Wagging tale of wellness

All pet parents want their pets to live a happy and healthy life. But sometimes the damage is already done because you didn’t recognize the subtle signs before the diagnosis. It is time you prioritize your pet’s wellness.
–by Malaika Fernandes


It is up to the pet-parent to make observations regarding wellness on a regular basis that will help their pet thrive and will also be helpful for the vet in making early diagnosis. Wellness observations are done to not just ensure your pet’s optimum physical health but also his mental state. Dogs who are middle aged and are inching in to golden years need routine wellness examinations including blood, urine, and stool test, and x-rays.

Over the years I have changed my training approach to be holistic and based it around body language, looking at stress levels and identifying pain because all of these factors impact the behaviour and health of dogs.

Inching close to goodness with these wellness indicators

  • Breath – A fresh smelling breath and teeth free of tartar build up are signs of good health.
  • Coat– It should be free of parasites, balding patches, bumps, etc. Another good practice is to run your flat palm to feel any bumps, change in temperature or inflammation.
  • Weight – Your pet should be at a consistent weight, sudden weight loss or gain can be the reason for underlying illnesses and should not be overlooked.
  • Bladder & bowel movements– Healthy bowel movements will be free of worms, mucus, blood, and will be well-formed, etc. Transparent yellow urine points to wellbeing. Watch out for discoloration as it is indicative of issues such as liver/bladder/kidney issues etc. Excessive peeing can be due to diabetes or high stress levels.
  • Ears– Clean ears help maintain normal body temperature by radiating out heat. So, watch out for wax build up, discharge or pungent odours.
  • Appetite– A healthy fur-ball will lick his bowl clean. If your pet is fussy around food some of the possible reasons could be the meal that you feed is not nutritionally optimum (consulting a dog nutritionist would be a great idea). It can also be due to an underlying medical issue.
  • Sleep– It is really important and if your pet isn’t sleeping for at least 14 -16 hours a day, it indicates stress levels being high/pain, etc, which will impact your pooch’s health in a negative way.
  • Gait – It is important to pay attention to your pet’s gait as they are master’s at hiding pain and injuries sustained during playing with their humans, other dogs or as simple as during a game of fetch. Obvious signs such as limping, putting pressure on one foot etc. indicate that the condition has worsened.
  • Exercise – Most dogs’ growth plates tend to fuse completely by the end of 14-18 months. This differs for every breed. Regular walk is the best exercise for dogs of all ages. Let him sniff around and enjoy walking outdoors. “A tired dog is a happy dog” is a detrimental statement to implement and can cause unnecessary wear and tear of the joints, musculoskeletal pain etc.
  • Licking & chewing– Dogs groom themselves by licking, however, if they are doing it excessively and chewing or biting certain areas of their body, it might indicate pain or skin irritation.

Mental health should be a priority

  • Alert– A healthy dog is eager to engage with his family.
  • Behaviour–Your pet will be happy to interact socially with people and other dogs when appropriate body language is exhibited.
  • Sudden change in behaviour– Pain impacts your pet’s behaviour, so watch out for aggression, anxiety, hyperactivity, etc. All these can indicate several health issues.
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder– This includes pacing, chasing tail etc point towards mental decline in dogs. Ask your vet for proper diagnosis and treatment.
  • Learn to recognise signs– Lookout for symptoms of anxiety, depression, stress, etc. Minimize stress levels in your pet by managing stressors.
  • Enrichment – It is the best way to improve your pet’s quality of life. Activities centered on behaviour that naturally comes to a dog like sniffing, digging, chewing and thinking will have a positive impact on your furry friend’s life and wellbeing.

Wellness means there should be a balance between physical and mental health, whether it is for you or your pet!

(Malaika Fernandes is a dog behaviour consultant and animal communicator.)