10 Signs of a Healthy Dog

Is your dog healthy? Would you know if they weren’t? It’s not always so obvious when our dogs aren’t feeling well, and they certainly can’t communicate to us in words what’s bothering them. But they do have many visible measures of health. Here are 10 signs of a healthy dog — as well as some warning signs that can indicate a health issue.

1. Smooth skin

A healthy dog’s skin is smooth and supple — and is largely the result of a properly balanced diet, according to VCA Hospitals. But illnesses, allergies, parasites, stress and more also can affect the skin’s appearance. Likewise, regular grooming is necessary to keep the skin clean and distribute natural oils.

Warning signs: Look for any scabs, rashes, lumps under the skin, growths, itchiness, an odor or any other abnormalities on your dog’s skin. “The skin should not be red, swollen, bumpy, scaly, or flaky,” according to the ASPCA. “Poor skin can indicate an illness or common skin problems, such as fleas, mange, ringworm, or allergies.”

2. A glossy coat

Fur and skin health go hand in hand. And often you might first notice a skin issue on your dog due to changes in their coat. “A healthy coat should be shiny and smooth, not brittle or coarse,” VCA Hospitals says. It should not shed excessively or have any abnormal bald patches. And it shouldn’t be greasy or have a strong odor.

Warning signs: Changes in the coat’s look and feel can indicate an underlying health issue. Also, watch for dandruff and bald patches. “Hair loss can be brought on by ailments like an infection, immune disease, or endocrine disorder,” according to the ASPCA. “It can also be caused by excessive scratching from fleas, dry skin, mange, or other skin problems.” Furthermore, excessive shedding and dandruff are commonly attributed to stress.

3. Bright, relaxed eyes

happy dog smilingCredit: Capuski/Getty Images

A dog’s eyes typically “should be white around the iris and clear, not reddish, cloudy, or runny,” the ASPCA says. Calm, happy dogs also usually have relaxed eyes and a soft gaze, according to PetMD. They blink frequently and don’t show much of the whites of their eyes.

Warning signs: Watery eyes and any sign of discharge can be symptomatic of an illness. Plus, watch for scratches on your dog’s eyes. When they spend time outside, dogs can easily get poked in the eye by sticks or other sharp objects. And finally, look for any tension in their gaze. For instance, narrowed eyes might indicate aggression, and a dog showing lots of the whites of their eyes might be fearful. But a tense gaze also can mean the dog is sick or in pain. So it’s definitely something to keep an eye on (pun intended).

4. Clean, pink inner ears

“Ears on the inside should be light pink (though dark-skinned dogs may have black pigment), clean or with just a trace of wax,” according to Best Friends Animal Society. They also shouldn’t have much, if any, of a smell to them. Plus, happy and relaxed dogs typically carry their ears without tension in a neutral position — though that can change for several benign reasons, such as when they’re interested in something.

Warning signs: Watch for any discharge, swelling, debris or a bad smell, which can indicate infection, parasites or other health issues. “Head shaking, scratching, or rubbing of the ears are other signs that your dog’s ears are bothering them and should be examined by your veterinarian,” the ASPCA says. And a dog whose ears are pinned flat back might be fearful, aggressive, stressed or in pain, so it’s important to monitor their symptoms.

5. Pink gums

“Gums are normally pink, but they can have black or gray pigment,” Best Friends says. Learn what’s normal and healthy for your dog, so you’re able to spot any discoloration that might arise. Likewise, your dog’s tongue also should be pinkish in color, though some dogs naturally have darker tongues or spots on their tongues. Gums should be moist. And they should go from white back to pink in just a couple seconds when you press your finger on them.

Warning signs: Be aware of any swelling or changes in pigmentation in your dog’s mouth, as they can be a sign of serious health issues, including infection and cancer. “Very pale or white gums can indicate anemia or blood loss,” the ASPCA says. “Discolored gums and particularly bad breath can be a sign of periodontal disease.” Plus, tacky-feeling gums are a common symptom of dehydration. Keep up on your dog’s dental hygiene, so you’re able to spot any issues before they become serious.

6. A moist nose

dog balancing a treat on its noseCredit: patty_c/Getty Images

A dog’s nose typically should be moist and cool — though that can fluctuate without meaning there’s something wrong. For instance, a dog waking up from a nap might have a warm, dry nose because they’ve had it tucked in their fur. Or your house might have really dry air that dries out their nose. The wetness on a dog’s nose comes from normal mucus secretions, sweat and them simply licking it. That moisture traps scent particles, allowing the dog to get a better sniff (and taste) of what’s in their environment.

Warning signs: While a warm, dry nose can be normal, it also can be symptomatic of a fever. A very dry and cracked nose also is cause for concern — as is any abnormal nasal discharge. “A dog’s mucus should be clear and thin, but if you start to notice a surplus, the mucus gets thicker or there’s crustiness around the nostrils, these can be signs of an upper respiratory infection, which needs prompt veterinary attention,” according to VetStreet.

7. Firm stools and normal urination

Your dog’s bathroom habits can clue you in on several ailments, even if the dog isn’t showing any other symptoms. A healthy stool in a dog is firm and with no visible signs of blood, parasites or other abnormalities. Likewise, healthy urine is clear or yellow and shouldn’t have a strong odor. Dogs shouldn’t be straining to pee or poop. Any changes in frequency or consistency can indicate an issue.

Warning signs: Persistent vomiting or diarrhea usually will necessitate a vet visit, though isolated cases that clear up within 24 hours often are nothing to worry about. But if there is blood present, your dog is acting off or you know they might have eaten something dangerous, get them to the vet right away. Loose stools also can be a sign of parasites, requiring medical treatment. And excessive urination or a dog straining to pee can be symptomatic of health issues, including “kidney disease, diabetes, a urinary blockage, or a urinary tract infection,” the ASPCA says. Abnormal bathroom habits also can be due to stress or other behavioral issues. That’s why it’s key to note any changes as they arise to more easily identify the source.

8. Even, clear breathing

A healthy dog should have even, clear breathing. It never should sound like they’re struggling to get air. (If that happens during playtime or on a hot day, you might have to force them to calm down and catch their breath.) Moreover, dogs shouldn’t consistently be making any sort of coughing sound, though the occasional hack to clear their throats is typically nothing serious.

Warning signs: “Wheezing and coughing can both be signs of an illness, such as a cold or canine influenza,” according to the ASPCA. “In the case of a cold or flu, your dog will likely have other symptoms such as fever, runny nose, or redness around the eyes.” But coughing — especially a noise that “sounds like a goose honking” — also can be symptomatic of tracheal collapse. This is when the airway narrows or even completely closes, especially when the dog is excited, exercising or eating. To prevent some breathing issues, use a harness instead of a collar on walks (and never use a choke or prong collar). And, of course, take your dog to the vet for treatment and management tips.

9. A normal temperature

This sign is pretty straightforward. A normal temperature range for dogs is roughly from 99.5 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Most dogs run at about 101.5 degrees. If your dog has a temperature over 103 degrees — or is otherwise acting ill — it’s likely time to consult your vet, the ASPCA says.

Warning signs: Not everyone can take their dog’s temperature, and that’s OK. That’s what vets are for. But you still can learn to recognize other symptoms of a fever. “Signs of a fever can include a warm and dry nose, red eyes, lack of energy, warm ears, and shivering,” according to the ASPCA. The dog also might have a lack of appetite. Never give your dog any medications to bring down the fever without consulting your vet first. Fevers commonly are due to infection or inflammation — potentially from an infected wound or a tick-borne disease. So vet intervention is a must to prevent the problem from worsening.

10. Consistent behavior

On the green grass, Border Collie is enjoying the play to bite the disc.Credit: wooyaa/Getty Images

Finally, a healthy dog is a consistent dog. In other words, your dog should have their normal amount of energy. They should be eating, drinking, peeing and pooping as usual. They should be interested in playing and receiving attention. And they should be able to settle down and get comfortable when it’s time to rest.

Warning signs: Watch for any changes in behavior or normal habits. Irritability, lethargy, restlessness, excessive vocalization, destructive behavior, accidents in the house, a change in appetite, favoring a body part or simply doing something completely out of the ordinary are some signs that should be monitored. If anything unusual lasts for more than 24 hours — or if your gut tells you something is wrong — it’s always smart to see a vet. Dogs are good at hiding their pain, so it’s up to us to be in tune with them and get them the care they need.

Main image credit: Przemyslaw Iciak/Getty Images

34 comments

Barbara S
Barbara S2 days ago

Many thanks

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Mary W
Mary W.3 days ago

Good to know.

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Sherry Kohn
Sherry Kohn5 days ago

Many thanks to you !

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Danuta W
Danuta W5 days ago

Thank you for sharing

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Peggy B
Peggy B5 days ago

TYFS

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Roslyn M
Roslyn McBride5 days ago

Noted

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Christine V
Christine V5 days ago

Good info

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Ganaisha Calvin
Ganaisha Calvin5 days ago

change in behavior is always a tell tale sign

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Ruth S
Ruth S6 days ago

Thanks.

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Ruth S
Ruth S6 days ago

Thanks.

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