How do you know when you need to bring your Chihuahua to the vet? One way is to do a quick at-home physical exam of your pet’s health.
Start by checking out the top five visuals: energy, coat and skin quality, nail strength, eye brightness, and nose luster.
This is your pet’s overall presentation, meaning how your animal appears to you or your vet at this point. Veterinarians call this “signalment” and include notes of your pet’s age, breed, gender, and, of course, demeanor.
Next, begin your at-home physical exam. Start with the head, and work your way back. Look at the eyes, ears, nose, mouth, and teeth.
Are the eyes dull? Are the ears swollen or red? The eyes and ears should look the same on both sides. Feel around the neck for bumps and swellings, and run your hand down the back to the end of the tail. Reach around and feel the belly.
Check your pet’s breathing rate by counting his breaths for 15 seconds and multiplying by four to get a rate per minute.
A normal respiratory rate should be around 60 to 78 breaths per minute for most dogs. You can also simply note whether your pet is breathing faster than normal or seems to be having any trouble breathing. Again, no one knows your Chihuahua better than you do.
Top Five Visual Signs of Health
The most important piece of information any vet can obtain from a Chihuahua owner is his or her own assessment of how the pet feels. No one knows your Chihuahua better than you. We’ll go through the clues all animals give us. Often, they’re less subtle than you’d expect.
Your Chihuahua’s energy level is an excellent clue to how your Chihuahua is feeling, and it’s one of the easiest things, to assess. It’s no different from energy levels for humans.
When you ask your dog if he wants to go for a walk, does the question get its enthusiastic response? It’s all about what’s normal for your pet and you are the best one to tell us that.
Skin and Coat Quality
The skin is the body’s largest organ. It’s composed of proteins, lipids, and fatty acids. When the skin isn’t getting the nutrition and circulation it needs, health issues become visibly evident. For instance, Cushing’s disease, an imbalance in adrenal hormones, can manifest early with chronic skin rashes, a pot-bellied appearance, and hair loss.
Certain behaviors affect the coat and are their own indication that something might be wrong. Is your dog’s coat shiny or dull? Thick or thin? Is it falling out or changing color? The coat can be affected if your Chihuahua is chewing, biting, scratching, or rubbing the skin or coat.
Such itchiness can indicate anything from allergies or fleas to metabolic or nutritional deficiencies.
Keep in mind that the coat goes through normal cycles, from regular growth patterns to heavy shedding periods. Such variations could be part of regular cyclical patterns, but compared against your pet’s normal, it tells a story.
Nail strength is related to coat quality in that it can be an indication of good or poor health. As with coat, nails that are dry, broken, or flaking can indicate metabolic, nutritional, or overall health issues. Overgrown nails can be caused by a lack of grooming or lack of exercise and energy.
This might seem more cartoon-like than medical, but it’s real. That gleam in the eye, the spark of excitement our pets normally exhibit is something we usually take for granted—until it’s not there. Dullness, sagging eyelids, and gaze avoidance are all indicators that your pet is not feeling his normal, happy self.
The canine nose is self-lubricating with thousands of mucus-producing cells. A dog can lick his nose hundreds of times a day. One reason is that they want to moisten it or it itches. Dogs also lick their noses when they’re nervous, a behavioral communication known as an appeasement gesture.
The nose can also indicate how healthy an animal is. Normally the nose is smooth, shiny, and relatively dry. However, the oft-mentioned warm nose syndrome that many pet owners call their vets about means very little. As long as your pet is acting normal, don’t worry too much if his nose is warm. Fever can sometimes be the cause, but most often, it just means your Chihuahua is warm.
More frequently, a dull, overly dry, or rough nose can indicate that your dog isn’t feeling well: Either the normal self-moisturizing function of the nose is slacking off or he’s not feeling well enough to lick it. Usually, though, a dry nose is just due to a hot or dry day and is nothing to worry about.
How to Take Your Chihuahua’s Temperature
There are no special pet thermometers. Just use a basic human digital thermometer. (You might want to write your Chihuahua’s name on it – you don’t want to put this one in your mouth!).
Coat the tip with petroleum jelly and insert it about one inch into the rectum. Leave it in for one to two minutes. It helps if someone can help you to comfort and hold your pet. A normal temperature for dogs is 100 F to 103 F. Ear thermometers are still pretty inaccurate in animals, so stick to the old-fashioned kind.