on the gums or the tongue.

Legs: Your dogs’ legs should be able to support your dog and enable them to move normally so have a look at them walking – a helper with a lead may be useful here. Nails should also be checked to ensure they are not overgrown or broken. You should also check down the entire length of each leg for any lumps, bumps or sores.

Tail: Check your dog can move their tail freely and that there are no lumps, bumps, wounds or sores down the length of the tail. You should also check under the tail to ensure it is free from any poop.

Body Condition: Finally, check your dog’s weight (if you have scales at home) and their body condition. Ideally you should just be able to feel their ribs and spine with light pressure. If you have to push too hard then it might mean they are overweight. Also check for a nice abdominal tuck which means your dogs waist should be far narrower than their chest.

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